After flinging thousands of sweaters and shirts in every color and fabric up against our faces to find the perfect one for only $4.99, cheaper if we had gone on Thursday Customer Appreciation Day 25% off, Mimi and I ended up at the one place that offered a real grilled cheese sandwich with cheese that might not have been so real, but we didn't care, they made them with tomatoes and they had Lipton's Tea. We were starving and sitting down was like coming home only better because everything always tasted good after tough shopping on a cold day. And besides, you didn't have to do the dishes, the plates were plastic.
No tables, just counters and fierce Greek between the guys behind the counter and a couple customers on the red stools. One after another kids came in asking for change of a dollar, they all needed four quarters for the parking meters outside.
Shake Shack just opened nearby and some of the nicer chains are moving in on the small, tough stores that weathered everything because when you are always living flat-broke, the economy never changes and your customers can just about afford you. Mimi thinks soon those grilled cheese and souvlaki joints will be a thing of the past, the kids of these guys having better things to do than flip cheese sandwiches and slice shwarma off the grill. I think the quarter-meters aren't going to last much longer either, my street now filled with computers that take electronic change.
Still, I pointed out we would have had to stand on line to Shake Shack which probably wouldn't have had a good cup of tea. And besides how can you beat a grilled cheese sandwich made on a real grill.
The frame was too high on Dana's new bed. Getting up was like rock climbing and getting down was the Giant Salom but without the snow.
So we ordered a new one, thinking it would arrive in a couple of days.
But then the new computer system didn't work. So the frame arrived a week later.
We thought oh so we'll come down on that day.
But then Dana asked we come the next day.
I promised we'd be there at such and such a time, but of course we got there almost an hour later.
Then the Mariner couldn't get the frame to line up and I didn't help by insisting that one side was longer than the other when in fact it was just angled more like a trapezoid and he was trying to re-angle it in between me whipping out a 12 inch ruler once used in PS 110 by Dana's son to prove that in fact that side of the bed frame was longer.
Finally the bed fit perfectly and Dana could sit down on it without any athletic training.
She insisted we stay for lunch and have tea and kaiser rolls, herring and lox, cream cheese and butter, and lots and lots of rugelach. The apple pie we passed on.
There was no way we could use the frame that was too high. It was pointless to keep it. But it was a really good frame and no one wanted to throw it out. So the Mariner taped up and stuck a piece of paper on it that said "free bed frame! new!"
Before we headed down to the communal recycling room, Polly the cat needed love. "I want a picture of that!" Dana said. So the Mariner rummaged through my crowded bag of screwdrivers and shopping bags, found the camera case, pulled out the camera and took a picture. The second after he clicked the shutter, Polly had enough love and jumped down.
I forgot the right elevator was the shabbos elevator, stopping on every floor from 1 to 20. So we got off on the 14th floor and waited for the not-for-shabbos left elevator. The numbers let us know whoever had gotten on at the 12th floor was being detoured up to us.
We stepped in with our almost brand new but too high bed frame and there was an almost coordinated, neatly dressed, middle aged couple, laundry stuff in hands, annoyed their trip down had been interrupted with a brief trip up.
Until they saw the frame.
"Are you giving it away?" they both asked.
"Yes! Do you want it?" asked the Mariner.
"Yes! We need one!" and without much ado, he handed the couple the barely used, month old, too high bed frame.
My friend Joel Thompson once again is inspiring students from around the country and the world to leap into writing one-hour TV dramas. You can take his workshop at UCLA Extension. So if you are in Los Angeles or thinking of visiting Los Angeles and changing your life, check out it out!
(FYI-His students adore him and often take him out after the course ends to fete him. In the world of writing/teaching THAT is quite rare.)
Ann Marie had found Pat's door open, which rarely, if ever, happens. So she went to make sure Pat was OK.
Ann Marie then got John who was on maintenance duty who told me as I walked in from my trip to Astoria. I joined him, Pat and Ann Marie and we all tended to "Pet", Pat's nickname for Rags.
After, in between Pat's family calling from around the country, Pat and Ann Marie drank wine, I had whiskey and we talked of our New York and writing and journalists who were household-names and old friends of Pat's and great actresses who were household-names and old friends of Pat's and whose Lady MacBeth Ann Marie saw in the 60's and about the days when cigarette smoking was normal and how Carola gave me whiskey after Florence's memorial. Jupiter wandered in and out of Pat's, but only after Constance, the mom of Jackson came downstairs to get her cat Scarf from my apartment which he got into because my front door was open as I ran back and forth to put up the notices that Rags had died.
I don't know much about other buildings but here we gather in small and tender ways, our faces intimate and familiar to one another as only they can be when traveling together for so long. We recount one another's history. We bear witness when life happens on life's terms. We keep company when company is needed.
Pat and I have lived next door to one another since 1976. Rags moved in much later. She was Stephen's.
Pat's the real thing.
Grew up in the Bronx, worked the newspapers when newspapers were still newspapers and journalists were still journalists. Knows everybody who's anybody who made New York reporting the kind of reporting they make movies about, including all those tough guys that actors imitate when they have to play a "real" reporter.
Jupiter is still in love with Rags but completely confused about it ever since Rags stopped ignoring him and started visiting us. So now Rags runs into the apartment, Jupiter runs away, Rags sniffs all the rooms, Jupiter runs after him, Rags eats all Jupiter's food, Jupiter watches, Rags runs out, Jupiter follows and then after Rags goes home or to the park, Jupiter sits at her door and sniffs for about an hour.
Although the date on the picture says "Aug 67" more likely than not my father took this picture in the winter but using the camera sparingly (after all, film was expensive and so was processing) he didn't finish the roll until the summer. So probably every season was recorded in one roll of film.
This was my winter coat for several years. A couple of sizes bigger than me (of course) and grown into (of course), my father called this my Joseph Coat Of Many Colors. When the musical came out I became very confused. THAT coat didn't look like mine.
I also didn't realize that Joseph, as a son of the desert probably didn't need a hood on his. But this was how I understood this coat, bought second hand or handed down but clearly a coat that that traveled through other lives before reaching me. I wore it as the mantel of a man in the midst of sibling rivalry but destined to heal his family. This of course led to many years of therapy.
And these were my parents' winter coats. Judging from the angle, I must of taken this picture.
Florence was still wearing winter coats then. I suspect she gave them up around the same time she gave up skirts and men. Her coat was a Harris Tweed bought probably at Macys or A&S or B. Altmans or Gimbels. It was expensive. At some point she relined it. Forty-four years later, it's still in great shape and I wear it. Being shorter than Florence was then, I look like Little Red Riding Hood, only without the hood or the red.
My father's coat was, I believe, a Hudson Bay, also very expensive. Or it could have been an LL Bean. It was his winter coat until he moved to California in the 1980's. It is still in his closet. Just in case the weather suddenly changes. The last time I checked, it was dusty but ready to go. For a brief moment, he and I talked about giving it to my then boyfriend who was unprepared for the North American winters. However, I suspect he clung to that coat the same way Florence discarded hers. A reminder of other times and other weather.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.