I Believe in Having a Dog

May 19th, 2010 by Melina

Happy 5th Birthday Creature!

Note: Thanks to  the beauty of scheduled blog posts, this is going up on Creature’s actual birthday (5/19). Which feels odd, because I’m off dealing with Shavuot (and have probably had too much cheesecake) am not online. I’ll be back tomorrow night.

(Okay, so I messed up the scheduled blog post thing, so this is going up a day late. . .)

In January of 2007, when Creature was about 1 and a half, and before I’d even dreamed I’d ever actually write a novel, I woke up one morning suddenly wanting to write an essay for the NPR show This I Believe. So I did. Unfortunately, by the time I had the guts to send it in, the show had run its course.

But, in honor of Creature’s 5th birthday, I’m posting it here. Considering the way I usually talk about him, he deserves something nice from me today.


I believe in having a dog. I believe in falling asleep with a dog snuggled in the space behind my knees, and waking up to doggie kisses. I believe in having a dog to drag me out of bed on cold January mornings, because I know that without a dog, there’s no way I’d find myself in Central Park at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, admiring the light dusting of snow on the bare trees.

My dog also has a belief system. He believes in his right to kibble. He believes in going on walks through the park, and running into his neighbors, like Lucas, the cocker spaniel who lives down the block. He believes in saying hello to all the toddlers who squeal with delight when they see us walking down the street. He believes in taxi rides and trips to the Laundromat.

But most of all, be believes in coming home. He runs up the stairs of our walk-up and waits for me on the doormat. He wags his tail a million miles a minute as I unlock the door. He dashes into the apartment and rolls around on the couch (and snorts) to reclaim his territory, and then he finds a toy to play with.

A few weeks ago, I went to California to visit my mother. It’s the first time since I was 11 years old that there hasn’t been a dog in her house. It felt wrong. When I opened the front door, nobody danced around me as if I was the answer to their prayers. Still, I closed the door quickly and tightly, to keep the dog from running out. I was raised that way.

When I made my coffee in the morning, my hand would reach out instinctively to open the laundry room door to let the dog in or out. If I dropped a piece of food, I’d leave it on the floor for a minute, until I realized there was no dog around to appreciate my clumsiness. Worst of all, I felt the lack of comforting doggie sounds, like the lapping of water, the click-clack of furry paws on the hardwood floor, the jingle of dog tags, and the squeak of chew toys.

Having a dog isn’t always easy. When I come home from work and find the garbage all over my freshly washed kitchen floor, or a week’s worth of previously clean socks all over the living room (some with fresh holes in the toe), I glare into Hamudi’s eyes and threaten to post him on Craigslist. “One naughty, sneaky, gluttonous and slightly neurotic cocker spaniel needs home,” I imagine the ad would read. I see the guilt and shame in his eyes, and he sulks and walks away while I begin cleaning up.

But a few minutes later, I hear the squeak of a terrycloth bee. I look up, and see Hamudi playing contently. He catches my eye. We stare at each other. He tilts his head. The bee dangles from his mouth.

He knows he’s being cute.

I know I’m being manipulated.

But I forgive him, because I believe in having a dog.

I love you Hamudi! You belong to the most precious species on the planet. You make life so much sweeter. Thank you for the laughs, for the entertainment, for being such a great snuggler and for doubling as a hot water bottle.

And thanks for guarding me from the evil squirrel.

By the way, age 5 means Kindergarten! But you’re a prodigy. You graduated from Puppy Kindergarten when you were just a few months old. I’ll never forget how you flew across the floor (with the help of your ears, of course) when we yelled, “Hamudi! Come!” Such a good boy.

The residents of Park Slope thank you for patrolling and making sure nobody’s up to no good.

Just for today, I’ll refer to you by your real name. Happy birthday Hamudi!

And I have to give a shout-out to Tuck, the dog I grew up with. His loyalty and beauty put him in a class with Old Yeller, Old Dan and Little Ann, and Lassie.

Dear Readers: I’m curious. What would you write about for This I Believe?

P.S. I apologize if this post was so sickeningly sweet if gave you cavities. Obviously, I am not myself. Feel free to send me your dentist bill.

Posted in Creature Feature | 6 Comments »

There’s a Diva in my Basement

May 9th, 2010 by Melina

Better than a nightmare in my closet???

Some people have nightmares in their closets. Some people have boys in their basements (and not in a serial killer way).

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My basement, however, has a diva infestation.

I’ve never seen them, but here’s a picture of their ancestors, The Nine Muses:

First, let me clarify something. I’ve never seen the basement in this building. I’m in Brooklyn, but the divas happen to live in my old building in Manhattan. That basement, I was very familiar with. It was haunted, and not in a good way.

The divas live in a private section of that basement that I never got to see. The divas are way more girlie than I. They decorate with daffodils, gerber daisies, and the color pink. Not to mention they’ve stocked up on champagne, tiaras, boas, and big squishy chairs. They have really fast Internet that never, ever, ever goes out. These divas sleep on mattresses with marshmallow like pillow tops and feather beds, with Egyptian cotton sheets (the thread count, of course being about 1,015).

They get Peet’s coffee delivered straight from Berkeley every morning. If it’s cold, they order white chocolate mochas. If it’s hot, they get vanilla freddos. But on most days, the temperature in their lair is perfect, so they just get regular coffee.

Incidentally, the delivery men are smoking hot.

Their taste in music differs from mine. Yet, they have control of my iTunes account, so sometimes I find songs by the Bangles and The Cure on my iPhone, usually as part of a playlist for the book I’m working on, and I listen, happily.

We do, however, agree that writing can’t happen unless at least one song from the most recent episode of Glee has been downloaded.

And they have a huge thing for glittery pens and flowery sticky notes.

Whatever works, right?

So that’s why my writing space is full of junk like this, and why my computer cover is pink.

Yes, that’s a tiara back there. Don’t mock. It’s from Purim, and it makes the divas happy.

Comment from my mom: You didn’t have such a huge thing for the color pink even when you were six. What happened?

I’m telling you, it’s the divas! I get them what they want, and do what they want, and in return, if they’re feeling happy, they shout messages up the stairs. Only I can hear them. (Although, now that I’m in Brooklyn, they have to shout a lot louder, and they’re complaining about throat pain. We certainly can NOT have that! So I’m talking to my landlord about getting some muscular moving men with rocking tan arms to move them to my current basement).

What kind of messages do they send? Here are a few gems:

“Have your hero and heroine have to help a goat deliver her kid! Oh yeah, and while your’e at it, make it a breech birth. BTW, the goat’s having twins. You don’t know Jack about goat births? No worries. Get thyself to YouTube.”

“Force your heroine to do karaoke! Trust us. And your hero just got a job in the Greek church teaching impossible middle schoolers who feel they have better places to be after school.”

“You’re naming your heroine Polyhymnia, after the muse of sacred hymns and poetry. Just go with it. You can call her Polly. You have our permission to joke about how she wants a cracker. You’re welcome.”

“Guess what?!? Your heroine’s ex just got engaged. Sucks to be her!”

“Your hero and heroine are in the process of removing each other’s clothes. For the first time. Bwah ha ha. Oh noes! The village is on fire! Did you hear us? There’s. A. Fire! They better get their clothes back on. NOW! So much for that.”

And they absolutely love when my heart is broken. They sit back on their divans, basking in the schadenfreude.

“You know that playlist that guy gave you? We know you want to delete it, but no! Your heroine has to listen to the one the song that breaks your heart, over and over again. Mel, don’t argue! We know that’s him playing bass. But in return, we’ll let you import a picture of said guy into your Scrivener file, and label it villain. You want to win NaNoWriMo, right? That’ll get you at least 7,000 words.”

(You can read more about this guy here.)

They were so right. I rocked NaNo for the third time, and wrote tissue worthy heartbreak scenes.

I’ve got to run. The divas are getting snappy. I’m supposed to be revising.

And there you have it. For the writers among you: What are your muses like? For the non writers among you: What inspires you and sparks your creativity?

It’s been a pleasure, as always! Bye!

Posted in Basement Divas (Muses), Mel's Favorite Posts, The Lucky Mr. Mel, Writing Life | 9 Comments »

What’s Doin’?

April 21st, 2010 by Melina

How’s by you?


Like I said the other day, I sometimes feel the urge to go all Brooklyn on you guys (hence the title of this post). Not sure how the “y’all” fits into that equation? I’m not either.

In any case, I just felt like saying hey. I usually like to tell stories here, but today, it’s going to be random. And I’m going to ramble.

Put your seatbelts on.

How’s by me? Well. . .

How’s Creature? Still naughty and in major need of a potch in tuchus. At the moment, a squirrel is trying to break in via the air conditioner in my bedroom window. Poor Creature feels the need to save me and all the residents of The Slope. For once, I’m sympathetic and not angry about his howling. That nasty squirrel just keeps coming back. So I turned on the air conditioner. Take that, squirrel! But my hair is wet, so this solution may not last long.

But I mentioned the potch in tuchus. He needs one:

How’s life in Brooklyn? Well, my neighbor doesn’t know it, or maybe he does, but we’re in a hot water competition. Our bathrooms share a wall. We get up at about the same time. He stands at his sink listening to NPR (usually “All Things Considered”) and occasionally bursts out with a bit of opera. But don’t tell him I told you about the opera. I don’t think he thinks anyone knows about that.

Anyway. Sometimes he makes it into the shower before I do, and uses all the hot water.

Which sucks.

And about two minutes after his shower, I hear him leave the apartment. Which isn’t fair because A: he turns off the radio in the middle of gripping stories, and B: he doesn’t have a ton of hair to untangle and dry.

Such is life. But it’s getting me to set my alarm for just a bit earlier. So take that, neighbor! (And I sometimes admit defeat and wash my hair at night, hence the earlier reference to wet hair.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, he IS in fact a Nice Jewish Boy. And sweet. And apparently he sings. You know how I feel about that. But I’m sorry to tell you, it’s not going to happen. Due to lack of sparkage.

How cool would that be in a romance novel though? Hero and heroine meet through a bathroom wall, then a squirrel breaks in and the hero saves the heroine (sorry Creature, you’re not the hero in this scenario) from the clutches of the evil rodent. . .

But I digress.

How’s work? Don’t even go there.

But get this:

The principal came running into my class, totally out of breath, followed by the custodian, who was carrying a mop. She commented that I didn’t look pale. . . Um, thanks? Apparently, a kid went to the office and told the secretary that I was throwing up. I wasn’t. Interesting.

Turns out, a fourth grade girl was the one who’d been sick, but I got a ton of sympathy as I was leaving the school. When I said “thanks but I’m fine,” somebody asked me why I didn’t just go with it, because I could have gone home early. Which wouldn’t have been a bad idea, since I was in the delightful company of the seventh graders.

Next time. . .

How’s the writing? Well, it could be better. And by better I mean I could actually be, you know, writing stuff. But I had to come to the realization that writing just isn’t going to happen until the summer. I know about the whole “you’re only a writer if you make time and put your butt on the chair and your hands on the keyboard” point of view, which is valid. But let’s get real. With a day job, etc., there are times when it just isn’t going to happen.

But before the Wiffers give me their famous hairy eyeball, I do have some good news. I’ve been doing some more “discovery” work and research, and I’ve come up with some great ideas for my last NaNo book. At the moment, these ideas are on flowery sticky notes, written in sparkly ink. And they’re hanging in the doorframe of my closet because A: the closet is next to my computer, and B: there’s not really any other place in this apartment. Good news though – they’re way pretty! (The ideas and the sticky notes, that is.)

So this summer, when I’m fogbound in CA, it’s on!

And let’s not forget my Glee addiction, and how happy it makes my basement divas. We won’t talk about how much money the show has caused me to fork over to iTunes or how I dance like the silhouettes in those old iPod ads whenever I’m listening to Glee songs, but here’s the perfect song for my pissy protagonist.


I’m going to do us all a favor now and go to bed.

So? How’s by you?

Nighty night!

Posted in Creature Feature, Mel the Brooklynite, The Lucky Mr. Mel, Writing Life | 9 Comments »

Someday He’ll Come Along

March 20th, 2010 by Melina

The Man I Love. . .

Hi People.

In light of the recent efforts of my colleagues to make me a match, and since the subject has been coming up lately, I’ve decided it’s time to tell the universe and my matchmakers exactly what I want in a guy. (Not that my matchmakers, aka my colleagues, will be reading this. . .  G-d forbid. . .  Seriously, can you imagine if they found my blog? Unless it’s a colleague who happens to be a colleague and a FB friend – in which case, I say welcome, thanks for stopping by!)

Anyway, here it goes. I’ve mapped out my perfect man, who shall henceforth be known as The Lucky Mr. Mel, and broken it down by category.


Shared Beliefs

1. Computer Use

Mr. Mel must be a Mac user. If, for some unfortunate reason, like a job situation, he must use a PC, he must complain about it, and share my absolute and unconditional adoration towards the glory and genius that is Apple.

He must also not diss Twitter and Facebook. Used well, they are powerful tools.

2. Religious Beliefs and Practices

I know, that sounds obvious. But if we’re going to share a kitchen and co-exist on Saturdays and holidays, that’s a given.

3. Political Views

I’m not so political, but I strongly believe that a person’s political views reflect his or her values, sometimes even more than religious beliefs. And let’s not forget that I was born in Berkeley. . .

4. Children

I want them. (In spite of the fact that I’m around them all day and they can be so annoying my biological clock starts to wonder why it even bothers to keep ticking).

So must he.

Practical Stuff

1. Height

You know how tall women want tall men because they want to be able to wear heels? That’s not what I’m getting at here. I’m 5 feet tall. I need a tall guy because, unfortunately, I’m not in possession of Go-Go Gadget Arms. On my wedding day, the step ladders are going into storage, as Mr. Mel will always be around to reach stuff for me. Really, I’m having it added to our ketubah.

2. Lock Picking Abilities

Enough said.

Stuff He’ll Have to Put Up With

1. Creature

So this guy I was seeing sat down on my couch, and Creature jumped onto his lap. It was the cutest thing I ever saw. I reached for the camera to take a picture of my men.

Then Mr. Wishes-He-Was-Lucky-Enough-To-Be-Mr. Mel pushed Creature off of his lap and asked to borrow my lint roller. OMGWTFBBQ.

I dumped him.

2. The Color Pink

I’m not going to apologize for it. I’ve got a pink cover on my laptop. A pink hairbrush. A pink shower curtain. He’ll just have to deal with it.

Not to mention the fact that when I’m revising, I use sparkly pens and bright, flowery sticky notes. And that makes me happy.

3. Sleeping. . . Or not

Sleeping isn’t one of my talents. When I do sleep, I have a tendency to dance along interpretively to my dreams. This bugs the hell out of Creature, and I imagine Mr. Mel might not care for it either. He’ll also have to deal with my inability to deal with mornings.

And for the record: My hair in the morning? NOT pretty. I’ve been told the morning me resembles Medusa.

4. The Jewish / Aries / Greek Combo

Seriously. Could I be any more intense?

5. Hummus

If my recipe scares him, he’s toast.

Or possibly a vampire, and while I’m open minded, I simply refuse to deal with that.

6. Writing Chatter

1. I can go on about the internal / external conflict and character arcs in shows like Buffy and Gilmore Girls for hours on end. And I must say I find my analysis fascinating. I also have a tendency to rave about Scrivener and explain my plotting process while speaking at length about plot holes in my WIP.

I Should Be So Lucky

1. Looks

I’m not picky, but I wouldn’t complain if he had black hair and blue eyes. Oh, and strong arms. Yeah. I kind of like that.

2. Musical Abilities / Interests / Talents

It wouldn’t kill him to be into music, or better yet, a musician. And snaps if he’s into the Greek / Israeli / Middle Eastern music scene. I’ve written 3 novels. All 3 heros are musicians. Just saying.

3. Last Name

Please, let it be easy to spell. I’ve had two last names (long story) that have not been easy to spell or pronounce. It’s enough already.


Well, okay, so the “Stuff He’ll Have to Put Up With” category is the longest, and I just thought of about 20 more things to add to that list (like my talent for hyperbolic kvetching and the colorful and creative language I use when speaking to my uncle), but oh well. He’ll have his issues too.

So there you have it. If you happen to see this guy around, and he’s 1) single, 2) straight, 3) and between the ages of, say, 30 – 40, send him on over. Just make sure he reads this first, so he can’t say he wasn’t warned.

Love y’all, mean it.


P.S. Tell him that I promise to tell Creature to be nice. :-)

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Posted in Mel the Brooklynite, Mel's Favorite Posts, The Lucky Mr. Mel | 9 Comments »

What Floats Your Boat?

February 15th, 2010 by Melina

A Cheesy Post. . .

So get this. Sometimes, I can actually be positive. Sure, it’s way more fun (and therapeutic) to bitch and moan and turn kvetching into an art form. And let’s face it. Lately, I haven’t been Miss Melina Sunshine.

Why? Well, life’s been extra irritating. Suckitude, you know?

This morning, I woke up with a headache. Not the ideal way to start a week off, right?

So I stayed in bed, and listened to the podcast version of Lucy March’s fabulous blog. In one of her posts, she listed 50 things that make her happy. Go Lucy!

Now, while I think this is a great thing for somebody else to do, I normally wouldn’t do such a thing myself, as I find it cheesy. (Again, I didn’t find Lucy’s post at all cheesy. It’s just that I’m supposed to be bitter. . .)

But what the hell. I made a list. It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think. In fact, it was hard to keep it at 50.

So here it goes (in no particular order):

1. Listening to / watching Creature snore, purr, scamper across the floor, play with squeaky toys, drink water. . . (you get the picture)

2. Dumbeks — listening to a really fabulous drum solo, or finally mastering a new rhythm or finger roll

3. Point Isabel, with the wild flowers, the S.F. Bay, and hundreds of sweet dogs

4. Swimming in the Libyan Sea, and hearing goat bells in the distance

5. Having my friends around my kitchen table, especially for Shabbat or a holiday

6. Greek and Israeli folk dancing

7. Talking to my uncle on the phone, using downright foul words over and over again and not caring about how ridiculous our conversation may be

8. Waking up in California after a long day of travel, coming downstairs and meeting my mother in the kitchen

9. Almond blossoms, especially in Jerusalem

10. Peet’s Coffee (You can take the girl out of Berkeley. . .)

11. Baking challah

12. Sarit Hadad (LOVE this song, especially the last minute)

13. Singing (at Camp Kee Tov, I got an award for having a song for every situation / occasion)

14. Laughing (at Camp Kee Tov, I was also voted most likely to be a stand up comic overcome by her own giggles)

15. Thinking about Camp Kee Tov, best camp EVER, and my group’s cheers and songs

16. The brief, silent moments during Kabbalat Shabbat services when I know we’re about to sing one of my favorite songs

17. Sitting on the couch, late at night, and watching the Shabbat candles burn (here are my candles)

18. The look on a student’s face when they realize that they’ve created a computer program that makes their robot move

19. Lemons from my mother’s tree

20. My writing community (the Twitter, Facebook, RWA Chapter and WWfW Forum versions)

21. Working with lovely, caring people who care more about my love life than I do

22. My mother’s Death Row Chicken, even though I’m 90% vegetarian

23. My iPhone / MacBook and all they allow me to do

24. Scrivener

24. My glittery pens, girlie post-it’s, and various other writing accoutrements

25. NaNoWriMo, for the community, the accomplishments and the adrenaline rush

26. The Moth / This American Life (Hi Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Andy Borowitz. . . )

27. Garlic, za’atar, oregano and harissa

28. Yemen, and their incredible, kick ass music and food (check this out, and this too)

29. The words “hence” and “wherein”

30. Remembering Tuck (Tucky), the sweet, loving, enthusiastic dog I grew up with, and his best friend Genny

31. Will Write for Wine

32. Crazy, heroic locksmiths (seriously, did you think, even for a second, I wasn’t going to go there?)

33. Watching Buffy stick a stake into a vampire’s heart and watching the vampire turn to dust

34. Netflix, Hulu, and Fancast for so kindly providing me with Buffy episodes

35. Looking out the window of the B Train and seeing the Statue of Liberty behind the Brooklyn Bridge

36. The Apple Store

37. My magical, warm, adorable “Lucy/Lani Socks” that fill me with love and creativity

38. When Harry Met Sally

39. Bubble Shooter

40. Folk music from the 60’s (whatever, I was born in Berkeley)

41. Singing the “order of the seder” at the beginning of the seder (which, for some reason, I find exciting)

42. Getting lost in Prospect Park

43. Snow days

44. The Olympics

45. Coming home after a long day to a dog who won’t stop wagging his little tail

46. Getting lost in a book

47. Friends who know me well enough to give me names like “Cannonball

48. New York accents that melt my heart and make me feel like I’m around family

49. Wearing glittery make-up for Purim

50. Lyra, lauto, baglama, bouzuki. . . and songs like this and this

Well, my dear friends. What are your “raindrops on roses?”

And while I’m being cheesy (but in a good way), here are some Raindrops on Roses from me to you:

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Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

A Blessing on my Head?

January 19th, 2010 by Melina

Mazel tov? Mazel tov?

So, apparently I’m getting married.

A blessing on their heads, mazel tov, mazel tov. ♬

Who knew? Did you know? Because I certainly didn’t. And here I thought I’d be the first to know. Or at least the second.

Such an assumption I made.

To see Melina wed, mazel tov, mazel tov. ♬

Turns out, the teachers at school (and it’s a tiny little Hebrew day school in Brooklyn, if that explains anything) think I’m old, washed up, and pathetic at the ripe old age of 31. Well, they didn’t exactly say that to my face, but I got their point.

Which is this: They want there should be ♪ a canopy in store for me. ♬

They want my mother should have ♪ such a son in-law, like no-one ever saw. ♬

As for the boy(s) they have in mind: ♪ A worthy boy is he, from pious family. ♬

Oy. Vey iz mier.

I’ve known since last year that there’s been talk of making me a match.

Well, somebody has to arrange the matches. Young people can’t decide these things themselves. ♬

And these potential matches might, for all I know, be direct descendants of Tzeitel and The Tailor Motel Kamzoil. I’d like to think that my friends and colleagues are well connected and want the best for me. If they haven’t given up.

But it wasn’t until this morning that I had the whole picture.

It all started when I got to school. Through no fault or effort of my own, a group of teachers in the hallway decided I looked (unusually) glamorous. Who knew a coat from the Old Navy clearance bin could work such wonders? (Me? Glamorous? No, it’s not just you. I could’ve been knocked over with a feather myself.) One of the teachers said we should leave school and go to Manhattan to “find me a cutie.”

I’ve got to interrupt this tale right here to inform you that while I appreciate the efforts, I have nothing to do with it. It’s not like I’ve been prancing around school doing this:

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You see, I come from a long line of very strong, very independent, single people. Sure, I’d love to get married. But I’m also okay the way things are. So why my colleagues are going on and on about marrying me off, I can only guess.

Here are some highlights of the discussion that was going on behind my back (but right in front of my face):

1. “The girl [that’d be me, hi] goes to shul but she doesn’t go out.” (As you can imagine, this statement did wonders for my non hip and up-and-coming self image. It’s also not true. Let’s all take a moment to remember the glory that was Noah.)

2. “She really should look into online dating.” (Um. . . Yeah, I know I’m the computer teacher and have a reputation that involves a well publicized Internet addiction, but: A. How do you people know I haven’t? B. I write romance novels and chick lit. There’s nothing wrong with online dating, but for now I have hope that my personal story will be something else.)

3. “She has to stay away from Mrs. X and Mrs. Y, because their single daughters are her competition.” (To which I respond thusly: You people can’t be serious.)

This was followed by talk of which teachers have sons my age. A few do, but sadly (actually, to my relief), they’re taken.

But not to worry. These sons have friends, and friends of friends, who are probably hearing about the sad, pathetic old-maid-that-is-me as we speak.

If they haven’t heard about me already.

So, dear teacher friends and yentes, all I ask is this. I’m well aware of the reality that I have absolutely no say in this matter. My uncle has informed me that these things are “always decided by committee.”

But please keep this in mind:

♪ ♬ ♩Playing with matches

A girl can get burned


Bring me no ring

Groom me no groom

Find me no find

Catch me no catch

Unless he’s a matchless match! ♬ ♫ ♩

Like I said. I’m fine with things the way they are. I mean that sincerely. But, I guess this scenario wouldn’t be so terrible either:

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If the teachers succeed in their mission, I’ll invite you all to the wedding. That is, if they give me any advanced warning about it. I’m thinking they might get the new school rabbi to walk into class with a nice Jewish locksmith and a chuppah and perform the ceremony right in front of the SMARTBoard. (Kidding. Sort of.)

See you there! :-)

Posted in Chutzpah, Fun With YouTube, Mel the Brooklynite, So NOT hip and up-and-coming. . ., The Lucky Mr. Mel | 6 Comments »

Trains. Firemen. Locksmiths.

December 29th, 2009 by Melina

Oh yeah. And a freezing Mel.

(Note: Formatting is off. I know that. Working on it.)

Okay, fine. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I recently experienced an unfortunate incident wherein I required the assistance of a locksmith.


Oh stop. Don’t mock. I had my keys. Both times. Okay?

So here’s what happened:

As we all know, I am in no way “hip and up-and-coming.” We’ve established this, am I wrong? Combine that with being exhausted from NaNoWriMo, December weather, and the fact that the beginning of the month has involved a lot of travel, and it makes no sense that I feel the need to go out on this Saturday night. In fact, I’ve planned to spend the day home, doing nothing except for breathe and maybe blink a few times. I’ve even skipped Shabbat services, or, as I confess to my mother later that day, I’ve “cut shul.”

Point is I’m tired (more than I usually am), and it’s cold.

But it’s also the second night of Hanukkah, and I’m in a mood (more than I usually am). One can’t live a life of work and sleep, right? And it’s the first night of the Sephardic Music Festival, and Galeet Dardashti is playing, and she has a new album coming out, and it just seems wrong for me to be home during such an event.

Besides, it’s only three subway stops away. No big deal, right?


Fast forward to later that evening, when I’m lost and freezing on a dark, disgusting, deserted block of Chinatown and unable to find a cab. Fast forward to me sitting on a tall chair at the 92nd Street Y in TriBeCa, sipping a coke, and, despite the effort I’ve made to doll myself up, realizing that one Saturday night out on the town does not a hip and up-and-coming person make. Fast forward to me leaving before the third act, seeing as I have Creature to get home to and a bed that’s feeling neglected, and then to me dealing with the Little Engine That Couldn’t (technically known as the Q). And finally, you get to me standing at the bottom of my stoop, feeling relieved to be home.

It’s midnight, the hour at which the non hip among us should vanish into thin air and/or turn into pumpkins. I get to the front door of my building, and put the key in the lock. I turn the doorknob.

Nothing happens.

I try again.

Now, we all know that I don’t have the best track record with keys and locks, and we know about “Classic Melissa Stories.” So, it’s only natural that I jump to the conclusion that I am a klutz. All the Brownstones around here look the same. It’s dark. Maybe I’m at the wrong house. I refuse to believe that I am experiencing deja vu.

We also know that when all else fails, I call my mother.

I’m still blaming myself, and feeling pathetic. My mother reminds me that this same lock was broken the week I moved in, and that it was fixed, but not replaced. She also tells me to go over to a family friend’s house and sleep on her couch. I refuse, and start a pointless monologue about not having any contact lens solution with me. Besides, Creature is alone.

I try the key again, not wanting to call my landlord who lives on the first floor of the Brownstone because it’s after midnight and I know she has a serious flu. But there’s nothing else I can do, so I call. Her phone is off. I ring her bell. Her dogs bark, but she doesn’t answer. On top of everything else, I’m worried about her. I try buzzing a neighbor and prepare to apologize profusely, but the buzzer system doesn’t work. This is, after all, a New York City apartment building. Oh, and the light on the stoop isn’t working. My landlord is very much on top of things, but it is an old building.

Next, I call my super. No dice.

The streets are almost deserted, except for a few dog-walkers who are looking at me like I’m a criminal, a psycho, a drunk or all of the above. I’m tempted to flag one down and ask them to try my key and prove that I’m an idiotic klutz. But now that it’s getting later, and colder, there’s nobody around.

And that’s when I snap out of my denial and realize what’s happening. It’s the middle of the night, and I’m completely alone on a December night in New York City. My dog is upstairs. I know he’s safe, but I don’t like this one bit.

I should call a locksmith, I think. But I’ve been there and done that. It’s expensive, and they’ll probably show up, open my door as if nothing were wrong, and charge me over a $100.

fireThen I have an idea. I live less than a block away from a fire station. It’s not just any fire station. It was one of the first to show up at the World Trade Center on September 11th. Knowing this, I feel horrible for even thinking that I could go bother them with something so minor. Instead, I walk around aimlessly looking for a restaurant or store that’s still open. But I find nothing.

I make a list of all the reasons it’s okay to bother the firefighters:

1. I’m a woman alone wandering aimlessly in the middle of the night with no place to go, in New York City.

2. I’m freezing.

3. If I had a cat, and said cat was stuck in a tree, aren’t these the people I’d call?  (Are they? I don’t know.)

4. If I can’t get in because the lock is actually broken, the people inside may not be able to get out. I, unfortunately, know from being locked in. If there were a fire. . . I can’t bring myself to finish the thought.

It’s the fourth reason that seals the deal. I go to the fire station. It’s all closed up. I walk away, then walk back. I find a door, and a bell. I ring the bell. Nobody answers, I start running away in shame. Then somebody answers.

I go back. Two firefighters are standing in the doorway, in FDNY t-shirts and boxers. I feel like the protagonist in a Kristan Higgins novel. A million scenarios for my next novel spin around in my head.

I explain the problem, emphasizing the “my neighbors probably can’t get out.” They close the door, get dressed, and come meet me on the street. They follow me up the block, with axes over their shoulders. All my romance writer scenarios crash and burn as I realize the firemen are not happy about this midnight chore.

I give them my key, absolutely convinced that they’ll open the door on the first try, I’ll blush from embarrassment, and run upstairs to my dog. That’d be Classic Mel, right? Oh yeah, and I plan to leave them a bottle of wine the next day.


The door still doesn’t open. They go to my landlord’s apartment and lean on the bell. Again, the dogs bark but we don’t hear anybody get up. They offer to break the door down with their axes, but make it clear that these Brownstone doors are historic and my landlord most likely wouldn’t appreciate it.

They also make a comment about the lack of light and the broken buzzer system.

“It’s your choice,” they say.

I can’t let them do it. They leave me standing on the stoop.

I know these are important, busy firemen with better things to do. And dissing the FDNY seems sacrilegious. But they just leave me there, freezing on my stoop. They don’t even offer to help me call a locksmith or a police officer. I decide they’re so not getting wine.

Then, like a mirage, I see some hip and up-and-coming girls enter the garden apartment. I haven’t met them, so they don’t recognize me. I explain the problem and they say they can’t help. I understand that they don’t want to let me use their entrance, but I mentally make a list of other ways they could’ve helped.

Left with no other choice, I open the Google app on my phone and look for a local locksmith. I’m good at this, you may remember. After a few tries to places that are closed, I reach some guy named Roger, who seems annoyed with me and wants to know who’s going to pay. He says he’ll send a guy out in half an hour and that I have to go to an ATM and get $160 in cash.

Which is what I do. The fact that I’m all alone in an ATM vestibule after 1 a.m. with a light shining on me so the whole world can see that I’m withdrawing money is not lost on me. I go back to my stoop with a wallet full of cash, and wait. At least I know I’m not imagining this. I try my landlord and super again just in case I can prevent the locksmith from having to ruin the lock. The super finally calls back, and gives his blessing for the lock destruction.

My phone rings again. It’s my new friend and savior Roger. He informs me that Noah is on his way.

Noah? Huh. Possible “Nice Jewish Guy?” I wonder. You never know. I wait for Noah, plotting another novel wherein the hero is a locksmith and the heroine is. . . I don’t know. Freezing? Tired? Edgy?

Noah finally arrives. He’s a sweetheart with the sexiest Brooklyn accent ever, and my age, but unfortunately not my type. Although I do realize that with my luck, marrying a locksmith might not be such a bad idea. Apparently, he was sitting in front of the T.V. with a beer and about to go to bed when Roger informed him that there was a girl stranded on her stoop and he was afraid I’d freeze.

G-d bless Roger. And G-d bless Noah for not getting a D.U.I.

There’s no light, but he has a flashlight he can attach to his head. He tries to pick the lock, and he explains that this happens all the time. That doesn’t make me feel any better. Neither does his comment that this is the worst he’s seen, or his confirmation that the door can’t open from the other side. Then he needs to break out the drill.

Sorry neighbors, I think. Creature’s about to howl his brains out.

Then the door opens. Noah lets me through so I can run up the stairs and get the dog. I open the door to my apartment, thrilled and a bit surprised that it opens without incident, and get Creature.

Noah takes one look at the cocker spaniel in front of him and is clearly shocked that such a small, adorable thing could make such a racket. But the two men hit it off so well I’m tempted to send Creature home with him so they can drink beer and watch TV together.

A few minutes after that, I climb into bed. Not that I could fall asleep, but at least I’m warm.

The lessons from all this?

When in doubt, just call the locksmith. If they destroy the lock, who cares. If you’re living in an old New York building, the lock is probably a hundred years past its prime. Time to let it go.

More importantly — there’s something to be said for staying home. I still love Galeet Dardashti, but I love her most when I’m watching her on YouTube (thank you http://shemspeed.com), from the comfort of my bedroom.


My first locksmith story was so much fun to write. It’s my favorite post to date. Even though I was trapped inside, it didn’t feel quite as dangerous. It was funny. I hope to tell the story at a Moth story slam someday. Based on that, I was looking forward to writing the sequel. The thing is, I’m having trouble finding the humor in this story. My mother was upset for days. Even though we love my landlord, and she fixes things right away, she wants me to own a place so I can have control over things like locks and lights. When I told this story to another teacher at work who has a daughter my age, she said that if it had been her daughter, she would have been beside herself.

There’s a new lock on the front door now, and the landlord has paid me back for the locksmith and promised to get an electrician to fix the lights. I’m grateful that I’m fine, and my neighbors are fine, and that it wasn’t snowing or even colder than it was.

Meanwhile, I’m off to JDate. It’s enough already. It’s time to start looking for an eligible Jewish locksmith.

Posted in Classic Mel, Mel the Brooklynite, Mel's Favorite Posts, New York Living, So NOT hip and up-and-coming. . ., The Lucky Mr. Mel | 12 Comments »

Confessions of Cannonball the Klutz

October 12th, 2009 by Melina

A Classic Melissa Story: For Your Enjoyment

Remember when I was locked in my apartment and I made a crack about “Classic Melissa Stories?” Well, my friend Maren got on Facebook today and referred to me as Cannon Ball. And Kim was curious as to why (she’s a writer and therefore it’s her job to inquire about such things), so I promised to tell the story here.

Hope you’re ready.

Before I get started, there are a few things you’ve got to know.

As I mentioned, I’ve got this friend Maren. I’ve known her so long I was actually a guest at her first birthday party. And I get to call her Mollie, cause I’m that special. She’s family. In fact, her whole family is my family.

Although you wouldn’t know that to look at us. She’s tall, blond and Nordic. Which I am not, in spite of my thing for Sweden. She’s also very sweet, which is another thing I am not. (True story: My uncle, this one right here, once asked, “Mollie is so sweet and you’re such a bitch. How are you two friends?” I thanked him for the compliment and told him I often wondered the same thing. I then proceeded to send him this video.)

Another difference: Mollie and the members of her family love to ski (told you, Nordic). And for some reason, when I was a kid, they used to drag me along with them. I’m telling you, these people are saints.

I don’t have the best track record when it comes to traveling with them. There was the time at the zoo I fell off the stepping stones into a small lake. And there was the time I got sick in the back seat of their Volvo after a trip to an amusement park. Mollie’s father Rick had a gym bag in the trunk of his car, and on more than one occasion had to dress me in one of his extra t-shirts. Yet, these people continued to include me on their family outings.

Including their ski trips.

Now, you’ve got to understand that I’ve got a problem with heights and going down hills. I fall more often than President Ford. So skiing? Not a talent. Ice-skating, I love, cause it’s flat. I’ve even got my own skates. Jumping off a fishing boat into the Mediterranean and snorkeling? Count me in! But being at the top of a hill and looking down makes me dizzy and disoriented. (Another true story: On my first hike in Israel, on our way down a mountain, my hot classmate from Argentina had to take hold of both of my hands to help me keep my balance. So you see, there are times vertigo can pay off.)

But back to the story, and the point.

So I was on a ski trip with Mollie and Family. I was in fourth grade. They suggested that I wait while they went down a hill to take care of some lift ticket business. But I was ten, and got bored after a while, and the hill didn’t seem that steep, so I went for it.

According to Robinson Family Mythology, people were way impressed. Off I went, at full speed, with my poles in the air. I must have looked like a professional ski jumper.

But there were two itsy-bitsy details that gave me away as a fraudulent skier.

I didn’t have a clue what to do with my poles. And I had no idea how to stop.

Also according to mythology, I was chanting, “RickRickRickRick” as if there was some way he’d be able to save me.

Just to put it out there, these are all details Rick feels compelled to share with company whenever I’m around.

Anyway, I clearly survived, or I wouldn’t be here telling you this story now. But I did fall. Flat on my back. And I scratched my hand with one of the polls.

And that, the story goes, is how I earned the name Cannonball.

The End.

Oh, wait. I lied. Not the end. I’m only sharing this next part because if I don’t, you know Rick will. Another time (and yes, there was another time. I know. Hard to believe, right? Told you, these people are saints.) we were skiing, there was a lift like this. I was afraid to get off, so I was pulled into the air, and I left the people behind me sort of stuck.

Not my proudest moment.

Well, there you have it.

Obviously, I love and adore you all, or I wouldn’t have shared this.



P.S. Yes, I’m from California. Please don’t ask if we have snow there. I promise you, we do.

Posted in Classic Mel, Mel's Favorite Posts | 12 Comments »

Gmar Chatimah Tovah

September 26th, 2009 by Melina

The Music of Yom Kippur

Yesterday, a colleague asked me if I was ready for Yom Kippur.

It’s a hard question. In some ways, Yom Kippur is one of the easier holidays. As in, there’s no cooking or cleaning like on other holidays. Practically, all I really have to do to prepare is make sure I’ve got my non-leather shoes ready,and make sure I’ve got food around for before and after the fast. And there’s Tashlich, which I did yesterday afternoon, in a beautiful spot in Prospect Park.

But mentally, it’s another story. As you may have noticed from my lack of recent blog posts and my sparse and kvetchy tweets and Facebook updates (and probably the unusually serious tone of this post), I’ve been exhausted and busy with work.

Which makes it kind of hard to feel ready for the most intense day of the Jewish calendar. But, I am in fact excited.

Excited may seem like the wrong word when it comes to a day of fasting and sitting (well, mostly standing) in shul, atoning for sins and wondering out loud who will be inscribed in the book of life.

But trust me, I’m excited. It all started on a Friday night about two weeks ago, in the middle of services, when the cantor sang one of the Shabbat prayers to a High Holiday melody. It completely made my week. It’s true. You can even ask the rabbi, who saw the look on my face and smiled at me.

Selichot, a service that happens at midnight the Saturday before Rosh Hashanah, and which I describe as “about an hour of “High Holidays Greatest Hits,” makes me even more excited. Plus, I love watching the Torahs being dressed in white.

So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite melodies with you.

Yom Kippur services begin with Kol Nidre. This is a Moroccan version I hadn’t heard until my mother sent me this link. (Here’s a traditional Ashkenazi version.) It’s beautiful:

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This is my all time favorite High Holiday piyut (liturgical poem or song):

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Here’s Avinu Malkeinu, probably the most famous of the High Holiday prayers:

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Towards the end of Yom Kippur, during the Neila service, as congregants are standing in the pews, exhausted and hungry (and in my case, suffering from a severe  lack of caffeine headache), the prayers begin focusing on the closing/locking of gates. It’s basically the last chance to ask for forgiveness. There are many different melodies, but here’s one of my favorites:

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Here are some more forgiveness hymns, sung by Yoel Ben-Simhon:

And here’s a whole collection of High Holiday music, in case you’d like to hear more. And here’s a video of the the shofar and an explanation of the four shofar blasts.

To those of you observing Yom Kippur, Gmar Chatimah Tovah and tzom kal

Posted in Fun With YouTube, Holiday Fun | 3 Comments »

My Not So Secret Fantasy

August 9th, 2009 by Melina

Sweden, here I come!

Hi People.

So. Last time we talked, I was all wrapped up in the last day of school and I’d dealt with an unfortunate incident wherein I got locked in my apartment.

Good times.

Anyway, a lot has happened since then. Like huge writing conferences and moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I was going to tell you about both, but right now I care about neither.


Because I’m too upset about this:

See, I find this completely unacceptable. I did not grow up with weather like this. At all. Before I moved to New York, the only humidity I’d ever felt was at Butterfly World. July and August meant fog, aka “natural air conditioning.” If we had a heat wave, at least it was dry. A simple ceiling fan was enough to get us through.

In the S.F. Bay Area, we get rain. But we have a rainy season, which is winter. Yeah, we deal with a few months of being cold and soggy, but at least we’re not hot. And we can breathe.

In the Bay Area, we don’t deal with disgusting, overheated Subway platforms, or hot, wet air that traps dirt and grime. Summer doesn’t mean feeling like you’re the freaking lint trap in a working dryer.

And yes, the Bay Area branch of my family does in fact think I’m an idiot for moving here.

Especially since they’re the ones who decided to flee New York in the first place. Wise people. . .

Which brings me to my plan to move to Lund, Sweden.

Okay, I know. You’ve been listening to me bitch and moan about the whole moving thing for a while now. (Sorry, and thanks for listening. You are simply the best.)

I even made this claim on Facebook:

Ok, so here’s the deal. I’m moving from one small place to another. It’s not going well. So I won’t be moving again. Ever. And if I’m married someday and have 10 kids, it’ll be cramped. But we’ll just have to deal with it. I’m thinking bunk beds. Anybody have a problem with that? No? Good.

I lied.

I’ve rethought the situation, and changed my mind. Turning into a puddle will do that to a person.

So why Lund, you might want to know.

Well, here’s the thing. Ten years ago, I spent a year in Jerusalem. Which is where I first learned the definition of hot. For the first few months I lived there (July, August and September), I lived in an unspeakably uninhabitable dorm suite with two Canadians, one Japanese woman and a large variety of unmentionable bugs. Jerusalem, being a desert and all, is hot and dusty. And Jerusalem is. . . shall we say. . . chaotic?

A few months into my year abroad, I landed in Copenhagen, still feeling hot and dusty. As I got off the plane, I felt cool air coming in from outside. The airport sparkled with cleanliness. People were civil.

The angels sang.

Then I got on a boat headed for Lund, a cute city where people are so civilized, and lucky them, don’t know from hot and humid. It was clean and orderly. The memory of their pristine busses, with the screens that tell you where you are, still makes me weep.

And it was blessedly cool.


So there. Go Sweden!


Mel, who has turned into a puddle. Been nice knowing you.

P.S. No, I do not, at this moment, care about what their winters must be like. Right now, freezing = good.

P.P.S. As I stated earlier, the Swedes seem to be a civil people. So it’s possible that my personality, sparkling though it may be, might not be appreciated in Sweden the way it is in New York. Thoughts?

P.P.P. S. Notice that the weather report for the Lund area states that it is 67 degrees. Not only that, it actually “feels like” 67 degrees. They don’t add degrees the way we do in New York. Go figure.

Posted in Mel the Brooklynite, Mel's Favorite Posts, New York Living | 14 Comments »

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