Concrete River Blues | By Jay Jasinski

My First Short Story: Concrete River Blues

As mentioned in my prior post, I am going to start sharing the short stories I write each week for my class. As we work on our final short story, which can be up to 20 pages long, we are encouraged to write a two-page story each week. Concrete River Blues is not the first story; it is the second. I was not too happy with my first story, but maybe I will share it at a different time.

Concrete River Blues

No one walks in the riverbed.

On days of incessant boredom, Kyle and I drop items from the bridge into the concrete riverbed. The river is often dry. When there is water, which is rare and far between, it creeps through, amber and filled with junk, looking like a basement flooded with ginger ale. I picture the river this way; it is the city’s digestive system; consolidating the waste people want out of sight, from beer cans used only once to people never used at all.

One time I went to the river during torrential rainfall. The water flowed higher and faster than I had ever seen before. In the two minutes I was there, I spotted four couches, one television, an orange wig, and hundreds of plastic bags flowing with the water. I thought Mother Nature knows we never learn from our mistakes; when the water comes and washes away our shame, she’s not cleaning up, she’s collecting evidence.

When Kyle and I go to the bridge, we bring an eclectic array of items to drop, mostly from the Council Thrift store at the end of our street. We bring Items that fracture, shatter, explode, and sometimes splash. The easier it breaks and the more pieces it breaks into, the better. One time, Kyle dropped his Grandpa’s phonograph, and the record inside rolled down the riverbed like the wheel of a phantom car.

Nobody walks in the riverbed.

With a struggle, Kyle lifted the black desktop computer above his head. His shoes scratched the pavement as he skidded to find stable footing. For a moment I thought he would drop it backward. The case was massive, and Kyle has thin arms. It wasn’t until the computer left Kyle’s pale hands that we saw the bill of a man’s hounds-tooth driver’s cap peak out like a rare bird from under the bridge. “God Christ,” said Kyle. The case fell at such a speed that we had no time to yell a warning. The walker looked up at the last moment, and the case struck his face, snapping his neck back like a Pez dispenser. I heard the crack clearer than I had heard anything else in my young life. The sound of my life cracking. My face and brain felt fuzzy like it does when I get the laughing gas at the dentist. I hesitated, then looked down. I saw three fingers on the man’s left-hand curl and straighten, curl and straighten as if he were scratching the neck of a cat; then the fingers stopped moving.

Kyle started to run. “Where are you going? You can’t leave.” I said. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, then turned and continued running. I took one more glance at the man, which made me feel as though my body had become void of blood. I ran away.

That night there was no word of it on the news, only the Weatherman talking about the rainstorm that would be starting in the early morning hours. I thought of the man’s hand, among the debris, breaking through the gray water that so rarely flowed; as lifeless as the plastic grocery bags and tree branches that joined him on his journey to the ocean. I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t eat breakfast the next morning.

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I Am Writing Again

I’m Taking a Short Story Writing Class

Theodor Kittelsen

Time to hold myself accountable for claiming to be a writer. That is, a creative writer. I write a lot for work, but that is no excuse for not writing for myself. When I do get some time to write, I pull the old “my favorite authors, according to themselves, have read anywhere from a million to a billion books, so I should do the same before I start writing.” No disrespect to my favorite authors, but I don’t believe they have read as much as they claim to have read. Kurt Vonnegut said something about letting people think you are writing a lot more than you are, perhaps writers do that about reading, too.

What I am getting at is work and reading can no longer be an excuse for my lack of writing.

With hopes that it will add a little structure to my writing habits, I have enrolled in a Short Story writing class at UCLA. I am going to share every story I write so you can follow my progress – let’s hope there is progress.

Here are a few short stories I enjoy:

“The Potato Elf” Vladimir Nabokov

“A Diamond as Big as the Ritz” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” – Carson McCullers

“The Shell Collector” – Anthony Doerr

“The Laughing Man” – J.D. Salinger

“Harrison Bergeron”- Kurt Vonnegut

“The Pearl” – John Steinbeck

“The Bulgarian Poetess” – John Updike

“Darling Loraine” – Paul Simon (it’s a song, but the lyrics tell a story)


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Photo Journal: Memorial Day in The San Fernando Valley

Memorial Day in the San Fernando Valley: A Photo Journal

This morning I decided to honor the fallen at Canoga Park’s Memorial Day Parade, an event described by the Canoga Park West Hills Chamber of Commerce as “Pure Fun.” I went to pay my respects to the brave men and women of the United States military who sacrificed their lives for my freedom. I also went to practice photography.

About a month ago I purchased a used Nikon D3300 on Amazon. While I progress from neophyte to average, I thought I would journal a few of the more interesting photos.

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A Rainy Day in L.A.

It’s raining in Los Angeles. Quite a lot of rain is falling from the sky. It’s a straightforward, earnest rainfall. As if the rain were saying, “Okay it’s supposed to rain today so here it all is before that 1:30 lunch I have.”

I’m happy it’s raining. Not just because we are in a drought, but because I’m going on a six-mile hike this weekend and one of the reviews read, “great hike to do after a lot of rain. Very fragrant.” During a recent visit, my Dad and I took a hike in Franklin Canyon Park after a big rain, and it was indeed fragrant. I’m not native California plant specialist, but I believe it was the various sage bushes and possibly lemonade berry.


Pierre Alechinsky, Jour balte

I wanted to share this song because it’s great for a rainy day.

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Some Movies to Watch in 2017


Happy New Year…

It’s been nearly a year since I last posted on here. It’s a shame, really. I am busy, but there are much busier people than myself who find the time to blog. No reason to beat myself up since it’s a New Year and with it comes a new Jay.

I recently made a list of movies for a friend to watch and thought I mine as well share it on here. They’re movies that I enjoy from different countries and different decades. They’re not in any particular order. I should note that this isn’t a list of my favorite movies, though many of them are, but rather a list of movies I think people should see.

If you want to get the full Jay movie watching experience, I suggest brewing up a cuppa’ hot tea instead of microwaving a bag of popcorn, since popcorn gives me headaches. I recommend a tea light on caffeine but not so soothing that you’ll fall asleep. Perhaps a Kukicha (twig tea) or Oolong. Enjoy.

Jay’s 2017 Movie Watching List (In no particular order)

The Red Shoes (1948)
Life is Sweet (1990)
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Sonatine (1993)
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
The Great McGinty (1940)
Lust for Life (1956)
My Man Godfrey (1936)
To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
The Conformist (1970)
La Cérémonie (1995)
Pauline at the Beach (1983)
Out 1 (1971)
A Fire Within (1963)
Bay of Angels (1963)
Blood Simple (1984)
Little Big Man (1970)
Straight Time (1978)
As Tears Go By (1988)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Hud (1963)
Barton Fink (1991)
The Silence (1963)
The Last Detail (1973)
The Passenger (1975)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Amarcord (1973)
I Vitelloni (1953)
Floating Weeds (1959)
True Stories (1986)
À nos amours (1983)
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
The Roaring 20s (1939)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
Fish Tank (2009)
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Thirst (2009)


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January Playlist: RIP Starman

January Playlist

Goodbye, David Bowie. You’ll always be an inspiration to me.


“You say we’re growing,
Growing heart and soul
In this age of grand illusion
You walked into my life
Out of my dreams
Sweet name, you’re born once again for me
Sweet name, you’re born once again for me
Oh sweet name, I call you again
You’re born once again for me
Just because I believe, don’t mean I don’t think as well
Don’t have to question everything
In heaven or hell
Lord, I kneel and offer you
My word on a wing
And I’m trying hard to fit among
Your scheme of things”
– David Bowie “Word On a Wing



David Bowie – Who Can I be Now?

Iggy Pop – Turn Blue

Duke Ellington – Sunset and the Mockingbird

David Bowie – Word on a Wing

Jackie Wilson – Be My Girl

Carla Thomas – Yes, I’m Ready

Ike and Tina Turner – Get Back

John Coltrane – Lonnie’s Lament

David Bowie – Neukölln

Lou Reed – I’m So Free


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Books and Tea Guest Post: Henrik Saetre of Warm Leaves

Books and Tea by Henrik Saetre/Warm Leaves

It’s been months since I last posted on this blog, which is disappointing. I was on a roll for a while; then I convinced myself I was too busy to writing a few hundred words every couple of weeks. No one limits our potential more than ourselves.

Thankfully, a guest post appeared in my inbox, and I’m ready to shake the dust off this blog. Please enjoy Henrik’s thoughtful post and please expect more from me in the future. Hell, I might even make “write more” my New Year’s resolution.

Henrik Saetre/Warm Leaves

It is a special time for my fiancé and myself, because we have just launched our Kickstarter, after nine months of preparation. For me, this is my fourth entrepreneurial venture. So I asked Jay for the chance to share some of my thoughts in this crazy period, hoping that they may be of some value to you.


All I ask in return is that you do your best to enjoy this day, and believe in yourself.

Please Support Henrik’s Kickstarter!

Book and Tea Pairings for The New Year

Book: The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris

This is a book that opens your eyes to what is possible in our day and age.
Enjoy it, and seek the motivation for making your own way in this world.
Because through it, you get a step by step guide on how to start.


Tea: For this book, get your hands on a quality Nepalese black tea. Enjoy the unique fragrance and aromas from the Himalayas, and be inspired.

Book: The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
With this book you learn how businesses actually work.
The systems and concepts that have stood the test of time.
And with it, you can deconstruct any company, and create any enterprise.
Armed with this knowledge, you can prepare for the marvellous challenges ahead.


Tea: Sit down with a golden coloured Taiwanese Oolong, and marvel at its beautiful flavour. Because just like there are different ways to build a business, there are many ways of creating the perfect Oolong.

Book: Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
Entrepreneurship is tough. It is a constant struggle, for little reward.
Akin to a marathon, the reward is at the end.
And to reach it you need to take care of yourself, stay motivated, and keep growing.


Tea: Enjoy this with a wonderful cup of Japanese green tea, and leverage that energy in moving towards your dream.

Book: Mastery by Robert Greene

Failure can be hard.

So understanding that failure is essential to success is not always easy.
Only by going through the tough trials will you become skilled enough to succeed.
In Mastery, Robert Greene lays out for us the requirement for success.
So take the time to sit down and enjoy this book. And ask yourself if you have got what it takes.


Tea: Chinese Aged Pu-erh, because just like this tea is made better through time, so does your success demand determination and dedication.

Henrik and his fiancé are currently doing a Kickstarter campaign for Warm Leaves: An adventure through the world of loose leaf tea. This is a unique tea subscription box, because every month they explore tea from a different country. Check them out here, for special deals.

They would love your support, because this is an excellent opportunity to enrich your tea experience.

Just think, how often do you get to drink tea from Vietnam, Nepal, or Taiwan?

Have a book and tea pairing you’d like to share? Connect with me on Instagram and use #BooksAndTea or contact me at


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Books & Tea | August, 2015

Books and Tea | August, 2015


I Have an Awesome Vocabulary

Two weeks ago, I took over as community manager at the Environmental Media Association (EMA). It’s an exciting gig, one that merges my interests in the environmental and entertainment industries. One of the primary tasks of a community manager is to make daily posts on social media. What I post consists of our news, stories from our sponsors and celebrities, and timely environmental content (think lots of “breathtaking” nature photos). For most posts, I have to write a brief introduction or explanation, as well as give proper credit to authors, photographers, etc. While writing a description for an Instagram post, I realized I use the words amazing and awesome way too much. Now, many of these photos are awesome and amazing, but it cheapens the impact of these words if everything is awesome and amazing. I solved the dilemma by tossing in an occasional stunning and wonderful, but I was left shaken.

Am I not the savvy wordsmith I think I am? Am I doomed to a world where everything from meerkats to lunch is awesome? Okay, that doesn’t sound as grave as I intended, but you get the point.

The other day, I had an aha moment while watching a Taco Bell commercial. Naturally, the ad was promoting Taco Bell’s latest taco, one it described as awesome. There’s that dreaded word again. Only this time it’s not describing the awe-inspiring view of Yosemite’s Cathedral Lakes, but a soggy GMO-purse filled with 61% of your recommended daily sodium intake. In the Bell’s defense, awesome is slang for very impressive, so I doubt it was implying its taco “inspires an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear” – though the idea of eating Taco Bell for breakfast, lunch, and dinner should inspire overwhelming fear. Taco Bell’s far from being the only company that overuses words like awesome and amazing, which is why I’ve come to the conclusion advertising is to blame for my consistent desire to describe everyone and everything as awesome.

Here are some amazing book and tea pairings for August. Enjoy.

Book and Tea Pairings for August

Books-and-tea-augustBook: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This is a guest post by my friend Sanne Dekkers. She does an excellent job of documenting and sharing the books she reads via her Instagram account. Make sure to follow her: @sanneah_reads

Tea: Nilgiri Green



books-and-tea-august-jay-jasinskiBook: A collection of short stories by Various Authors

This is a dirty book, and I don’t mean that in a promiscuous way, I mean it’s literally dirty. I had to fight off the strange men and women buzzing around the free-book cart like flies around a dead squirrel to snag this one. It looks nice in this photo, but it’s a bit too musty to read.

Tea: Lapsang Souchong Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs

books-and-tea-august Book: Pomegranate Tree by Nazan Bekiroglu

My Instagram friend, @jellicle_kutuphanesi did me one better by thinking of books and a cat. But not just any cat. No, this is one heck of a pretty kitty. Thanks, Yoda Charlotte for posing for the photo. (That’s her photo in the cover image as well)

Tea: Melon Tea


books-and-tea-august-natalieBook: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradburry

Another fantastic guest submission from my friend Natalie. The mug is from Macedonia. Way to go, Natalie!

Tea: Mountain Tea (not sure what that is, but it sounds yummy).



books-and-tea-august-alpine-berryBook: Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Since I’m all of the above, I figured I should buy this book. I read it one sitting. The book is not long, and I’m already appreciating the wabi-sabi in my life. For instance, our indoor plants that are starting to brown suddenly look beautiful.

Tea: Alpine Berry form Two Leaves Tea


books-and-tea-august-annBook: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

This guest-submission from my friend Ann, features a bookmark with one of my favorite quotes.

Tea: Lavender bergamot tea





Have a book and tea pairing you’d like to share? Connect with me on Instagram and use #BooksAndTea or contact me at


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Books & Tea | Guest Post by Hikari Loftus of Folded Pages Distillery

Books And Tea | Guest Post by Hikari Loftus of Folded Pages Distillery

To me, and I’m sure to many others, reading a book is much more than just taking in the words on the page. Reading a book requires all of our senses. For instance, the night I read the poem at the beginning of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, I was standing on my patio, just in time to benefit from the fading light of the sunset. Car honks and noisy dogs blended with the internal voice of my reading as I tried to make sense of the author’s erudite verse. I was drinking herbal tea, which burned my tongue. All of these sights, feelings, and smells will always be part of my experience with that particular book.

In my opinion, dedicated bibliophile Hikari Loftus gets this idea of reading as a trip for all the senses, and it shows in her photographs. For this reason, it only took me a brief look through her IG gallery to become a fan. Her photos make me excited to read and remind me of the books I’ve enjoyed over the years and all the complementary smells, tastes and sounds that went along with them.

That being said, it’s my pleasure to introduce Hikari as my latest guest author for Books and Tea. Enjoy, and remember to visit her website and follow her incredible social accounts. Thanks again, Hikari!


Hikari Loftus of Folded Pages Distillery | Books and Tea

Listen, if we’re going to talk Books and Tea here, we’re going to have to get into some deeply rooted beliefs, founded on one of the truest desires of my heart.

You ready for this?

I would like to say that my love for tea comes from my Japanese heritage, or a sophisticated palate. But the truth is, my love affair with tea (which eventually led to me become a tea set hoarder by the age of 26, a condition that has only worsened in the five years since then) is a direct result from the fondest wish of my heart—to meet and become best friends with a faerie.

As a child I became enamored with the Fair Folk through books. My dad read us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at an early age, and from then on, I sought out any and all books that contained faeries or elves. And the truth is—they cast a deep spell over me, because it was only a few years ago that I awoke to the realization that there were books out there about other things.

Whether you picture faeries of the Tinker Bell variety, or the cruel and cunning Fair Folk of the Seelie Courts, one thing remains the same. They are creatures of nature. They thrive on fruits or flowers, sugar and honey, and they have a taste for milk.

When I first drank herbal tea, some mix of chamomile, lavender and rose petals, I felt sure I was having a faerie experience. I was drinking flowers and herbs, mixed with a splash of milk and drops of honey. The thought was magic to me. It is still magic to me.

Since then, tea has been a big part of my reading and writing habits. It is a drink that is inseparably connected to the most vibrant part of my imagination. Even now, at the age of 31, my favorite teas— the ones I keep stocked next to the honey jar at home—are those that make me feel prepared and ready should a faerie happen by for tea to plan what colors our friendship bracelets should be.

Everyone always tells me that herbal tea is good for me. While actual studies on the benefits of herbal tea are inconclusive, drinking many herbal teas are said to help with various sicknesses and body discomforts or functions, fight off colds, shed weight, help you sleep, contain antioxidant properties, etc. etc. But for me, I seek out tea for other reasons

For me, tea is simple: Tea is magic. Tea is imagination. Tea is a faerie experience.

“Tinker Bell had been asleep on his shoulder, but now he wakened her and sent her on in front.

Some times he poised himself in the air, listening intently, with his hand to his hear, and again he would stare down with eyes so bright that they seemed to bore two holes to earth.

Having done these things, he went on again.
His courage was almost appalling. ‘Would you like an adventure now,’ he said casually to John, ‘or would you like to have your tea first?”

Chapter 4 “The Flight”
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie on Instagram/@fpdistillery on Twitter

Hikari Loftus: Voracious reader, journalist, midnight writer, mama, food snob, tea enthusiast.

Have a book and tea pairing you’d like to share? Connect with me on Instagram and use #BooksAndTea or contact me at


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Books & Tea | July, 2015

Books and Tea | July, 2015


Existential thoughts and the world’s longest porch

This past weekend, my family and I returned to Mackinac Island, MI for another Fourth of July Weekend. Like most family traditions, it’s near and dear to me. In fact, it’s a trip I’m not willing to miss even if I’m living across the country. It was a short stay, only four days and three nights, but quantity isn’t a factor in the trip’s charm. What makes it so special is its familiarity. We stay at the same hotel, often in the same room, and do the same things. Like myself, the destination is old-fashioned. We lodge at the Grand Hotel, an elegant Michigan icon that reminds me of classic films from the 30s and 40s – or if you don’t watch old movies, picture “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.  The hotel claims to have the world’s largest porch, which looks out on one of the most breathtaking views of the Straits of Mackinac you could ever imagine.

grand_hotel_michigan_jay_jasinskiSince I’ve been coming to the hotel for years, its familiarity is a pleasure for all my senses. The slightly crooked hallways smell and look the same, the live jazz music still plays during dinner, and the hot tub still feels good on my back. I’m sure we all have places like this in our lives; destinations that can’t possibly be replaced, since nearly a lifetime’s worth of memories and feelings happened there. But familiarity often leads to sentimentality, which is why I spent a lot of this year’s trip thinking about my life.

I find annual vacations, especially ones spent with people I care greatly for, give me conflicting feelings of relief and worry, at least at the start. For example, the first few moments are lost in victory as I’m thrilled to be back at a place I’ve enjoyed for many years. Next comes the insidious thoughts of, “will this happen again next year?” and “will I be with the same people?” resulting in sentimentality. It doesn’t take a Buddhist monk to tell you that suffering arises from attachment, but it’s still bittersweet. It’s the existential crisis of life, the fact that things won’t stay the same nor will they last forever, played out in a much shorter narrative.

To my relief, the beauty and charm of the destination didn’t allow me to worry about such things for more than a moment. Whether it was my Dad’s honest laugh or a sudden breeze, my senses always brought me back to the present.

On a different note, the Grand Hotel is the perfect place to drink tea and read a book. Enjoy.

Book and Tea Pairings for July, 2015

books_and_tea_julyThe Wild Palms by William Faulkner

This is a guest submission by my friend Raven. She was inspired to read The Wild Palms because Godard references it in his film “Breathless”.

Tea: Flowering Green Tea from Heavenly Tea




books_and_tea_july_Lu_annA Big Life (in advertising) by Mary Wells Lawrence

Guest contributor Lu Ann and I seem to have much in common: we’re both marketing consultants, tea drinkers, and bloggers. Check out her magnificent tea blog The Cup of Life.

 Tea:  Organic Bai Mu Dan White Tea from Tattle Tea

books_and_tea_jay_jasinskiThe Pump House Gang by Tom Wolfe

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read anything by Tom Wolfe. Well, thanks to the 50-cent rack at Bargain Books in Van Nuys, that’s about to change.

Tea: Organic Tamayokucha from Two Leaves Tea



books_tea_charlotteEmma by Jane Austen

This charming guest post from Charlotte features a slice of lemon, which I’m happy about because I often put fresh lemon in my tea. Follow Charlotte on Instagram and find her on Good Reads.

Tea: Earl Grey



books_tea_grand_hotelThe Basil and Josephine Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI, offered the perfect setting for Fitzgerald’s erudite prose. No, I didn’t actually eat the book.

Tea: Lipton® Decaf Black Tea



Have a book and tea pairing you’d like to share? Connect with me on Instagram and use #BooksAndTea or contact me at


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