Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Good Guys Win

"The world is in such a fragile place," I wrote friends.

"I often come home wondering if the bad guys, regardless of whether they are in governments or in insurgent groups, are winning.  So I hold on to the moments that speak of something better than war, including our dinner together, the happiest wedding ceremony ever, healthy food, running water, sanitation, heat on cold days and good health."

And a home filled with moments of well-loved cats and a good guy who wins over hearts and minds with his heart and his mind.

Wishing my friends peace and joy, I also sent hopes for moments that would last decades and speak of something better than war,  reminding us all that sometimes the good guys win.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Once Again: Just in Time for the the Holidays:
Thanking the Problems for Being the Gifts

Originally posted Thursday, November 27, 2008

Years and years and years ago times were, well, not so hotsy totsy. I was urged to every night make a list of three things I felt grateful for. I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard of. If there were things to feel grateful for, I wouldn't be in the shape I was. But desperate for anything better than what was, I did. Often item 2 and 3 were the pencil and the paper I was using. Scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Then one day I noticed a gentle reprieve. The list grew. My life soften.

Things got better, things got worse, things got different. Things got real. Life went on.

Then things got, well, not so hotsy totsy. I was urged to thank my problems. I told the bearer of such advice to go fuck himself. But desperate for anything better than what was, I did. And slowly a rejection turned into a reprieve from a firing line, a disaster led to the perfect place where things ran perfectly, a broken heart broke open bigger and I ended up loving someone else more.

Each obstacle held the gift I always wanted. I began to thank my problems. But only after the fact when I saw how well things always turned out

Things got better, things got worse, things got different. Things got real. Life went on.

And then things got completely and unequivocally horrible grief loss rage insanity wiping shit off floors begging love not to leave sudden wakings in the middle of the night desperate to have those lost years back desperate not to feel it was all over desperate...

There was nothing to do but thank and thank and thank while pouring out pain like a mother giving birth not always sure the gift I sought laid beneath such poundings. The more I poured out pain, grief or loss or desire or yearning or unresolved or uncertainty or fear or .... pages and pages and pages of thanks poured out too, like the kisses that pour out when love invites.

Thank you for this crisis -- it got me to go deeper and recognize the bruised injury thank you for forcing me to practice loving even when I was being rejected it hurt like hell and I was so exhausted from years of crying but I finally emerged from the prison I had always lived in thank you for such sorrowful childhood moments it taught me to stand in the heart of a crisis, a trauma, a disaster and understand war and choose peace thank you for my desire and my passion. It has kept me moving to bigger rather than smaller thank you for the directness of your words the clarity of your heart oh and thank you thank you thank you for that kiss that night thank you for this pain that makes me weep with regret and love with abandonment thank you for such a beautiful home it may be filled with heartbreaking memories but it is a home that sheltered me these three tough decades and I can still afford to live in and it is now so rare and I am blessed.

Thank you for the memories of where everything that went wrong was only on its way to going right.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Crutch By Any Other Name

Years ago, Florence broke her leg in an unfortunate accident that involved relatives.  After that, I had a phobia about leaving anything at anyone's house because what if they tried to return it and broke something in the process.  Too risky.

 before the leg broke

Florence didn't do much doing those days of a heavy white cast and a pair of heavy wooden crutches.  She went from bed to piano to bed to kitchen, back to piano.  She didn't need to more than that.  She had me to do her serious walking. 

And so I did: to the Coop Supermarket on Grand and the Dry Dock Bank on Delancey.  To the Library on East Broadway or Houston, back to the Dry Dock Bank and then home and then the supermarket and then...

Only looking back did I wonder about my many visits the Dry Dock Bank.  For each day I would hand over a note, written in my mother's hand, requesting a withdrawal from her account to be given to me.  Who, I guess, the teller assumed was truly her daughter.

These days, things are a bit different.  Besides debit cards and photo i.d.s., crutches are lighter, casts are flexible and New York is a bit more easy to get around.  Especially if you don't have a kid to do the legwork.


From writer, Adrian Margaret Brune  who grew up in Oklahoma and learned a few things while temporarily "disabled" in New York where she now lives:

1. Locals are gracious and will hold doors, but don't expect package carrying -- they're going somewhere, too.

2. Subways have elevators, and if someone points it out, it means you're taking too long on the stairs.

3. Crutches come in handy when theatre-goers attempt to steal your cab.

4. "Pimping out" said crutches with extra padding is worth every bit of the $25 you spend.

5. Carpet is wonderfully soft for walking.

6. Despite former athleticism, if someone put a gun to your head, you still could not run; a fast "crutching and ducking" amounts to the best possible outcome.

7. Some passers-by look suspiciously if you are sans huge cast.

8. Riding a train during rush hour without a seat creates a strange sense of accomplishment and pride.

9. The East River will make for a wonderful javelin-style "crutch toss" when all is said and done.

10. Moving freely will never be taken for granted again.

Related Posts:

Adrian Margaret Brune: Blindfoli

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Refugees Don't Just Look
Like Sunday Memories

This is my family. Grandmother, aunt, great-grandmother, grandfather.

It's the kind of picture you find in sentimental exhibitions at so-called museums touting immigrants in America.

My family came in steerage class on crowded boats because they believed the poem at the feet of the Statue of Liberty.

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries she
With silent lips.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

My family believed that poem.  Living in poverty on the Lower East Side, working grueling jobs...  no matter.  They believed.  And because of that leap of faith, I got to get an education, buy a computer and write about them.

But that's not what pictures of refugees look like today.

They look like this.

 Reuters/Dimitris Michalakis

And my job and yours and each and every one of us, especially those of us who came from that heritage of diaspora and flight and fleeing murder and slaughter and genocide, each and every one of us must do everything we are capable of so that child in those arms gets to settle some place so that maybe one day her descendant will get an education, be able to buy a computer and write the story of the day, as her family was fleeing certain death, her grandmother was carried to shore and to safety.

Shame on you, 31 so-called governors from the United States who are refusing to welcome in Syrian refugees.  Shame on you.  You did not earn that poem and you do not belong in our country.

For the rest of us who are American citizens, here's how you can help:

The Guardian: Where to donate to help the Syrian refugee crisis

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: It Was His New York

Sunday Memories: The Daughter, The Granddaughters, The Women From Her New York

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Years ago, I asked a medical examiner about how she survived the daily heartbreak of her job, so often having to investigate the aftermath of insane evil, of brutal cruelty, of raging violence.   

She told me she had asked her boss the same thing.

"I surround myself with beauty," he had answered. 

Good plan.

Related Posts:

Faster Than a Cable Car Going Down a Hill and Way More Fun

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This Is What A Muslim Looks Like

Adel Termos tackled a suicide bomber in a market place in Beirut.  He died in the explosion but saved dozens, maybe hundreds of people.

This is what a Muslim looks like.

He looks like a hero.

Pass it forward.

Related Posts:

When the F*#&$ Will This JUST Be a Sunday Memory: Use Your F*#&$*g Words

Sunday, November 15, 2015

When the F*#&$ Will This JUST Be a Sunday Memory: Use Your F*#&$*g Words

Originally posted after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and then as an encore after the "Charlie" massacre, today it is posted for Beirut and for Paris and it heralds and celebrates the #NotInMyName campaign 


10:30 at night, the United Nations still toils

Before my auspicious interview with a famous artist to be his intern, Florence  begged, "Please don't curse. And don't talk about sex."

I'm not sure where she got the idea I talked about sex with strange men who could or could not allow me gainful employment.  I had never slept my way - literally or metaphorically - into any professional commitment.

But the cursing? Perhaps she had forgot lessons learned at the feet of masters, me following her down beaten-up streets as she screamed at me or my father curses more foul and vicious than the shocking comments I sometimes spy on a niece's facebook page or now overhear on nicer streets.

Perhaps her spewing blew off enough steam that she was too tired to make a third attempt at stabbing her husband with the letter opener.  Perhaps it was why she only swung at us with open hands or closed fists, not with knives.

Perhaps, like my dad locking himself behind bedroom doors so he wouldn't destroy us, her cursing allowed her to say what was on her mind and not go to jail for murder.

In the middle of a 12-hour day hammering out words of peace, news came of the bombings at the Boston marathon.

It's tougher to find words than throw punches.  It's harder to curse than to destroy. It takes longer to build than to bomb.

But, if you really want to change the world, use your fucking words, asshole.  Use your fucking words.

Related Posts:

God In The Details

Getting Lost In The Dangling Conversation

Same War, Different Day