Thursday, September 29, 2011

A New Year Encore: In Lieu of Flowers...

In Lieu of Flowers... was originally posted on October 1, 2008 as an obituary for Florence who had died the previous morning. Since Rosh Hoshanah appears in the English calendar differently each year, she in death has become as unpredictable as she was in life. Wouldn't have it any other way.

In Lieu of Flowers...

Tell the truth.

Tell yourself the truth.

Don't let your bullshit compromise either of the above.

Don't lie. Unless you're drunk. Then really don't lie.

Don't steal.

Accept hand-me-downs.

Look fabulous in your own clothes. They may have started out as hand-me-downs but they're yours now. Proudly recount their lineage. Never feel ashamed about that.

Never take a taxi.

Walk everywhere.

Don't wear a coat in winter.

Carry your own weight to the point of pathology. Better to err on independence than not.

Refuse to lose at the hands of cowardliness, mediocrity, stupidity, and the need to blend in.

Suffer aloneness at the risk of fitting in with any of the above.

Refuse to feel fear. If you do, ignore it and keep going. Just like Florence did that night during a World War II blackout under the Manhattan Bridge by the movie theater (now a Chinese market).

Always put your work first.
Always do your work.
Always put your work first.
Always do your work.

Rage against the Machine. Even when it looks like it's related to you.

Risk being laughed at by morons when you do something no one else is doing. Just like when Florence put on those roller skates in 1972 and skated up and down Grand Street and all those people laughed at her and then a couple of years every one had disco skates.

Start your entire life over at 60 like you were a 14 year old. Because on some level, you still are.

Fight back just like Florence did all the times someone mugged her or tried to mug her during the 1970's.

Don't EVER quit.

Know that that beer, that sandwich, those shoes, that jacket, those pants, that avenue, that movie house, that proper grammar, that street, that bar, that woman, that dance, that etude, that sonata, that scale, that subway, that bus, that hotdog, that boardwalk, that beach, that ocean is Your New York.

It Was Hers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes You Get To Go Back To Your New York

The minute I saw him taking a picture of the front door, I knew this was His New York.

The gate of 217 hasn't changed he told me. It was just like that when he was a young man of 18, fresh from Brazil, right after the war, working for the United States Consulate.

Of course, pointing up to the second or third floor, he had just a small room, enough space for a bed. The toilet and anything else he might desire was outside his tiny habitat.

It had taken him 18 days on a ship to arrive in a city so different then. After a very brief stay on Ellis Island - a letter from the Commanding Officer on the U.S. Base in Brazil made sure it was brief - he got a lift into the heart of the city.

"Where should I drop you?" asked the driver.

"At a square," he replied.

There, smack in the middle of the sidewalk, filled with the milling crowd of New Yorkers on the run to someplace else, was the sergeant from the very U.S. base in Brazil where his journey had begun. In a city of millions, what were the chances of him, all of 18, fresh off the boat, finding a familiar face at rush hour?

"I'm writing a book about my life," he told me.

"I can't wait to read it," I replied.

In the meantime, I quietly gave thanks that, while rushing to someplace else, late as always, blasting music, I too got a million-in-one chance to do something I rarely do. I stopped and asked a complete stranger about their own New York.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Memories: For My Sister's Birthday

Somewhere there's a pictures of my sister, Louise, then twelve years old, sitting at an upright piano in this bandshell. She won third prize in a city-wide competition of all the kids in public school taking music lessons and dance lessons. At least that's how I remember it.

That bandshell was part of all our lives when, the arts were in the public school system along with the three 'R's. So Louise being up there was normal. And because she loved playing so much it was normal she'd get a ribbon or a little statue or something heralding her accomplishments.

On a recent day of fading summer, while a ragtime band played nearby and babies and dogs bounced along to the swing, the chiseled inscription on the lip of the stage stood strong and unwavering. It was written in stone.

Presented to the City of New York and its music lovers by Elkan Naumburg

And just as it had welcomed my sister then, it welcomes now any and all the kids and parents and neighbors and passerbyers and anyone and everyone who graces its presence.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Welcome To His New York. Got Kidney?

This is Juan.

And he needs a kidney.

He's New York Mitchell Lama houses on 95th and Amsterdam. When he was growing up there, you still could see New Jersey from Amsterdam. Never lived anywhere else but New York (and you can't count those 8 months in Kansas City). His high school job was opening-the- doors-closing-the-doors at the Planetarium. TWA flight attendants, then glamorous heroes of the sky, in full length fur coats taught him the difference between a silly drink of vodka and orange juice and the sophistication of a kir royale. Christmas finery in those days was skinny jeans and a shirt unbuttoned down to there. Well, after all it was the 70's.

Then Tom met him.

Tom is not from New York. He's from Missouri. He moved to New York and went to a Buddhist gathering. Took one look at Juan and that was that. And that was 26 years ago. Tom is the only reason Juan lived in Kansas City for eight months.

I ask Juan, "What about you is New York?"

"I experienced everything. We didn't grow up with money, but I experienced everything."

This is my friend, Juan. And what I want him to experience is something he hasn't before - a new kidney.

So if you are B+ or maybe even O or O+ or 0- and you got a kidney, my friend needs your help.

And if you are not any of those things, would you help and pass this post forward? Post it to your blog, post it to your facebook, send it out with your pigeons, let your friends know.

Spread the word. And welcome to His New York.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Memories: The Last Days Of Summer

Coney, on a Friday morning

Before Google there were these guys.

Straight out of one of my adventure books, I'd watch, mesmerized, as they use mysterious rays to penetrate the earth's surface seeking, in waning days and emptying beaches, a buried treasure.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Day On 23rd Street

It was the fifth thrift store and like most of the other places, dogs were allowed.

Several of us recognized each other from previous shopping stops where collaborative efforts and group participation was part of the process in making wise fashion decisions.

We were all on the ferocious hunt for something under $10 that made us look like a million bucks, only five to ten pounds thinner.

But finally after patient waiting by full racks, like many two-legged male companions, including the very tolerant one with me that day, Louie stopped for a break.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Save The Books!!! A New York City Kickstarter Project That Isn't A Film!!!!

The Quartchyard

Somehow, despite all, Clayton Patterson has given the history and the events of the Lower East Sides haven in his work, photos, films, videos and archives.

Somehow, despite all, he and Dr. Mareleyn Schneider have completed a three volume anthology, JEWS, A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE.

And somehow, despite all, including the distributing publisher not having the funds to print, only to distribute, they are determined to get this important collection published.

Clayton was kind enough to include the story I wrote about Cindy and home, The Land Of The Quartchyard in this magnificent collection.

Other pieces include:
  • Emma Goldman – First Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side
  • Jewish Boxing in the Lower East Side
  • Public Baths on the Lower East Side
  • Tuli Kupferberg: The Meaning of the Jew in the Dictionary of Anarchism
Irresistible!! So please join me in supporting this project by joining in and kick starting it!

Every bit helps!

Thank you so much!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Memories and Encore: Brief Peace in Late Night

A Tibetan Monk had been tortured for years by the Chinese authorities. When released the Dali Lama met with the Monk. His Holiness asked the Monk if he was ever afraid during those horrific years.

"Yes," the Monk answered. "I was afraid I would stop feeling compassion for my torturers."

Peace, wherever, whenever and however we can welcome it into our hearts and our world, should never become a memory.

November 18, 2010

It was past the world's bedtime. No one was really there.

Still, the remaining countries who had waited days to speak stepped up to the podium, and in the formal shoes of a tired man or the polite heels of a fatigued woman, addressed the empty seats.

World, they said, let's give peace a chance our country is hurting your country is hurting we are all hurting there is no need for this...

If the seats could have nodded they would have and they would have made sure something was done to make it better. But instead, each word bounced and banged against walls and ceilings.

We, the scribes, though, we made sure the words didn't shatter against hard surfaces.

We, the scribes, noted stressed stated said and urged.

We, the scribes, made sure even in empty spaces peace was recorded and thus given a chance.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You Could Even Hear The Food

Neither of us had realized what was different until the guy next to us at the bar said "Do you hear any loud rock music?"

There was none.

Which is why we had been able to eavesdrop on his fascinating conversations with his friend on his left about the 32 years at the Daily News working delivery...

...his neighbor on his right about the 1950's magazines he found in the trash right next door...

...and then finally turning to us about how the neighborhood had gone downhill it wasn't a neighborhood anymore and all these expensive restaurants how the hell can you eat with all that noise...

...and then his neighbor on his right joined in...

...and soon we were all talking, complaining, comparing, and one-upping...

"I got my mother's old New Yorkers."
"My mother IS an old New Yorker."

...Because that's what New Yorkers do. Talk to anyone anywhere we are. Like here at this old West Village establishment where it is quiet enough to taste to hear to connect.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Autumn In New York

St. James Place, near where Gramma lived, Jonathan, Raymond, and Stephen grew up, right by where Dad took us for pork buns, always on the way home from the ferry.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Memories: Luxury Is In The Eye That Beholds It

A new chocolate shop beckoned. Delicious plans were afoot. "Gourmet chocolate vending machines!" the handsome young owner shared.

Oh, but we had those too. Sprinkled across subway platforms, for a nickel, then a dime and then for a precious quarter, a small delight of luxurious heaven awaited.