my book of poetry about September 11th, 2001...and after Available NOW at -click here

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lost Everything Parts 1 & 2 and Storm Damage


The sea just kept on rising
Deep into the night

Time for survival
Was floating out of sight

Wind kept on lashing
With all of her might

Trees just kept falling

Lost Everything 1:

An abstraction for most

A reality for too, too, too, too,
Too, too, many





Lost Everything 2:

Dark Day – Cold – Low gray
Damp sky – Sullen – Deep Bone

Chill - Lost - Everything

Houses - Once Homes - Shells
Contents - Gutted By the Sea

Four Walls and a Roof
No warmth - No Light
No Comfort - No Rest

All - Lost

That beautiful - mostly serene
Ocean - outside - the door
Rose from long, long slumber
With a roar
Exacting a price for life
Along her shore

Echoes - of –

Lost Everything – in the sound of gulls

Storm Damage:

Big Maple blocked Main Street
We had to take another road
As we crossed Hylan Boulevard
The story started to unfold

A house shifted from its foundation
An old woman had tears like diamonds
Permanently dangling from her eyes

Four houses disintegrated
A father missing, a young girl had died
Nothing left of their home
But a basement flooded by the tide

Sanitation was loading dumpsters
Tropical showers fell
Mud caked the rubber of my boots
As I welcomed myself to Hell

We inspected all the houses
The yellows, the reds, and the greens
To a man and to a woman
The worst we had ever seen

Sandy came, she claimed a crane,
And proceeded on inland
Covering much of downtown Manhattan
With seawater, darkness and sand

Debris keeps on rising
From Tottenville to Rockaway
From Red Hook, Coney Island, Breeze Point
People have no place to stay

The storm damage is in the Billions
Causing hardship, pain and strife
Meaning nothing to Tony Laino
Or the tree that took his life.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Home Town(s)

The Dutch Gambrel of this damaged home reminds me of the house I used to live in as a boy on Staten Island. I spent the first half of my life running the roads of Richmond County.

From Bay Street to Main Street, from the Kill Van Kull to Great Kills, this tiny borough of oddly named towns like New Dorp and Tottenville became famous for a bridge linking it to Brooklyn. To me it is much, much more than a punchline or a ferry.

Many who come here to Staten Island are baffled by the insular nature of our existence. Despite repeated insults of omission as part of New York City, Staten Islanders comprise an interesting cross section of its citizens. Many work in the financial industry, ferried to Manhattan daily to toil in the countless banks and brokerage houses downtown. It is one of the chosen enclaves of our Civil Servant work force including Sanitation Workers, Correction Officers, Police and Firemen, as well as administrators and trades people, small businesses and a large container port.

Proctor and Gamble, US Gypsum and Standard Chemical once employed thousands along the north shore. Now the children of those workers teach school, deliver mail, and drive the buses that connect people of every religion, creed and ethnic background on earth. All the while, even as time has marched on and the borough grew, it avoided the spotlight due to its historical nature as a remote destination only accessible by ferry.

Before it became very much a land bridge to New Jersey from Long Island, towns like Mariner's Harbor, Port Richmond, St. George, and Stapleton evolved out of the necessity of an industrial revolution's economy. What is now a sprawling, thriving, suburban bedroom community was once farmland, wetlands, and thick woods.

The prized beaches were the Jersey Shore of its day with a vibrant summer season where so many flocked from Manhattan and points north and west to avoid summer's relentless heat and the crowding of a vertical city. Over time the summer retreat of beach bungalows along Midland and South Beaches became year-round housing. Flooding in Cedar Grove has been perennial for as long as I can remember. But people love living by the sea, and I spent much of my adolescence biking or driving to Great Kills to enjoy low tide where you could walk out for almost a quarter mile on the dark brown sand and explore the marine life teeming in the ancient oyster and clam beds.

Even in the old neighborhoods and the new neighborhoods, there is a quiet peace and calm unlike most areas of Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx and parts of Queens where the city thrum never ends. Not even in the darkest part of night.

Staten Island maintains its illusion of bucolic living in the midst of the most developed urban area in the world. Because when you are on a Staten Island beach and look out at the lower bay, from Coney Island to Sandy Hook, all you see is the horizon, and that was always, to me, a source of great inspiration for it still holds the mystery of a natural, unexplored world. An invitation to adventure, if only in the mind. The Siren's call of possibility gripped me there and has never let go.

The spirit of Staten Islanders is one of intrepid independence combined with enormous pride and steadfast ambition. The borough, of all NYC, lost the most people in the 9/11 attacks. It has seen its share of catastrophe, but never before on the scale and scope of Hurricane Sandy.

Along with Rockaway, Coney Island and lower Manhattan, Richmond County bore the brunt of an unprecedented storm surge. Homes have been washed off their foundations and many completely disintegrated. Thousands are without power, and many won't see it restored to their damaged homes even after the poles are replaced and the lines re-strung. You've seen the photos, now please help.

The Tunnels to Towers Run Foundation, organized in honor of Stephan Siller, a New York City fire fighter who on 9/11/01 ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and sacrificed his life in the service of others at the World Trade Center, is accepting donations with the promise that 100 percent of the monies raised will be used to help the survivors of Hurricane Sandy's most devastating effects.

I have long since departed "The Island, Our Island, Staten Island," first for a year of living dangerously in Manhattan's Theater District, then to settle in downtown Brooklyn where I live a double life as a New York City Building Inspector while pursuing the dreams I had on Staten Island's beaches as an aspiring writer in a region of highly accomplished artists. It was a complete irony that after spending the night of the storm responding to Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens, on Tuesday morning I was dispatched to help relieve the agony of my hometown. Now I am trying to do what I can to help raise awareness and funds for people who lost everything, my fellow New Yorkers, my neighbors, my Staten Island.

Remember, there is no donation too small.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Great Equalizer

Since 9/11 New York City has largely escaped the woes of the country at large. We had had our own monumental hurdles to overcome. It was a slow, committed struggle back to normalcy facilitated by New Yorker's determined to be unbowed by circumstances beyond their control.

Hurricane Katrina touched us not, the housing bubble burst, (though did not make it possible for me to afford a home in my neighborhood). The economic downturn was barely a blip on the economic radar of New York other than to say the rich slowed on their getting richer. However, Hurricane Irene was a harbinger of things to come because Sandy delivered a punch that leveled the playing field and let New Yorkers in on the dirty little secret of what suffering, true suffering is all about. I dare say that 100 percent of all the affected people are of middle and lower income status.

Despite how my home was relatively untouched by the storm, no one is smiling on the streets here. We are all stressed out with coping. Today I came across two young kids sitting out front of Starbucks on Court and Dean. They claimed to be homeless and in need of cash. I denied them, thinking they were able bodied and young and should be out helping those displaced by Sandy, but as I went into the store to get my first cup of Starbucks for the day at 4:30 pm because I had been up all night manning a post at the Office of Emergency Management, I got angry with myself. I left and went home and had some two day old coffee from my coffee pot.

The rampant expansion of New York that has taken place over the last century had a big wake call, a thrashing at the hands of Mother Nature that will affect the area for years to come. The physical aspect is one thing, the social another. How will our fabric knit itself back into a cohesive whole after Sandy? That is the the question and the monumental task we as New Yorkers face today. After 9/11 our focus was clear. An enemy with a name and an agenda had attacked us from afar and we had to respond. Now, we have been made the victims of a natural disaster. How will we perform and stay true to our values? Who are we as new Yorkers?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad,

You are not forgotten, come hell or high water...

Wide Spread Devastation

For almost a week debris has been stacked in neat piles from Far Rockaway to Tottenville along the eastern edge of New York City. Much of the wreckage has been carted away by relentless and seemingly tireless Sanitation workers. What remains, however is a gaping hole, a wound far deeper and wider than any tragedy in recent memory.

People are now isolated in their crippled neighborhoods without the basic needs of shelter, warmth, food and water being met in any meaningful way. The people who stayed are regretting their decision, the people who left, and are now coming back, are questioning every decision they ever made in their whole lives. Tempers are growing short, moral is low and folks are just looking for answers.

Its not like the response is non existent, it is tremendous, the largest in the history of the region, but it pales in comparison to the enormity of the task.

And this was only a Category 1 Hurricane. A Category 5 hit New Orleans.

Without going into detail I can report that NYCHA and LIPA crews worked through the night to restore even temporary power to the Hammel Houses in the Rockaways and to at least get the street lights and traffic signals working in an effort to bring some much needed light to the darkest night I have ever seen in this city.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Working the Storm - A Diary Entry

My day started with a walk to work on Monday. The trains were not running, so I had little choice, either ride my bike, take a cab, or hoof it. Since I was carrying a bag of gear, and dressed in my foul weather garb, I decided to walk and take a cab if one presented itself. One did not.

After spending the morning making storm preparations,I left the apartment at 1:30 pm and was almost immediately greeted by stiff, gusting winds. The storm was early.

I was photographed by a lone lens-slinger as I leaned into the gale on the Brooklyn Bridge. Got to work after my 2.5 mile trek in Hurricane Sandy none the worse for the wear. Got ready for my regular tour of 18 hours with ERT. Shortly before 3pm the news broke about a crane in trouble over West 57th Street. C Team geared up and responded to the crane and we were next.

I won't give you all the details of the night, suffice to say we were out in the teeth of it. From Morris Park in the Bronx where a tree limb crushed the parapet on a brick home, to a sidewalk shed on 2nd Avenue Manhattan which was systematically being dismantled by the wind, to the facade collapse on 8th Avenue, to Flushing Queens where an entire, robust tree crushed the roof of a frame dwelling killing one of its occupants, to Staten Island where homes were washed from their foundations by the surf. Just a small snapshot of the devastation and havoc wrecked by Sandy.

Power was out downtown, so our elevators were not operational and we walked the seven flights to our squad room a couple of times during the tour which was extended due to the storm coverage. On Staten Island, I chose to show a photo of hope rather than devastation which is documented elsewhere. I wanted to show the effort to respond and restore order, which along with the dramatic rescues by Police, Fire and National Guard, is no less heroic in the face of disaster. Sanitation was removing the debris, Parks was removing trees and Con Ed was there to try and begin to restore power. Those names you see on the dry-erase board are just a few of the responders of the NYC Buildings department. Touring the Island on the way back to the office, traffic lights out, trees and debris partially blocking some streets, I passed the two, great maple trees on Old Town Road and they stood unbowed by Sandy, a sign of the enduring and resilient spirit of Staten Island and New York City.

Coming home, I checked in with my family to let them know I was blessed and my abode had weathered the storm. Mom still has no power and is virtually a prisoner of Wheaton Point, New Jersey where for the lack of a part for their back-up generator, they were plunged into darkness even though they are far from the shore. My sister in Rockland has no power, and as of last night my sister in Weterleigh had power.

Last night I slept the sleep of the exhausted. Blogging now. After,I will get our warm things out of storage and take a tour of my area. As for the fetid water left over from the flood tide combined with a hurricane to form an unprecedented storm surge, it's like when the Ents flooded Isengard. Nature sets her own metes and bounds. Man can often work out a compromise but when push comes to shove, she wants her way and she gets it. The waters have receded and left her pools where there were once tunnels busy with trains and cars, trucks and buses moving the region to and fro.

OK, going now, to get ready for winter. Hope all is well with you and yours.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How I Percieve...

It's been a wild eleven days since my last post. Unlike the tenth year of memorializing 9/11...this past day of hearing names read, reflecting on the event and how so many lives were changed, how the world changed, how I changed -- represented a monumental shift for me personally. I feel in a way re-born. Like my previous life stopped at 8:46 am on September 11th, 2001, and just last week, I have been able to resume it. For the first time in a long time, I am thinking about me, my life, who I am and what I want. A catalyst for this shift is most certainly the fact that my wife, whom I worship and adore; who is my best friend, is so far away living our dream of the collegiate life in Academia. In our stagnant job market its prudent that I stay behind and continue in my present position, but more than that, I still love my job. I love New York. There I've said it. Even so, now I am getting present with what is going to be next for me. Part of this rejuvenation has been manifested by buying a bicycle. Now that I have so much of a gap to fill between shifts, I have taken advantage of the fall of summer and the onset of Autumn by riding. one of my most ambitious trips was to the George Washington Bridge, an almost 30 mile round trip for which I thought I was ready.The way there was a breeze, but the way back is all slightly up hill, all the way, all 13 miles, and then up and over the Brooklyn Bridge at the end. Fun, fun, fun, especially the day or two afterward. However, it was worth the pain. One hundred percent. The physical discipline of active exercise has inspired my return to writing my blog and more. I am revising the novel in preparation for a new round of submission to agents and publishers. I am keeping a journal. I am reading the Apocrypha, the Wisdom of Solomon. On my notepad I have jotted down the following quote :
"Love can not be hoarded."
I don't quite know where it came from, but it is a good one. So I will pour my love into my writing, into my friendships, into my work, into riding my bike, and into visiting the "South Kingdom" which is what we call our place in Florida, to visit my wife as often as possible! I started this post inspired by the following thoughts: When one is stuck in one's head, constantly contemplating life and all its dysfunctions, one can think they are going mad. But when you get present, when you stop and experience life by what your body is telling you, then you can be certain you are going mad. Love madness, madness in love, these are things the world needs more of. I embrace both my madness, and my love heartily. Of that I am certain. And certainty is a rare and wonderful commodity in today's market. Have a great week all. I am off to ride on the blissfully flat Governor's Island while the ferry from Pier Six Brooklyn is still running.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


As a young man, I was introduced by my father to the towers of Manhattan. Instead of being daunted by those heights, I became exhilarated, challenged, excited, and inspired. Spending a good part of my youth dangling precariously from their sides, I was awestruck by panoramic views from the peaks of tall buildings like 40 Wall St, 70 Pine, and the Empire State Building full with the history of working men and women.

When I turned 40, I thought it was time for a change. On the advice of a good friend and mentor, the late Jack Meade, I came to work for the buildings department of New York City.

This was a turning point in my life. For in the employ of this great city I have come to meet some extraordinary people. I consider it a privilege to be able to work for this Emergency Response Team for this Building Department in this great City of New York. In ERT, the Emergency Response Team, I met Lloyd Cropper who in turn introduced me, one night at the scene of a minor stairwell collapse on E. 29 Street, to the Captain of FDNY Rescue 1. Terry Hatton went on to be one of the 343 New York City Firemen who raced into the burning twin towers on 9/11/01 never to return. This I can never forget.

I can not forget how the subtle, acrid stench of burnt flesh and melted plastic settled in the back of my throat. I was not a drinking man back then, but I don't believe there was any libation that could rinse the sickening taste of it from my mouth.

We who served at that time have not forgotten. Not that horrible, horrible, horrible morning. Nor the painful aftermath captured forever in images that for many of us are reminders of memories we wished we never had.

I did over night shifts at the Command Centers. First at the Police Academy on 22nd St. Then at the Pier. I shuttled often between Ground Zero and the west side. I will always remember the crowds of flag waving people lined along the road cheering every official vehicle as it passed. Day and night. They urged us on to do a task of unfathomable woe.

This scene was lovingly recreated by the organizers of a special tribute to rescue and recovery workers this past May at the 9/11 Memorial. We entered hallowed ground to the sounds of cheers of well wishers who have not, will not forget the sacrifice of ordinary working people who toil to this day and commit themselves humbly and honorably to building, tending to, and nurturing this amazing way of life.

Gone are the feelings of immediate grief and overwhelming sadness. They have been replaced by a feeling of being locked arm in arm with every other person of good faith. A feeling of determination and commitment to each day and the job we do.

Today I remember, but I also contemplate those who never knew, who can't imagine what it was like.

In some ways I envy their ignorance, in other ways I am challenged anew by a tolerance one must develop for conspiracy theorists and those who simply do not believe, for what ever reason, that New York City, Washington DC, Shanksville PA, the United States, the world, suffered a great hurt, enormous harm at the hands of evil doers. Even today, people still don’t realize how lucky we are to be alive and to have good jobs. Our work place is vibrant with the good-will and intentions of those who never forget for a second what our mission is. Any pettiness is offensive to those who deal constantly with our neighbors’, members of the tax-paying public, experiencing the worst days of their lives. When the relative peace and security of their homes has been violated by fire, collapse or worse, we are part of the civil work force, the social fabric, which ensures the fires go out, the buildings are tended to, and people are not left on their own, alone, to deal with devastation.

I was raised in New York City’s bad old days. Gas prices were not just high. There was no gas. In 1975 the tabloid headlines blared: FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx was burning.

This town, like all of America, has seen some very tough times. And we have come back to be better than ever. The time changes. One World Trade rises high so people can once again live and work in the most soaring heights of New York City. I feel blessed to live and work in New York at this time of rejuvenation. And that will never change.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

David Jude Ransom. 1930 - 2008

Dad, I covered the tornado in Canarsie today and could not help but think you had a hand in those events especially because the Saint Jude school on Seaview Avenue, with it's huge green sign stared me in the face and made me smile. Did you enjoy tearing half the roof off a house with an 110 mile per hour wind from the tip of your God-like finger?

And no one hurt, no person injured. It was a humbling day in Brooklyn. I felt your presence, keenly. I think of you every day, especially today, the day four years ago when you passed to the other side. I feel you with me always, all you showed me, taught me helps me with each and every moment of my life, your love flows through as sure as your blood.

I can't imagine getting through life without thinking of how much you would get a kick out of this life I live. This crazy job, the tragic things I see on a regular basis. The joy I get out of patting complete strangers on the back and telling them everything will be alright. People care, we care, New York cares,

Miss you Dad, every day. Miss sharing with you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Would Harry Say?

Not Harry Truman, though I imagine he would say quite a bit about our current situation. Here's what Harry Chapin had to say:

"...there's an awful lot of people not pulling their share. You can't expect rich people to do much because all they do is hold on to their money. You can't expect poor people to do much because they're struggling like hell to make do. It really comes down to people like you and I..."

Together we can make a difference. Which of the two lame ass parties is offering a "We are in this together..." and which is offering "You are on your own." ?

In the rarest of circumstances in history: We bailed out the banks, the very institution which created the its their turn. Do not let them off the hook by putting people in power who will cater to their every whim.

"Let the free market rule?"

There no such thing as a "Free Market". Markets are tightly controlled. That game is rigged.We need people like Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abe Lincoln, individuals unafraid to take on the big banks and the Congress that supports them.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain?" The man pulling strings and scaring the be-Jesus out of everyone? Attention must be paid. Public agencies must act in the public interest. Which public? The whole, everyone. It's up to folks like us, "people like you and I..." to hold our leaders to the ideals set forth through-out our history, our core values of liberty, equality and prosperity for all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012 Last?

SO here it is...Labor Day...and finally I get to rest a little bit from our labors of this past summer, such a sad phrase, past summer. But it did, it went by so quickly and without one visit to the beach or even the batting cage. June flew as we did to find an apartment in Orlando, July we drove back and forth in the first phase of our big, adventurous move, August we drove back to Florida where truck and wife currently reside. Now I have returned to my new work-a-day life sequestered like a monk? Mostly. I bought a bike so I could commute back and forth to work weekends and nights when they are working on the subway system. In the process I hope to eliminate some 10 to 15 unwanted pounds of flesh doggedly hanging on in various parts of my body. The other day I rode to Greenpoint, today I will explore Red Hook, the other night I went to see a friend's band. In the waning moments of this summer season with a blue moon on the horizon, I will attempt to salvage something of fun in the sun. After all, the real end of summer isn't till the Autumnal Equinox in mid-September. And its always summer in Florida! Where I will be heading early and often to see my baby!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Thudding bass, crashing drums, and crunching electric guitar all led by sultry lead vocals spun tales of Hero-ica last night in the back room at Pianos on Ludlow Street. A hero's journey into the dark forbidden places of the mind and back again ensued. The tight two-some performed songs from their debut EP QUANTUM CALLING to an appreciative crowd of world travelers. A hypnotic voice put the room into trance as we were carried along on poetry and music influenced by such acts as Radiohead and Alice in Chains.

The set opened with a perfect rendition of Heaven and Hell and we never looked back. DAKAI is working its live act in preparation for the October 5th EP release party at The TRASH Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

For more info check out:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Greetings From Winter Park

Hello my friends, just checking in. It has been a long busy week. We have successfully set up house in Florida. Jen has completed her week of orientation and next week classes start. And we part. I come back to NYC to work. She stays here and begins her work as a professor of theater and dance at Rollins. And I continue work for the DOB.

I know couples do thiis Long Distance thing all the time. But it is new to us. Last night we stayed up past 1am listening to Bruce Springsteen and talking about the future. We are pretty tight, so this is going to be hard. Looking forward to the support of my friends and family as we navigate the new situation. Also looking for outlets for my art. Adversity gets my creative juices flowing, writing and perhaps performing are activities I will use to fill the void. I think I dread the thought of performing more than being separated from my wife. I've heard the we should do things we are afraid to do. I am terrified. But I feel very much alive. And I really like it here in Orlando. This change needed to come, we were both stagnating in Brooklyn. Florida is a new chapter, a new beginning, a new apartment, a new couch! So stay in touch as the story unfolds.

Thanks for listening .

Ransom , over and out.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Move

So, the first phase of the move is complete. Are we crazy dividing our household so Jen can work as a full time college professor and I can stay here in New York City to continue my work with the DOB? In this economy, it seems prudent to do so. It has been said "a house divided cannot stand" but I believe it can endure. We have had our ups and downs so far setting up the condo in Florida. Mostly ups. The second half of the journey awaits.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shock Load

Its more kinetic
than electric
the shock load
of your body
next to mine
palpifies time
my heart races
slow dances
quick glances
the entire world
expands and
a kiss

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Divinity of Mistakes –

The other night, before bed, I decided to check channel 26 to see something, I forget now why, but I hit too many numbers and wound up on a Showtime channel where the end credits to a movie were rolling, I don’t know which film, but the haunting, lilting sounds coming from my TV caused me to pause. I sat transfixed, my wife came out to see what the hell I was doing just sitting there watching the bland, black and white credits to a film neither of us had just seen. “I’ll be in…in a minute,” I said. I watched the credits to the end so I could see that the song “It Ain’t Easy” was preformed by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet.

Now, I can’t stop listening to her. I read her story on Wikipedia. What an amazing journey she has been on and I realize most of you taking the time to read me already know her. Inspired, I actually picked up my banjo and realized I could now tune it with the new electronic tuner I had purchased for the guitar. So now, this morning, listening to her song “City of Refuge” I hear the line: “To run with the Gods, You gotta Run Harder” Abigail Washburn. This resonates with me in ways you all can relate to I am sure. I wallow in my mediocrity because I need to work harder. Harder to get my words heard, harder to get my novel out there, harder to keep the citizens of New York safe. I’m gonna run, run, run to the City of Refuge. Run, run, and run.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day 2012

Dear Dad, there is so much I need to tell you. How things are with work and with this great, big, ever growing, ever changing city we used to live, work and play in together once upon a time in America.The new buildings going up, the old ones coming down, the ravaged ones getting face-lifts using old and new ways.

I want to thank you, dad, for making me the man I am, for showing me that the only way to survive in this business, in this world, is by being careful. Full of care.

"Take care, I love ya, bud." Those were the last words you said to me, with a wave of your good hand and a smile. That's how I will always remember you. You gave me the tools of wisdom and success in a series of small phrases like: "Get it done." and "Be safe." You will always be my hero, my champion and I live every day to make you proud to be my father as I am to be your son. Your struggle, your pain, your sacrifices for me, your mistakes, your missed steps, are all ingrained in my heart. You are my history. I am your future. Because of you I have grown up to see our city transformed into a garden, an absolute miracle of urban living. A model, a beacon, an exemplar of peace and prosperity at which I marvel each day. There are problems, too, but I want to tell you dad, the good far out-weighs the bad.

Downtown has risen from the ashes and every neighborhood, rich or poor, large or small has struggled to reinvent itself in a better, more civil image. In faith, I know you know, dad, you feel these things as I feel them. On this day, this Father's Day, I think it is OK to get a little sentimental and give thanks to the founding fathers of our nation, of our way of life, of our way of solving problems and changing wrongs into rights. To the fathers of this city, the visionaries, the dreamers, the workers, the soldiers, fire fighters, police, teachers, the leaders and doers of things...and to the followers,folks who believe it is good and decent to be an American, a New Yorker, who live every day of their lives in this city, giving it their life's blood, thank you. Happy fathers day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thank You Tribute

The gates of the 9/11 Memorial were thrown open exclusively for rescue and recovery workers of the World Trade Center on May 30th 2012. Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Giuliani, City Council Speaker Quinn and Governor Pataki were among the dignitaries greeting workers who spent months in toil between the fatal collapse of the twin towers and the beginning of the restoration downtown. As a member of a city agency I participated in many phases of the rescue and recovery from serving on a bucket brigade, to overnight shifts at the Pier 92 command center, I gave some in an effort to honor those who gave all and made the ultimate sacrifice.

We spent a solemn hour listening to choirs, and the sound of ever falling water, looking for friends and co-workers, and reading the names cut in steel around the perimeters of the pools.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Sparkle

The sparkle darkle
Of your pithy seventh level
Apparent in deep
Onyx oracle hexes
Vexing early morning REM
Hastening my crawl from
Fetal mass to stiff corpse---

Those were black pearls
That were her eyes
Formed of volcanic
Sand from South Pacific
Atolls green and tropical
In the Shanghai of my vision

Exotic in perpetuity like
Wind blown glass captured
By rainbow rings of Saturn---

My rant rains cool
Potable star dust down
On the deaf and blind
Quenching a thirst as yet

Quelling this outburst of my mind
for a time with rhyme
not mine
but belongs to the Universal
At large in charge of my anonymity---

I am no one.

I am everyone.

I have lived.

I will die.

I will not come again.

Mark D. Ransom

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Christmas Letter 2002

We hope this post finds you all well and sincerely wish the best for you and yours. Here's to seeing you soon and raising a glass of cheer, no matter when, no matter where. Oh, so much has changed in 10 years. We are getting ready for life altering jobs, new in cleaning out "Ole Bessie" as we have named the lap top, we came across the following and began to get present with where we have been, and where we are going:

December 2002

Hello Friends,

It’s hard to believe another year has passed. We hope this holiday missive finds you all in good health and good spirits. Things are OK here in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. Our only regret is that we don’t get to spend more time with friends and family due to the bustle of our “metropolitan lifestyles.”

In the spring of 2002, while Jen was pulling her hair out (or maybe it’s just falling out, we don’t know for sure) writing her Master’s thesis, Mark was diligently recording his spoken word poetry CD Wild Iron Freedom. Jen managed to graduate in June (on time) from Brooklyn College with an M.F.A. in Dramaturgy and Theatre Criticism. Mark’s CD was released this fall. You can find a link to it on Mark’s website: In May we appeared together in a small off-off Broadway show directed by Cyndy Marion just to keep our acting chops up.

Immediately upon Jen’s graduation, we were told that “the jig was up,” concerning our two-year illegal sublet. We did some hurried and harried apartment hunting and ended up with a much larger space in the same neighborhood—for only twice the rent! Although Jen did have a whirlwind trip to London this summer, (courtesy of our good friend Miss Babs,) the highlight was our vacation to New Mexico. We flew into Albuquerque and proceeded to spend fourteen memorable days camping (okay, okay, we also spent a couple’o six nights in a Bed and Breakfast) and exploring Santa Fe, Taos, paddling the Rio Grande, and even cruising up towards Cimmaron County.

This fall finds Mark working steadily with the New York City Department of Buildings. Happily, he hasn’t had the kind of emergencies we saw last fall, although the wake of 9/11 continues to be a strong presence for us all. For some strange reason Jen thought it would be a “good idea” to start her Ph.D. work at the CUNY Graduate Center. Suffice to say the challenging nature of these studies keeps her hopping, particularly coupled with adjunct teaching positions at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Mark managed to find time to perform as narrator/musician in Like a Springsteen Song, which had a hearty run at the Blue Heron in October-November. The Village Voice actually referred to him as a “cover band!” (It’s good to be referred to in the Voice, however inaccurately.) For those who don’t know: we are engaged. Wedding next fall.

There you have it: the Reader’s Digest version of 2002. Please know that you are in our thoughts always, although we are not always in touch. All the best for 2003.

Love, Jen and Mark

P.S Please forgive us for not sending real cards. We know how hard form letters are to put on the mantle, but we were guided by economy—and we knew y’all would want to know what we had been up to this year!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hope Springs Eterenal

A few weeks ago I treated myself on a Thursday when my beautiful wife was off at a campus interview (more on THAT later...)I decided to treat myself to something I don't recall ever having done before and that is go to an Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. It was a nice day for early April, sun drenched the field and the blue sky was picture perfect. I got on the G train and switched to the 7 at Court Square and in no time I was standing in line to purchase my ticket (and Club Pass) to Citi Field. It was my first time at the new park built in the parking lot of the now demolished Shea Stadium. A place where I never had a bad time weather my team won or lost. Weather sitting in the press box with the crew from where my mom worked at Major's Supermarket, or sneaking down into the box seats as kids to watch Seaver pitch, or climbing into the upper deck with my hobbled father who gamely followed so we could share that was seat-cushion night and when Dave Kingman finally hit a home run in a lopsided rout of the Mets, the would-be collectors items rained out of the stands and littered the field in a hilarious delay of game...or when Gary Carter ended a rain-delayed double header with a home run in the second game that went into extra innings...or when Doc Gooden as a rookie pitched a one hitter against the Cubs...or when Strawberry hit a mammoth homer in a play-off game against Houston in '86 and Nails won it with a walk-off shot that just cleared the right field fence where we were positioned to see both very nicely and our feet did not hit the ground until we got home...or at Yankee Stadium when Thurman Munson turned away laughing at the fiasco on the field as a couple of portly security guards tried to coral a streaker...or when Bobby Murcer tom-a-hawked a homer into the short porch in right...Jim Rice taking Ron Davis deep as he turned on a fastball...Reggie calming a heckler down behind home plate who was demanding the slugger get a hit...and then he doubled to right-center starting the rally that won the game...Guidry with two strikes on anybody...Mattingly braking up Moose Haas's no hitter with a line drive double off the padded wall in right... These are not all the stuff of legend, but the minute details that make baseball religion to some...In fact you can take a course at NYU, as reported by Samuel G. Friedman in today's New York Times, with John Sexton in his class "Baseball as a Road to God". To be honest most of my church-going occurred via television where I followed ardently both the Yankees AND the Mets (I know, sacrilegious to some)...I kept score one time watching channel 9 as Tom Seaver was pitted against Bob Gibson in a game that ended with a score of 1 nothing for the Mets with both pitchers going the full nine innings.
The Mets won their opener and began the year in first place with a 1.000 winning percentage. Citi Field is not Shea and I really did not have a feel for it. A visit to the New Yankee Stadium in 2010 left me with a similar impression, but the game is the same and in a very secular way it is a unique harbinger of Spring and Summer, and ultimately the Fall with the World Series and all the new play-off games.
I had my hot dogs, I had my beers and I had a great time. I can check Opening Day off my bucket list. Play Ball!!!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Of Ph. D.'s and Civil Service

My wife is a college professor. Constantly I find myself in the company of scholars and intellectuals and I know I am not one of them. I am a mason, and not the kind that knows the secret handshake either. Rather, the kind who sets stone, lays brick, and places stucco. As a building inspector, I bring my lifetime’s worth of expertise to the duty of enforcing codes in an effort to keep people safe. As I sit with the citizens of New York in a social setting, I am keenly aware of their perception of city workers in general, and of building inspectors in particular. As I embark on a new season of training rookie inspectors, my goal is to ensure that how we are perceived by the public ranks alongside the stellar reputations of Fire Fighters, Police Officers, and Teachers in the pantheon of well regarded, if not heroic, civil servants.

Bad apples are the exception, not the rule, in all walks of life. They garner the most attention because punishment must be public, while praise, it seems, is relegated to a quick sound bite on a slow news day. These are just the facts of life in Gotham and it’s taken me a long time to develop the thick skin required to press on.

I want to take this opportunity to honor all the diligent grunts in the trenches making a difference day to day by paying serious attention to the details of how our city works. The blood and guts of a modern metropolis; its plumbing and electricity, boilers and elevators receive notice only when they fail to work properly and are otherwise taken for granted. The people who work on these systems, designing them, building them, and maintaining them, know better.

The public of this great city, from the mayor to the commissioner of buildings, to your family, co-workers and neighbors, to the homeless people on the streets, are demanding of excellence and insatiable in appetite for a greater New York City. They are tough customers. We owe them and each other our best.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Port Richmond" 1st 200 words.

"It was a bright, clear Saturday morning...they always seem to be bright, clear mornings. The kind of day when we may forget for a split second that evil could ever exist in the world. Forty five year old Miguel Gonzalez stood by the schoolyard fence at first light. His jet black hair just beginning to be streaked with strands of gray framed his tan face and wicked wind blown tears from his chilled brown eyes. A well worn, insulated Carhardt hooded jacket kept the cold from freezing his bones. He did not like heights, but work had slowed to almost nothing in the past six months, and the weather was just starting to break on this crisp fifteenth of April. The long, bitter winter reluctantly began to loosen its grip. A cantankerous, dirty, dented, old red Ford F 250 rumbled to a stop in front of him. It was laden with the platforms and rope-falls; steel hooks and irons for hanging a scaffold over a parapet wall. Miguel Gonzalez scanned the rig, and the name on the side of the truck: Ceilencio Restoration, and just shook his head in resignation before climbing into the back of a smoke-filled club cab."

Still looking to land an agent, so if you have any leads...give me a shout.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

FREEZER DREAMS...and other stories

In my humble opinion, the only reason Broadway exists is so we can have Off-Broadway…and Off-Off-Broadway. So far this year we have seen BAM’s final installment of The Bridge Project, Shakespeare’s Richard the III with Kevin Spacey, Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, and a reading of Jess Foster’s play in development, Freezer Dreams. We also made our first excursion to the new Pershing Square Signature Theater to see Katori Hall’s Hurt Village.




A full three days after the fact, the language, the characters, the set, and the themes of this play are still affecting me. Hall does not shy away from stereotypes, in fact, she indulges so deeply in them that I felt almost bombarded, but instead of an alienating effect, I felt there was a moment where I went beyond the cliches and saw the characters as tragic figures, heroes and villains for whom I had the greatest empathy and sincerest sympathy as well. I could not help but love them all.

Set in a Memphis housing project slated for demolition to make way for a gentrified neighborhood where our cast of characters could not afford to live, the story unfolds with a triumphant homecoming by Buggy, a Bush-era Iraqi war veteran. That is the feel good moment in the play. It would be inaccurate to say it was all downhill from there, but the emotionally torturous ride we take is anything but smooth. The veteran returns home to continue his decline as a young black father whose only options seem to be either work for the Kingpin drug dealer, or deal drugs himself.

The language reminded me of Shakespeare in its inventiveness and its clear communication of where these characters live, what their dreams and hopes are, and what their reality inevitably is. Names like Ebony, Crank, Cookie, and Skillet evoke the nature and personal history of each character. It is a bitter, bleak existence for Big Mama and her family, 13 year old Cookie who is the light of everyone’s life in the play with her genius wit and fierce heart, and Crank, Cookie’s mother, a recovering addict. Like Chekov’s Cherry Orchard, the three have to find a new place to live as Big Mama’s home of nearly 30 years faces the wrecking ball. Big Mama, the only member of this small community with a legitimate job working graveyard shifts at the VA as a nurse’s aid, makes too much money to qualify for government subsidized housing.

Tony C. is the local mob boss who controls all the action in Hurt Village, Cornbread is a low level rival and Toyia is his main girl. Tony C. and Buggy have a history that goes way back and is perhaps the ulterior motive of Buggy’s to encroach on Tony C.’s turf. The end is as predictable as Hamlet, though, only one person dies, and he is the weakest link. In the end, that same hope and verve with which the play began somehow endures, and life goes on even if the projects don’t. Every big city has its Hurt Village. Full of struggle, dignity, agony and ecstasy. This Hurt Village will roll you over like a bull dozer.

David Gallo’s set literally pits the dilapidated institutional bunker-like housing project against the brand-name construction of new condominiums. On the wall of Big Mama’s kitchen are three photographic portraits: one of Buggy in his uniform posed with the American Flag, the other of Tiffany, Buggy’s late mother, and a third of a jovial Martin Luther King Jr. reminiscent of the famous portrait of Jesus laughing. Katori Hall is also the author of The Mountain Top which ran on Broadway this season and is about the last days of Dr. King.

Directed by Patricia McGregor, stellar performances were turned in by Ron Cephas Jones (whom we also saw last fall in the Public’s Titus Andronicus) and Tonya Pinkins (whom we saw in Kushner’s Caroline or Change). Joaquina Kalukango as the precocious, erudite 13 year old Cookie is no stranger to Off-Broadway and is a delight to behold. The entire cast turns in a solid ensemble effort and deals with the material honestly and with great pride and dignity.

“Nothing good ever comes out of the projects” Buggy says. If Hurt Village was born and raised there, in the projects, I have to disagree.


The White Horse Theater Company’s New Play Development series led by Vanessa Bombardieri presented AMERICAN WOMEN a series of new play readings by female playwrights about America, Saturday February 11th at ARTNY.

Directed by Cyndy A. Marion, Freezer Dreams is a tight family drama that tells the story of post modern crisis in America as a teenager with a rare, life threatening disease struggles to survive her circumstances and how everyone’s life is affected by the choices she and her family must make to keep her alive.

Jess Foster, playwright, is no stranger to the White Horse. Her play Mourning Sun received a reading last season in this same series. With this new work in development, Ms Foster continues to blend elements of the fantastical with those of the literal to create a provocative and engaging piece by probing such issues as modern technology, socialization, and a subject I like to call “Silent Majority Fame”, the phenomenon where-by ordinary people become celebrities via exposure on reality shows or the internet. Judging form the lively post-reading discussion, Ms Foster struck several major chords and a few minor ones as well. Her gift for dialog displayed in all its electric glory last night as a panel of actors featuring Katie Hartman, Becky Byers, and Cynthia Shaw dazzled the assembly with an apt reading. Heather Lee Rodgers and Jen Wiener also brightly shone in supporting roles.




Directed by Sam Mendes, featuring Kevin Spacey in the title roll, need I say more? This is a theatre experience one should not miss. Sam Mendes breaks Shakespeare’s political allegory down by character, making sure at every turn you know what is happening, and who is who. With formidable use of his lead actor, combined with judicious use of multimedia, and live musicians not only scoring the action with music but creating live sound effects as well, this is a riveting interpretation of the Bard’s evil King.

Kevin Spacey turns in a mesmerizingly physical performance. His tortured, misshapen body viscerally communicated to the audience his pain and suffering which he was not shy at all about sharing with everyone on stage as well as his public in the seats. It seems the sole justification for his usurpation of the throne. Spacey uses his masterful tools as a liar and a villain to seduce us onto his side. His erotic wooing of Lady Anne bordered on fetish.




Finally, I would like to write about this masterpiece by Paula Vogel. We saw maybe the first or second preview of this Modern American Greek Tragedy at 2ND Stage. I had read the text, but the characterizations of the chorus and of Uncle Peck not only illuminated their human foibles, but also the time and place in the history of human kind became immediately accessible to me. Of course, the taboo subject of this play was not so much a problem for the ancients whose values included torture and slavery. How far we have come?

The story of Uncle Peck played wonderfully by Norbert Leo Butz and Lil’ Bit portrayed by Elizabeth Reaser is told episodically and out of sequence so as to not alienate the viewer from the start. Until the final scenes, one would think this a tragic love story about a post-traumatically stressed Vietnam Vet and the inappropriate relationship he has with his niece, but it inevitably becomes a story about how we are trapped by the hypocrisy of our times and a much deeper, darker malady in the mind and spirit of an individual. Despite the disturbing turn of events at the end of the play, this is a moving night of theatre. Inventive, engaging and superbly entertaining. Highly recommended.



We are finally breaking down and going to see a Broadway production (just to ensure Broadway does not dry up and blow away on a stiff breeze from the Hudson). We are going to see the Andrew Lloyd Weber’s passion play. I first saw this produced back at Staten Island’s now defunct Civic Theater in the late 1970’s and have loved it ever since.

That’s all for now, thank you for reading,


Friday, January 13, 2012

Fresh Poetry

I have been punched in the face
my nose exploded in a torrent of

More than once

I have fallen off a scaffold and had my hand lacerated to the tendon
As it went through a stained glass window

There’s nothing passive about bleeding or blood

It is an active part of life.

The poet once said, “New York seduced me”
She got that right.

One night I rented a room in the Chelsea Hotel
It cost 65 dollars. I left a poem in a bottom drawer
With a copy of SCREW magazine
And another one on the bed.

I wanted to be a great poet, I got hooked
On New York instead.
It wasn’t hard; she gives you what you like
And I have a
High tolerance for pain
And a low resistance to pleasure

So I still wander these streets
of a million doors
and a million floors
and 8 million stores

But the New York I knew is in the rear view
The City has changed and I walk
like a ghost among her ruins
looking for Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, Patti Smith
and John Lennon.

And all that’s real
Is the taste of blood
Inside my mouth.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to...Port Richmond

Last year I went back to the old neighborhood, camera in hand, to do a photo essay of how the place looks now. I was also in the last pages of composing my novel and used these images, and more like them, to propel me to the finish line. Here's a glimpse at how the place looks today. These shots include the sheltered doorway of the Bridge Tavern, where Jack Simms ducks out of the rain while Mary Jimenez performs at the protest rally across the street in Elm Park.

Keep up with the blog for more photos of Port Richmond and locations in and around which have provided inspiration for scenes in the novel. You can't miss the ever present image of the iconic Bayonne Bridge, the dome of which features prominently in Jack Simms' history with his home town.

I am continuing to send the manuscript out to agents with the goal of landing a publisher in 2012.