Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Encore: Just in Time for the the Holidays: Thanking the Problems for Being the Gifts

Originally posted Thursday, November 27, 2008

Years and years and years ago times were, well, not so hotsy totsy. I was urged to every night make a list of three things I felt grateful for. I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard of. If there were things to feel grateful for, I wouldn't be in the shape I was. But desperate for anything better than what was, I did. Often item 2 and 3 were the pencil and the paper I was using. Scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Then one day I noticed a gentle reprieve. The list grew. My life soften.

Things got better, things got worse, things got different. Things got real. Life went on.

Then things got, well, not so hotsy totsy. I was urged to thank my problems. I told the bearer of such advice to go fuck himself. But desperate for anything better than what was, I did. And slowly a rejection turned into a reprieve from a firing line, a disaster led to the perfect place where things ran perfectly, a broken heart broke open bigger and I ended up loving someone else more.

Each obstacle held the gift I always wanted. I began to thank my problems. But only after the fact when I saw how well things always turned out

Things got better, things got worse, things got different. Things got real. Life went on.

And then things got completely and unequivocally horrible grief loss rage insanity wiping shit off floors begging love not to leave sudden wakings in the middle of the night desperate to have those lost years back desperate not to feel it was all over desperate...

There was nothing to do but thank and thank and thank while pouring out pain like a mother giving birth not always sure the gift I sought laid beneath such poundings. The more I poured out pain, grief or loss or desire or yearning or unresolved or uncertainty or fear or .... pages and pages and pages of thanks poured out too, like the kisses that pour out when love invites.

Thank you for this crisis -- it got me to go deeper and recognize the bruised injury thank you for forcing me to practice loving even when I was being rejected it hurt like hell and I was so exhausted from years of crying but I finally emerged from the prison I had always lived in thank you for such sorrowful childhood moments it taught me to stand in the heart of a crisis, a trauma, a disaster and understand war and choose peace thank you for my desire and my passion. It has kept me moving to bigger rather than smaller thank you for the directness of your words the clarity of your heart oh and thank you thank you thank you for that kiss that night thank you for this pain that makes me weep with regret and love with abandonment thank you for such a beautiful home it may be filled with heartbreaking memories but it is a home that sheltered me these three tough decades and I can still afford to live in and it is now so rare and I am blessed.

Thank you for the memories of where everything that went wrong was only on its way to going right.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Memories: Thanks Winning

The doorbell rang.

This was before intercoms and videos. Lobby doors were open, directories were very clear.

So Florence answered the door. There stood a delivery man holding a huge box.

My father had won in some office lottery a 25 pound turkey for Thanksgiving.

That's how I knew it was Thanksgiving.

I remember sitting down to the first and I suspect only Thanksgiving meal we ever had as a family. But, I have no memory of the meal itself.

I also suspect, poor memory and all, that it was the only thing my father ever won.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Oh Happy Day

On day in 1965, during one of the many tussles I had with my sister, Louise, I struck a rare blow and, shortly after that, she landed in Beth Israel Hospital (our hospital of choice where my broken arm got set and where my mother, Florence visited frequently until the night she died).

Years later, in fact two weeks ago, I found this drawing I had made commemorating both the Thanksgiving holiday and my sister's recovery from spinal meningitis. Perhaps I was genuinely thankful. Perhaps I was greatly relieved I hadn't killed her and was now reprieved from a life burdened with a horrible secret and crushing guilt. Either way, I was clearly glad to give thanks.

Florence's mother, Sophie told me one day to always say 'I'm sorry' first. I did for years until it became detrimental to my health to believe I was always wrong and beholden to make things right, regardless of the circumstance.

I always thought 'I love you' was the most important sentence in the world, probably because I heard so little of it. I did many things to say that sentence and I did more things hoping it would be said. Those words, important as they may be, were at times just words without action.

It was, when forced to heal from too many 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you' that shouldn't have been said, that I learned how to say 'thank you' to everything. With every statement of gratitude I grew back my sense of self. 'Thank you' became my fountain of youth, richness, and joy.

The night Florence died at Beth Israel the words I said most were "thank you". Perhaps if I had drawn a picture of that night it would look exactly like the one I drew for my sister so many years before, only with more machinery around the hospital bed and without my dad.

Thanksgiving 2011 - November 24th would have been Florence's 87th or 88th birthday. I was privileged to join her on her journey to her end and somehow along the way I got to love her and be loved by her in ways I could have never imagined.

Since then, I have survived these past years because of the varied gifts she had bestowed upon me, both tangible and intangible, least of all this blog of stories about the City she and I love with all our hearts and souls, and every bit of our passion and our art. For that and for everything I am truly thankful.

So Florence Deutsch Moed, Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Halls To Peace...

... are often unadorned.

One just hopes they are well lit, not just with strong bulbs, but with good intentions to seek common ground and the heart and soul of the other.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Memories: When A Picture Is Like A Song

We were talking about how songs were haven for memories, sometimes so painful they couldn't be listened to for years. And smell, like when I walked into Florence's building and smelled the rice and beans of the apartment right by the elevator and, if it was shabbas, the competing chickens cooking from floor to floor.

Once a wind flooded me with memory. I had missed Autumn in New York one year and didn't realize until the following October when a wind embraced me and I remembered how much I had needed it around me. It was a memory of every Autumn I had ever lived in my hometown.

But pictures were less memories and more like stickies or little notes left to remind me of facts - a painting of childhood fairy tales, a photo by Weegee, a postcard sent by a friend reminding there was no excuse not to write.

And then opening this picture, I remembered not the facts that some guys were working on the roof across the street, but that the day was warm and the time was open and the air still hurt to breathe and I forced myself to move a defeated arm and, just like I had been taught, seek expression.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Peace Be With You

The United Nations

And Peace Be With You.

The longer road begins with a word, a word that opens the possibility of everyone being welcomed to the table. And one hopes the word and words that follow build that welcome. Sometimes it is called the law. And sometimes that law welcomes justice to the table.

There is this programme available all around the world that teaches the teachers the word and the many that follow.

Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Memories: When We Could Still Cry In The Middle Of A Fist Fight

This was first grade.

Second grade you couldn't cry when punching the boy you liked who punched you first because you were teasing him too much in front of the other boys because you liked him so he had to take care of business and let you know he didn't like you even though you knew he did.

No, this was first grade. Where liking a boy wasn't on the table but teasing still was.

And when Mrs. F., the teacher chided you for being mean to one of the sweetest boys* in the class her words still held the blow of disappointment and shame for not being the best you could be. Hearts still sang with surprise and delight and tears still burst out and the squabbles of fists and words were easily healed with quiet words from teacher and a hug or a handshake between classmates.

*Mark S. where ever you are, I'm really, really sorry. I know I apologized in first grade and again many years later at the Avenue A bus stop on 14th Street, but I just wanted to let you know I meant it that second time. And I mean it now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Artist: Rob - Once I Was


Robert Pappagallo is a native New Yorker who goes around shooting his city.

This photo may not be used without permission from Robert Pappagallo

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Memories: "Candy, Candy, Candy For A Penny" - Another Installment

These were the revealed holy grail of my youth, a mountain of them at the Essex Street Market, where, as Florence got fresh fish or fruit, I stared wishing for the prerequisite penny that might release the treasures within.

Needless to say, that never happened. Candy, a verboten item, rarely crossed our palms except for brief moments during Halloween and perhaps a birthday party or a successful begging from a friend's lode.

Now, it is utterly impossible for me to pass one without putting in the prerequisite quarter.

First post: Candy, Candy, Candy For A Penny - August 10, 2008

Thursday, November 3, 2011

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

A series of Dana's writing.

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, November 1, 2011

GUEST ARTIST: DANA - Encore - The Sad Little Crone

A series of Dana's writing.

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.