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Monday, September 20, 2004
Spotlight on

Babyfishfel~ Vassar girl, hurricane survivor, and a New Yorker at heart

Felicia H. Berke
Some of my friends call  me Fel.  My parents wanted to name their children with uncommon and  unshortenable names (while still using the initials to honor dead family  members.  In my case, Fuffo -- really great aunt Flo -- and cousin  Harry).  They succeeded with the former quality, but my brother Julian  and I can tell you that three syllable names are just too tempting to leave  alone.  (Plus it's really uneven with the very sudden K sound in my  monosyllabic last name.  It's so abrupt, it sounds rude.  I was  once called "Berkie".  It was a vast improvement.  As was common in  those days, my grandfather changed the last name from Berkowitz to Berke  about 60 years ago.  If I'd been around, I'd have voted for the extra  i.)

Some people have asked me why Babyfishfel.  "Babyfishfel," they  say, "Why 'Babyfishfel'?"  The Fel part you already know.  To  answer the rest of the question, I take you to the Way Back Machine in which  we go, um, way back to 1989 and go see a little movie called "When  Harry Met Sally".  In the Pictionary scene, Bruno Kirby guesses that  Meg Ryan's drawing is the phrase   "baby fish mouth".  When he is told  it was actually "baby talk", he argues that "that's not a saying."   His buddy Billy Crystal replies sardonically, "Oh, but 'baby fish mouth'  is sweeping the nation.  I hear them talking."  The best part of Babyfishfel, aside from referencing one of my favorite movies (I'm a sucker for a movie reference), is that nobody has ever taken it on any 
website on which I've ever tried to register.
30 years and 3 weeks and 3 days
Miami, Florida (she said ruefully)
Do you have issues with Miami?
Hey, maybe Miami has issues with me.  Did you ever think of that? 

Actually, my issues are three-fold. 
1.  Very hip means very shallow.  I'm neither of those things.  I'm way too low-key for The Miami Scene.  This is a place consumed with image, from the people to the buildings.  Men get muscle implants here.  Full grown adults live nocturnally in order to make the hottest clubs.  (I wrote a paper about this once for a class, and it later got mocked in the The Miami Herald.  Grr.  Still mad. )  Anyway, long story short, I don't fit the Miami profile.  Among other things, it makes dating and finding friendships more difficult.
2.  It's my hometown.  Doesn't everyone have issues with their hometown?  It's comforting to have the familiarity, but it's also cloying.  Walls close in.  I think it's a lot to do with the *way* I live here.  I live here like I'm a teenager.  I've only lived in Miami in my parents' house in the suburbs.  I don't experience this place the way people who didn't grow up here do.
3.  It's so frigging hot and humid all the time!  Two seasons: simmer and broil.  Lots of people love that, but I'm a Fall/Winter person.  The colder, the better.  I'm the palest Miamian you've ever seen.

Where were you born?
Miami, Florida
What  did you want to be when you grew up?
You are special!  Do you have a  career goal now?
Not this very as we speakend, no.  It's a sore point at the moment, and it has me spouting cliches like "I'm in transition" and "I'm between things".  Kill me now. 

I'm very good at very many skills, and it's made the important decisions more difficult.  If I were good at carpentry and little else, I'd be a carpenter. Instead, it's up to me to decide what I want as opposed to figuring out what I'm good at.  That's a much taller order. 

In the past, I've worked primarily in television production and librarianship. I'd be a terrific producer, but it's kind of impossible to get a job like that. I'd love to be librarian of the Museum of Television and Radio collection or manage one of HBO's archives/tape libraries.

What were mealtimes like for you  as a child?
So non-dysfunctional that it almost seems  dysfunctional.  My mom would cook a protein, a starch, and a  vegetable.  When my dad came home from work, we would all sit down and  eat together.  Conversation was always based on the "How was your day?"  theme, starting with one person  and
going around until all four stories had  been told.  Highlights, lowlights.  A series of monologues told in  succession.  Then we would all clear the table and clean the kitchen  before sitting down again for dessert.  Oh, and there was no television  within 50 feet of the dining room, so that wasn't even an option.
This  continued until my mom went back to school (library school, specifically) in  1990.  Then dinners became a pre-packaged version of the dining room  ritual, except on weekends when we would eat out.
Did you ever  like any of your school photos?
Certainly not at the time.  My  tenth grade school picture stands out in my memory because I had just gotten  my hair chopped by an inept hair stylist.  He seemed to think I had  asked to have one hairstyle for the front and a different hairstyle for the  back.  Oh, and that I wanted both of them to be butt ugly.  Anyway,  one of my grandmothers insisted that I looked like Sally  Field
but I just don't  see it.
This  question got me curious, though, so I did an autobiographical pictorial  journey through my past.  Turns out there were a few years there  (1981-1985 especially) that I would dub The Bad Years (ages 7 through  11).  Here's proof:

Ah, 1982.  The hair was frizzing and getting darker, and puberty was setting  in.  But before that, I was a *gorgeous* kid (excepting for the patch over one eye), with  long straight honey blonde hair . I  now realize my teenage years were surprisingly not too bad, if you can  forgive some hair mistakes.  (Note how I don't include  those here).  I had a complex about my weight from age 11 because my mom had put me on a diet, but I don't think the weight was really a  problem until I was 17 or so.
So, uh, back to topic, now that I've  consulted the evidence, school pictures weren't too bad.
I know that you enjoy photography.  When  did that become a hobby?

High school.  I took photography as an elective.  But I never took the camera off of the automatic setting.  In college, I was the unofficial photographer of all of my friends and the student-run security organization I worked for.  But I never took the camera off of automatic.  Then this past year, I joined a local camera club and realized I'm perhaps a beginning amateur if there's such 
a thing.  I don't know squat about really taking beautiful pictures.  In recent weeks, I've realized how much happier I am just capturing a moment to share with others or to illustrate a point.  I'm a blographer! 
What was your first  date like?
Pretty unfun.  I had had a crush on this guy from Mu  Alpha Theta (the math honor club, if that gives you an idea of my -- and his  -- cool factor), and we hooked up on the bus back from Busch Gardens  (the state competition was in Tampa that year).  Then we went out on a date.   He was 16, I was 15.  He picked me up in his mom's  van (not a minivan.  A real van) and we met some friends of his at a  restaurant.  The friends told the waiter it was my birthday but they didn't  tell me about it.  So when the servers came over with  my free dessert and started singing, I kept trying to stop them to tell them  they'd made a mistake and gone to the wrong table.  The friends weren't  too fond of me from then on.
On the way back to my house, the guy took  off his glasses at every stop sign and red light and then leaned over the  gulf between our seats to kiss me.  I thought that was about the most  unromantic thing I had ever heard of, and although I'd only been kissed by one other guy at that time, I'll stand by that assessment today.   Guh.  Anyway, we got home, he came in to meet my parents, they went to  bed, and he and I started kissing on an armchair.  My brother wandered  out and caught us.  Sheesh.

Then I walked the guy out to his van,  whereupon we kissed some more.
That's when the guy told me, "You make me so  hard."  I was alarmed. I kind of knew what he was talking about  physiologically, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it.   Or why he was telling me what was going on in his pants.  Or what kind  of response to give. Was it bad?  Good?  Should I not have done  that to him?  And done what exactly?  All I'd been doing was kissing.  Anyway, I think I settled on something like, "Thanks."
We talked on the phone every night, and every  night he would hang up saying, "I love you," and I would say, "Okay,  bye."  I was disgusted. How could he love me if he had only really  talked to me for a couple of weeks?  Dumbass.  A week later I dumped  him.  He cried.
What about your first  kiss?
This is kind of a long story too.  Okay, well, short version, I was fifteen and the guy in question and I had already had wandering hands on a stage in front of an entire audience, right behind my mom, hopefully without anybody's noticing, way before we ever dated or kissed or anything.
The punchline is that after the first kiss (which I was not expecting and which I thought was pretty gross) I thought I knew the answer to the oft-asked question, "Spit or swallow?"  I never kissed that guy again.  Instead, I avoided him until he broke up with me.  (You'll be relieved to know I've fully recovered from the experience.   So much so that I'll mention that kissing is one of the best things to do with one's free time.  I mean, in case you didn't already know that.  I knew a guy recently who really didn't like kissing.  Huh? I suspect he's been kissing my first boyfriend.)

What is in your vegetable  bin?
Exactly one head of iceberg lettuce and two cucumbers.   Yesterday there was one head of iceberg lettuce, two cucumbers, lots of  rotting vegetables, and vegetable slime all over everything.  What luck  today was Garbage Day!
What color is your  car?
Blue. You've seen it  here.

Are  you having a good hair day?
I'm having half of a good hair  day.  The right side looks good, the left not so much.  But I'm  desperate for a hair cut, so I don't blame the left side for giving up on  looking-goodness.
What is your favorite perfume?
On  me?  Lately I've been wearing Flowers because it's lighter  than everything else I have.  Before that, I've worn Boucheron, Lauren  by Ralph Lauren, Obsession by Calvin Klein, and Beautiful by  Estee Lauder.  I don't wear perfume every day though, because I'm afraid
someone will yell at me for activiating their allergies.  I have an almost phobia about upsetting other people.
On men?  I am very  sensitive to smell, but I don't have any favorites to name because I don't  usually run up to good smelling men and ask them why they smell so  good.  On some guys, it's their own body chemically mixed with their  cologne that makes me swoon.  On other
guys, soap alone can do  it.
What is your middle name?
Hilary.  One  L.  Three syllables.  See above.
What type of books do  you like to read?
I'm all over the place.  Mysteries,  contemporary fiction, non-fiction, short story compilations, young adult  fiction.  (Regardless of my age, I've always liked books for  teens.  Actually my screenplay/thesis was based on one.)  I like  non-fiction writing by authors writing about their craft.  I like the  rare self-helpy book.  I like science and math stuff written to be  understandable to the layman.  (I really enjoy learning new things but  not necessarily in a focused and direct manner.  I really love to listen  to people talking about their interests, skills, hobbies, dissertations, what  have you because people talking about what they like gets infused with their  enthusiasm and appreciation, and I adopt it.  Like accents.)
Do you have any pets?
I DO!  The real cats were Ernie and Bert , but they've both died. We now have Jasper and Jimmy who are both warped but in different ways.  Jasper's an attention slut and Jimmy is an emotional overeater.

What is your  favorite type of cookie?
*ahem*  Speaking of emotional overeating....

My favorite foods change a lot.  I'll get on a ravenous kick with something and then burn out.  But I can name names.  Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Milanos.  Double Stuff Oreos.   Nilla Wafers. Graham Crackers.  Those stripey straw-looking wafers  filled with cream.  They've all fallen victims to me as a cookie monster  at one time or another.
Who would you like to see featured on  the next Spotlight?
Mensch!  Mensch!  Mensch!  (I  love that woman.)

Thanks for all the great pics and for letting us get to know you so well, Fel!

Posted at 09:31 pm by ChefGrace
(5) Shout Outs  

Yeah, yeah

Today's Spotlight interview will be posted this afternoon.

I promise that it will be worth the wait.

Posted at 12:09 pm by ChefGrace
(2) Shout Outs  

Sunday, September 19, 2004
[Happy Sigh]

Did I have a good birthday weekend?

Well, do I look happy??

(The answer is YES!)

Posted at 08:26 pm by ChefGrace
(7) Shout Outs  

Friday, September 17, 2004
More Virgo Power

Happy Birthday Gforce!!

Posted at 07:19 pm by ChefGrace
(2) Shout Outs  

Thursday, September 16, 2004
A Very Happy Day

That's right~ It's my birthday!
And Overg is here!
It doesn't get any better than that!

Posted at 01:37 pm by ChefGrace
(10) Shout Outs  

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