Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bells Are Ringing

Not a lot of guys know the old land-line wiring.  One guy didn't even have a clue where to start with the wall phone.

Mr. Verizon did.  He not only knew the wiring, he fixed the phone.

There in the middle of all his tools was a vase. 

"You need that to fix phone?"

"Nah.  I just pick up stuff from the dumpsters and the basement garbage.  I also just got that vise."

He even took home cats dumped in basements. 

Since almost everything in the apartment were hand-me-downs or found on the street - including the cats - we got to talking.

His family's been here since 1812 or 13 - a long, long time - and one branch owned Farrell's.  Not his branch though.  He wouldn't be working Verizon if it was.

Commiserating about the city going down the toilet, he shook his head.  "They're selling the city on an old reputation - tough, gritty, a real city... but it's not anymore."

Then he packed up his tools and vase and headed out to the next call.

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: Playing Telephone

Sunday Memories: Even the Cat Was Found on the Street


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Memories of a Sunday Drive

It was like stepping into a time machine.

A real freight elevator with a real gate with a real handle that made it go up and down and fast and slow and stop and start.

The guy grabbed the handle and up we flew.

I used to drive one of these, I said to the Mariner.

Well not drive, drive.  In 1975, it wasn't like girls were freight elevator operators.  But, fresh out of high school, every chance I got, working in the back channels of an old, respected office supplies store, I begged the freight elevator guy, a big burly guy at least 100 years old or his pimply 15 year old second hand to let me zoom the freight up and down.  It was the closest I got to driving a race car.

How did you get it to stop right on the floor, the Mariner asked.

Oh it was just like parallel parking.  Only vertical.


Related Posts:

Look Back in Love at Home

Thursday, July 2, 2015

You Never Expect What Dana Says

Bits and pieces of Dana are slowly beginning to visit other places.   

Yet, she is like a lighthouse.   

When you least expect it, her brilliant light explodes into clarity and words that change the world.  David, her son takes as many down as he can and shares them with me.

Over the next while, old stories and new moments of Dana will be noted.  What Dana Says is worth pulling close and holding tight. 


The dentist called.

"Overdue?  It sounds like I'm giving birth to new teeth."

[to David]

"She's still laughing."

Related Posts:

Sunday Moments and Memories of What Dana Says

What Dana Says: Why I Visit Dana or How I Keep Writing

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Same Park. Different Reason to Run Fast

It was already a wonderful evening.  Incredible music and the perfect night air to stroll through.

Sauntering into Bryant Park, I marveled at the couples hanging about, the concession stand like a cafe in a French movie and all these folding chairs around for people to sit and enjoy.

(It always surprises me how you don't see people stealing them.)

Past a grove of trees, there was suddenly several ping pong tables and lots of guys with paddles lining the edges, waiting patiently. 

Like Mr. Godwin.

"I'm an O.K. ping pong player"

 Mr. Godwin is from Nigeria and if it wasn't for certain facts about certain things, he and his mother would be back there.  She had been a very successful milliner there.  But sometimes you gotta go where there is something more important that homeland.

Here in New York Mr. Godwin was getting ready to go to APEX to study automotive stuff.  Meanwhile, as he waited for school to start, he came to Bryant Park, signed up for ping pong and played all night for hours.

There was lots of running and dashing and jumping and slamming.

"I used to work on 40th Street many years ago.  There was no ping pong then,"  I told Mr. Godwin.

No indeed.  There was not much of anything.  Except a lot of bad, bad, bad people taking a break from crime, a lot of drugs, a lot of selling of drugs, and in the middle of this dangerous neighborhood, the deserted walking path between 40th where the office was and 42nd Street where an old bar served Happy Hour from 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and had little hotdogs and other cute things to eat for dinner.. 

And at 4 p.m., especially on Thursdays and Fridays, all of us - all the young girls and every single one of the old broads, including Mary who was easily 60 or 70 - all of us would make a wild dash from one side of Bryant Park to the other.  For someone almost not quite five feet tall and about three feet wide, Mary ran fast.

There was no table, no ball, no paddles between our running from one spot to another.

And there was no Mr. Godwin, shyly beaming as he described how he worked hard to be an O.K. ping pong player.

Related Posts:

The Weird Shit

Ghosts of Christmas Past

On the Way to Get the Cat Shaved

Sunday, June 28, 2015


This piece first posted in 2008, while Florence was declining, I was in touch with the woman she had been in love with, involved with and in war with since they were teenagers. 

Today the highest court of our country has recognized gay marriage as a right, making gay marriage, well, just marriage marriage.  

As I have in the past, I wonder what my mom and her lover's life would have been like if only the world had loved their love as they had.  

And knowing Florence more and more as I enter the ages she began to set herself free, I wonder if, in fact, she would have even gotten married.

How wonderful to think that if she had been alive and well today she could say "I do" or "I don't" just like everyone else.



 Florence walking in the Gay Pride March

All the other gay seniors rode.

In the convertible, on the bus, in wheelchairs.

But not Florence.

She walked.

She was in her 60s. She had waited her entire life to walk down a street as who she really was. And she wasn't going to give up that walk for anybody or anything.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Whether it is 4 a.m. or midnight, leaving home is never terrifying when you know you get to come back.

Home is the place where all the roommates are gone and all the ripped off clothes have been flung against every single wall and it's a hurricane outside and you're laughing so hard and the beat-up furniture that had been left behind in 1980 has never looked so beautiful and your 1950s bathroom so bright and cute because suddenly someone you like is happy to be lounging around with you.

Home the place you run to when your heart is so broken the cab driver keeps throwing you tissues.

Home is the place where, after you wake up to in the middle of the night, uncertain and worried, you pray in until your heart calms down and hope returns.

Home is where your parents and your friends' parents, all raised in brutal poverty, got to go to school for free and then college for free and become the artists and thinkers and musicians that made the neighborhood exciting which made all the other artists and thinkers and musicians move here because home was a place you could afford the rent as you went out into the world to create amazing things. 

Home is where you never go to sleep and when you look up at the clock it is 3 a.m. but you lost track of time because you got deliciously lost writing a story about what it was like to grow up in New York City, riding the train by yourself when you were seven or rolling sanitation truck tires down Columbia Street.  And you look outside the window and there's a riot going on so you go downstairs to check it out.

Home is the watertowers and the smokestacks.  Not trees.

Home is the city you grew up in, doing normal things like performing bluegrass in the subways and theater on the streets and demonstrating against wars and nuclear bombs and homophobic assholes and you could do it here because your parents and their parents and all the neighbors,  everyone  all made sure that's what you could do at home.

Home to millions of New Yorkers is the place they were born in, defying all the rules and getting to the point fast, and that's why in the movies when you want a character to be different than Barbie and Ken you give them a New York accent.

Home to millions of New Yorkers is the place they immigrated to with nothing in their pockets except their individuality and their dreams and goals and they got to make this city amazing because they could afford the rent. 

And that's the reason New York is the center of the Universe. 

Because it's home.  Not to an expensive apartment or loft or luxury building with two entrances depending on your income, but a land where everyone is welcomed to the table.  Including the people who, because they had affordable rents and could do all these amazing things, made it an amazing home for everyone.

After all, isn't that why everyone keeps moving here?  Because of all those interesting people?  Doing amazing things?

After all, if all those people weren't here, what would New York be? 

I don't know what it would be but I can tell you what it wouldn't be.  It wouldn't be New York. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Is Not A Movie Set

It's not an exotic street.

It's not a edgy photo of a "real" city.

It's not art.

It's not affect.

It's 27th Street.