Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dana's Sunday Memories of Pots of Gold

No matter what, rainbows followed Dana.


Originally Posted September 29, 2009

Guest Artist Dana: The Pot of Gold

Marian and I had high expectations. We were about to go to see a one-woman theatre piece calls “the Amish Project”. It referred to the tragic murder of thirteen school kids whose Amish classroom was invaded by an armed lunatic.

At first I refused to join Marian in reliving such a terror. But word came from several critics of its unique value. Travel plans were finalized, and I was nearly dressed when Marian called at the last moment to tell me that there was a long, steep flight of steps from the street entrance up to the theater.

I am too disabled to manage those damn steps.

Marian decided to go alone. This was another time I had been rebuffed by architecture. Suddenly my missed evening struck me harder than the play’s tragic subject. I moped regretfully the remainder of the afternoon.

Stepping outside on my terrace to relieve the blues, I was thrilled to see a dazzling rainbow its enormous arc embracing the sky from mid-Manhattan to north Brooklyn, I began shouting to the strollers eleven stories below to “look up, look up, a rainbow!” But no one heard me. I was the sole beneficiary of the splendor. I was Finian himself.

Related Posts:

Dana Never Took Anything Lying Down

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dana Never Took Anything Lying Down

There was nothing more annoying than being seen as a "cute" old lady - the punchline of someone's limited imagination.   Dana was good at stopping those shenanigans.

Another in the series celebrating Dana's extraordinary life and rapier wit.


Originally posted September 30, 2014

Bedtime Story

Dana and Trudy are best friends. 

This is them when they were only 88 years old.

They're both a bit older now.

Just the other day, Trudy came down to New York for a visit and Dana wanted to get out of the house.  So they somehow made their way to Union Square.

They were sitting in the sun enjoying the day and each others' company, minding their own business, when a very posh lady, with a TV crew trailing behind her approached them.

Could she interview them for a television show she was hosting?

I think it was Dana who shrugged 'why not', since Trudy was a bit more shy.

"What did you do with your husbands that was 'hot'?" the TV host asked them.

Trudy was aghast, but Dana didn't miss a beat.

"Well!  We turned off the lights!"

Related Posts:

Guest Artist Dana: Trudy and Dana

Draw!" Dana Commanded and Art Burst Onto The Wall

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Celebrating Another Story from Dana

Another in a series celebrating Dana Schechter's life.

Dana and I had reconnected after Florence's memorial.  During visits over tea and apple pie, she began reading me her stories.  There was a daring and a fearlessness to what she was willing to put to the page and a willingness to walk her pen down dark sentences. 


Originally posted February 27, 2011

The Scent of Sandelwood

New work from Dana!

Whenever I travel to Europe, I feel I am walking in the footsteps of former inhabitants who lived in ancient towns before they became cities. The old ghettos, for example, are steeped in history and stimulate my imagination. I seem to be searching for my previous life in another century, a kind of deja vue moment. When George and I arrived in Seville, Spain, I found it.

We were directed to an old quarter, which formerly housed the ghetto where all of Seville’s Jews were once confined. Street names were ghetto names. But the ghetto itself had vanished. All that remains is a Kasbah-like warren of little winding streets and cul-de-sacs twisting and turning and literally swallowing us up in its labyrinth.

As night fell we began to feel ill at ease. There were fewer and finally no one on the dimly lighted streets. I may have recognized where I once had lived in another time, but now felt trapped in a time warp. I couldn’t recall the area outside of the ghetto, which was dangerous. After curfew, one risked arrest.

We walked by an open patio that seemed to beckon us in. Through the entrance gate sat a large brightly illuminated sofa, empty but waiting. For us? We whispered to each other “Don’t go in there."

Where was its light coming from? Was this some kind of entrapment?

We lingered on the sidewalk wondering at the sofa’s elegant invitation. I thought we should continue up the street. George noticed the seductive aroma of sandalwood, and refused to move.

We bickered for a few moments until we heard the rustling of a taffeta skirt. Upon turning our attention back to the sofa we were surprised to see a Matisse-like odalisque wearing that taffeta skirt. Aside from multi-colored glass necklaces she was utterly bare on top. Her presence explained the purposed of the sofa.

I knew from George’s glistening eyes what he was thinking. And it was obvious what he was feeling.

So, what the hell.

Yes, I walked on and somehow found an exit in the general direction of our hotel. Eventually, George did the same.

Back home, whenever I saw that glisten in George’s eyes, I'd put on my false eyelashes and a splash of sandalwood.

Sunday Memories of the Best Writer I've Ever Known

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Memories Of
The Best Writer I've Ever Known

Dana Schechter, after a long dance with life and delight, died today surrounded by love most of us have only dreamt of. 

During our last visit with her, me, David (a.k.a. the Boy Next Door) and the Mariner scribbled down the things she had said, with our usual mixture of envy for such brilliance and glee at such wit.

"We're ripping off your words, your language..." I told her.

"That's what the English did to the Irish," she replied.

Beginning today, and ongoing until it is time not to, a series of Dana's stories and the accounts of visits that always felt like they ended too soon.


Originally posted March 24, 2009

If I Bring Forth What Is Inside Me, 

What I Bring Forth Will Save Me***

This is Dana.

Her husband, before he was smart enough to marry her, had, as a teenager, a crush on Florence. When they all grew up, Dana and Florence and their husbands and children lived across the hall from one another on Lewis Street.

I knew Dana was the most beautiful woman I knew. And I knew this before I knew how to tie my shoe. I also knew she knew something about the world that would be essential to my survival. Perhaps it was the beautiful stones from Brazil she gave me after her trip there with her husband to help establish socialist co-op housing.  Or maybe it was the tiny little Bolivian dolls given after another trip to continue developing affordable housing in South America.  Or maybe it was the story book with real art as illustrations that told me there were more worlds beyond the wall of sound I heard every day from Florence's Steinway.

Whatever it was, what beamed from her heart and soul was a living example of utter enjoyment of every second of every moment to love, eat, laugh, talk, touch, live.

Today, at least 45 years after learning to tie my shoe, Dana is still the most beautiful woman I know. Or at least Number One of a very short list. And today she brought forth a story she had poured into devastating poetry. She said that when she wrote that story it saved her life. Once again, so many decades later, I learned of a world beyond the horizon of my own fear, my own pain, my own disbelief.

***The fortune cookie fortune Dana reads every morning as she fixes her hazelnut coffee.

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories of the Boy Next Door

Sunday Memories of Where I Could Still Find Her

Guest Artist: Dana - The Gift That Kept On Giving

Sunday Memories Of Deep Chills on Valentines Day

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Word Travels

What better place for a bookstore to set up an outpost but at a really great bar

Especially if the bar is the KGB and it's the Wednesday night Fantastic Fiction series (there's also a night called Careening Drunk Writers...).

But Word travels.  At least from Brooklyn or Jersey City to the East Village where great writers get a chance to read great stories.

And tonight was no different, with Carola Dibbell reading from the acclaimed and heralded debut novel, The Only Ones and Gemma Files taking folks on a ride through hell with her Book of Tongues.

Well, like peanut butter and chocolate or jelly or whatever ones likes with peanut butter, writers hanging out in a bar having a great drink and listening to wild and thrilling stories and books on the back shelf like candy just waiting to be snapped up seems a hellava lot more fun than swiping right or left or screaming over a $20 martini.

Related Posts:

Word Bookstores


The Stork Has Arrived: The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Tailors

Felix's Tailoring - now on Allen Street

The small shops are still on the lower east side, only a few left on Rivington, one or two on Eldridge, a bunch  on Allen and the famous one on Stanton. 

For a couple of bucks those pillow cases can go from king to regular and the sweatshirt zipper can actually be made to work.  The lining of the thrift-store coat can be replaced cheaper than it costs to buy a badly made new coat sold by a chain. And the seam of those pants can finally be properly fixed.

All you gotta do is walk in. 

Related Posts:

Felix Tailor Shop Departs Rivington

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Memories Of Deep Chills
On Valentines Day

The view of a cold Williamsburg Bridge
from the warm side of the window

There was one Valentines day, years ago, where Second Avenue suddenly filled with thousands of young men, arms filled with thousands of roses, who poured up the street like salmon spawning.  I was attempting to go down the street to an internship at a hip art center where I was attempting to drown heartache with menial tasks.  

Nothing said loser more than having to push pass all those young men headed to the success of a relationship I could not for the life of me figure out.

"Winter unfailingly turns to spring," wrote the Buddhist monk, Nicherin Daishonin to the lay nun Myōichi in a letter in 1275, offering her encouragement in having faith that things would get better.

And indeed, winter turned to spring.  The lay nun was able to care for her children and despite hardships, hold dear to her faith and practice.

And indeed, winter (finally) turned to spring, filling days with unfamiliar joy.  And with that, Valentines Day stopped being the barometer of winning and losing.  It wasn't winter or spring.  It was just another good day. 

This year's Valentines Day, although no different than recent past ones, comes with warnings of cold that is "downright dangerous" and frostbite risks if you stay out too long. 

But I am not fretting. 

Happy Valentines to the Mariner.

And Happy Valentines to all.   Winter indeed does unfailingly turns to spring.


Related Posts:

Days Like This

Admiring the Moon Over the Capital

Another Walk to Hope: PartII

The Walk to Hope Is a Leap of Faith

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Step into the Light and Be Known

There are times those 10,000 hours it takes to become even kinda good at my reason for being alive feels as futile as spitting into the wind.  Futile as in why do I even get up to do it again this morning? Why do I send my work out over and over again? 

Why do I keep leaping into unknowns, planting things that never seem to grow, showing up again and again and again?


I can keep keeping on, get the hell out of the wind and demand to be seen.

Like Katha Cato introducing the Queens World Film Festival.

And heard.

Like Elisabeth Lohninger, singing at a Monday night bar.

And counted.

Like Melvin Van Peebles talking to a theater full of filmmakers about making something that no one thought could be made.

A hellava lot better than spitting in the wind.

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: The Long and Winding Road

Queens World Film Festival

Melvin Van Peebles

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Regrets of the Day

I didn't know until I walked by.

All these men were picking up pots and putting down pans and talking that fierce kind of talk that involves business and money and making deals and doing it fast.

I knew the place by its TV screens at the bar with every sports game on it and its outdoor seating where the whole neighborhood hung out during the summer with baby strollers and tons of hopeful little dogs under the tables.

I would pass by, looking for one of my favorite friends who often ate there during summer weeknights.   But I never ate there myself.

Perhaps it was fear of the onion rings. Or the noise of the street.  Or getting too involved with the game, or the little dogs.

Or the onion rings.

But just the other day, I looked at those tables outside (the upside of global warming) and thought, why not!  The Mariner and I should have dinner there some night!

Lo.  It is not to be.

Mumbles, after 22 years in the neighborhood, is packing up and another restaurant is moving in.  Lots of reasons, they told Town and Village, including rent and not enough people supporting family-owned/run neighborhood spots.

Well, the Mariner and I do, just below 14th Street.  Perhaps it was time to expand the territory. 

I watched more stuff get picked up and piled high and more men talk fiercely the way they do when they are making deals and talking money.  Then I spied the plants.

Are you taking them, I asked one of the busier guys making piles and deals.

"Oh yes, definitely," he said laughing.

So.  I did walk by too many times, never stopping by.  But who knows?  Perhaps one of those pots or the plants will begin a new life in a neighborhood restaurant.  And perhaps this time I'll stop by.

Related Posts:

Town &Village Blog:  Mumbles Restaurant Closes

EV Grieve: Mumbles Has Closed on 3rd Avenue

You Could Even Hear the Food

Saturday, February 6, 2016

We Regret To Inform: St. Mark's Bookstore
Soon to Become a Sunday Memory

The store closes its doors Wednesday evening.

Everything is 50% off (except cards and consignment books).

Jeremiah's Vanishing New York documents its valiant struggles to remain one of the most important independent bookstores in New York here.

As Jeremiah said so well in his blog, there are no words left that could do justice to such a great loss.

St. Mark's Books
136 East 3rd Street
New York Fucking City

Related Posts:

The End of St. Mark's Books

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blessed Journey and Safe Travels

That man is getting on the bus because, even though she had just pulled away from the curb, that bus driver opened the door for him.

That's the kind of bus driver she is.

A few seconds of passing forward some good equaled a whole day of goodness for others.  I know.  I watched her the the entire way up from Fulton to 14th Street, saying hello to passengers, telling the man with the cane to take his time, answering the girl who was carrying on a simultaneous conversation on her phone about what stop was best to get to the hospital. 

And the one that meant the most to me - tell the crossing guard at 3rd Street not to rush the elderly man caught as the light changed.  "No, let him cross, let him cross," she called to the crossing guard and then she waited, because a light turning green or red was not as important as an elderly man who clearly couldn't walk faster than really slow but who needed to get to the other side of the street.

And because the bus driver told the crossing guard to let him cross, the crossing guard went out into the middle of the street and guided that old man safely to the corner. 

That meant the most.  All the times people helped Florence as she stumbled through a city she once ruled, suddenly beyond her disappearing capacities... bus drivers, train conductors, other passengers, passer-bys, Maria at the hospital who fed her.   New Yorkers heart and soul.....

"God is good," the bus driver told me as I got off the bus.

So are you, I said.

Related Posts:

A Visit to the Hospital: Part Two

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night...Until Suddenly...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

An Encore of What's the Bottom Line:
The Song Remains The Same, Revisited

At a social event, the Mariner and I found ourselves huddled with a man we had just met, talking in shorthand about the moments where nothing mattered except holding the hand of the person you loved.  

This man was holding his woman's hand a lot these days.  There wasn't much to say except a couple of yes's and fierce nodding.  

In honor of the only moments that matter...

Originally posted August 6, 2013 

I recognized the number of the four missed calls right away.   It was the ER.

Rushing through dark, summer streets was like listening to a familiar song sung by someone new.   Even if it was only a dog bite on the arm and the dog had had its shots, having to step back into old space that had been the many cracks of a broken heart required a calm that wasn't there anymore.

The place was packed.  And the night, just like all those past nights, began.

"We got 160 patients so we're a little behind."
"Full moon."

"Maxwell! Good news!  You don't have an infection."

"Can anyone spare a blanket, miss could I have a blanket oh god bless you..."

"No, it's not broken."
"Sir, it's broken."
"No, it's not broken."

 "Where are my Cantonese, Mandarin speakers?"

"I had him just a minute ago and I lost him."

"Martha?  Martha?  Is Martha here?  Are you Martha?  No?"

"Usually, Monday is the busy day, everybody in for their work notes.  Monday and Tuesday were very quiet this week and I thought, uh oh the storm is coming."

"Oh they have people much worse than me.  They just intubated someone over there a few minutes ago."

"Do you want some chocolate?"

"They were shooting nails at each other, I asked them why were you shooting nails at each other?"

"I stopped telling my parents what I see because then they say, this is what you went to school for?"

 "Can I have a glass a water, miss can you spare a glass of water oh god bless you..."

Related Posts:

The ER Visit - Part One: Begin the Beguine

The ER Visit - Part Two: The Walls Of Jericho

A Visit To The Hospital: Part One

A Visit To The Hospital: Part Two

The ER Visit - Part Three: Welcome to His ER California

The Song Remains The Same
 Days Like This