Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Memory: GUEST ARTIST DANA - The Scent of Sandalwood

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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Encore: GUEST ARTIST: DANA - On Parenting (Or How I Survived Motherhood)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"I sat in the playpen as they wrecked the house."

Dana, with her grandson, her great-grandson and her son posing for a picture being taken by her other son.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Encore: GUEST ARTIST: DANA - The Pot Of Gold

Another gem from Dana.

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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Memory Encore: Two! Two! Two Memories In One!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

When terribly young there was Dana as a beacon.

And when life required strength there was Veselka's Ukrainian Borscht.

How lucky I am that these days I have both.


Dana's profile and other short pieces are:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"If I Bring Forth What Is Inside Me, What I Bring Forth Will Save Me"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"One Day I Wrote A Sentence"

Thursday, June 25, 2009
GUEST ARTIST: DANA - The Sad Little Crone

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Wisdom of the Ages

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Encore: GUEST ARTIST: DANA - "One Day I Wrote A Sentence"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Dana, Guest Writer, started writing.

Ghost Longing (excerpt)

“His homecoming every night was thrill enough for me because his physical presence was sexually provocative. I loved the intimate challenge of living with a stranger. Present, but not completely knowable.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Encore: GUEST ARTIST: DANA - The Sad Little Crone

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another one of Dana's short New York stories.

I seem to have trouble visualizing accurately how my face betrays my age. Especially when I hit a patch of exhaustion and my color drains completely. On my birthday I went to Trinity Church to hear a concert by a group called Alhambra. They specialize in Sephardic songs accompanied by very exotic instruments. Sensuous and rhythmic 14th and 15th century melodies. When they ended, I was caught in their spell. But hunger and fatigue had to be remedied. I crossed the street to a dingy pizza joint and ordered a large orange juice. Then I plopped down at a corner table to simply rest. I closed my eyes for a moment and awoke suddenly when a young Asian woman poked her nose in my face and asked tenderly “Are you all right?” followed by, “May I buy you some lunch?”

My first thought was “I really must buy a new winter coat. My God, I must look dowdy."

“No lunch, please.” I told her I was enjoying my birthday but just needed a little rest. Then I stood up and left the place. She followed me asking where I lived and how I was planning to travel home. I kept reassuring her that I would take the subway, as usual. She offered to escort me down the steps. I refused her kind help Then she put something in my right hand and ran into the crowd. I opened my hand to find a neatly folded $5 bill. I was truly shocked but also touched and somewhat ashamed at her judgment of me. Her compassion brought tears to my eyes. So that’s how I appear to her!

When I got home I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. There she was – the dear little old lady or perhaps the sad little crone needing a good meal. I swore I’d save that $5 bill forever. But I broke my vow 4 days later.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Memory Encore: "If I Bring Forth What Is Inside Me, What I Bring Forth Will Save Me"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Birthday Celebration of the Writer Dana

Dana celebrated a birthday the other day. She was NOT 89 years old, she stated firmly. That year had just finished. On this auspicious day, she was beginning her 90th year.

Encore posts of Dana's sharp and dazzling short stories as well as new works will be presented on HER NEW YORK over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guest Artist: It Was Doug's New York

Doug is from Long Island. That and his niceness can't be helped.

During tax time he travels back to Long Island to help out at his brother's accounting office, staffed almost entirely by women. On Saturday, they all bring their children. And words take on wonderful new meanings.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Soon-To-Be-A-Memory: The History of a Couch

It had been purchased by Susie’s then-girlfriend in an effort to keep two people in one spot.

Didn't work.

Susie’s incoming new wife - determined to clear their new home of old memories - sawed it in half so it could fit in the tiny elevator of their 5th Street apartment and get it the hell out of their new life together. The newly married couple walked both pieces up to my apartment eight blocks away and stuffed it into my tiny elevator.

Having never had a real couch before, I was thrilled and watched in awe as the new wife power-tooled the two pieces back to their former glory.

In the ensuing decade and then some, sex and love and happily-ever-after were attempted on its cushions.  Art was marveled at from its comfort, stories were written and, when sick, it was the best place to curl up and become a little girl again.

Until, without enough warning, life flooded with unending loss.  That couch became a refuge to hide in, often with take-out and TV to numb and soothe everything from too much of too much.

In the midst of all this, Jupiter the kitten unexpectedly arrived.

Those first few weeks, it was the perfect place for him to hide under when – little and frightened – he waited for me, the mommy-can-opener, to return back from some unnecessary errand and love and feed him.  Not necessarily in that order. 

However, as several house guests observed, when I wasn’t home, he retreated back under and waited. 

Months passed.  Loss didn’t bang around my head so much.  Jupiter got bigger and less frightened and soon, that couch became the place for me to hang out on and for him to hide his favorite toys under, including my favorite pen, my reading glasses, hair bands for the gym, the floss, plastic rings from bottles, all the thousands of jiggling bell balls I kept buying him, the catnip mouse, the catnip bird, the catnip sausage...

And before we knew it, enough time had passed that I didn’t need to curl up with take-out, and Jupiter was so big he couldn’t even fit a paw beneath the broken frame.  Instead, the beat-up couch became his warm corner to catch up on his beauty sleep as I did paperwork for a better future.

One day, the couch just became too broken for both of us – an aging tushy and a big-bone cat.  Hammers and crowbars dismantled it into small pieces and strong hands stuffed them into our tiny elevator. Me and Jupiter watched decades of history no longer welcomed and no longer needed depart to the basement garbage room.  

A new couch was coming soon, second-hand like the first, but bought from strangers, more functional, a bit smaller, not so broken.  I swept and mopped the dusty empty space, making it ready for that new couch.  And as I did, I also made it ready for new memories and a new history – one that me and Jupiter would both get to choose.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

University Of The Streets: Millenium Style

It used to be you learned from running around the city and taking a good look at it. Florence would whip on her glasses and stare if there was something she wanted to know.

Then the the city got nice and the streets got safe. There was nothing to learn on them except how to zip around a gaggle of tourists clogging the sidewalks or the new residents who, like the tourists, clogged the streets but at least shared with the world interesting cell phone conversation.

So imagine the delight and the wonderment when the best scientist in the city, and thus the world, gave a small group of important looking people a 101 overview of astronomy, a course I had failed at least twice at City College. He did this while interweaving the history of pollution into the stars and telling us how Grand Central Terminal wasn't a station but a terminal.

I don't care if I don't understand what the Earth Wobble is. I'm just thrilled that, like Florence, I stared in delight and without an invitation stood close to learning something new on the streets.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place There Is...

In these recent years, there had been times even an old beloved song cut too close and deep to what was left of me. Yet quiet became unbearable. That El wrote her music as ferociously as I wrote story - a sword cutting through personal silence - brought me respite from this high speed mess called life, and led me out of my own Egypt and into a promised land of new possibilities and new stories.