Category Archives: Movies

Poughkeepsie Poetry and The Dogs of Brooklyn

Poet's Walk photo by Dennis Riley

Poet's Walk photo by Dennis Riley

Bless me for I’ve sinned, it’s been two weeks since my last blog-session. Things in Brooklyn have been really busy. The weather is changing–dog walking in the cold rain and leaves falling. Winter is on its ominous way, last week four grey days, no sun.

We took a trip up to see Dennis’s friend Ken at Toad Hall in Poughkeepsie or as Ken likes to call it P-Town on Hudson. He manages Locust Grove, a lovely historic estate. I love it up there, its so quiet and full of green. We were there back in July and checked out Poet’s Walk and Opus 40 amongst other things.


Opus 40 photo by Dennis Riley

I wrote this sonnet:

Poughkeepsie Poem

Toad Hall with its twists and turns, bathrooms opening

into other bathrooms old servants quarters low ceilings,

stairs slope and wind back into the kitchen. Turkeys

and frogs croak in the yard of green, lightning bugs

and dancing mosquitoes buzz. We hike through ticks

and flowered fields of Poet’s Walk, sit in old wooden

gazebos and stare at the Hudson River, shop at grocery

stores that classify Green Tea as “New Age Beverages,”

drive dizzy roads to Opus 40 stones in the Saugerties,

a monument tomb to obsessive sculpture. It’s raining,

steam rises off the hot rocks as if ready for dark-cloaked

druid sacrificing. Locust Grove’s rolling lawns and gardens,

house of servant’s ghosts and carriages, the Young’s pet

cemeteries headstones marked Snappy and Rusty. Back

in the city in coffee shops surrounded by people on cell

(as in jail) phones talking. I’m longing for quiet lakes

and green away from laptops and technology’s electric bars.

This time we stuffed our faces at Babycakes and the Eveready Diner went apple picking and antiquing in New Paltz. Unfortunately, the first night we were there the electricity was out. We made the mistake of going to see Zombieland. Even though its a goofy movie, it does have zombies and we were in this big house in the woods in the dark. It just seemed like a horror movie recipe. Did I mention I spent my childhood terrified of the dark? I’m 31 and I still have a nightlight! Suddenly this quaint little house in the woods with all its “secret” rooms became my own personal chamber of horrors. In bed that night, I stared at the attic door above me in the candlelight and poked Dennis every time he started to fall asleep and snore. Damn nature, this would never happen in the city! (with the exception of blackout 2005)

When we got back to Brooklyn I got my The Dogs of Brooklyn manuscript back with lots of notes from Barbara Hamby my poetry mentor. She’s the most amazing poet I know and has been so supportive and encouraging. After a few weeks of hardcore editing  that actually gave me back pain I’m sending it off to several book contests, fingers crossed.

I also came back to an email from Melissa that Vijay Seshadri agreed to read with us at opening party of The Dogs of Brooklyn Photography and Poetry Show Ozzie’s Coffee, Park Slope (7th Ave & Lincoln Place) Brooklyn, NY November 6th 7pm. I hope everyone can make it. I’m super-excited. I wish the dogs could come make celebrity appearances but it is a food establishment so I doubt they’d be let in.

Finally Dennis and I went to the ridiculous “Meet the Breeds” at the giant Javitz center. It was a weekend event with almost every cat and dog breed imaginable in attendance. Crazy cat ladies  with hand sanitizer, big hair, and too much make up. Dog people dressed up like they were from the country their dog breed was from. Super-white women dressed up in Afghan garb in a tent while their Afghan Hound lay sleeping. King Charles Spaniel owners dressed up as if they were having tea in the English countryside. Wow. It was fun to go around and get free samples of pet food and pet the dogs if the breeders let us!

I was dog sitting for the dogs Charlie, Chloe, Lola and the cats Milo and Sam (yes all one owner!), so we brought them and our own cats some goodies. Lola is an interesting case. A long-haired chihuahua with fear aggression issues. I’ve sat for her before but it takes her a little while to trust again. She usually starts as a barking, biting mess. I always have to lasso her, bribe her with food to get her harness and leash on. I think the biggest mistake owners make with small breeds is they treat them like babies instead of dogs. They pity them because of their size and don’t let them have normal dog experiences and boundaries. When I come along I treat them like big dogs and they seem to appreciate this respect after a little bit of a tantrum. You just have to get through the tantrum. You have to give energy to the behavior you want though praise and correct any behavior you don’t want without giving it a lot of energy, because whatever you give energy to will grow. I usually leave Lola’s leash on and reintroduce her to the house, as my house, not hers. I correct any behavior I don’t like with a chhh and a little tug on the leash. After a little while she’s pretty sweet and follows me around. Sadly I understand her wanting to growl off any potential problems, I’ve been known to occasionally do the same myself. However, living like that you growl off the love too and that’s no way to live.

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“Poetry is a like a beautiful, sick dog…”

Charlie making friends at Prospect Park photo by Dennis Riley

Charlie making friends at Prospect Park photo by Dennis Riley


Monday morning, having trouble pulling the trigger on these poems I’m writing. Writing poetry seems to be this process of note-taking and meditating. Scouring Thesauri and humming while contemplating how to translate the music, images, and feelings onto the page. What was it the poet Frank Stanford said? “Poetry is like a beautiful, sick dog that shits all over the house.” 

This weekend we took Chocolate Charlie to Prospect Park. They have off-leash hours there from 7-9 am every morning. Thanks to FIDO they also have a dog beach near the 9th Street entrance where the dogs can go swimming. Even if you don’t have a dog, off-leash time is a sight to see. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bummed out and gone up to the park and just watched the dogs playing and felt better afterwards. Its pretty amazing that in this city, which can feel so industrial and cold at times, there’s this nature party happening every morning and most people don’t even know!

Charlie was so happy, he writhed around in the wet grass and greeted all the other dogs and people. The dogs’ happiness is contagious. They’ve taught me so much about staying in the moment, and not being so trapped in my own head that I miss what’s happening around me. Happiness really is about gratitude for the little things, like chocolate! Speaking of which we went to Jacques Torres this weekend and I got frozen wicked (spicy) hot chocolate. Dennis got one of their ice cream sandwiches which I have to say might be the best ice cream sandwich I’ve ever had. You can pick various flavors of ice cream (strawberry is good) sandwiched between two huge chocolate chip cookies. Jacques Torres is a religion. There should be churches and shrines to him (made of chocolate that we can eat!). 

We also saw Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Inglorious Basterds. I like Tarantino but his penchant for gratuitous adolescent violence gets to me at times. I mean the multiple shots of scalping, was that really necessary? Gore fans will be happy. The carving of Nazi symbols into foreheads? Quentin must be reading a bit too much Harry Potter. But as always Tarantino delivered an entertaining movie. My favorite commentary on Tarantino came from my dad. I had him watch Reservoir Dogs with me and he fell asleep. He said, “At the beginning of the movie the guy was bleeding, I fall asleep and I wake up at the end and the guy is still bleeding!” My dad is so funny. 

I must leave you, the dogs beckon!

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