Tag Archives: New York

Hudson Valley Dog Boarding

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Since November 2012, we’ve been bringing dogs up to our cottage near the Catskills on weekends and occasionally weekdays depending on our availability/ability to get away! Here are some highlights!

3 stooges

Mo, Qwerty, and Phoebe walk by the lake

country

Hike at Falling Waters on the Hudson River Susie with Penny, Zeke, Phoebe

field

Qwerty & Mo enjoying the back yard

goob comet

Comet & Phoebe frolicking

mo & qwerty creek

Mo & Qwerty in the Kaaterskill Creek behind our cottage

pile on

Christmas weekend pile on Susie Phoebe, Oscar, Willis, Sampson

Falling waters hike

Hike at Falling Waters with Zeke, Penny, Phoebe

For more fun photos please check our facebook page!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Upstate

The Catch of Marrakech

Djemma El Fna

Djemma El Fna

“Why do you want to go to Morocco?” was a question I was asked a lot leading up to my recent April 2013 trip there. The short answer is: curiosity. The longer answer is: As a musician who’d played in bands for years, I started getting really into world music field recordings in 2007. I was disillusioned with the hyped & moneyed nature of the American music scene, and found these recordings of street musicians who had made their own instruments and were just playing for the joy of it really inspiring. Plus an Oud played through a crappy amplifier sounds like an extra awesome electric guitar. So much so that I’ve been using effects pedals etc. trying to add this element to my guitar sounds.

Ever since I saw Sublime Frequencies film “Musical Brotherhoods from the Trans-Saharan Highway”

I have wanted to go to Marrakech, Morocco. I wanted desperately to see the street musicians play in the Djemma El Fna,  a public square full of magicians, snake charmers, storytellers and musicians. This square is so historical and unique that it has become a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage site to protect it from development.

Finally, 6 years later I started my own music project called NEON GRLZ  using drum machines, world music samples, and my guitar and vocals. I began recording my own samples of various street musicians and sounds. I decided I wanted to make videos as well, it seemed like it was finally time to go to Morocco.

NEON GRLZ

NEON GRLZ

My husband and I booked tickets to go to Marrakech for a week. He did Middle Eastern Studies for his first Masters Degree, lived in Rabaat for 3 months in college, and speaks a little Arabic so I thought I’d be in good hands traveling with him. The first day in Marrakech we spent an hour trying to hunt down our luggage at the airport. It had been shrink wrapped into unrecognizable shapes by the airline but we finally found it. We were taken by cab to the winding streets of the Medina, within the walls of the old city of Marrakech.

A man from our Riad (Moroccan version of a Bed and Breakfast or as I called it a Bed and Bread- since Bread was our breakfast for 7 days) came and met us at the car and led us through a maze of narrow streets to our Riad. We managed not to get run over by scooters with whole families crammed on them. The Riad was nice but, we were traveling pretty budget and our room was fine but had no real windows only some small ones by the floor of our room for ventilation. I guess staying in a bunker wasn’t so bad as it was a quiet den away from the busy streets of Marrakech.

Once we were settled they served us mint tea in the courtyard. We trekked through the Souks (think crazy big mazelike flea market) with men calling out trying to sell things to you. Haggling is a big thing here. They will tell you a price 6x or more than the worth of an object and it’s up to you to try to haggle them down to a reasonable price. I am a great haggler in America and have haggled my way through Mexico, Russia, and Europe so I thought I’d be fine when I was ready to buy things. Nope; these guys are pros. I walked away from every purchase during the week feeling I’d been ripped off to the point I just stopped trying to buy anything. The extent of the stories they will tell you to get your money is pretty remarkable.

Minaret

Minaret

We made our way to the Djemma El Fna. Finally, I was here but it was day and only the snake charmers and orange juice sellers were out. Upon closer view/proximity of the snake charmers they start asking for money. You give them money and they say they want more which is kind of a turn off. Not to mention most of the snakes look either dead or half dead. I shrugged this, the miserable monkeys on leash, and sad shriveled donkeys off determined not to let my dreams of this place be shattered. See I felt like going to Morocco with all their sacred music and calls to prayer echoing would be a Yatra or a pilgrimage to a holy place. But I had a sneaking suspicion I’d been a bit mislead in my thinking. We ate the first of many tagines walked around some more.

We got lost trying to get back to our Riad and a little kid helped lead us back. We gave him what we thought was a respectable tip and he yelled at us that it was not enough. My husband told him if it was not enough he could give it back and the kid ran off. We both felt frazzled.

That night we went back to the Djemma El Fna to take some sound and video samples. The Gnawan and other musicians were amazing. But again we gave money and were almost always asked for more even though we’d given a good amount. The Djemma El Fna was overwhelming in good and bad ways. I had trouble making sense of my feelings and was beginning to feel serious culture shock. We ate at one of the food sellers and my husband had Pastilla, which was unclear whether it was chicken or pigeon, but I suppose it was safer than the goat and Sheep heads some people were bravely eating.  On our way back to the Riad/Bunker a woman grabbed my hand and began painting on it with henna before I could say no. I finally gave her some money to let me go and stupidly wondered back to our bunker feeling as though I’d been mugged.

Henna Mugged

Henna Mugged

The next day we wandered into the New City (built by the French during their occupation) and went to the Jardin Marjorelle and Berber Museum. The garden and wide streets leading there were a nice change from the crowded, small, winding streets of the Medina. Never had I been so happy to walk by the familiar golden arches of McDonalds. We went to the Djemma again that night for footage and sound and found a few musicians that were cool with what we gave them. But the constant harassment by others in the square sent us back to the Riad early.

Jardin Marjorelle

Jardin Marjorelle

We had scheduled a Moroccan cooking class and tour of the Souks the 3nd day. I asked our guide, a Dutch woman, who had moved to Marrakech several years before about what was appropriate to give to musicians and she told us an amount smaller than we were even giving. I had immense respect for her as an expat who had been able to make her way in this strange place that seemed so into ripping off foreigners. Say what you want about NYC but if you ask someone directions they will just tell you, not try to purposely mislead you to get your money. If you ask a price they will start with a pretty fair one. I get it, I’m American and probably a lot more well off than many of these folks, but I’m not rich by any means so I got pretty offended when I was trying to be kind and respectful adn was told it wasn’t enough.

Souks

Souks

I started having intestinal issues probably from eating in the Djemma and a few days of eating things my body wasn’t used to. This led to nausea and other unpleasant things the rest of the weak. By day 4 were ready to go on our day trip to the coastal town of Essaouira.

As opposed to the Pink City of Marrakech, Essaouira is a blue and white port town. It had a much more chill feeling, though I got ripped off there too when I bought a bracelet I was told was old silver but turned out to be something that left green band on my arm. I did however wander in to Bob’s music (named for Bob Marley) and got a castanet lesson from the kind proprietor there. Essaouira holds a Gnawa Music Festival there every year and its laid back atmosphere brings many hippies and musicians there. I bought some castanets, which are actually harder to play than you would think. I got carsick on the two hour drive back to Marrakech.

Essaouira

Essaouira

This led to my first ever travel meltdown where I felt I’d seen/done enough and wanted to go home early. My husband convinced me it would be more difficult to change our tickets and we should just stick it out. I felt ashamed that I was crazy spoiled American as we went to McDonalds the next day and mostly hung out in the New City which had a more European feel. My husband tried to console me by telling horror stories about his time in Morocco in college. I couldn’t believe he’d lasted 3 months there. It was just so radically different, which at times was beautiful and at times really, really frustrating.

Our final few days we spent mostly in the New City eating a Fast Croke and other French inspired places. We went on another day trip to the High Atlas Mountains and Berber villages but it was pouring rain and again I got carsick on the winding mountain roads.

Berber village in High Atlas

Berber village in High Atlas

I was really relieved when it was finally our day of departure back to America. I appreciate my cushy American life so much more. The odd thing is looking through pictures I’m glad I went although I wish I’d only done a few days in Marrakech and more days in Agadir or Essaouria or Spain.

Perhaps, now in my 30’s I’m less adventurous than I was in my 20’s. I place a higher value on being comfortable. I was so uncomfortable all the time in my teens and twenties that a trip to an uncomfortable place didn’t faze me much. Now I like my routines, my husband, apartment, neighborhood, and my pain in the ass dog. I am humbled by this, as I used to think I was so adventurous. I guess my home in New York City is all the adventure I really need for the time being.

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Filed under God, Music, NY, Spirituality, Travel

Finding Maggie- NEVER underestimate a terrier!

On Friday 4/27, I got a frantic call from one of my coworkers.

“We have a problem! Maggie just squirmed out of her collar, some guy tried to grab her to help, and she ran!”

I quickly switched to handling crisis mode. I called all our dog walkers and other walkers I knew in the area and put out an APB as I dropped off the dogs and headed to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie. I also called her owner and explained the situation. In my 12 years running a dog walking business, I’ve never had a dog get lost and it wasn’t going to happen now. I scanned the blocks of Brooklyn for the tenacious, wirey, terrier and tried not to lose my shit. I stopped people on the streets with dogs and gave them my card in case they saw her. I went into all of the local shops and did the same.

Despite all of us looking for an hour in the area she got loose, none of us spotted her. The owner came home got in her car and joined the search. We all had to walk the rest of our dogs and were over an hour behind at this point. I told everyone to go back to walking and look for her with the other dogs. I prayed she was hiding or a kind neighbor had taken her in and just didn’t know where she belonged since she’d run without her collar. I tried not to worry that she’d been hit by a car or gotten trapped somewhere.

I tried to call 311 and the local shelters and police precincts from my phone. I asked my husband to notify the local dog group FIDO Brooklyn from his computer at work. I blubbered a bit on the phone to him tears streaming down my face, but there was no time for that, the dogs had to get walked.

Maggie

The owner made flyers we all met at her house after work and worked long into the night flyering and looking. After dark the wind started blowing hard as I checked Prospect Park. I was freezing and hoped Maggie was inside somewhere warm.

I ran home for a coat and to take my dog, Phoebe, out.  She could be a wirey cousin of Maggie. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if a walker lost Phoebe. Getting angry at anyone was pointless, it was an accident and we were all trying to fix it. Phoebe, Dennis, and I walked back over to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie and headed home exhausted and depressed around 10 p.m.

I could barely sleep that night. In the morning I got up and sent a million emails with her photo and info to local dog walkers, shelters, day cares. I posted her picture on blogs. I printed up more flyers and flyered Park Slope asking friends to help. A friend took me all the way out to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control. After a long wait they took me for a walk through to see if she was in there. I looked through the bars at all the shivering desperate dogs but she wasn’t there. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work at shelters so I think I handle it better than most people but I still got nauseous from the fumes and wanted to take everyone home.

I spent the rest of the day walking around with Phoebe and Dennis flyering and periodically checking in with the owners to see if there was any news. Nothing. Where could she be? This is every dog walker’s worst nightmare and I was living it. Not only was I worried about Maggie, but I also worried about the reputation of the business I’d been built over the past 12 years. Would people think we were irresponsible? Would we lose clients? It really didn’t matter anymore, all that mattered, was that we find Maggie. Surprisingly though, everyone was really supportive.

Sunday Dennis and I went to Manhattan’s branch of Animal Care and Control. If Maggie was picked up in the middle of the night, when the Brooklyn center was closed, they would have taken her up there. Another wait—I did see a touching scene of some owners finding their dog there—but no one was moving fast enough for me. Didn’t they see I had to find this dog now? She wasn’t there, so we walked down from Spanish Harlem to the ASPCA and checked there. Nothing.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s owners headed back to Brooklyn AC&C and did another walk through with a woman named D-Light (Of course). Nothing. Dennis and I headed back to Brooklyn to feed some cats and continue the search. Around 4 p.m. I got a call from a woman who’d seen our flyers in Park Slope. “I think I saw your dog running on Pacific and 3rd Avenue in Boreum Hill on Friday afternoon.” I couldn’t believe it was her. She would’ve had to have run over a mile and crossed the busy thoroughfares of Flathbush and 4th Avenues without getting hit. But she was a terrier—never underestimate a terrier.

I called the owners and we all headed to Boreum Hill to flyer. We started writing “reward” on all of the flyers, after hearing that sometimes people only call if money is involved. That night around 9 p.m. Maggie’s owners called me. “Someone called and said they have Maggie. They wanted some ‘compensation.’ They’re headed over,” she said.

“Ok Dennis and I are headed over,” I said. We debated calling the cops but didn’t want to spook the people who may have Maggie.  We hopped in a car service and headed over in case shit was going to go down. I called a dog walker I knew in Prospect Heights and told him to go over to their house in case we couldn’t make it there in time. I figured the more people we had there the less likely someone would try to pull something.

By the time our car had pulled up Maggie was sitting on the stoop with her owners in a happy reunion. The people that had her had accepted their $500 and left with their son in his boy scout uniform. I pulled some cheese out of my bag for Maggie and hugged the owners. I offered to reimburse them the money and buy her a GPS collar.

“We need a straight jacket for that dog,” I said.

Maggie jumped up and licked my face like nothing had happened. I wished I could’ve had a video camera to witness her big adventure. I was so thankful she made it home. “What a troublemaker you are!” I said to Maggie scratching her ears. Dennis and I headed home and finally got some sleep.

The next few days we spent recovering at work, tearing down flyers, and thanking everyone for helping us to find Maggie, the tenacious terrier.

On a side note—I will be reading more tales from DOGS OF BROOKLYN this Wed May 2 at 7 p.m. at Pianos on the Lower East Side at Freerange reading series. Come on down and say hello—never a dull moment!

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry

A Major Award?

Fragile- that must be Italian!

I got an invitation in the mail to the Dog Writers Association of America (who knew there was such a thing?) Awards Banquet on February 12, 2012 at the Affina Manhattan Hotel. Apparently, someone nominated my poem St. Francis of 42nd Street which appeared in Dog Fancy Magazine in 2010. I’m not really sure what I’d win if anything or who I’m up against but the idea of several Dog Writers at a banquet is pretty funny. I will most definitely blog about that party–Wish me luck!

Dog Fancy 2010

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing

The Dogs of Brooklyn Poetry Show, BOMBlog Poet Interviews

Indiana & Amelia photo by Dennis Riley

Indiana & Amelia photo by Dennis Riley

I am currently preparing for my first The Dogs of Brooklyn poetry show. The Dogs of Brooklyn is my fresh poetic narrative about my colorful life as a dogwalker accompanied by vibrant photographs of Brooklyn and the dogs by Dennis Riley. The Dogs of Brooklyn is the poetic equivalent to many other bestselling dog-oriented books like Marley and Me, Mark Doty’s Dog Years, and Unleashed: Poems by Writer’s Dogs.

For the month of November 2009 Dennis Riley and I will be hanging his photographs and my poems of/about the dogs and Brooklyn at Ozzie’s on 7th Avenue and Lincoln Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY. We will be having a free opening party/reading on Friday, November 6th at 7pm. I, the fabulous Melissa Febos writer of the memoir Whipsmart and co-host of Mixer reading series, and one other writer TBA will be reading poems and stories about Brooklyn and its “wildlife.” Melissa and I are also discussing the possibility of me joining her on her West Coast book release tour Spring 2010. I plan on doing some guerilla style readings at Dog Runs, Pet Stores, Book Stores etc. More info to come!

As most of you know I’ve been working on a book of interviews with poets for the past year. The interviews were originally featured on BOMBlog. I do love reading these poets’ new books, researching them, and asking them thoughtful questions about their work, and most of them seem to appreciate not getting asked “Who’s your Favorite Poet?”  and “When did you write your first poem?etc. Below are some of my interviews so far:

Denise Duhamel: Reform School Poet

Barbara Hamby and the Abecedarian Corset

Akilah Oliver: Good Grief

The Biographical Helium of Stacy Szymaszek

Matthew Rohrer: Poultry and Poetry?

Campbell McGrath, Survivor: Poetry Edition

Mary Jo Bang: The Bride of Alliteration

Hopefully we will find a publisher for both books soon!

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Filed under Dogs, Interviews, Poetry, Readings, Writing