Big Edie: Husband #1

what’s the sound of two edies talking?

Howie was a car salesman.

“He was made for that. He was probably very successful. He was always selling. You walked in our house, he was selling to you.”

His weekends were all about baseball. He played, and then brought all the guys back to the house and years before she was Big Edie, when she was still just Lainie from the Bronx, she would feed them.

“It didn’t matter that I was cleaning the house all weekend, after working all week. He brought  them all home, and I was expected to cook for everyone.”

That’s the way things were back then, though.

“Your father wasn’t so lucky. It all changed after I read that book. The one that all the women read and it changed everything. The Feminine Mystique. All of a sudden I was like, I don’t need to do this, but I still did. I always did more than my share. But it changed everything.”

I’m not sure what it changed, other than her awareness, and when you don’t have the strength to change your situation, is changing your awareness necessarily a good thing?

But Howie was her first.

“I went to visit him on the army base, and he got me in his bunk. So, I knew I had to marry him. That’s what you did. You were a virgin until you got married. So I had to marry him. And I thought I’d get to go to Paris.”

Lainie Millstein  & Howie Steinberg

Lainie, Howie, and the Calla Lilies

She carried calla lilies as her bridal bouquet, her gown decorated with glass bugle beads from her mother’s wedding gown. Howie married Lainie from the Bronx, but kept his girlfriend in Monmouth, New Jersey. Shortly after they were married, he called and said he wouldn’t be home that night. He was spending the night with the girlfriend.

“You stay, and you straighten things out with her, or don’t come home at all. That’s what I told him.”

That marriage was annulled and I was forbidden to ever use anything from my grandmother’s satin flapper wedding gown–that gown now having been involved in two generations of marraiges that ended in infidelity and divorce. My mother has been across all across the United States and Canada. She’s cruised up to Alaska and down to Barbados. She’s been to Ireland, and Greece, and Israel.

She still has not been to Paris.

Me, Nick Flynn, and Vicodin.



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Nick Flynn – from The Rumpus, February 8, 2014.

Me, on Vicodin (inspired by Nick Flynn)

I hate Vicodin. Ten years ago, at ten years sober and a day or two after some major dental work, I found myself with not one, but two full vials of Vicodin, and no memory of getting the second, of convincing a pharmacist that I’d already gone through the first in a single day when the truth was I hadn’t taken but one single pill.

That second vial? That was just in case. Just in case there was so much pain I needed to take two full vials of Vicodin before morning to stop it. Yeah, well, that was the pain from first 30 years of my life, wasn’t it?

While on the phone with a friend, I dumped both vials in the toilet. It wasn’t will power, it was willingness and surrender and I don’t know why sometimes that’s easier for one person than another. Or why sometimes it’s easier today than it was yesterday. And sometimes it’s harder today than it was yesterday.

Maid in 2012


Note to self, dated May 2012. During the two years of “under-employment.”

The cleaning lady 2009_full

A year ago I considered getting a cleaning lady.

Today, while on my knees Windexing the water spots on someone else’s marble bathroom floor, I thought to myself, “Who the fuck do they think I am? The cleaning lady?”

Exactly. That’s exactly who I was at that moment. Someone’s cleaning lady.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for. The universe gives you what you ask for, but it rarely looks the way you’d expect.

Night Moves


Yesterday, between the hours of Late Night O’Clock and Time for Work O’Thirty I lay in bed and:

  • Cuddled a cat
  • Flipped my pillow
  • Watched a neighbor lady vomit into her flowers by moonlight
  • Listened to a cat vomit in the dark
  • Masturbated
  • Peed
  • Checked out Facebook four different times
  • Photoshopped one of me three different ways
  • Instagramed twice
  • Twittered, but only once
  • Tossed
  • Turned
  • Merged and organized all my bookmarks from Chrome, Firefox, and Google
  • Cleaned out the “Camera Roll” on my iPhone
  • Cleaned up kitty vomit
  • Cuddled another kitty
  • Poked the “snooze” button

Then I got up, got dressed, got a seat on the subway and fell asleep immediately for a blissful 8 stops. #8hours #8stops #itsallthesame

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Can I be honest?

what’s the sound of two edies talking?

Some people should not wear horizontal stripes. Or skirts. Or sleeveless tops. That color makes your skin look sallow. And that one leeches all the color out. That’s what you’re wearing? Really? That? Don’t you have a mirror at home? A full-length mirror? Short women can’t wear capri pants, but dressing all in one color is slimming. So are long skirts, or pencil skirts, or long pants. A hip belt? Really? You know that brings attention to your middle, is that really where you want people to be looking, because it’s not your best feature. Your biggest, yes, but not your best. 

That’s the voice in my head when I’m looking at your on the subway, or on the street. It’s the voice in my head when I pass my reflection in a store window, or look at myself in the mirror. It’s the voice in my head the minute I open my closet door.


How awful to grow up with that voice in your head all the time, but it’s in mine because it’s in hers and someone put it there. Maybe her Aunt Fran, the one who introduced Big Edie (before she was Big Edie, when she was still just “Lainie”) as “my niece who used to be beautiful.“ Fran wasn’t exactly a beauty, but she was a hottie.

Children believe the things they’re told about themselves, they believe you when you tell them what that world is really like–your words weave themselves into the warp and weft of the cloth they’re cut from and even after you’ve long since turned to dust and dirt the pattern you wove remains.

Scene: Looking through photos I’ve taken of Big Edie, me, the cats, everything.
Big Edie: Can I tell you something?
Me: Can I stop you? Seriously, is there anyway to stop you?
Big Edie: Yes. No….No, I have to be honest. That shirt you’re wearing? I hate it.
Me: Thanks, Ma.
Big Edie: Really, it’s terrible, I don’t like it. I hate it. I tell you when you look good; this doesn’t look good. I hate that shirt. I’m just being honest.
Me: That’s not honest, Ma, that’s just mean.  No one asked you what you thought.
Big Edie: Well, I hate it.

Be careful what you say to children, they repeat what they hear.


Big Edie: points to a photo: Oh I like that picture, I look good there.
Me: That’s me, ma.
Big Edie: Oh.  This one, then? We both look good. It’s a selfie of the Edies. One with a little me, and lots of her.
Me: Yeah, we look good.
Big Edie: But honestly, I hate that shirt, you should get rid of it. What? I have to be honest. You want me to be honest, don’t you?

I want to say, No Ma. I don’t.  That’s what I’d say if I was being perfectly honest.

Why Avonte?


Avonte Oquendo, an autistic fourteen-year-old, disappeared from his Long Island City public school on October 4th wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers.

Nine-year-old Patrick Alford disappeared from Brooklyn in the beginning of 2010 wearing a red t-shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers. Jaliek Rainwalker was twelve when he went missing six years ago. Tatianna Lindo was fourteen when she disappeared from her Jamaica, Queens, home this past February.

Three hours after Avonte Oquendo was reported missing, bloodhounds were out tracking him. Three days later, divers were combing Newtown Creek and boats were deployed into the East River. Texas Equusearch offered up horses and four wheelers and ground searchers, drone airplanes, regular airplanes, and helicopters.  A command center was set up, and t-shirts—“walking billboards”—with Avonte’s picture on it were printed. The Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network organized community rallies and candlelight vigils. Hundreds of strangers have volunteered their time. The NYPD has invested untold manpower hours checking and posting flyers in all 468 train stations, every tunnel, abandoned station, and bathroom. Thermal imaging has been used to search the marshes.  There is a Facebook page, and of course, hashtags—#FindAvonte, #PrayForAvonte, #BringAvonteHome—and Avonte’s mother’s voice repeats from a mobile van, the slightly creepy, “Come to the flashing lights, Avonte.” There are press conferences, and psychics, and lawyers, and the inevitable notice of claim filed against the city–five days after he disappeared, although they have a 90 day window to file–with a rumored ask of $25 million.  And the reward money keeps climbing. It’s currently over $90,000.

There is no question that Avonte Oquendo deserves this much effort.

Everyone else
Just under 800,000 children disappear each year. That’s one every 40 seconds. Every single one of those children deserves this kind of effort. But, they don’t get it. There simply are not enough resources to put this kind of effort into trying to find every one of those 800,000 missing children. So, why Avonte?

Nine-year-old Patrick Alford is thirteen now, and still missing. Jaliek Rainwalker is eighteen, and they’ve just recently sent divers into the Hudson to look for him—six years later. Tatianna is still listed as missing. I didn’t know any of their names before I started writing this. I doubt anyone outside of close friends and family does. Strangers don’t know what they look like, you wouldn’t recognize them if you passed any one of them on the street.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know what Avonte Oquendo looks like.

Why Avonte?
What is it about Avonte Oquendo that makes him more deserving of attention, effort, and airtime, more deserving of all of these resources than any other child? The autism? Then where were the bloodhounds and helicopters when another autistic teen, Liam Rooney of Suffolk County, disappeared on October 19?  With the reality of limited resources, the thought I imagine is in the mind of every mother of every missing child when they hear about the helicopters, the divers, the vigils, #hashtags, flyers, police manpower, subway announcements, and the hundreds of volunteers: Why Avonte? And why not my child?


And now, the sidebar of the creep factor/ something is rotten in Queens
Creepier than the disembodied, emotionless voice blasting from that van is Vanessa Fontaine’s response when asked how she came up with that message: Hi Avonte, it’s Mom, Avonte. Come to the flashing lights, Avonte. She replied, “That is something I tell him when comes home from school. I always say ‘Hi Avonte.’”

Avonte disappeared on a Friday, and by Sunday the family had set up a Go Fund Me page (since cancelled)? Although they could have filed a claim any time within the three months, by that Wednesday they’d secured a lawyer and filed a claim against the city with the intention of a $25 million dollar lawsuit.

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 10.15.00 PM

That’s from Avonte’s older brother Danny aka KingDetrick’s Facebook page. He’s pushing on all social media fronts to find his brother. There’s his instagram, which is a carbon copy of his tumblr, which is a carbon copy of his twitter, which you’d expect to be a carbon copy of his Facebook, but he’s not really active there. Why hasn’t someone so focused on getting the message out changed the cover photos of his instagram,  tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook to photos of his brother. Where are the family photos, all the other pictures of this child? Are there just the two we’ve all become familar with? I have more pictures of my cat.

Want to ramp it up just a little bit more? There was a home video of the family singing Happy Birthday to Avonte, in what seems to be an apartment empty of all furniture other than the table the holds the cake, and the single chair where Avonte sits—oddly, wearing a shirt similar to the one he disappeared wearing—mouthing the words to the song while voices of his family sound anything but supportive. That video is  tagged @stephwatts - a television crime journalist and producer. Had the family already made a television deal when that was posted on October 19?

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#FindAvonte #LetsFindThemAll


1957 Rambler Rebel

what’s the sound of two edies talking?

Scene: I am 19, Big Edie on my break up with my boyfriend, Bobby, who we both thought was “the one.”

Big Edie: I feel sorry for the men in your life. You take the nice ones and twist their minds, and you take the crazy ones and push them right over the edge.

rambler 1957 custom

Scene: Thirty years later, she is 79 and finally found a good one for herself, and we’d talk about the men in her life. And I’d realize which side of the family I inherited my broken picker from. But there’s a no return policy on the original factory-installed parts for this 1957 model. Not the broken picker, the shoddy brakes, or my busted speedometer. I went too fast, in the wrong direction, with no idea how to slow down. For thousands of miles and hundreds of years.

I don’t tell her he wasn’t “the one,” at all, he wasn’t even “one of the good ones.” He was simply one in a long line of bullets I would dodge, playing with crazy too often, just a little too close to the edge.

I’ve installed a super-sized rear view mirror so it’s a little easier to see the roads I’ve traveled, where I’ve been, the places I’m leaving. And every once in a while I pull over, and leave a little more luggage by the side of the road.