And in unrushed time set aside, the story of Francisco's New York and all the other cities and countries he had traveled to, unfolded. Dozens of places around the world, two daughters, decades long career.
Still, where he returns, every year, once a year, is New York.
Sometimes alone, sometimes with family, but always here.
The memories of an 18 year old boy in 1947, leaving his country, disembarking a ship, stepping out of a cab, coming into his own...
...recounted in tender steps down old streets and, tonight, in words to new friends.
A MORNING AFTER ADDENDUM:
There are many things about Francisco that make New York this New York.
But, after weeks of long hours and a spectacular meal, an attempt late last night to describe that experience, even in a sweep of calligraphy, fell short.
The morning's "discussion" with the Mariner about transformation led to the challenge of describing the constant intersection between taking unfamiliar or uncomfortable action, and that all confusing term, "letting go" which sometimes means remembering that your lungs breathe in and breathe out without you yelling at them.
Here are some moments, some reflections on unfamiliar, uncomfortable action and letting my lungs do their job:
In 2011, I was running down the street to an appointment.
Rarely stopping when late, I stopped.
Rarely engaging and asking questions, I asked.
Rarely requesting a formal portrait since taking pictures surreptitiously was a habit, I requested.
In 2013, I was, as usual, again, running down the street late.
There was Francisco, with his daughter and grandson.
At the exact intersection of the perfect second and the next moment. If I had been later or earlier by even a minute, I would have never seen him again.
It may have been unusual for me or for anyone. But at dinner last night, he told story after story of that moment and the moment before, and the moment before that and the...
These moments were part of a long line of moments Francisco had in this city. He took a step and a breath and behold it became His New York, from the moment he stepped out of a taxi at Union Square to the moment I stopped him years ago and asked to take his picture.
That happens to him all the time. It has always been that way, his daughter told me.
There must be a grace that guides him, I said.
Perhaps that is all it is: when unfamiliar or uncomfortable effort meets breathing that doesn't need a memo of understanding, Grace unfolds.
Seeking Florence's New York, or the New York of my family, my friends, my neighbors, my city, I often just take a walk, breathing in, breathing out, just watching. And sometimes, I meet Francisco.
The cupboards are looking bare, and Social Tees need to
restock its dry and wet food supplies for both dogs and cats.
Social Tees enthusiastically welcome - OK.... BEGS!!!! - for material donations at the storefront - rescue center on 5th Street during regular hours so
you can be thanked in person... and maybe even decide to adopt or foster a puppy or those fabulous cats hanging around.
Once upon a time this way-too-cool cat was adopted two years ago as a tiny kitten named Jaws because he had a funny shaped lower lip.
Now he's Yango, as gorgeous as can be (his lip is still a little funny, but you can't tell from this picture), and he has a very adorable doggy best friend.
His mom says: "Yango has grown from being a cute little confused but curious kitten to a handsome, unusually long and very intelligent cat, whose favorite activities include annoying his canine brother Spuddy (mostly by making him jealous with his cuteness), meowing, stretching out, lying on top of everything (including Macbooks, phones, and humans), kneading, sticking his butt on things, and making us laugh.
He has been such a loving addition to our family, and he really deserves to be called the 'best cat ever.' He amazes us with his character and actions everyday, and we have all learned a lot from being with him.
My significant other is a dancer, and he even often seeks inspiration from Yango's movements! Yango is also a bit of an artist, as he likes to paw at markers and pencils when we draw, and by doing this he once sketched out his own scribble that actually looked pretty good (definitely MoMa-worthy). We are forever grateful to have found each other!"
IF YOU ADOPT THIS GIRL,
CHRISTMAS WILL COME EARLY
This adorable fluffster is Princess, a seven-year old blind Shih Tzu mix, only 9 pounds.
She is yet another one of those very poorly cared for animals whose magical, ever trusting spirit burns bright.
Princess is very low key and a little slow moving, friendly with everyone and loves affection. Just needs a little guidance during walks.
Her foster mom says: "This pretty girl is super sweet! She’s friendly with everyone she meets, despite not being able to see them. She’s very mellow and quiet. She’s good with other dogs and ignores cats.
She is comfortable around the house, and knows to do her business outside. We have started taking walks on a leash, and although she is slow now, I expect her to get more comfortable with time and consistency. She can be fearful of new situations, but never barks or complains. Even though she needs some extra guidance, it has been so rewarding watching her blossom!”
A POCKET FULL OF PUPPIES!!!
These three amigos and their friends need foster homes ASAP!!
They are chihuahua pups, 9 weeks old and super sweet and adorable! Fostering will last about 2 weeks. Please email if you can help out!!!
It was time to say goodbye to a place that looked nothing like New York, not even Coney, but which felt like home and history in little, odd ways.
One last walk on the beach, we said.
Of course, the last day was sunny and hot and perfect for swimming and all our stuff was packed up in the car trunk.
The walk took the time it took. And besides, there were little bungalows with "For Rent" signs we had to investigate. Still, at some point we knew we had to head home.
Not sure why neither of us heard the phone ring, but the Mariner's mother was trying to reach him. Then the signal died, then we had to drive a little bit away from the beach then I got a signal on my phone then we called her back then Ted pulled over so he could talk and not drive at the same time and ... it was nothing... just making plans...
In the middle of all that, the man whose house we stopped in front of came out.
"Anything wrong?" which in New York meant "GET THE FUCK OFF MY...."
"Sorry, sorry, just had to call his mother back."
"Ok! Just checking...." which, if he was speaking New York meant, "Ok Just making sure you know you have to GET THE FUCK OFF..."
But, it didn't feel like he was speaking anything except, "OK. Just checking..."
The gift of blarney inherited from Florence could not be stopped.
"You have a beautiful neighborhood...." and before you know it...
Mr. Chris was inviting us to check out all the seriously cool repairs he was doing to his rental property which was deceptively big inside and filled with wonderful things that had their own stories....
...and it reminded me how so often all of us living in that old, cranky building would drag one another through "show&tell", pointing out the clever solution to a weird corner or a constant leak, or what treasure had been found on the street, down the hallway, from a friend and maybe even bought in a store.
But it was even more than that.
Mr. Chris, not knowing us from Adam, had invited us in just like each one of us had invited in strangers, sometimes stranded in New York, or a friend of a friend of a... or, having just survived a mugging which took her keys, needed a place to rest until her roommates woke up or....
Just because the Mariner's mom called
Just because that little patch of land had terrible cell phone connection
Just because I got a signal and could get through
Just because that was the corner nearest to pull over to...
We got welcomed into a stranger's home, got to see all the clever solutions to a weird corner or a constant leak, learned how something so beautiful and rare came to sit on that table, how that table got here, and then all the wonderful stories of his relatives in Brooklyn, especially the one who became a real estate emperor from just one little hotdog pushcart, and the wife with the gold tooth and the finished basement with the full bar and....
Born in Doctor's Hospital up on York Avenue in the 80's. Parents raised in New York to immigrants that came from the same places my grandparent had fled. Grew up somewhere in Long Island, and then like so many, fled to the other coast that looked nothing like where he came from.
However, the real story wasn't told in school records, house deeds, marriage certificates, or vacation plans.
When he was a teenage boy, like a lot of teenage boys, he was kinda interested in boxing.
Oh yeah? said his mom. You know, your real grandfather was a boxer. No, not the guy married to Grandma. Your real one. The Young Willie Jackson, a formidable boxer of his day.
His grandmother had divorced Willie. While pregnant. That was such a daring and outrageous thing for a woman to do in those days, she was called "infamous' in the papers. But she did, and she married someone else who raised his mom and who he called Grandpa.
That didn't stop him from rushing down the very next day to the New York State Boxing Commission and talk his way into the Commissioner's office. His grandfather's life came alive in clippings and stories and a rare photo. It was a piece of home, as recognizable to him as his accent had been to me.
It dawned on me I hadn't been on vacation in almost 10 years.
The decade had been filled with other kinds of trips that had little to do with floating a bit on new breezes. It was time.
Waking up without pressures may have been a goal most desired, but as Florence once pointed out, when reaching for nirvana, you have to train for it.
So while learning how to experience time a little bit differently than the past ten year, a memory of the first vacations taken.
Originally posted Saturday, July 5, 2008
Florence, Atlantic City, 196something
There was no guarantee we'd ever go away.
Vacations were for other people. And summer was a stand-off between our need to have something to do during the day and their need to not have to think about it. Everything really worked much better when we were at school, he was at work and she was at the piano.
Time stops for no man and neither did the seasons. Summer came. Repeatedly.
I am not sure what started it, how long it lasted and when it ended but Atlantic City became our Riviera for a couple of years. And with the recent purchase of a car needed to get my father to his job out on Long Island, it was accessible.
A giddiness would fill me at the exotic motel we stayed in with an ice machine nearby and a real swimming pool that was small enough paddle across, not like the huge ocean of Pitt Street Pool.
The four of us in one room, two beds, no memory of how my sister and I negotiated sudden close space.
I just remember all the old boarding houses and cheap motels pushing the boardwalk into the sea and the salt-water taffy stands, magic peelers that made radishes into flowers, and unspoken fear and desire holding me back from swimming to China.
Social Tees called her JoJo. She was thin and tiny and tired and did a lot of sleeping in their window. She was under a year, had been thrown out into the backyard of a building on 4th Street and when Animal Control picked her up, they wrote on her paperwork 'very friendly'. We renamed her Goldie. Her first month with us was bumpy, what with her so sick from shots. We had to bring her to the food and the litter box. Still, she had the sassiest walk as she learned the lay of the land. But, even as she got better and would rush to greet us, any sudden move would send her cringing into safety. It's been a year filled with many cans of food and fierce brushings and lots of yarn throwing. Goldie now runs to the window when she hears the neighborhood bluejay squawk in the morning, or the sirens at night. She has her little corners to take her naps, snug and safe and sound. And just this morning, we woke up to find her curled up into safety between our feet. Thank you, Social Tees. Our hearts are bigger, our souls kinder and our home filled with love.
You Too Can Live in the Land of Love
Fido's foster mom had to go out of town and Social Tees do not want to put this boy in a cage. He is about 8 years old and around 60 lbs. He's s very playful and spunky for a mature dog and makes an awesome jogging companion (he helped his former foster mom go from a 10 minute mile to a 7 minute mile!). But he is also super chill indoors and just wants to lie around and sleep and cuddle with you. He could use a little leash work because he pulls a bit, and he needs a little help learning how to properly socialize with other pups he meets on the street, but he's a fast learner and will be a wonderful, loyal companion to a big dog lover who can give him the attention he deserves. Please, please help this boy!!! Fostering lasts 2 to 4 weeks. Or even for the rest of your life! Email email@example.com
Why, you might ask, does a blog that explores New York's disappearing landscape, family and home, write about cats and dogs up for adoption?
When this first got built, cigarettes and asbestos were A-O.K.
A lot has changed since 1952.
So, everything got shut down and ripped up and replaced and upgraded and inputted...
Even weddings have rehearsals.
On a Friday night, folks from every department, from the bottom to the top and the top to the bottom, forewent that movie or their friends hanging out at the bar, and instead pressed buttons and checked mics.
And made sure that when, in a few weeks, the world gathers once again and attempts to fill those sweeping walls and arched ceiling with some hope for peace, everything works.
Our first date was five hours of walking. Our second date was 12 hours of walking. Our third date was 11 hours of walking…OK Ok, so there was eating and drinking and occasional make-out sessions, but mostly walking.
And, no matter where we were going, I would always say, "Let's go the pretty way" and I would weave us in and out of quieter streets and small empty parks and nice avenues.
Just the other day, we all decided to go on a rare adventure together. It occurred to me, as we left the building, that we had never all walked down a street together.
"Let's go the pretty way," she said, and she wove us all in and out of quieter streets and small empty parks and nice avenues.
I was remembering brick like that, like home, Grand Street, the faces of women who never appeared without lipstick or stockings, unless they were at the laundry mat on a Tuesday morning, running four machines at once - colors, whites, linens, socks - and then they wore audacious curlers and important house dresses bought on sale from Klein's or Alexanders.
Abbey and her mama are just indescribably cute
Social Tees rescued this young beagle mix from a family trying to give
her up her via Craigslist a few months ago (NOT a good idea), and the
lovely couple that fostered her fell in
love pretty much right away and decided that Abbey had to be theirs.
mom says: "Thank you again for bringing us together with Abbey! She is
the absolute best addition to our family and we love her more than words
can say! She is really doing great. She actually has started training
to become a therapy dog!! She passed obedience 1 with flying colors and
is in a 5 week program through The Good Dog Foundation so by early
October she will be a therapy dog! She is so great with kids especially
and brings such a smile to so many people's faces we figured it would be
quite selfish to only be able to enjoy all the love she has to give!
She truly is such a special girl!"
YOU TOO CAN FIND
SUCCESS AND TRUE LOVE
IN ONE PACKAGE!!!!
Freyja is a totally stunning German Shepherd/Lab mix,
She is 9 months old, 55
SOOOOOOOO warm and friendly, just a big kid of a dog eager to love
and play with everyone she meets.
She is great with
other dogs and friendly with all people. She loves to run and frolic
around with other pooches and would do best in a home with a yard and
maybe another dog that could be her BFF. Freyja is very reward driven
and learns super quickly. She's eager to please!
FOSTERING STARTS ASAP
and lasts 2 to 4 weeks; email firstname.lastname@example.org asap if you
BY ANY OTHER NAME
IS A CAT!!!!
Cali Girl spends her weekends sipping
cat-puccinos, browsing the arts section of the paper hoping for a CATS
revival, and dreaming of forever home with big windows past which lots
and lots of pigeons flutter.
be her soul mate?
This gorgeous, elegant kitty is amazingly affectionate
and will meow when you get close to make sure you pay her the attention
she deserves. She loves cuddling and petting sessions, and she's good
with other animals.
Eager to meet her? Stop by! 325 East 5th Street, NY,
NY 10009; 5-7pm
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.