Saturday, April 4, 2020

Guest Artist: Payne - Notes from the Inside #3

Payne, my dearest friend who has mild autism and OCD sent me another note.  Once again, this extraordinary young man blew me out of the water.  If more people were like him, there would be toilet paper on the shelves and masks in hospitals and policies in this country that put people first.


Fred Rogers once said “Look For The Helpers.”

It seems to me that people are looking for more negative things to say about this situation than they are positive things. I get it, these are scary times and it does seem that every other country in the world is taking care of the virus situation before we can, but there are many things that are happening in response to this virus.

I heard about professional athletes organizing drives to get food to help victims of the virus and celebrities and other people getting together to help people through this time. Yes we are going through some bad times right now, especially with China and South Korea seeming to get a handle on this situation faster than our country can, but even in the darkest of times there are glimmers of hope to be found, we just have to know where to look for them.

Now more than ever we need to “Look For The Helpers” and perhaps even become helpers ourselves, because when we work together and help each other we can get through any panic and any dark time like the one we are currently in.

When it is over and this virus is gone however, we cannot forget what happened because of it, how many people have suffered, gotten sick or died because of this virus because if we do, we won’t be prepared for when and if this happens again.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Guest Artist: Payne - Notes from the Inside #2

My old friend Payne, a young man with mild autism and a passionate and patriotic heart, visited me again.


When the week began I felt depressed, I miss hanging out with my friends, going to the movies, going out to dinner, all things that can no longer be done because of this virus.

On top of that I heard that the president wants to open up everything in two weeks, which is honestly the most irresponsible thing that could be done. Opening up everything after two weeks would cause the virus to spread almost to the point that we couldn’t be able to contain it, but I guess we should expect nothing less from a man who prioritizes money and ego over the health and safety of the people he’s supposed to be governing.

As usual the media’s reporting on the situation isn’t helping, it’s only making people more scared. We need to stop panicking and start using our common sense, this is a time where we need to come together and help each other through these tough times and I know these are scary times and it is okay to be scared but we need to stop letting fear guide how we make our decisions.

I’m not saying these things to back a political candidate or to impose my opinions on people, I’m saying them because I love my country and I hate to see it’s people suffer whether it be from the virus itself or from the panic this virus is causing.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Guest Artist: Payne - Notes from the Inside

These last couple of days and weeks I have witnessed my neighborhood, my city, my country and this entire world struggle as the COVID-19 virus spreads. 

Here in the United States, some leaders have stepped up and called for all Americans to be fully supported through this devastating economic and medical crisis, like Gov. Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren (no matter what you think of either of them, they have stepped up).  

But, beyond a few examples, the lack of honest leadership and the dearth of true patriotism - what it really means to be an American - has appalled me.

And then an old friend, Payne sent me this and I didn't feel so alone.


My name is Payne, I am a concerned citizen of these United States with mild autism, at this moment the country is in the middle of a pandemic that seems like it’ll get worse before it gets better, on Monday I got told that I wouldn’t be able to come to work until this whole thing blows over, It doesn’t help that I keep hearing scary headlines about this situation, setting off a bunch of irrational thoughts in my head and on top of that I heard that our president is considering a national lockdown which will really get people panicking, I know that China is where this virus first came from but the person I blame for all this is our president, a selfish, entitled jerk who thinks that he can do whatever he wants and there won’t be any consequences for his actions, he should’ve put measures in place to prevent, or at least contain this but instead he blew it off and as usual didn’t listen to anybody about it because he knows everything and he’s always right and everybody else is always wrong, meanwhile people are dying from this disease and even the people who aren’t sick are suffering because like me they’ve been essentially laid off and can’t make money and other people are panicking and buying up a bunch of stuff from the nearby supermarket, it just makes me sad how much the irresponsibility of a few can lead to the the craziness of many, it seems like we’re all going crazy and falling apart when we should be coming together and helping each other get through this time even if we’re not making direct contact with each other, I don’t know how long this will last but I do know we need to stop being afraid and come together to help each other through this really dark time and actually take action against this disease even if it’s only by washing our hands with soap and water.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Grassroots is Dead. Long Live Grassroots

It took everything left inside after another long-ass brutal freelance gig to take out the camera, charge it up and then get down to Grassroots.

Just like I did the night Florence died and the night Seymour died, when I grabbed my camera and my thoughts so I could make sure their long-day journey into night didn't disappear with them.

Had to do the same with Grassroots. Every pivotal moment I had between 1976 and 1983 I had at that bar before I switched over to girls and coffee shops and the Duchess for a while.

But after returning to boys and a more solitary existence, there was Grassroots.  Stumbling through my city, this world and way too many stupid relationships left me feeling like like the rug was constantly being pulled out from under me.  Grassroots was the one thing that stayed consistent.
Anytime there was someone I liked, I took them to Grassroots.  Anytime there was a crisis, I went to Grassroots.  Anytime I just wanted a quiet visit with good friends, I went to Grassroots.   And one of the most important conversations I had about how to love a dying parent happened at Grassroots with Kosky.

The visits became more sporadic over the decades as I drank less, worked out more and had less money to blow.   But still, as I joked with a young colleague recently, the seats knew my ass from way back. 

That bar held my life's DNA.

Over three days this past week, I took about 700 photos, and I still didn't capture Grassroots' core or my love, even after bumping into Jeremiah of Vanishing New York and pouring my heart out.

Found myself telling him stories I hadn't remembered until that moment, could never ever put anywhere but in fiction.  I even found myself describing a certain event that, while it just about destroyed a part of me, my Yeudi and the guys at the bar - Frazier, Cliff, Eric, Bobby, Mike, Langley - made sure I was O.K.  "They had your back," Jeremiah said.   Looking back 40 years, I suddenly realized, yeah.  They did.   In a time when women were so rarely protected, I was.

Still, in between reminiscing, I kept snapping.

Kosky on the right joined in last week to say good-bye

Jeremy looking for old photos of old friends
Recognize the guys on the left, and that's Frazier and Micky on the right

But, even if I fell short there, I captured others people's hearts, broken and otherwise.

The two brothers have been coming here for 20 years - they too had all the big talks at this table or one near by.  They always joked: "When Grassroots closes, it's the end.  We're going to have to move back home upstate."

On the last night, New Years, I dragged my Mariner aka my lovely husband down to say goodbye. He stood patiently for hours as I took another 370 pictures, hung with the Ancient Mariner aka the best storyteller around, hooted and hollered, became that old barfly that I once was at the tender age of 17 and had a shot of rye - my first drink at the bar in 1976 and now my last.  For a couple of hours I was all the parts of me I had forgotten or had packed away.

The Ancient Mariner aka Phil Giambri -best storyteller around and his pal Linda
the countdown begins

the New Years kiss.... and then...

We left after midnight and in the new minutes of 2018, I cried all the way to Veselka's. 

Coming soon: Grassroots Stories and a F*&*) Load of Pictures

Thank you, Jeremiah. 

And may a new year be a happy one for this old bar.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Rest of Her New York

Some folks have asked where Her New York went to.

In two fire-proof safes were over 50 hours of video of Her New York that had waited patiently for more than a decade to be woven into a living story.

They were put away, along with the video camera, in 2006 when Florence became sick.  Still photos could be taken quickly and with one hand while caring for her or running back and forth between her home and work and doctors and pharmacies and delis and Medicaid offices and...

Regardless of all those errands, through Florence's illness and her death the search for Her New York kept unfolding for eight years.

But, the pain of the world, as a friend wrote, from senseless murders and bombings and hatred pouring out of every corner of the planet froze any word that sought home.

Perhaps it was time to return to the beginning and unpack those videos.  Perhaps it was time to step back into the timelessness of video-making, something put down in those early days of an illness overtaking a great artist's life.  Perhaps it was time to weave a new story about searching for home, a home all of us yearn for.

Until then, a brief rest.

Related Posts:

This Will Be Her Sunday Memories of What Florence Taught Me

The Aftermath Dedicated to Florence

The Memorial Program

My Mama Done Told Me

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Years ago a medical examiner and I were talking about her job.  There's nothing pretty about facing the multitudes of dead bodies strewn across five boroughs.  

At some point it began to get to her, especially when it was a baby or a circumstance of great injustice.   So she went to her boss, the big medical examiner and asked him how he got through day after day of proof that mankind could be such a miserable, murdering creature.

"I surround myself with beauty," he replied, pointing to paintings he did of roses and tulips and sunflowers.

So she found her idea of beauty, a house in the country and when she felt her soul losing out to the horrors people were so capable of, she would briefly retreat and surround herself with beauty.  Then she would go back out again.

These days, the news bursting with the horrors people continue to be so capable of, the city streets offered its own beauty, perhaps not in flowers but in its own hidden cracks.

Sunday Memories of When There Were No Pictures For That Sound