The child had two things going against her before she’d even left the hospital in which she’d been born. The first was that her mother, an addict, had died while in the process of giving birth. The second was that her maternal grandmother, a retired professor of religious studies at the city university had a warped sense of humor and in her frustration at finding herself the guardian of a newborn child, had decided to name the girl Medusa. Perhaps that is actually three things going against the child…

At any rate, on August 31, in the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred ninety seven, Medusa Zoe Stevenson was born. Her grandmother, Eleanor, reluctantly took her into her care. Nell Stevenson had been and remained a malevolent dictator. If one was to call it like one saw it, Nell’s habits and bizarre ideology had not only driven away her husband after five years of marriage, but had also directly resulted in her daughter’s mental instability and subsequent addiction problems. That, of course was not Nell’s worldview.

Medusa was an enigma from the very beginning. As if she had a preternatural sense of what was to come in the future under Nell’s care, she was remarkably cooperative. Slept through the night, ate well, spit up only on her bib, never on Nell’s clothing, even somehow managed to restrict her waste output to a minimum. Still, Nell remained perpetually irritated at the burden placed upon her.

Medusa showed aptitude at reading comprehension at a very early age. One day, at tea time –for Nell took tea at three o’clock in a snobby attempt to seem British– Medusa went missing. The child was just beginning to walk with coordination. She was perhaps eighteen months or so at the time. In a panic, for to lose the child would have been a failure on her part, Nell began a frantic search of the rambling Victorian home she and Medusa occupied.

The child was found in the library on the floor, reading –or so it seemed– from an illustrated copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The page she was perusing told the tale of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters getting their eyes plucked out by birds. She seemed unaffected by the gory imagery. Nell snatched the book away and placed it high on a shelf out of reach.

Nevertheless, Medusa continued to ‘read’ Nell’s books. The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Torah, The Apocrypha, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Hesiod’s Theogeny…. She quietly studied each one, page after page after page. Nell was secretly proud. But rather than praise, she pushed. Medusa had the Greek and Roman pantheons memorized by the age of three, could recite The Law of Moses by age four.

When Medusa was five years old and about to start kindergarten, Nell was invited to be a guest speaker at the welcoming ceremony for incoming freshmen at her former employer and alma mater, the city university. She readily agreed. However, Nell being Nell, she had alienated all possible candidates to watch the child while she performed her duties at the ceremony. As a result, she was compelled to bring Medusa along.

The ceremony was held outdoors, at the spectacular amphitheater –designed to impress parents and wealthy donors– situated along the large bay that emptied into the Atlantic Ocean.

Medusa sat in the front row along with other speakers, the president of the university, the department heads and other important guests. She gazed out upon the bay, the sun setting on the opposite horizon, still casting its orange and red-gold rays upon the calm water. Peace settled on her. Peace like she’d never felt before. She knew then and there her purpose in life.

She studied diligently. Learned magnificently. Excelled exceedingly. When she graduated at age fifteen, she was not only given the valedictorian-ship, she had already taken an entire semester’s worth of college classes. She won scholarships, applied to the finest schools and was not just accepted but sought after for her scholastic aptitude.

When Medusa finally decided on her preferred college, Nell was shocked and dismayed. Medusa had chosen science over philosophy, the physical over the metaphysical, the experimental over the existential. Medusa had chosen to become a marine biologist.

As was expected, the young woman took to her studies like a fish to water –pun intended. Her time in the field was more enjoyable and fulfilling than any previous experience. Tidal pools, estuaries, fathomless trenches, shoals and reefs –all of them fascinated and enthralled her.

It was in her senior year, the final day in the field. The team was working in the Gulf of Mexico, between the mainland of Florida and the string of barrier islands when the transformation occurred. Medusa was dozing on deck with the rest of her team, when science vessel Trident slowed to a stop. She snapped to attention when the call came. She was neither surprised nor afraid, for this is what she had been waiting for all of her life.

She walked with purpose to the railing of the vessel, chucking off her sneakers, pulling her tank top over her head, stepping out of her cargo shorts, unclasping her bra, sliding her panties off, even removing her watch and earrings. The Cnidaria surrounded the ship, pale orange and gold, undulating in synchrony, beckoning Medusa to follow. With a smile that could turn men to stone, she bade her comrades farewell and leapt into the sea.

Header Image: The Head of Medusa, Caravaggio



Here you are all two dimensional
Flat and plane
One wrong move on my part
And you disappear
I need to poke holes in that fabric
Let my gravity leak through
And pull you closer
Or push you further away
I can’t find anything sharp enough
To penetrate the surface
You’re like Kevlar
I need a hollow point bullet
Filled with contempt
‘Duty is an ugly mistress’
So why keep going?
Take a good look and decide
Cover my face with kisses
Because if you go
You won’t ever see me again

Drinking Adventurously – Napa Edition

Drinking Adventurously – Napa Edition

Week 34 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Pisco. And you guessed it… FAIL.

Pisco is a South American spirit derived from grapes and although it has a four hundred year tradition in places like Peru, suburban Philadelphia has not caught on… Nevertheless, Lula may have had better luck. So what shall we talk about instead? Something else grape related, perhaps?

I looked ahead to make sure I won’t tread on ground to be covered in the future and discovered that the road ahead does not include wine. That gives me an opportunity to tell you a cool story about a small wine maker in Napa, California. In 2014, friends in the Bay Area invited a few of us East Coasters to come out for a visit. We did a lot in the ten days we were there, including spending the day in California wine country.

I will never, ever, not for one minute try to pretend I know much about wine. My default setting is to let the sommelier recommend something for me when I go out or to let my more knowledgable friends help me choose. I have my favorites that I return to again and again at the wine and spirits shop and so this trip to Napa was to be an education. Our California friends had a connection to a small vineyard called One Acre Winery and Dave Becker, the owner and wine maker.

Dave’s parents moved to the location of the vineyard back in the early 1970’s but at the time the land was being used for fruit orchards. In time Dave married and moved away. But more recently, as his father’s health began to fail, Dave and his wife moved back to the area to look after both his parents. They built a little house on the property for themselves and settled into life on the farm. The old fruit trees had grown tired, though and a friend suggested that Dave plant a vineyard instead. So with the help of a vineyard crew from a nearby winery the land was cleared and Dave planted his first vines. On one acre. Thus the name.

Dave’s first acre was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in 2002. By 2008, his wine bested 500 entries to win a prestigious international competition. The vineyard has always been cultivated organically and has now expanded to many more acres, though the first acre is still being cultivated. Pretty cool, huh? The winery is now called Acre Winery and if you follow the link, you can read more of their story and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.