Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Memories Of L'Shona Tova

In Lieu of Flowers... was originally posted on October 1, 2008 as an obituary for Florence who had died the previous morning. Since Rosh Hoshanah appears in the English calendar differently each year, she in death has become as unpredictable as she was in life. Wouldn't have it any other way.

In Lieu of Flowers...

Tell the truth.

Tell yourself the truth.

Don't let your bullshit compromise either of the above.

Don't lie. Unless you're drunk. Then really don't lie.

Don't steal.

Accept hand-me-downs.

Look fabulous in your own clothes. They may have started out as hand-me-downs but they're yours now. Proudly recount their lineage. Never feel ashamed about that.

Never take a taxi.

Walk everywhere.

Don't wear a coat in winter.

Carry your own weight to the point of pathology. Better to err on independence than not.

Refuse to lose at the hands of cowardliness, mediocrity, stupidity, and the need to blend in.

Suffer aloneness at the risk of fitting in with any of the above.

Refuse to feel fear. If you do, ignore it and keep going. Just like Florence did that night during a World War II blackout under the Manhattan Bridge by the movie theater (now a Chinese market).

Always put your work first.
Always do your work.
Always put your work first.
Always do your work.

Rage against the Machine. Even when it looks like it's related to you.

Risk being laughed at by morons when you do something no one else is doing. Just like when Florence put on those roller skates in 1972 and skated up and down Grand Street and all those people laughed at her and then a couple of years every one had disco skates.

Start your entire life over at 60 like you were a 14 year old. Because on some level, you still are.

Fight back just like Florence did all the times someone mugged her or tried to mug her during the 1970's.

Don't EVER quit.

Know that that beer, that sandwich, those shoes, that jacket, those pants, that avenue, that movie house, that proper grammar, that street, that bar, that woman, that dance, that etude, that sonata, that scale, that subway, that bus, that hotdog, that boardwalk, that beach, that ocean is Your New York.

It Was Hers.


Anonymous said...

It's that time of year again when memories crowd in and suffocate us. Hang on. Next month it's my turn.

Morena Capoeirista said...

I love this piece. I want to understand the part though where it says "Always put work first." I am sure there was a special context to it... Can you explain this further? Thanks so much!

c.o. moed said...

Morena, thank you so much for visiting HNY and for asking such a great and important question.

Male artists have a multitude of role models and examples of putting their work first. Their wives, mistresses, children, muses are often conditioned to accept this - it may not make anyone happy but it is an accepted situation. I often think of the Vanity Fair article on Lucien Freud as an example of this. But look anywhere and the life of a male artist often supersedes the responsibility of family or relationships.

Women artists have practically no role models of how to be what and who they are. We're taught first to be "women" ie wives, mothers, girlfriends, mistresses, cheerleaders, daughters, sisters - a role that is depended on the interaction with another person. But we are not taught to BE the artist - a state that requires an autonomy that excludes someone else coming first.

There is a middle ground, of course, where the balance of home and art is found but that requires partnership that is rare for any gender and especially rare for women.

What Florence taught me was to stretch first to work. The other roles were so powerful and ingrained that I would or could easily find myself neglecting my art to tend to another person's need.

"Always put work first" reminded/ reminds me to pick up art first, no matter what. That I could put myself first - as who I was and what I was - before I put my role as girlfriend or daughter or anything else.

This lesson helped counterbalance the habit of taking care of others before I took care of myself and my art. It was an act of revolution then and it continues to be one today.

It also reminds me that no matter what is going on - heartbreak, break-ups, death, birth, depression, crisis, or even just wonderful visitors staying with me - that my work has to come first.

Into my fifth decade of life, I've established this core and my life now reflects my commitment. I am in partnership with another writer who ferociously supports both of our work coming first. As it should be.

Does this clarify a bit what it means to put your work first?