Thursday, July 23, 2015

Weekend Flow: Red Hook

Hey, everyone! It's Bodeline,'s new intern.

Have you ever realized how much you may take your neighborhood, your city, for granted? I am a native New Yorker and only learned of the Empire State’s location five years ago. Even worse, I am a native Brooklynite born & raised, and I have never visited every single neighborhood. What was Williamsburg back in the day, but the setting for Betty Smith’s novel, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn?

So this summer, I promised that I would no longer leave the Brooklyn exploring to the hipsters and realtors. I decided to start a quest and "visit" my own city. This past weekend, I headed straight to uncharted waters - Red Hook, Brooklyn.

A little about Red Hook – it’s more than just the Ikea! This quaint neighborhood is quiet, giving it a very small town feel, which is what I loved. It is either residential or very industrial; old garages are now new contemporary lofts. I would recommend just walking around and getting lost, but if you are someone who needs direction, here goes:

If you’re a foodie, you've probably seen their truck at Smorgasburg at some point. And if you are at foodie level 10, like me, then you’ve tried their lobster rolls at least once. But experiencing a delicious Maine Lobster roll, with their special homemade mayo, at the restaurant is completely different. The decor: Martha’s Vineyard meets Brooklyn. Second, the menu is not as limited. Third, let’s work on sitting at the dinner table and conversing with each other instead of always being on the go. Ok? Cool.

While walking to the final destination, I made a pit stop to a chocolate factory. One less saturated than Willy Wonka’s. Cacao Prieto is a “bean-to-chocolate” bar. All the cocoa beans are derived from cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic. They churn their machines in-house and make liquors, chocolate, and even apothecary products derived from the beans. Not only does it look amazing inside, but it smells heavenly!

My very last stop was Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. This place takes it queues from a fisherman’s boat with hooks and fishing trip photos all over the orange walls. I had the raspberry blonde swizzle (their name for the pie on a stick). These things are delicious! Perhaps it's because, according to them, they are one of the only two establishments left that use fresh squeezed lime juice for their pies.

                                                    This was definitely a day well spent!

Hi, Bodeline!

We met in a Breather, my favorite app for booking meeting places, to discuss the expectations of an internship at 

Knowing that your boss might be a bit forgetful at times. 

After much laughter, talking about aspirations and the difference between journalism and creative writing, we decided that she'd be the perfect fit. 

Bodeline will be writing posts here, have her own weekly column, and most importantly, we'll be on a mission to learn from one another. 

Say hello!

Instagram: Bodeline.D
Website: BKMadeBlog

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Boroughs Apart: Part 8

Ruth sat, starting at the grandfather clock in the family room, for hours. She did this sometimes, forgetting who or where she was. When she'd get like this, Evan and Bethany usually left her alone. However, Evan was excited. He'd just spent the evening, swaying to imaginary sounds, with Ella, in the middle of Harlem. He walked her to the train station, while they held hands, and she kissed him goodnight.

He walked in to find Ruth, sitting in their only armchair, facing the grandfather clock, goggling it once again. 

"Grandma Ruth," he called her as she continued to ogle it, paying him no mind.

He tapped her shoulder, "Grandma Ruth?"

She broke her trance and looked at him, "I never wanted to leave Harlem, Evan."

Evan looked at her, "What are you talking about, Grandma? We're in Harlem."

She stood up, dignified, "We're here now, but we left for so long. He's gone now. I feel empty and trapped."

Evan realized she was speaking to his deceased grandfather. She went back in time, some days. It was rare, but usually on a day she experienced something traumatic.

Evan tried to help his grandmother sit back down, into the armchair, "Did something happen at the gallery, grandma?"

"I keep seeing him, but I know he ain't here."

Bethany walked down the steps and passed them to go into the kitchen. She knew what one of Grandma Ruth's episodes looked like and waved her hand, dismissing the entire scenario. 

Evan couldn't imagine doing the same, "Who's not here?"

"Rey...his name doesn't even matter. He doesn't exist. He's not real. He just up and gone."

Ruth got up to head towards her room, Evan tried to follow her, "Evan go about your business. I know you ain't your grandfather, but Jesus you look like that bastard."

Evan frowned. He hated when she referred to anyone in the family, this way. He looked towards his father's study and at the large painting of his grandfather that hung above his desk. Neither had really taken to the time to get to know him.  

Just as Evan had this thought, his father walked in. He walked straight to the study, as if he didn't see Evan standing right in front, and threw his briefcase and jacket on the chair. 

Evan stepped inside of the study, "Dad, I have a question for you..."

His father stopped moving things around on his desk, "Oh. Good evening, son. How are you?"

"I'm good. I had a great time with Ella, tonight."

"Who? I thought her name was Rebecca." 

"Dad, I'm seeing Ella now. I told you about her, a few nights ago."

"Yeah. The one you're squandering all your time on. I see."

Evan tried to ignore the comment, "Tell me about grandpa..."

Evan Junior lit up, excited about speaking about a man he admired, "Well, what do you want to know?"

"What was his relationship with grandma like?" 

"That's an interesting question, Third. Where'd that come from?"

Evan cringed when his father called him his nickname, it irritated him that people might mistake he was anything like his forefathers, "I've been speaking with the curator about our family history and Grandma has been telling me a few stories..."
Evan's father sighed, "Don't listen to too much your grandmother says. She's a bit of a loon."


"Third, I'm just telling the truth. She's not all there anymore. She never really was. I remember my father giving her anything she wanted and that woman was never satisfied."

"Maybe there's something deeper there, that you don't know about."

"Right. Because I didn't live with them for all of my life. Your grandmother is spoiled. I suppose my father tried to make up for being so busy, with all the gifts. They spent a few years in France and when she had me, my father brought her back over here. She wanted to come home, she wanted to raise me here. Poppa still had business back in France, so he was in and out."

"Did his business produce my aunt and uncle in France, your half brother and sister?" 

Evan's father grew silent, "My father was a good man, Third." 

Evan knew the conversation was over, "Goodnight, dad."

Ella waited for her grandfather to come home.

Reynold walked in, an hour after her, her mother already in bed. Ella sounded like a concerned parent, instead of someone who was two generations younger. 

"Where were you?"

Reynold took off his coat, "I just needed to do some thinking, little lady."

"Were you riding the trains again? Mommy and I keep telling you that's not safe, at these hours."

"Girl, I've been riding that train since it was all black folks, up and down the line. I'm sure it's a lot less dangerous, these days."

Ella couldn't argue with him. The Harlem and Brooklyn that he'd known was incredibly different, from what it is now. 

"Why did you run off, like that?"

"I needed to think. That's all."

"I really wish you would talk to me."

"Who did you say you were trying to court, at this function? There was a special person you mentioned."

"It wasn't a person. It's an entire family. The youngest is a young man I've been seeing. He's..."

Reynold interrupted, "What's the family name?"


Reynold wore a scowl across his face that Ella didn't recognize, "Marquis, eh? This young man's name is?"

"It's Evan. Everything all right, grandpa?"

Reynold fell into the couch, he looked worn, like he'd aged another year while he rode the trains, "I'm quite all right. How was the show?"

Ella took her grandfather's word and told him all about the show and her magical evening with Evan, but couldn't help but notice the furrow of his brow every time she mentioned her new love's name. 

Ruth sat in their coffee shop. 

It was theirs. 
The midway point between East and West Harlem. 

Reynold met her there, once a week, and they'd talk about any and everything, without the stares of socialites or interruptions of Reynold's roommate. She'd been there every day for the last week, since she'd been back. He was nowhere to be found. It'd been four years since they had coffee at their favorite table. 

That Friday she finally saw the owner of the place. He knew them well and usually came over and told them about new roasts he was trying out. She caught him, right before he rushed into the back. 

"Mr. Paul! Have you seen Reynold?"

He looked shocked to see her, "Ruth! You're back? How are you?"

"I'm fine. I was overseas."

Mr. Paul looked at Ruth's hands, at her huge wedding ring, "You're married? To Reynold? Wonderful!"

His greek accent was filled with excitement, Ruth was sad she had to let him down, "I'm married to someone else. Have you seen Reynold?"

"I haven't. It's been about a year now. He used to come here, every day. He was looking for you."

"I wasn't here for him to find."

"I know. I think that's why he stopped coming."

They stood quietly for a few moments, letting the obvious sink in.

Ruth grabbed a napkin from one of the tables and wrote her new address on it, "If you see him, can you give this to him?"

Mr. Paul agreed.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fiction Series: For Coffee: Part One

1985—Blue Mountains, Jamaica, West Indies

My mother used to tell me this story, while we picked coffee cherries on our farm. It was about a goat herder, in Ethiopia, that discovered that his goats were especially spirited when they ate a red fruit that grew abundantly among the land. She said once he noticed this, he alerted a nearby monastery and told the monks that they should use the fruit in a beverage to keep them awake for longer prayers. Once the world caught on to this beverage, they found ways to roast the beans inside the cherries for a more flavorful beverage.
“This is how coffee began,” my mother told the visiting tourists that pulled a sample cherry from the plant.
They all wanted pictures with her. They all pulled out their Polaroid and Fuji cameras and looped their arms around her neck, for the shot. The younger kids, with no inhibitions, played with her long dreadlocks and asked her how she “grew them.”
“They grow tallowah, with plenty love and water.”
I admired my mother’s patience with ignorance and the way our visitors used to treat her, as if she was something that sprouted from the ground of our coffee farm. She answered questions about the process, the way her family found the land and harvested it, the place she’d buried my father behind the house, and how a rose bush grew behind his tombstone although we’d never seen anything grow, but the coffee.
Daddy always made fun of my mother when she told this story to us, “Fana, tell us the story of the herb nuh?”
My mother always laughed and shooed him away, “You know I don’t believe in black up, unless yuh sick.”
When my father fell ill with leukemia, a year later, I remember running through the farms, using my eight year old hands to push the coffee leaves away, looking for this herb my mother and father spoke of. I could not find any. I know now that his death wasn’t my fault, but I remember a youth filled with regret that I could’ve saved my dad on his deathbed.
I watched my mother with the newest group of visitors. They were staying on the farm, and they wanted to know every little thing about our history. My mother said that as far back as she could remember, we were always coffee farmers. We took our dried beans from cloth to the market to sell, back then. Now, we had a factory, the main house, and several visitor cottages, on the property.  It was daddy’s idea to turn our space into a tourist attraction. This idea made my mother quite a wealthy woman. We lived high up, in Jamaica’s blue mountains, a huge fence, one security guard, and several dogs keeping us safe. I’d grown up pulling the pulp from the cherries, leaving them out to arid, and watching my mother do magical things with the remains.
In exactly one year I’d be graduating from upper secondary and headed to college and I wondered about what mommy would do, when I was gone. She wanted me to leave the country, but I wanted to stay here.
“Mommy, the University of The West Indies is just as good, if not better than the schools in foreign.”
My mother sipped her coffee, black, and put it back down, “You need experience girl. I spent my entire life on a farm, so you wouldn’t have to.”
I looked around at our refurnished house and the amazing mountain view, just outside of our windows, “I think you did quite all right. I think I will be just fine, too.”
“You don’t have a choice, Selam, I’ve already gone and looked about your visa.”
I was infuriated, “What? You didn’t even ask me what I wanted to do!”
“I just did, but I know what I want for you. If you go abroad and you don’t like it, you’re more than welcome to come back here. But I don’t think you will.”
My mother tilted her glasses and looked at my plate of bammy and saltfish that I hadn’t touched, I stuffed a piece in my mouth and looked out of the window, to avoid her stare.

1985—Brooklyn, New York, USA

My mother was packing a barrel, again. She stuffed things she’d scoured department stores for and old, underused, items into it. When she started going through my closet, I jumped off of my bed and stood next to her. She was rummaging through my sneaker boxes.
“Mom! There’s nothing in here I don’t wear.”
“Julian, that’s a lie. I’m looking at sneakers that I haven’t seen you wear for years.”
“They might come back in style. My closet is off limits for barrel season.”
My mother dropped the boxes, back into the bottom of the closet, “You have cousins that are the same age as you and can really use them.”
“Tell their mothers to buy it! Why do we have to supply it?”
“Some of them have no mothers or anything at all. Do you hear yourself bwoy?”
I plopped back down into my bed, “I don’t know these cousins. I’ve never met them. It’s hard to feel something for people I’ve never met.”
My mother stood in the doorway of my bedroom, “Don’t worry, that’s going to change. I bought tickets for us to go down for the entire summer. We leave the day you finish school and come back the week, before you start up again.”
My jaw dropped, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I have so much planned for this summer! A Run DMC concert, ciphers in the park with Eddie and the crew, and I just got Jessica to start digging me.”
“Jessica, Eddie and the crew, and Run DMC will be here when you get back. I don’t want to hear it, your father and I have already decided.”
I followed my mother out of the room, “Of course you did! He’s okay with it, because he doesn’t have to go.”
“Your father has to work, you know that.”
“He always has to work. He doesn’t have to go to middle of nowhere West Indies.”
“Stop it! We’re staying with an old high school friend of mine. She owns a coffee farm there and it’s beautiful. You’re going to love it.”
“We’re staying on a farm? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“She’s got a daughter that’s about your age,” my mother sung this and smiled, as if she hadn’t ruined all of my awesome plans.
“So maybe she can show you a little bit about your heritage. You know nothing about my homeland. I think it’s time.”
“Daddy is from the South Bronx. Can I visit his homeland this summer?”
My mother put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes, “We’re going to Jamaica this summer. Final.”

Laguardia to Kingston---Summer 1985
Julian & Selam

The air smelled different on arrival. Julian noticed this the moment he stepped off of the plane. It was a sweet aroma; different from the urine, garbage, and smoke he’d become accustomed to. His mother was so excited; she greeted everyone in an overt manner. You could tell that she hadn’t been home, since she’d left at sixteen.  Julian wouldn’t take off his headphones. If he was going to miss the concert, he might as well listen to RUN DMC, on his Walkman, the entire time. When they finally arrived to the taxi area of the airport, she forced him to take off his headphones and experience the hour and a half drive to the Blue Mountain area.
It was hot as hell. Julian sat next to the driver, uncomfortable that the passenger side here was the driver’s side in America. It felt weird. The breeze from the window helped with the weather, as he watched the variety of houses fly by. They passed shanties and mansions, brown folk alike sitting on porches, waiting on buses, and going about their business.
The roads stopped being smooth, after a while. Rocks rolled under the tires, as they drove higher up into the mountains, and lost sight of civilization. It was getting dark and Julian was afraid of being in the wilderness, with no streetlights. His mother sensed this and put her hand on his shoulder from the back seat, “We’re almost there.”
When they arrived, a beautiful cocoa colored woman, in a flowing red dress, stepped out from a large white house. She ran across the yard into his mother’s arms.
Julian stepped out of the car and started to take the suitcases out of the trunk, along with the driver, when his mother’s friend caught sight of him.
“Julie! He’s so big! He looks just like you!”
Julian and his mother were often told that they looked like brother and sister. His mother was petite and butterscotch, with huge eyes. He’d inherited her candy-coated skin and eyes, but had his father’s height standing at 6’3.
Julian shook the hand of the stranger, “Good to meet you, Fana.”
Fana laughed, “Bwoy you better hug me up. I’ve never met you, but I feel like I know everything about you. I bet you’re excited about this new rock infusion that DMC has been doing.”
            Julian was shocked, “You listen to DMC?”
            Fana pinched his cheeks and grabbed a suitcase; “You’re going to learn a lot this summer. Come on, let’s go inside.”
            Julian and his mother walked inside and put their bags down, a young woman that worked in the house took their belongings to the room they’d be staying in. Fana yelled upstairs, “Selam, come and greet our guests!”
            In a few seconds a young woman came running down the steps and stood before them. Julian’s heart thumped a mile a minute. She resembled her mother, too. Her locks were swept into a bun, with a purple tank top and flowing white skirt.
            Fana smiled, “Julian, this is my daughter Selam.”
            Selam shook his hand quickly, as if she had no interest in greeting him, and quickly turned her attention to his mother. She hugged her tightly.
            “Julie! It’s so good to meet you. I have seen so many pictures of you and my mother as kids. I want to hear all about the madness my mother did, as a teen.”
            Fana hit her daughter on the shoulder, “Chile, cut it out!”
            Julie laughed, as they all walked towards the dining room, for dinner, “You mean like the time your mother chased down Ben, after he threw a lizard down her back.”
            “Ben? You mean crazy Ben, from the market?”
            Fana cringed, “Why would you start with that story? Lawd Julie, Ben is a mad man now!”
            Julian watched the women laugh and exchange stories, as he sat around the table and took in the view outside of the window. He watched Selam flounce around the room, set the table, and immerse herself in the comfort of her home. He would never admit it out loud, but this might just be a cool summer.  


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Boroughs Apart: Part 7

Reynold could not breathe.

It'd been a week since he'd heard from Ruth. Her friends said she was here one day and then gone the next, the streets said she'd been sent away to some fancy school, his roommate said she'd ditched him.

But Reynold knew better. He and Ruth shared something different, something that couldn't be quantified or explained. If she was gone, someone took her. The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months. After the third month, he finally got the courage to walk over to the other side of Harlem and knock on her father's door.

It was noon and Ruth's father was flipping through investment paperwork and sipping tea, ready to put his money somewhere else they said brown folk couldn't. He heard the door and rushed to it, hoping it was a business partner who'd promised to go half on their next deal. He opened it to find Reynold, standing there, like the night in his study, indignant and proud.

"How can I help you, young man?"

Reynold looked weary, tired from working the night shift, but intent on catching Ruth's father before he went on with his day, "Good afternoon, sir. I'm looking for your daughter."

"Is that right?"

Reynold watched a smirk spread across the old man's face and he knew instantly he knew exactly where she was, "Yes, that's right. I haven't seen her in months."

"Well it sounds like she's not interested in you."

Reynold's patois broke from his tongue in anger, "I know yuh know where she is! That woman is my everything. Please, sir."

"Ruth is married, son. Go home."

He stood in disbelief, he could not fathom what he'd just heard, "Married? How is that possible?"

"She had a decision to make. She made it. She and Evan Marquis have been dating for years. I don't even know how you slipped through the cracks."

"She wasn't seeing anyone, especially him!"

Ruth's father started to close the door, "Go home, boy."

Reynold walked down Fifth Avenue, confused. How could the love of his life be married? How could she leave him for a man she claimed she couldn't stand? Her father couldn't be right.

But then the months turned into a year,
and the years into years,
and jobs turned into more jobs,
nothing too permanent, 
making it easier to look for her,

train rides, with women who resembled her,
mocked his love,
affection turned to anger,
anger turned to no reason left to stay...

So he left.

Evan paced the gallery, even after it was closed. Ella couldn't stand his privilege, in this moment. Her boss told her not to close, until he was ready to leave. She covered the pieces, one by one, preparing them to be shipped to their new owners.

When she was taking down the second to last piece, she asked, "Why are you still here, sir?"

Evan smiled, still dapper in his suit, and grabbed the other edge of the painting, helping her carry it across the room, as he did all the others.

"Because you're here."

Ella smiled, "I guess. You can leave, I can finish up here."

"No. I'll stay. This neighborhood gets rough at night. You shouldn't be hopping the train, this late."

"I bet your Grandma Ruth did, back in the day! She seems like such a bad ass."

"Man, listen. Did you see her pour her scotch on that old white woman, tonight?"

"I did! What was she thinking?"

"She was thinking that 'I'll take those three negro paintings' was a statement, that doesn't belong in the digital age."

"Or any age."

Evan grabbed Ella's hand to stop her from wrapping the last painting, "Stop for a second. Dance with me."

Ella laughed, "To what music?"

"Oh? You don't hear that? That's Count Basie playing. Big blues tune."

"Evan, I don't hear a thing."

Evan grabbed Ella's waist and started swaying her around the room, pretending they were on a dance floor.

He smiled, "Langston's ashes are interred in the medallion on the floor across the street, Maya used to dance down the block, Bruce Nugent spit poems next door, and you can't hear the soul in the wind? Stop playing."

Ella swooned, "You know your stuff."

"Nah. Grandma Ruth knows her stuff. But I knew it'd get the attention of a beautiful woman, one day."

Evan didn't wait for the music to stop playing, in his mind. He held Ella's chin and pulled her face in for a kiss. She returned the favor, wrapping her arms around his neck.

She pulled away, "You better stop. You'll lose that little trust fund."

Evan wiped his lip, with a finger,"I'd lose anything, but you."

Ruth sat completely still on the plane. Evan put his arm across her seat, tried to kiss her cheek, whispered sweet things into her ear. She wouldn't move. 

Evan asked, "What's wrong with you?"

Ruth finally broke her silence, "Are you serious? You and daddy must think I'm some sort of product! Something to be bought and sold! I'm a woman and I have a choice."

"You didn't have a choice in this, Ruth. You want to be well off like your friends? You can't marry dirt poor."

"You don't even know him..."

"You're right. Neither one of us have to get to know him now. We're on our way to Europe. We'll build a home there, we'll have a great life."

Ruth moved around in her chair, ready to leave, but with nowhere to go, "This is like kidnapping. Daddy told me that you were escorting me to see Aunt Hilda and now you're telling me I have no return ticket? You're telling me you're staying with me? The minute I get off this plane, I'm going about my business."

Evan grabbed her arm tightly, Ruth could feel his nails pushing into her arm, "You want to end up in somebody's brothel? Go on! When we get off this plane, you can go right to the whore house. I'll have the driver take you there myself."

Ruth looked into his eyes and knew he meant business. She pulled her arm from his grip and faced the seat in front of her. 

Evan fixed his hat and smiled at the folks who were staring at the scene that just played out, "Don't worry y'all. She's being a good girl, now."