Clara and Victoria.

A snippet of the novel I am writing … “I’m a writer.” Clara felt like a liar and an imposter stating that as her profession as if she belonged in the category of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She just noticed The Great Gatsby on the elaborately beach-themed summer reading table designed to catch the eye of a high school or college student. Especially “1902,” the prestigious and notable, Manhattan bookstore, it seemed pretentious to say something so sacred. The Vanderbilt’s designed and lived in the cavernous house from 1902 until 1925 when a private buyer whom no one claims to know bought the house, turned it into a “members-only library and lady’s social scene” by 1926. The gentleman bequeathed it to his only niece with enormous resources to maintain its existence when in 1956 another undisclosed secret family descendant transformed the house into what is now a world-wide destination bookstore for artists of every genre, serious bibliophiles and fans of the history and the dramatic feeling of the old marble and Gilded Age. Every inch of the building and its entire history spoke to Clara as if ghostly voices called her to return there at least once a week to replenish her soul. It was a beautiful business if a business could be considered beautiful. Ironically, Clara thought, F. Scott Fitzgerald never stepped into this house, yet his name is spoken in a god-like sense here.Victoria watched Clara quietly with her thoughts. “You’re a writer, it’s obvious. You cradle your journal in your arms and hold it against you and that silver pencil is an extension of your long fingers. Somehow, as lovely as you are, you manage to enhance this old, beaux arts house and in return, it enhances you. How very comfortable you are here as if you come from this period.”Clara warmed immediately. The young girl knew her. She also noted her journal was resting on her breasts with her arms crossed over it, protecting the white, leather book. Victoria was astute and correct. The journal, a find at an estate sale, was one of Clara’s treasures and the old, ornate building, still impeccable and majestic, was exactly where Clara and her journal belonged. Once, Lena told Clara that she added a bit more gilding to the space as if it were possible.Clara self-corrected, “I’m not a professional writer. I’m an aspiring writer or more like a hopeful writer. I’ve been told I write well by my classmates at the Manhattan Literary Arts School. I take classes there once a week in the spring and fall.” Clara told Victoria this information as if she were confiding a secret. She was not sure why she continued to take the novel writing classes. Of course it will only amount to a pastime. Clara was pensive for a moment until Victoria spoke in her lovely, but youthful tone.“How exciting! What are you working on? A murder-mystery, a historical fiction, an epic love story? You must tell me. I’m dying to know!” I have a friend who met JK Rowling once and she said meeting a writer is a magical experience.“Yes,” Clara smiled with closed lips, a blush on her cheeks and a bit of water in her blue eyes. “A very epic love story that doesn’t seem as delightful as you perceive it at the moment and I’m not quite sure I am magical, but thank you for the vote of confidence. If you want to experience magic, wander this building and imagine it in all its time.” Clara seriously arched her left eyebrow and the smile left her lips quickly indicating she was in deep thought and momentarily somewhere dark and not pleasant.“There you are my love!” A happy, smooth, British voice woke Clara from her thoughts. “We’ve been searching for you and of course you have made a beautiful friend,” said the very charming and proper, yet much older Englishman who kissed Victoria gently on her left cheek. It was obvious Victoria adored him and he was enormously proud of her, yet Clara wasn’t certain she understood the relationship. Intrigued, she tried to keep up with the story of the British girl and the British gentleman in the legendary bookstore that she was now somehow entangled in.At first, Clara wasn’t certain she really cared to know more about the tourists. It was Manhattan and they are annoyingly everywhere. She intended to spend the afternoon reading and writing and had little patience for more frivolous conversation. She already shared too much with this stranger yet something reminded her of the time the manse was used as a social club. Perhaps, she could experience a bit of that today. Yet, very quickly, now back from the unhappy places her mind took her when she spoke of her writing and the classes she took, Clara’s full attention brought shock when it registered that Victoria’s companion was entirely too old for her. Suddenly, she couldn’t control her facial features and her blank, lost smile became a hideous sight as her mouth hung open. Clara’s eyes opened wide as she was startled while a stream of thoughts screamed in her head. She became keenly aware of her own sense of propriety and was and offended. Propriety for Clara was on the surface. Beneath the ladylike façade, she was a bit wild.What the fuck? He’s old enough to be her father! Obviously the perfect explanation as to how a young woman owns a hat shop in a fashionable part of London. She’s quite the entrepreneur, but not very original. He isn’t totally offensive for an older man. Well-groomed and well-off in appearance, he’s traditional and modern without looking like a total jack-ass. He explains her designer wardrobe, costly bracelets, the statement bag and new hat shop.  Oh, good for her, he’ll be dead soon and she’ll have a lovely, little hat shop and jewelry to sell. Yet, she still has to have sex with him. Seriously, he must be in his late fifties! How old could she be, twenty-five? Honestly, if she were thirty-five I might be able to accept this situation, but twenty-five? A more experienced woman could handle him, even satisfy his needs, but a girl? I can appreciate that he is well-groomed, relatively fit and handsome in a somewhat rough, but dignified way. He is certainly not average, but not gorgeous either and doesn’t appear his age. What is it? Sexy, yes, he’s sexy and that is so rare and so compelling for a woman my age. Is it the accent? No, not enough to carry him. Wait! What does she care about his accent? She is British! For fuck’s sake, I’m the one seduced by the accent. What the hell am I thinking? He’s sexy? I’ve noticed his body? Apparently, I’ve noticed too much about him. I’m going to be ill! This imaginary story stops immediately. I don’t care about these people and their peculiar relationship.  Why do I care?  Clara’s head was spinning. She thought she was modern, but couldn’t identify what particularly aggravated her sense of decency when she saw this young, inexperienced woman with this older man. It was obvious, Victoria needed bank and he needed sex.Apparently, Clara’s inner dialogue was intense since she had no comprehension of what the British man was speaking to her about. “The manse is circa 1900, he asked. 1902, correct Clara? Clara, are you well?”“Yes, built in the Gilded Age. 1902, hence the name.”A handsome young man came up from behind Victoria with several books.“There you are Vic! I swear you never stay in one spot. I am constantly losing you and we’re not even married one year. Dad and I were searching for you. Good that he found you; this building is a puzzle.” The handsome young man turned his attention toward Clara with a beautiful smile.“Hello. Please accept my sincerest apologies. Maximillian Miller, Vic’s … I mean Victoria’s husband. Are you acquaintances?Clara thought she would pass out at this point of shock. She was still having an internal dialogue with herself pondering what she would tell her therapist. If her mouth wasn’t still hanging open all this time, it certainly fell agape in the most embarrassing way as she stared at Maximillian in shock.Oh my God! He’s her father in law. Yes, there’s a resemblance between the two men. Maximillian is younger, less experienced, a less lived version of his father. I’m ridiculous! I’ve assumed lovely Victoria is the equivalent of a whore. I do need an appointment with Dr. Renner. I am embarrassed and I definitely hate him! Such a pompous ass leading me to believe he was entangled with this young woman. I’m done here. I am not the bookstore’s social director or tour guide. Victoria has a husband her own age and I do not need new friends. Victoria kissed her husband on the lips and started speaking excitedly. “Max, this is Clara, she’s a writer. We just met and she complimented my hat! I could be a famous milliner here in the States. Perhaps dress celebrities or open my own store on Fifth Avenue or in SoHo? What do you think? Shall we move to America? Max smiled and listened intently.Victoria was charming and light. Her air of propriety disappeared and there stood in front of Clara a young bride who simply loved her husband and fashion and was thrilled to meet an American woman who admired her craft. Victoria was beautiful and as classic as her hat. There was nothing pretentious about her; she was creative, real and very sincere.Clara, realizing her idiocy, immediately closed her mouth, licked her lips, straightened her loose bun and found her long lost composure. Finally out of her head, she returned to her world, her bookstore, her favorite city.“Hello, Mr. Miller,” Clara said as she extended her hand to shake his. “Your wife is delightful. I never strike up conversations with strangers, but her hat caught my attention. She is very talented and a pleasure to speak with. I assume you are all here on holiday so I’ll leave you to your exploration of this wonderful piece of New York history. Best wishes with your business, Victoria. My pleasure meeting you all.”

Definitely Not Your Typical Jersey Girl … 

It’s officially summer in New Jersey and Jersey Girls North and South are dazzling with their copper tans touched with shimmer, fresh hi-lights and the perfect, glittery matching manis/pedis slipped into a pair of Tori Burch sandals. Traditionally, our mothers and grandmothers teach us the art of being fabulous in a rather plain world. To be clear, Jersey Girls are never plain, we shimmer! Also keep in mind that the age range of a Jersey Girl is from birth until death, don’t let the word “girl’ confuse you.

With all this fabulous-ness going on, articles and blogs have already been written, tweets have been posted and Facebook is flooded with pics of Jersey Girls sharing their tans #Summer2018. What I am not thrilled with is the SIMPLE definition of the Jersey Girl. Of course, we are berated due to the over-use of tanning salons, the over-use of neon nail polish and the over-booked and over-priced Jersey Shore motels whose balconies we grace at night, while tipsy and in heels we can’t walk in. Yes, the Jersey Shore has motels, islands have resorts and cities have hotels. Most of our motels date back to the 1950’s and they haven’t changed a thing, literally!

Don’t get me wrong, I love New Jersey and I am a Jersey Girl. But, I have never been SIMPLE and I insist on sitting on a more refined pile of Jersey beach sand with blush nail lacquer and my long locks in a bun with a book in my hand and I sure as hell don’t stay in motels. I’m not old, I just know better. So, here I am, writing was must be told … the truth! Why? How can I possibly introduce you to the protagonist in my first novel, who is a Jersey Girl, if you are assuming the worst? It’s my pleasure and responsibility to guide you to a different, more sophisticated variety of Jersey Girl. Here are the five signs of a “Grown-Up” Jersey Girl:

5) A girl who has mastered the art of having a glowing, tan between her subtle use of a tanning salon and the actual sun. She also realizes this is only acceptable between the months of May through September. After that period, you’re fake and ridiculous.

4) A girl who frequents the nail salon, but whose nails are clean, short and free of neon nail polish and nail art. Unless you’re Adele, no points either!

3) A girl who realizes shore homes are investment properties with fringe benefits possibly five months of the year and not a lifestyle or part of reality television.

2) A girl who is not afraid to have an actual man sit beside her without a gold chain slathered in tanning oil.

1) THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! VACATIONS NO LONGER EQUAL THE JERSEY SHORE, BUT, INCLUDE THE REST OF THE WORLD! The Jersey shore is where you go while waiting for the “real vacation” to happen.

Yes, I have managed to piss off a handful of Jersey Girls with this particular blog, but I’m not worried. These particularly pissed off Jersey Girls are pissed off because they just realized they relate to the stereotype and now need to step up their game to play in my protagonist’s world.

 

PS … I know I promised an intro to my protagonist in this post, but she’s a little moody tonight since she hasn’t had her mani/pedi this week!

Yes, I am a Jersey Girl!

I have spent too many days this week writing draft after draft of excuses, vehemently denying that I am a “Jersey Girl.” Today, focused in reality, feeling excessively cold in mid-June, missing the sun and the beach, the smell of suntan lotion, the innately comforting feeling of summer expected this time of year especially after a horrific winter, I realize my expectations, at least seasonally, revolve around being born and bred in New Jersey. To think I am not a “Jersey Girl” is absurd. It’s something you inhale at birth along with the smell of ocean air in Wildwood Crest and the chemical smell of the New Jersey Turnpike near Newark Liberty International Airport. I am a “Jersey Girl,” just not a typical “Jersey Girl.”

I am not quite sure what makes a girl “Jersey”, but here I am admitting I possess this magical charm. Each of us is a unique creature, yet, admittedly, “Jersey Girls” possess some of the same characteristics state wide and I have written the top three list!

First, we are loud. Sometimes, when I travel, I am told I have a distinct “Jersey” accent. Funny, since I’ve never heard it, but I know a Long Island girl when I meet her. I also love Southerners, from the South, not South Jersey (a totally different blog post!) and adore their slang, “y’all,” but say it in New Jersey and you will sound like an idiot. However, subtlety is not an art practiced very much in the Garden State. We are mostly a densely populated state and girls need to be heard even if it’s screaming out of the window of our car at some asshole, usually from New York or PA, who cut us off. Truthfully, if it wasn’t for the occasional nasty tone of our voices, the evil eye and resting bitch face, we are charming, but loud. “Jersey Girls” don’t whisper and thank God we don’t have to since texting was invented!

Second, we do have a certain fascination with our hair. I admit to spending hours at the salon with a master colorist to achieve the perfect shade of blonde. My particular shade of blonde is referred to as, “Christina” as it should be. But, let’s face it, big hair is out of style and if anyone is still trying to pull this look off, realize even Jon Bon Jovi cut his fried, frizzy and badly-highlighted crown. The only big 60’s hair acceptable is on top of Adele’s head. Period.

Third, nails are a telltale sign of a “Jersey Girl.” Manicures and pedicures are not an option, but a sign of good hygiene. Wander the streets or malls or boardwalks of New Jersey, especially in the summer, without a pedicure and you will be considered trashy. Yet, take it to another level of nail art and air-brushing and you’re dated or trying to be something you’re not. Short and clean is acceptable. Again, not all of us are trying to be “Stacy’s Mom” or want to be! You don’t have to look your age, just don’t look ridiculous.

Yet, all these superficial traits are not why I named my first Twitter account and this blog, “ChristinaRealNJ.” HERE IS WHERE THE LOUD PART COMES IN SO WE’RE CLEAR:

  1. I AM A WORKING HOUSEWIFE, BUT NOT A FAKE, REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY.
  2. I HAVE AN EXTENSIVE EDUCATION INCLUSIVE OF A MASTER’S DEGREE IN THEOLOGY.
  3. NEITHER I NOR MY FAMILY IS MOB AFFILIATED. I PROUDLY ADMIT I AM 100% SICILIAN.
  4. I PAY MY TAXES.
  5. I HAVE NEVER BEEN OR PLAN TO BE INCARECERATED.
  6. MY FATHER WAS A SICILIAN IMMIGRANT WHO PROUDLY BECAME A US CITIZEN. MY MOTHER IS AN AMERICAN OF SICILIAN DESCENT WHO WAS BORN HERE AND THE REASON I KNOW WHAT A “JERSEY GIRL” IS AND WHY I CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS INSANITY CALLED MY LIFE!

The “real” part of me is that I do live in a beautiful suburban town located in the midst of all the reality television drama. I have a lovely home I am still perfecting after its purchase two years ago, I definitely have a fetish for designer handbags and I drive an over-priced European car. None of these tidbits about myself make me a novelist or even a writer!

What makes me a writer is that I am writing for the first time in a very long time. As fabulous as I think this blog will be, I started it hoping to find like-minded women (and men) who can appreciate my snarky attitude and give my ideas a chance. Here’s to hoping you will find my lifestyle, my “jersey attitude” and my writing as fascinating and fun as I do.

My next post will be a piece of my WIP (work in progress) where I will introduce you to a very complex woman. Did I mention she’s a “Jersey Girl?”

Simply White

No one explained that blogging is incredibly difficult. Why is there not a warning for someone like myself who is a perfectionist or also known as a professional pain in the ass? It took me many months just to decide on the approximately ten completely different shades of white I painted the interior of my home. Why was I obligated to explain my color palette to my contractor? He actually told me he was waiting for a “wow color” and all he opened were cans of white. Fuck him and his lack of understanding the many shades of white! I actually was reassured by a professional artist that I was correct in noticing the slight, but dramatic differences in white.

I’m not used to having more than 280 characters to write in so forgive my rant about color palettes. But, since I notice and research every detail of a project, how am I ever going to write my first novel?

Yes, that’s what ChristinaRealNJ is about, writing. “ChristinaRealNJ” was born on Twitter and conceived from my dislike of reality television, but nothing is simple with Twitter or reality television. Both are dramatic and flowing with obscene characters, ridiculous statements and witty quotes and neither one qualifies for great writing or as time well spent. Yet, perhaps out of all this nonsense, decent writing can surface. A novel on Twitter is not possible, but giving potential readers a glimpse of a novel is. Sometimes one, 280 character glimpse can draw a reader in to another world they never expected to encounter. Like a fresh coat of white paint, I believe my material is beautiful and fresh and unique. So, now the words come out of the can and are painted on paper. ChristinaRealNJ is where my story literally and figuratively begins, so I’m inviting you on this sadistic adventure with me, called writing. By the way, my favorite shade of white is aptly named “Simply White.”