Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Rest of Her New York


In two fire-proof safes were over 50 hours of video of Her New York that had waited patiently for more than a decade to be woven into a living story.

They were put away, along with the video camera, in 2006 when Florence became sick.  Still photos could be taken quickly and with one hand while caring for her or running back and forth between her home and work and doctors and pharmacies and delis and Medicaid offices and...

Regardless of all those errands, through Florence's illness and her death the search for Her New York kept unfolding for eight years.

But, the pain of the world, as a friend wrote, from senseless murders and bombings and hatred pouring out of every corner of the planet froze any word that sought home.

Perhaps it was time to return to the beginning and unpack those videos.  Perhaps it was time to step back into the timelessness of video-making, something put down in those early days of an illness overtaking a great artist's life.  Perhaps it was time to weave a new story about searching for home, a home all of us yearn for.

Until then, a brief rest.

**
Related Posts:

This Will Be Her Sunday Memories of What Florence Taught Me

The Aftermath Dedicated to Florence

The Memorial Program

My Mama Done Told Me

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How?

Years ago a medical examiner and I were talking about her job.  There's nothing pretty about facing the multitudes of dead bodies strewn across five boroughs.  

At some point it began to get to her, especially when it was a baby or a circumstance of great injustice.   So she went to her boss, the big medical examiner and asked him how he got through day after day of proof that mankind could be such a miserable, murdering creature.

"I surround myself with beauty," he replied, pointing to paintings he did of roses and tulips and sunflowers.

So she found her idea of beauty, a house in the country and when she felt her soul losing out to the horrors people were so capable of, she would briefly retreat and surround herself with beauty.  Then she would go back out again.

These days, the news bursting with the horrors people continue to be so capable of, the city streets offered its own beauty, perhaps not in flowers but in its own hidden cracks.








**
Sunday Memories of When There Were No Pictures For That Sound

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Memories of When there Were
No Pictures for that Sound


One day in 2008 no one could image what that sound looked like.

The scream from the office down the hall filled us like a tsunami of words strung together painting horror a son a son a son found dead. 
We all ran through fluorescent light down the linoleum hallway to grab hold tight a mother's body trying to push her way into another reality where the voice snapping from her cell phone was making a big mistake a big mistake calling the wrong number someone else with the same name and a son but not hers not hers.

But now it is 2016 and there are thousands and thousands of pictures of that sound, that sound of devastating heartbreak and a rage that must, if we are to be the country we claim to be, answered to.

laprogressive.com
thehayride.com
Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
 Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

16 Ways to Show Support for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile & the Victims of the Dallas Shootings

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hot Summer Reruns of a Subway Rat

Originally posted February 7, 2013


I think that boyfriend in 1977 was complimenting me when he called me that.

But here are the things that are normal:
  • knowing which door to stand at so I could walk straight out to the street 
  • the many ways to get from point A to point B, and if I didn't know, calling Baby Boy (until he was eight years old and got bored with it), because he knew the entire MTA system - buses and subways and could map you from anywhere to anywhere, usually in multiple routes.
  • riding without holding on because it was too crowded and the pole was too far away, not realizing until recently that it was just like surfing, just without the cold water or the sharks
  • hanging out in between cars in the summer because the Lexington IRT never had any air conditioning in the summer, only in the winter, and it had air conditioning in the winter because it never had heat in the winter (that was the 70's and 80's)
  • walking from one car to another, and when the young kid cop stopped me and said "hey that's against the law - didn't you see the sign?" I said, "Oh?  I thought that was just for the tourists."
  • NOT knowing which damn color goes with which line.  They're called the BMT, IND and IRT for fucks sake.

***
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Sunday Memories:  How Old Were You Your First Time?

A Day In The Life...

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Sunday Memories - Baby Boy Tadpole and Other Snapshots from Deep Waters

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Right to Par-tee!


We were talking about religion and my neighbor said I don't want to offend, I don't know if you are religious and I said born Jewish, practice Buddhism and she said oh then you're not religious and I knew exactly what she meant and we couldn't stop laughing for a couple of seconds.

Because what a word means - like religious - depends on the day, the time, the place and what insecure power is running the show.  

Those kids, those children of the elite in Bangladesh who took that restaurant hostage and died in a hail of gunfire 11 hours later - those boys who had so much to offer had gotten somebody's meaning of religion that had nothing to do with God.

Someone had found the crack that lives in all teenagers as they grow their brains and figure out their lives and rebel against their parents -  a crack that is made of anger and pimples and hormones and confusion. 

But someone had promised those kids a salve to that rupture -  the guarantee of something we all want - that feeling of joy when we connect with a greater good, a moment of beauty, a delight, gratitude, belonging, being part of a community - all the things that makes someone happy. Only this time packaged in a gun. 

The New York Times article said that one kid's father had noticed his son had stopped playing the guitar a couple of months ago and when asked the kid said, "Music is not good."

What could that kid have possibly been feeling in that hail of bullets?  The same feeling as when he had playing the guitar he had once loved?   Do any of us really think he felt joy the moment the shooting started?

The second most dangerous person in the world may be someone who isn't happy.  But the most dangerous person is someone who is.  Because it's hard to stick a gun in someone's hand when they are playing guitar or singing and dancing.
 
So perhaps, in fact, I'm seriously religious.  Because in my religion, my Buddha dances.

**
Related Posts:

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If I Can't Dance I Don't Want To Be Part of Your Revolution

The full quote by Emma Goldman (from ifIcantdance.org):  

Admonished for dancing at a party in New York, she was told “that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway.” 

Goldman responded furiously: “I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.” 





Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Memories: Gambling for Freedom


The only way to find out all the details would be if one of us became so famous Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had us on his show.

What I had heard was Sophie left behind her mother and brothers, especially the one that was supposed to be her favorite, to come to the United States.  It was a gamble but she wanted a chance at a life that in Belarus was 100% impossible for Jews.  Like going to school or working at what she wanted to work at or voting for who she wanted to vote for (although I'm not sure if she was even allowed to vote - both as a Jew and as a woman).

So she left her family forever and leaped into an unknown that promised the elusive dream of breathing and moving and being just as she was.  Freedom.

First in Trenton and then in Brooklyn and then on the Lower East Side, the money tight, the tenements tough, the husband absent, somehow Sophie made a life and raised a child with more freedom than what she left behind.

That freedom didn't erase the poverty or the domestic abuse or the crushed dreams and the mean, mean loneliness.   But it did make sure she could work where she wanted, read what she wanted, say what she wanted and vote how she so chose.

And her daughter, Florence, got to go to school and college and graduate school, not because she was or was not Jewish, but because she was talented and smart.  And even if there were still rules and laws and customs that said she couldn't do everything she wanted to, Florence still had 100% more freedom than if she had been born in Belarus.

And because of that, I, Sophie's granddaughter, grew up with 100% more freedom than Florence, always believing it was my birthright to speak out loud and vote as I so chose and write bad poems (which, at times, is the epitome of freedom - it requires leaping into an elusive dream).

Money might still be tight but the apartment is as far from a tenement as you can go, there is no domestic abuse, loneliness is a long-ago memory, and I get to vote as I so choose.

It is because someone, a young girl, my grandmother, left her family forever and took a gamble on an elusive dream. 

Happy Fourth of July.

**
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

It's Summer and Time to Recall Skating on Thick Ice


Originally posted August 7, 2014


They were like dolphins, whooshing around me.

A woman I probably saw at a dance or a demonstration or some revolutionary act maybe thirty years ago walked up to me as they zoomed by and said, "It's like the invasion of the skate boards!"

I laughed.  "I was thinking, gee, I'd like to learn how to do that."

"Well, you know where to find them." She was laughing as she walked away.

One of the kids stopped, skate board propped on his sneaker.  I snapped a picture.

"I think she just took your picture," another said under his breath.

"Yes.  I did."  I showed it to them.

"Are you going to post it somewhere?"

"Yeah."

"Like Instagram?"

"I'm old.  I don't know what Instagram is."  I started taking another picture and all the boys posed, gangsta-style.  "Oh please, cut the bullshit."  It was funny but not a picture.

"I always wanted to learn how to skate board but when I was growing up, girls didn't.  Now girls do.  It's really cool."

"Yeah," said one, all of them nodding like what's the big deal some of the best skaters they knew were girls.  That revolution was normal to them.

I lifted the phone to take another picture and one gaves me a peace sign.

"What's that mean to you?"

"Peace," he said.

Crash noise that could only come from wood plank and metal wheels not going where they were intended interrupted us.

"#&$#*@#*$% AND THEN #$&#, followed.

"Real peaceful," I say.

"He's not with us," the kid said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Home Bound


You've made your home a haven from your city, a friend told me.


It's true. The city feeling less and less familiar, street life and home now inhabit original glass art and cats found on the street and a collage of re-appropriated furniture from friends, neighbors, garbage day and Craig's List, all reminding me of her and him and them and that time we and once upon our days.

I now look down to see what I miss.  Yeah, yeah, their faces were very interesting.  But the picture I took of their faces was more like the story others might tell when they went "back home" to other neighborhoods in other states and shared over holiday dinners or at a wedding rehearsal dinner what's it like to live here.


The picture I took of their shoes, however rushed and surreptitiously snapped, tells me a story of how I never left where I came from and and yet all the worlds I traveled through.

**
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Pride Memories Make the Future!




When the right to love is at stake, doesn't matter what you march in.  Your feet fly across all the 'no you can't.  There's only YES.  The blisters can wait until tomorrow.
 



And every heartbreak gets mended with more love than ever imagined until it's indestructible.

And to the woman, still alive, living alone in a small town in another state, who loved Florence all her life but whose family - all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren - has never known the multi-colors of her heart, a happy pride to you.


You couldn't live in a world made of your love, but everyone is marching so this little boy can live in a world where no one ever has to hide again. 


**

Related Posts:

For Orlando with Addendum: The Look of Love Because This is What it Looks Like

The Lionesses Rule the Pride and Marry If They Wanna!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Like Summer In San Francisco

A summer rerun of this day in 2009. 



Staring at a street that used to be in a bad neighborhood, we sipped expensive coffee in designer cups and talked of the weather.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Living Summer


These days I only see a couple of spots in the city where, when it gets warm, people drag their chairs outside and live like we always did.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

It May Be Sunday
But It Will Never a Memory:
the Right to Glitter and Be Gay


I don't think I was the only one to take Florence to a dyke bar.   But, I know I was the only one to take her on her 60th birthday.

We huddled at the bar and I know we drank because I never knew Florence to not drink when there was something nearby to be drunk.  I pulled out a pile of wrapped presents - all books  - and said "Happy Birthday".

Each and every one of those books was about getting older in Lesbianland - coming out, getting freed, living your life on your own terms.

We looked through them and drank and then I think she went off to meet friends.  (I was not invited.  That's because she didn't tell anyone she had kids.  A bit of a surprise for some of them at her memorial.)

The world outside the bar wasn't safe.  Florence fought with and chased after more than a couple of muggers.  She lived in a neighborhood that watched everything she did. What she was and what she wanted was still considered a mental illness, even if the AMA had taken it off the "sicko" list.

But that bar?  That bar was safe.  That bar and all the bars like it gave us shelter from the storm. 

My mom took her books back home and in between teaching piano students in her living room, she'd pull them out from under the couch and look at the life she was finally calling her own.

I don't know if she ever hung out at that 18th Street bar again.  I just know it was there if she wanted to.   Whatever she did or didn't do, that night, we both felt safe from the world.  It was, however briefly, a rare moment for both of us where we could be family to one another in a place that didn't remind us of the awful past.  It was, however briefly, our new home to celebrate her birthday.

And that's what a good dyke / gay bar is.  Shelter.  From the storm or your life or your past or your fears or a broken heart or your family or your ex (unless they drink there too) or a world that refuses to say the words that admit you are a part of it.   In that bar, you are safe and you are home and you are family.

I barely drink, I hate going out and I'm married to a man (he went to Sarah Lawrence so he's as close to a writer/dyke I'm going to get in a man).  But after Orlando, all I wanted was to go to every dyke and gay bar in the world and stand for safe and home and family.

**
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Sunday, June 12, 2016

The World of Dana


Today we say not goodbye but "Wow! What a great woman!"

Below are all the posts about her, including some of her wonderful short stories.



Why I Wish I Could Write Like Dana: Throw My Seashells Back by Dana Schechter

Sunday Memories of Dana and the MTA:  Bus Drivers and Me

In Dana's World, Everything Falls Into Place At Exactly the Right Moment: Perfect Timing

What Time Is It?  The Time Is Now:  Time Flies...

Dana's Sunday Memories: The Pot of Gold

Dana Never Took Anything Lying Down: 
Bedtime Stories (aka Her and Trudy's Excellent Adventure)

Celebrating Another Story of Dana's:  The Scent of Sandalwood

Sunday Memories of the Best Writer's I've Ever Known: 
Guest Artist Dana: If I Bring Forth What Is Inside Me, What I Bring Forth Will Save Me

Even As Twilight Fills the Room, What Dana Says Bursts Open Our Hearts

What Dana Says Starts the New Year Right

What Dana Says Is a Blessing for the Future

A Day at the Beach: Mamalochen

You Never Expect What Dana Says

Sunday Moments and Memories of What Dana Says

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

Sunday Memories: The First Supper

A Visit to Dana

Old School, High Tech Revisited

"Draw!" Dana Commanded and Art Burts onto the Wall

Miracle on Grand Street

The Operative Word Was AND

Guest Artist Dana: "One Day I Wrote a Sentence"

Guest Artist Dana: The Sad Little Crone

Day of Miracles

Trudy and Dana

The Secret to a Long Life

Part Seven: View from a Kitchen

Guest Artist Dana: The Gift that Kept Giving

Guest Artist Dana: On Parenting (or How I Survived Motherhood)

Guest Artist Dana: Wisdom of the Ages


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

As He Prepares to Leave...


This is what my father's world feels like to him now.  Watercolors accidentally left out in the rain and all the details dissolving into something unrecognizable.

Len, a lighthouse of direction and decision, is one of the few things my father still knows for sure.

**
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Memories of Memories: I'm Your Memory

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Memories of the Color of Water


I suddenly realized it had almost been a year we had stumbled across the D/L Cerney Pop-Up Store.  That day the Mariner had slipped on a shirt and I watched his eyes became the color of the water he had crossed to fight for love

It's now a new summer.  Stomachs have gotten plumper and joy more relaxed.

Or maybe it's the other way around...

Yet a surprise email recalled those days of beautiful clothes that heralded a leap of faith into a new life.

D/L Cerney has come back to 9th Street for the summer!


During the months of June and July that amazing dress shop will be at the Umbrella Arts Gallery located at 317 E 9th St.

Step in and perhaps step into a new life....


 **
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Thursday, June 2, 2016

How Did We Get Here?
And How the Fuck Do We Get Back?


The news of the shooting at UCLA was also filled with news of students barricading themselves, because now knowing how to do that was up there with knowing how to twitter.




 Which they also did.

And then I read Amy's post in the current version of our town hall - Facebook.

oh my god, really? someone actually posted that a murder-suicide is better than a mass shooting; that's it a relief that only 2 people died. 

how did we get to a place where gunmetal is a shade more accepting than black? 

how did we get here? how did we get to a place where a women can be beaten & violated & raped repeatedly in public but her voice is constantly silenced? 

how did we get to a place where tattoos of hate have replaced scars of courage? how did we get here?

how did we get to this place where one left dead is a relief?

How, indeed.

It's fucking easy to punch the shit out of someone until they are nothing - with words, with a bomb, with a gun.

It's fucking easy.  And it feels so, so good.  Like no one, NO ONE can fuck with me now.

Yeah, I remember it being that easy.  But it got me nothing and got me nowhere. 

For a long time nothing and nowhere was enough.   It was all I knew.
But I somehow couldn't stop talking about how I felt.  And then somehow, someone heard what I was saying and nothing and nowhere STOPPED being enough.

It was fucking terrifying to walk away from suicide and murder.   It was fucking hard.  It meant remembering every moment of bone crushing fear and despair which had put me in nothing and nowhere in the first place and somehow still managing to stay alive.

Suddenly there were glimpses of life that looked nicer and sweeter than destroying and being destroyed.

And even harder than putting down a gun or a bomb or words that destroy was walking into a light and then talking about it all....

 
Like Amy did the other night.  Like I did the other night.  Like 15 other people did the other night.

An old work buddy one day stopped by for a chat.  We talked about the bitch of returning to life and staying there.

"Man, this sucks sometimes," I said.

"Yeah.  But the fringe benefits are terrific," he replied.

You, whoever you are reading this, if even out of the corner of your eye, you are dancing with dark shadows that destroy... I'm going to say it to you straight:

THE FRINGE BENEFITS ARE FUCKING TERRIFIC.

So before you pick up ANYTHING - gun, bomb, words, hell - ANYTHING -  start talking and don't stop until someone REALLY hears you.

 **
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SHADES OF BLUE: Writers on depression, suicide and feeling blue

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sunday's Memories Are Delayed Due to Joy and Amazement (and a Little Exhaustion)

But what do you expect after a mind-blowing evening of some of the bravest writers out there and a great audience.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

You Can't Make This Sh*#$&)T Up


Ruth is 92.  She knew Florence. 

Ruth would organize buses for like 150 people from the Henry Street Settlement to go to Jones Beach and once she got everyone settled, she and Florence would lounge by the ocean and talk about anything and everything.



And Laurel's family and my family grew up next to each other on Henry Street and when I want to know anything about them, then or there, I ask her.

She's neighbors with Ruth.

So the other day Ruth had to get her hair cut and I wanted her to talk to these documentary people and Laurel wanted to catch up.


We TRIED to keep up with Ruth but the second we turned away, Ruth was gone and we went up and down Madison Street, going into every hair salon and using every word we knew in Spanish.  By the third place we were asking in almost full sentences. 

Didn't matter.  Nobody had seen her.

So we went back to the benches to catch up.

And while we were there, I took this picture because I couldn't get a picture of the rat that was HOPPING across the grass because it was HOPPING too fast.


Those are the Seward Park Houses.  George had been part of the team that had made them happen.  Lots of my friends grew up there.  Laurel still lived there. 

Did I mention the rat was HOPPING?  With a huge piece of something red in its mouth.

You'd take a picture of the sky too.

Here's the thing about sitting on the bench.  Eventually, everyone stops to talk to you. 


Everybody.  


Including this couple. AND RUTH.  who had gotten her hair cut in a salon by the bridge on Madison which is why we didn't find her - she just went further than us.  Let's face it.  Ruth goes further than all of us.   But she was tired and she didn't want to go to any documentary film thing but she'd sit on the bench and if they called, then she'd go....

And everybody started talking about so-and-so and the heart attack on Essex Street and they had been together 40 years, two men a real marriage, a good one, he's now in a can in the living room....

Are you getting the His-and-Her's shopping carts? Laurel whispers to me? Are you writing this all down?

Forget it! You could get sued for writing this shit down.  You gotta hide it in a story and call it fiction.

... what? who's gonna ask if he was Jewish or not? They asked? They asked, he didn't lie and now he, I NEVA HEARD OF A SON, how was the broccoli today, how much for the cut? Only $14 but I think he wants me to come back, usually she's open, it's prom season, I paid $18, it adds up with the tint, the shopping cart is from Amazon but look it goes this way that way, he's coming in from New Jersey, you think that pumpkin pie is going to cut itself....

...Just as everyone agreed that the shopping cart was fine even if the front wheels did go this way that way and wild salmon in a can was delicious with a little vinegar and onion.... Ruth finally said, look are they going to interview me for that documentary or what...



....and that's when they said come on by we're ready for you.  And Ruth told them a story about her life and our neighborhood.

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

 Guest Artist Dana: The Gift That Kept Giving

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why Food Reviews from the Lower East Side Shouldn't Be Trusted


I hadn't been in since they renovated.

It was shocking.


Sundried wha? And what was with the subway tile you see everywhere but the subway?



I winced.  I'm not sure why but I did.  All I hoped was that no one I knew would ever give this to me thinking it was a funny present to give to their Jewish friend. 



I wasn't even sure what to think about some of the names.  But somehow the Czar and Bubby on the same menu seemed a bit...?  I mean even I know the song from Fiddler on the Roof where they sing "God Bless and keep the Czar far away from us".  On the other side of the menu board I don't think counts.



The nice, friendly young people behind the counter were very nice and friendly as I told them how ridiculous it all was and could I please have one bialy and a pumpernickel everything bagel which is one new innovation I agreed with?  Because whoever thought of that was a genius.

The sundried tomato one really IS good, the woman said but we're out.

NO! I'm not doing it - that's up there with cinnamon raisin bagels.  NO!

Then I asked if lots of old timers complained about the changes...

Yep. She said.  They also buy a lot.



The bagel and bialy officially lasted not very long. 


I wonder what the rugelach is like.

Kossars.  It looks silly but boy does it all taste delicious.

But I'm still not trying the sundried anything!

At least for now.

**
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Kossars