Sunday, October 30, 2011

SUNDAY MEMORIES: GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore-"If I Bring Forth What Is Inside Me, What I Bring Forth Will Save Me"

A series of Dana's writing.

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, October 27, 2011

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore - Bus Drivers and Me

A series of Dana's writing.

Another one of Dana's short pieces. This really happened.

Note to Readers: You gotta know a little bit about the Village, the streets and the buses. If you have any questions, just drop a comment...

"Standing in a downpour on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street, I boarded a limited bus that would at least take me to a few blocks near my destination. My hope was to end up on Sixth Avenue and Third Street by dismounting at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street. Not great. But doable.

It was 5pm and I needed to be at the movie theater by 5:20. The driver understood my anxiety and simply said, "Sit Down."

When the bus turned left on Eighth Street to Broadway, I was shocked. It had actually taken me even farther from my destination.

"Last stop!" he announced to all the passengers.

I was about to get off when again he said, "Sit Down."

Then he drove south on Broadway and turned right on Houston and right again on Sixth avenue heading north. I expected him to sail right past my movie. I stood up and again he ordered me to "Sit Down."

I gave up, wondering if maybe he was kidnapping me.

Then to my utter disbelief, he stopped illegally at Third and Sixth. He had taken me to a spot across the street from the movie theater!

"Bless you!" I said.

"Bless YOU! he replied. It was the one time he didn't say "Sit Down."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore -Wisdom of the Ages

A series of Dana's writing.

Another one of Dana's short pieces. The instructor of her writing class asked them to write about their wisdom.

Wisdom, if that applies to me, comes from my mother who insisted that I always stand up for myself and never contribute to my own problems by being too compromising. From my father, I learned to be compassionate, and caring empathetically. She imposed self-discipline. He welcomed social interactions and humor.

But life (marriage, motherhood and widowhood) together with many health calamities, taught me to trust in my eventual survival at any cost. This is what I hope my children will have picked up from me.

My personal philosophy includes all of the above PLUS the notion that to defer nothing is a wise attitude. There seems to be no reality in thinking "one day I will..." Probably you will not.


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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SUNDAY MEMORIES: GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore: The Gift That Kept On Giving

A series of Dana's writing.

PLEASE NOTE: A dress cost $25 in 1949.


An old friend sent my husband a holiday gift of two somber neckties from Sulka, the prestigious menswear store on Park Avenue. George wouldn’t wear either of them, even to a funeral, for fear of looking like the chief pall bearer.

So I decided to return them and cash them in. But Sulka, gracious to accept the return, would not give me cash. “We do not handle cash, Madame, just credit cards,” they explained. Instead, they gave me a gift certificate for $60.

I gave George the gift certificate and suggested he visit Sulka himself and choose something else.

“You choose,” he said. So I tried.

But polo shirts were $80 each and other items were equally above the value of the certificate. Then we decided to give the gift certificate to my father on his 55th birthday. He was flattered, but he in turn gave it to my brother on his 35th birthday.

When George’s birthday came around, the next September – lo and behold – my brother sent him the Sulka certificate, by now a bit ragged from age. One certificate had solved everyone’s gift problem.

So once again, I went back to Sulka’s and only had to add $20 to the certificate to buy my husband two pairs of woollen socks from Scotland. They were by far the most beautiful luxurious and warm socks he would ever own.

That is, until the moths got into them. The moths had good taste.


Other short works by Dana:

Wisdom of the Ages

Thursday, October 20, 2011

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore - The Pot Of Gold

A series of Dana's writing.

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore: Time Flies When...

A series of Dana's writing.

It was supposed to be a brief meal.

Four hours later, I was still laughing too hard to write down everything Dana said.

But she had been warned. When one encounters a better writer than oneself one can only rip off said writer in self defense.

On certain attempts of style:

"He combs his hair with a washcloth."

On the insults of aging and limited mobility:

"I could fool anything but a flight of stairs."

On the fact her doctor is moving her office right across the street from her apartment:

"I won't be late if there's no red light."

And last, but not least, on our favorite actor:

"He's a walking sex experience."

Sunday, October 16, 2011


A series of Dana's writing.

Dana (photo by T. Krever)

The massive doors of the Frick Collection on East 70th Street were my entry into viewing centuries of breathtaking paintings. This jewel-box like museum, once the home of Henry Clay Frick, opened my eyes to English landscapes and portraits of the past. One could almost breathe the country air in the 18th Century paintings of John Constable, born in Suffolk, England in 1776.

One of this great works depicted the immense Salisbury Cathedral settled like a huge, centuries-old edifice on the even larger Salisbury Plain. I was wondering how its interior would feel if I were ever fortunate enough to visit England one day. In my dreams!

Around that time, I played hostess to a delightful English couple, John and Patti, who came to New York City hoping to publish one of John's manuscripts. My contribution became bed and board, no charge. Sadly, they returned home empty handed. Some time later they invited us to stay with them while we vacationed in London. Perhaps my dream of walking into Constable's 1826 painting would come true.

And then it did. But not as any one would have hoped or expected. We were invited to a funeral.

The bereaved family were old friends of our hosts. And to signify the loss of all losses - that of their 12-year-old son - they invited hundreds of friends to Salisbury's national treasure. Showing incomparable strength, they embraced and led their 17-year-old son to the speaker's lectern where he told of the accidental death of his brother whom he had been driving to school Unable to avert a tragic collision, he expressed his tortuous grief, consoled and loved by his parents as he spoke.

I began remembering the loss of my only daughter years ago. She had died two minutes after her birth. I had never seen her face. Yet for years, I had mourned her.

During the Bishop's service I heard the hum of a bagpipe's drone. It seemed miles away in the echoing of the huge cathedral's interior. A hush fell over all the attendees as the dirge of a single piper emerged slowly and penetratingly from the near of the cathedral. He was attired in his clan's tartan and soon passed my seat. His pipes chilled my bones, and I wept.

Then the piper marched onward to the entry of the cathedral and his sad sound eventually trailed off into silence

We all were asked to proceed outside to a large tent where service staff had set out tea and plain cake.

Through the quiet murmur of conversation and little sighs, I stood apart from the others while a light rain fell. No one seemed to notice as they sipped their tea.

The magnificence of the painting had come to life and I had finally stepped within its mysterious interior. But not as any one would have hoped or expected.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Ghost Longings

A series of Dana's writing.

There he stood.

In the doorway.

I gasped. At age 40, he was ruggedly attractive with faintly almond-shaped eyes, pea-green, and accented with dark brown eyebrows.

After rocking back and forth on his heels, he stepped forward and said, "So!" This was his way of saying "Here I am. What's happening here?"

The subliminal message was "I've been gone all day. Surely you've had time to redecorate the living room and buy a new gadget for the kitchen. Maybe you've gone gallery-hopping and put a deposit on a small watercolor. We'll take a look at it together this weekend and decide whether or not to buy it."

Of course, I had not done any of the above, but he had an appetite for constant change. He loved to make endless travel plans. This aspect of pleasing him was perfect for me. It generated enough activity in the planning stages alone to placate him. And I loved seeing new places.

Otherwise, daily routines were not kick enough to challenge him. So it was my role to be the entertainer and provider of amusement.

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.


Here he was in the doorway again.

Only two weeks after his premature death.


Previous post in the series:


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A series of Dana's writing.

Dana and Polly, the cat (photo by T. Krever)

A few weeks ago as April came to a close, I watched a revived performance of "South Pacific" on Channel 13. Seeing this great Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein brought tears rolling down my cheeks as I began reliving the time in 1949 when the show first opened and I wanted to see it.

In the 1940's, I was a young opera fan. Whenever Ezio Pinza was scheduled to sing, I was on the standees line, usually for 6 to 8 hours. I was hoping to get a spot behind those with seats during a three-hour performance.

The standing room line began when the opera season opened in November, a chilling, dark month when only an opera fanatic would ignore the discomfort.

When my idol crossed over to Broadway to play the male lead in "South Pacific", I tried three times to get a ticket, but it was always sold out.

Frustration led to trying a last but not too hopeful attempt to see this popular show.

My best friend, Anita and I decided to write a letter to the great man himself! This is what we wrote:

Dear Mr. Pinza:

We have been standees attending all your performances at the Met. You brought us great joy. and now you are singing in our language, English. We tried to get tickets several times. No luck. But if you were able to assign a pair of your house seats to us, we would be forever grateful. After the performance, we would be honored to take you out to dinner.

If you find this letter to be an embarrassment, just ignore it. No reply is necessary.

Sincerely, Dana & Anita

We included my phone number and mailed it to him at the Majestic Theater, never expecting an answer.

To my utter shock, I received a phone call from his representative three days later! He said that Mr. Pinza was charmed by our letter and when did we want to go? I was almost tongue-tied. Then I said, "Any Wednesday matinee." He agreed. Then he added that Mr. Pinza regretted that he would not be free for dinner afterward.

The following Wednesday, tickets were held for us at the box office. They were for Row-AA just behind the orchestra pit.

When we sat down very grandly, minutes before the overture began, one of the musicians said to another, "Hey, look at the Tchotchkalas Pinza's got in his house seats today!"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Memories: What's In A Name? If It's Cornell Edwards Way, Quite A Bit: Part Three

"... this serene spot in the hustle bustle world.
- comment left on the petition."

Bill, Cornell's partner of five decades is collecting signatures supporting the co-naming of 13th Street "Cornell Edwards Way". Stop by at 143 E. 13th Street and sign the petition!

In the meantime, settle in, get comfy and read Part Three of the story of how such a simple request to acknowledge Cornell's 43 years of contribution to New York City came about.

It's not just putting in the time here that makes you a New Yorker.

It's the nod to the counter guy who every day pushes a coffee to you before you even have to say "Light, one sugar".

It's saying "Good morning" to the bus driver when you get on and saying "Thank you" when you get off.

It's wishing the guy in the token booth "Happy New Year" or whatever holiday they are stuck working.

It's knowing this is your city and any person next to you on the IRT is your neighbor, even if you see them only once in your life.

This New York was Cornell's New York and we were lucky to be his neighbor.

Any time Fire Station #3 headed back to the fire house, Cornell waved. In the beginning, it was a thank you to them coming to his rescue when the fire broke out. But as the guys who had fought the fire retired and younger ones took their place, Cornell's greeting continued and soon it had nothing to do with what had happened. It was a neighbor being a neighbor to his neighbor.

It was Bill waking up one morning and finding Cornell's 12 year old niece, Tammy sleeping at the foot of the bed because Cornell went in the middle of the night and got her because that's what you do - you raise a child who needs raising - and then you go to every PTA meeting, even if you are the only one who shows up.

It was Cornell stepping up and becoming part of Community Board 3 because it was his neighborhood and he wanted to be part of its guardianship. It was him chairing a meeting of angry developers and angry residents at each others' throats, and Cornell getting up and through the melee letting his voice ring out, "Everybody's right!" and the room bursting into laughter and then finally settling down enough so everyone's position could be heard and considered. He didn't say much but when he did, his words were powerful.

Tanya, the cat

It was Cornell, once a week, taking care of two elderly sisters up in Harlem, both from Granada, one an Episcopalian and the other Jewish, and making sure they got the right Perdue chicken and a can of sliced peaches from Rainbow Grocery and they did because Rainbow knew what they liked. Because like Cornell, Rainbow was their neighbor too. And at the end it was making sure as they walked that journey to their resting place, they were cared for with dignity and respect. And after the Jewish sister was laid to rest by her congregation, Cornell and Bill made sure that the sister who was Episcopalian received a proper burial at St. John the Divine.

It was Cornell making sure the absentee ballot for his 90 year-old neighbor got to the polling place.

Again, for Cornell it was returning to Harlem's AME Zion Mother Church of his college days and making sure a boyscout troop was reestablished. Now a trustee of the church, he helped preserve its history, including writing a book about the church's amazing journey since 1796.

When Cornell died, nearly 1,000 neighbors showed up at the church for his funeral. In his message that day, the Reverend Gregory Robeson Smith embraced the life that Bill and Cornell shared by invoking the names of Elijah and Elisha - the prophet and his companion. Two men who walked together to create a kinder world, a better land, a real neighborhood. And after the funeral, envelopes sometimes with $20, sometimes with more, came to Bill. Neighbor taking care of neighbor.

Bill and Cornell began their walk together as an interracial gay couple in the days where such couples risked their lives to be together, and, in certain states could be and were jailed. They began their walk together in the days gay people were institutionalized, shunned, arrested, and sometimes killed. How, then, during those sadder days did this neighborhood welcome them?

"There wasn't much of a neighborhood then. When you came into it, we were here," Bill said.

There may be people who don't know their neighbors. Cornell wasn't one of those people. Neither was Florence. Neither am I.

And neither is Bill, Cornell's partner of five decades, who sits outside of his neighbors' front doors with the petition to co-name 13th Street between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue "Cornell Edwards Way".

If you currently live on the block,
Bill especially needs your signature! So stop by Cornell's shop at 143 E. 13th Street and sign the petition.

Thank you to Bill for his amazing generosity and help in making these stories sing the life of Our New York.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's In A Name? If It's Cornell Edwards Way, Quite A Bit: Part Two

Bill, Cornell's partner of five decades is collecting signatures supporting the co-naming of 13th Street "Cornell Edwards Way". Stop by at 143 E. 13th Street and sign the petition!

In the meantime, settle in, get comfy and read Part Two of the story of how such a simple request to acknowledge Cornell's 43 years of contribution to New York City came about.

"You helped turn this neighborhood from a war zone into a community." - Lynn (Her father was a well known African-American clarinet player, and their family lived down the street from the Flower Stall. Cornell gave her brother his first job helping out in the store.

Cornell and his Christmas windows

The beginning was like any beginning of great things - a bit bumpy. There was that garbage can that got thrown through one of the front window. A flower store could be bad for certain businesses. Like drugs, prostitution, porn theaters. "Well, it was a dicey neighborhood," Bill dryly observed. And then there was that flower refrigerator system that got built half way but never finished because the money ran out. This eliminated selling flowers.

However, somethings went well. In a neighborhood rife with crime, Cornell never got robbed.

So with some agricultural leanings from the one side of his family still farming in North Carolina, and armed with a degree in English from NYU, Cornell set about doing what he had to do, starting with the tome of all plants tomes, Exotica. "Self-taught," Bill said.

Soon the plant peddlers, mostly from New Jersey and Staten Island, who serviced plant and flower stores from their trucks found Cornell. Every week or so they'd pull up their trucks and show their wares.

But it was the Manda Brothers that changed everything. Famous horticulturalists educated in London the three brothers' New Jersey greenhouse, established in 1910, was legendary. And even better, it was accessible by public transportation, an important detail since neither Bill nor Cornell owned a car. Cornell began to do business with them which would continued for decades until the brothers retired. After his visits to pick out items for The Flower Stall, the Manda Brothers' old 1936 pick up truck, painted green with house paint, would swing by 13th Street and drop off his order.

The shop was now open and thriving, with a specialty of exotic and colorful plants. Bill remembered a day when Cornell bound up the stairs to their apartment, excited about selling a bromeliad for $4.50.

There was also a special hi-fi system from Bill's college days in the store. Those were the days of tubes and wires and sensitive dials you had to tune carefully to get your station. Digital hadn't been invented. The old system sat on the wooden counter. Because the 10 watt Bell amp ran hot it needed to be turned off every night. Well, one night, Cornell forgot to turn it off.

The next morning Fire Station #3 from down the street was on its way to another fire when they saw the smoke pouring out of the store front. They couldn't stop because they were on their way to another fire and that was the law. So they called Fire Station #5. But #3's fire turned out to be a false alarm, so they headed straight back to Cornell, shooed away #5 and took care of things.

However, everything inside the store was destroyed. Counters, equipment, fixtures. As well as every single plant.

Perhaps a week or two, later, as the store slowly got fixed up, the Manda Brothers' old 1936 pick up truck painted green with house paint pulled up to the store. Before you could say 'bromeliad' those brothers jumped out, restocked the store with every possible plant imaginable, jumped back into the truck and drove away.

And it wasn't just the neighborhood looking out for Cornell. Cornell looked out for the neighborhood. And he didn't miss a thing. Like a sudden increase in odd activity at a certain doorway. People coming and going at short intervals but too short a time for brothel business. A simple question from Cornell to the owner of the building - "What's going on?" - quickly slowed down the growing drug business. "He didn't say much, but his words had terrific power," Bill noted.

There was also that time when Lynn, then in high school, decided to cut school one day. She headed down 13th Street to illicit teenage freedom. Catching Cornell at the doorway of the store she ducked down behind the cars and made a dash to the corner. Just as she got to the end of the block, there waiting was .... Cornell.

The teenager Lynn was not happy at all. But the adult Lynn knew the precious value of a neighbor looking out for the kids in the neighborhood. Like many of us who were running a bit too wild on the streets, those moments reminded us caring eyes who knew our mothers and fathers were keeping us in line and keeping us safe.

Cornell wasn't just a neighbor to the people on his block. Cornell was a neighbor to his neighborhood.

Part Three: New York was Cornell's neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What's In A Name? If It's Cornell Edwards Way, Quite A Bit: Part One

Bill, Cornell's partner of five decades is collecting signatures supporting the co-naming of 13th Street "Cornell Edwards Way". Stop by at 143 E. 13th Street and sign the petition!

In the meantime, settle in, get comfy and read Part One of the story of how such a simple request to acknowledge Cornell's 43 years of contribution to New York City came about.

Once upon a time...
...maybe in the 60's if not before...

... Second and Third Avenue around 13th Street and 12th Streets and perhaps other streets in our little neighborhood were peppered with SROs and "hotels" with names like Dover, the Village East, the Regina, and the Sahara. Even Schneller's had SROs.

The neighborhood was filled with businesses and families that had been there for years and years and generations and generations. Hudsons Army and Navy took up most of Third Avenue between 12th and 13th and the 97 year old founder still worked the cash register. (I remember this place well, the sagging floors, the floor to ceiling shelves piled high with jeans and the couple of times a then-friend shoplifted there). The barber shop school was there too, a wide expanse of many chairs and many beginner scissors and buzzers.

Across the street was Harry's Haberdashery where you could get two suits for $29. The rest of Harry's was uninhabited but in his building on 13th Street, Harry rented a room it an old man, maybe 100 years old. Once a week the old man would appear and take fifteen minutes to cross the street. Cars had wait until he got far across for them to scoot around him.

Manufacturers lined 13th street which is why the American Felt building is called the American Felt building. There were felt manufacturers there. (Now it's just famous for luxury lofts and Tom Cruise.)

Bill and Cornell lost their apartment on Second Avenue, and were exiled to Yorkville. But they wanted to come home. They looked around the neighborhood and found 143 E. 13th Street.

At the time, it was SROs and perhaps a "hotel" that was rented by the hour. A older gentleman was entering his third decade of leasing the building when he had an unfortunate meeting with a gun from someone who might have been visiting one of his rooms. Well, the older gentleman's son put his foot down. That building and its business was too dangerous.

Bill stepped forward with an offer to buy out the rest of the lease for $2000 and take over the monthly rent of $225. This rent was not for one apartment. This was the rent for the entire building. He and Cornell moved in. As Cornell worked in the boy's department at Abraham and Strauss, Bill replaced the broken coal boiler, the water lines, patched up the apartments and every week would put another piece of rooming board furniture in the empty storefront with a sign "Furniture of the Week". The sales covered some expenses.

And then one day in 1966, Cornell quit the boy's department and said to Bill, "I want to open a flower store. It's going to be called The Flower Stall." And with a name but no store, the adventure began.

Part Two: The neighborhood

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Memories: The Outrageous Life and Times of Florence Deutsch Moed

On Saturday, December 20, 2008 at the Henry Street Settlement in New York City's Lower East Side over 60 people braved bitter cold and ice to celebrate Florence Deutsch Moed's life.

The stories were as outrageous, funny, poignant, riveting and thrilling as any letter from or visit with Florence herself.

My sister and I are forever grateful for all the incredible stories shared and the love so freely given.

Claire Olivia Moed
Louise Althea Moed

video by E.M. Smith and Adrian Garcia Gomez
video edited by Lola Kalman