Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Grassroots is Dead. Long Live Grassroots

It took everything left inside after another long-ass brutal freelance gig to take out the camera, charge it up and then get down to Grassroots.

Just like I did the night Florence died and the night Seymour died, when I grabbed my camera and my thoughts so I could make sure their long-day journey into night didn't disappear with them.

Had to do the same with Grassroots. Every pivotal moment I had between 1976 and 1983 I had at that bar before I switched over to girls and coffee shops and the Duchess for a while.

But after returning to boys and a more solitary existence, there was Grassroots.  Stumbling through my city, this world and way too many stupid relationships left me feeling like like the rug was constantly being pulled out from under me.  Grassroots was the one thing that stayed consistent.
Anytime there was someone I liked, I took them to Grassroots.  Anytime there was a crisis, I went to Grassroots.  Anytime I just wanted a quiet visit with good friends, I went to Grassroots.   And one of the most important conversations I had about how to love a dying parent happened at Grassroots with Kosky.

The visits became more sporadic over the decades as I drank less, worked out more and had less money to blow.   But still, as I joked with a young colleague recently, the seats knew my ass from way back. 

That bar held my life's DNA.

Over three days this past week, I took about 700 photos, and I still didn't capture Grassroots' core or my love, even after bumping into Jeremiah of Vanishing New York and pouring my heart out.

Found myself telling him stories I hadn't remembered until that moment, could never ever put anywhere but in fiction.  I even found myself describing a certain event that, while it just about destroyed a part of me, my Yeudi and the guys at the bar - Frazier, Cliff, Eric, Bobby, Mike, Langley - made sure I was O.K.  "They had your back," Jeremiah said.   Looking back 40 years, I suddenly realized, yeah.  They did.   In a time when women were so rarely protected, I was.

Still, in between reminiscing, I kept snapping.

Kosky on the right joined in last week to say good-bye

Jeremy looking for old photos of old friends
Recognize the guys on the left, and that's Frazier and Micky on the right

But, even if I fell short there, I captured others people's hearts, broken and otherwise.

The two brothers have been coming here for 20 years - they too had all the big talks at this table or one near by.  They always joked: "When Grassroots closes, it's the end.  We're going to have to move back home upstate."

On the last night, New Years, I dragged my Mariner aka my lovely husband down to say goodbye. He stood patiently for hours as I took another 370 pictures, hung with the Ancient Mariner aka the best storyteller around, hooted and hollered, became that old barfly that I once was at the tender age of 17 and had a shot of rye - my first drink at the bar in 1976 and now my last.  For a couple of hours I was all the parts of me I had forgotten or had packed away.

The Ancient Mariner aka Phil Giambri -best storyteller around and his pal Linda
the countdown begins

the New Years kiss.... and then...

We left after midnight and in the new minutes of 2018, I cried all the way to Veselka's. 

Coming soon: Grassroots Stories and a F*&*) Load of Pictures

Thank you, Jeremiah. 

And may a new year be a happy one for this old bar.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Rest of Her New York

Some folks have asked where Her New York went to.

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


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.

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.

Related Posts:

Blood On The Tracks
Sunday Memories:  How Old Were You Your First Time?

A Day In The Life...

What I Stared At While Wondering ....

Sunday Memories - One of the Happiest Days of My Life

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:

Cornering Joy

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.”