Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nighttime at My Private Coney

We never went at night. We went during the summer or on New Years Day.

However, Florence went at night (naked swimming).

This night wandering through I wondered if her nights were as alive as this one.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Memories -The Call of Nature

I realized too late that my previous decades-long acceptance of nature had been due to peer pressure from non-New Yorkers. The fact of the matter was that like Florence, I had no affinity for it. And in my case, as time went on, visits to the country or similar places were only tolerated if at the end there was a promise of food, sex or a train ride home.

A recent urging that I visit more pastoral settings to encourage some relaxation during a stressful time was met with a determined no until I was reassured it could happen in a near-by city park. Those trees counted.

However, wondering down Delancey Street I passed the parking lot where my father's Valiant four door green car named Charlie Brown had lived for years. And there I saw how nature was to me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Was This Still Here?

It was her annual trip...

...when in an elevator she had traveled in over half her life, she pointed to the worn patch of wood and said, "This is still here."

After dinner the missing of mothers drifted into words.

I looked up.

What was still here was how certain nights still felt like Florence if she were a New York evening.

So we wandered and looked at what was still here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Memories: Do You Know Where Your Memory Is?

There is no date on the picture, just a neatly written note from someone taught penmanship.

"this isn't a photograph, it's an illusion.


Who is he and why Florence kept this photo tucked away in other places than the photos she allowed to represent her life, we will never know. And it seems no one else does either.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Showdown

That pigeon knew what it was doing. Sort of like the stare across a school lunchroom when you knew there were a couple of teachers in between you and having to prove it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In The Still Of The Night The Sound Of Silence Revisited

It started as an unconscious homage to Florence.

During the hot days, she, like many of our neighbors, would prop open her front door and let whatever breeze existed waft in from the stairwell's window.

With so many opened doors our different lives would also drift up and down the stairs, the sounds and smells and conversations, the T.V. going, all weaving in and out making a village out of thirty-five apartments.

One night, decades later in a much smaller apartment building, I opened the door during a non-stop heat wave, and a breeze blew in and as it came in, the cat ran out, the cool of 100 year old marble floors and walls too much to resist.

And soon that door, like Florence's, stayed open as the cat and I, wandering the stairs in the middle of the night, listened to our neighbors sleep, hummed along with all the air conditioners in the air shaft and sat in the still and the silence.

I miss the normalcy of open doors during hot days and sleepless nights, and when my door is closed because the neighbors are awake, I miss my mother.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Memories: a) Inheritance b) Neighborhood c) Heritage d) All Of The Above: Part 3

When the old people die in the old neighborhood, usually it's their kids who clean out the apartment. But sometimes their kids send their kids who don't know what's what, or sometimes there's no kids so it's the niece's or nephew's kids, and sometimes it's even the kids of the neighbors who are too old to cleaned out their own apartment so kids who are complete strangers clean out the life of a person who has no kin and no connection except to the people in the photos they leave behind.

Which is how the Henry Street neighbor's daughter found all these old photos tossed in the garbage. She brought them home so that a discarded life and history could always have a home.

This is Delancy Street. The Delancy Street Florence roamed. The Loews Delancy in the backbround looked like that still when we went there on Saturday afternoons.

They think this was taken on Orchard Street. The boy, the mother, and even if she was the sister, the young woman relegated to the back. There was hope he came back or was back for good when the picture was taken.

On the back of this, in beautiful fountain pen cursor, someone wrote "Herman. He played for the Czar." Since the only Russans who came to America in the early 1900 were Jews, all we could think was this was a Jew who played for the Czar. That was a big, big deal. Did Herman ever make it here or did he die there, probably in a pogram or in the camps?

But this was my favorite. Because we all looked at this guy and we all said "He looks familiar. That place looks is familiar." This picture, every inch of it is one of those moments I had as a kid, the evening dark, the clock early, the smells recognizable, the accent my own.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a) Inheritance b) Neighborhood c) Heritage d) All Of The Above: Part 2

Their Uncle Joe and our Uncle George were friends. They both played trombone.This was taken at the picture studio on Rivington Street. Wittmyers. 157 Rivington.

But after the war, both of them left New York and that was that. The only thing their Uncle Joe wanted from New York was his trombone. His mother mailed it to him.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a) Inheritance b) Neighborhood c) Heritage d) All Of The Above: Part 1

Another on-going series of New York stories

Their father grew up next door to our father on Henry Street. Tenements. Not the hip, over-priced, badly renovated, tons of cache tenements of today but the rat-filled, roach-saturated, filthy, over-crowded tenements of then.

Their great-grandfather and grandfather had the stables. They were the blacksmiths. Our grandfather was pro-union but there's speculation it was just an excuse to be self-righteous and punch someone not related.

After the co-ops were built and the tenements disappeared, our parents all got new fancy apartments down the street from one another. Elevators, no rats, less roaches. Trees were planted too.

(Dana's husband, George was one of the couple of men who got those co-ops built.)

The older girl (who went to yeshiva with B.) knew the plaid "lumberjack" jacket from LL Bean and the ked sneakers Florence always wore.

Every once in a while, Dolly their mother would say "Let's go visit Florence" and they would come over. Sitting at the kitchen table, the trains going back and forth.

The girls still live in the old neighborhood that was built on top of the old neighborhood.

When I showed up for ice tea and picture looking, one of them said, "Betcha walked here." Of course I did. Inheritance.

I will probably get details wrong and forget about dates and lose track of which family did what, but I don't get wrong the neighborhood.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Memories - How My Sister Spent Her Summer Vacation

On Lewis and Grand you had to walk up a flight of stairs to get to the now-luxurious-but then-barely-middle-class roof penthouse, a one bedroom affair quickly outgrown when I arrived and could no longer fit in a bureau's drawer.

But until my arrival, that penthouse was a sure fire way to beat the heat during the dog days of August. A metal bucket big enough for my sister and any breeze off the East River and stirred by the trains on the Williamsburg Bridge usually did the trick.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

...A Shadow In The City....

Those spots - where I dreamed something kinder than a hot summer and a silent family lived. Dragged by during long walks I swore if I could just get in there another kingdom would open before me.

Then I discovered bars.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I Visit Dana - or - How I Keep Writing

"[Writing] makes me feel so close to my mind."

"Drag the brainless pen across the passive paper and see the result."

And on facing a blank canvas:

"The canvas is just four lines. What I put down is the fifth line. Let's see what the fifth line is."

Previous works by Dana:

The Gift That Kept On Giving

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Memories - And What Was Your First Job?

Her's was when she was 12.

It was the depression, they were all stuffed into that tenement on Henry Street, and school was a thing of the past because only her brothers, my father and my uncle, got to go on to the next grade.

So a relative who had some connections nobody talked about (and maybe still shouldn't) got her a job taking bets at the Armstrong News which was a racing sheet.

She got fired because she talked too much.

At her next job, age 13, she got a job at one of the Settlement Houses and went on to changed the world.