On one side, First Avenue with six lanes of traffic, some pouring into an underground express road or others, mostly taxis and black diplomatic vans zipping in and out and around one another attempting to scoop up passengers or dropping them off without armed security guards getting annoyed.
On the other side, the towering ventilation building for the Midtown Tunnel.
But the Mariner said it had been my idea. He said I, quite clearly and just the other day, said: "One night we should go to a quiet bar and have a drink."
Why not? Work was done, the week was over, the Internet was back on, the ceiling fans would have to wait and the cats had been fed.
Whenever it was that I had made such a flighty suggestion, I must have been remembering another time and another decade when the places I was remembering still existed. Because we walked for miles with not a bar in sight.
Finally, crossing 14th Street they began to dot and then pepper the avenues.
But, if there's weren't eight million huge TV screens blasting eight million different sports event, there were eight million people with fake IDs.
Bar after bar, street after street.
"Isn't there a list of bars for middle-aged people?" I asked.
The Mariner Googled 'lower east side bar for old people' but only came up with a bar called...The Old Man.
Finally, we wandered into the only bar we could remember not having a TV. The clientele looked a bit older than underage. In fact, the Mariner insisted there was one person there who could have been 40.
They didn't have sherry, I should have gotten the Campari with ice, I ate all the chips, the pistachios were gone and I just got tired of the noisy mess of bad conversations, combating existential ideas from faux-post-graduate cynicism. Complained about it.
"I didn't hear any of those conversations. All I heard were guys trying to get laid," the Mariner said.
"Really? I missed those!"
"Well they could have been the same conversation. We are just calling it different things."
So what if we were the oldest drinkers there by at least 30 years? A rose is a rose is a rose and that song remains the same.
The Mets were doing OK so it freed up some time. All of us, at some point or another, had closed off our hearts and souls and went about life "doing just fine". I did that a couple of times.
But, just like the Mets winning because the other team screwed up a lot, I got lucky. Friends and roommates had loving dogs and all those dogs wanted TO love. They were not afraid of intimacy. They made sure, curling up to me in bed, or putting their head in my lap, that I learned to get close to something other than a cigarette or a bar stool.
Later, Jupiter decided I was his and that was that and, really, cats aren't loving like dogs. They just expect to BE loved and they are not afraid to BE loved at all. They are not afraid of intimacy. And, with his demands to have his ear scratched, his fur brushed, his ball thrown and his dish filled, I had to learn to get close to something other than the safety of my own walls.
DAMN THESE ANIMALS, DAMN!!!
When you're used to cigarettes and walls and the Mets losing, life is predicable. So is a flat line on a heart monitor. Therefore and hence, if you want to go on an adventure into intimacy and four-legged beings are more inviting than a spouse at this point, check out the beefcake of the week:
THE PERFECT DOG
Seriously, it doesn't get any better than this beefy babe. Even his name, MACHO, is perfect.
Social Tees says: This charmer is so attractive we can barely keep our eyes off of him. When he visits, we can barely keep our hands off of him! He's just so damn curly, soft, and lovable.
But looks aren't everything, as we all (should) know... Luckily, this boy is as gorgeous inside as he is at first glance. Macho is smart, loyal, loving, and wonderfully friendly with everyone he meets. He's well mannered, loves to play fetch, makes a great walking companion, and is housebroken!
Seriously, you're not going to find a more adoring and cuddly soul mate. Plus, he's the perfect size for someone who wants a smallish dog that's not too small,
He's 3 years old and about 25 pounds and a young dog that's past the challenging puppy behavior!
Interested in adopting him? Complete an application at socialteesnyc.org!
TARZAN GOT ADOPTED!!!
Tarzan, the obscenely adorable lab puppy, was adopted a few weeks ago by a family of four in the neighborhood. They're over the moon with the new member of their family. His loving guardians couldn't be more thrilled. They smother him with cuddles and are working on basic training. His new mom and dad say: "We love our puppy, he's healthy and very happy in his new home. It was great working with Social Tees! The adoption process went really smooth. Thank you!!!!
I almost didn't take the picture. After all, I'm no Weegee. To put a camera to your eye and capture the inner remains of an exploded being is beyond me. I mean, I can look the hell of my soul in the eye. I can't stand look the hell of the world in the eye.
Only this time I was obligated to look.
Just that morning, I had been thinking about the time in 1976 when I saw a mugging happening to an old lady on Second Avenue and 15th Street. It was maybe near dusk, the Avenue was empty (as it was in those days) and I was on my bike. The mugger, twice the old lady's size, ran away very slowly.
I could have peddled after him and run him over. But I didn't. I was 17 and resigned to the bad guys winning. All I did was watch and think bad thoughts about bad people who do bad things to old ladies.
However, I never shook off the regret of that day. I did stop other muggings after, but it's the failures that haunt motivation, not the successes.
Walking by the destroyed and mutilated sound board and broken legs, that old 1976 feeling swept me almost to my front door, all the while tsk-tsking about how could someone do such a thing like that, just chop up a piano and throw it to the curb. Couldn't they have found someone who needed it?
Ah, the terror of that old lady and the smugness of that mugger flooded me and before I knew it, I stomped back through the waves of the many young people filling the streets with their blase look and urgent cell phone calls, and ignoring the smoke from the cigarettes they too would have to struggle for years to quit, I turned on my flash, and, just like Weegee, documented the scene of the crime.
We were walking down St. Marks on our way to look at things we could suddenly afford. But you walk down a street for, like, 40 years, a lot of them pretty sucky, it's not walking. More like stepping around unpleasant remains mixed with dog shit. Short and long travels then require a ballet dancer's grace and a lot of professional help.
"Tell me when you see someplace with happy memories," the Mariner said.
"That place!" I said, pointing to the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. Definitely remembered a great night there. Even with the really drunk 90 year old man hitting on all the butch girls. Then I looked. "Oh, it's closed."
Gramma lived in a small one bedroom apartment with a smaller living
room/dining room and a teeny-tiny kitchen. She slept in a cot in the so-called living room where the 'big'
Her husband, my grandfather, William, slept in the bedroom with his
own TV. He was always sick and, although utterly lovely to me, was an
inactive monster with a long history of not-so-nice to important people like his wife and his daughter, my mother Florence.
His wife and his daughter
The rare times I sat with him, we watched "Divorce Court". I didn't understand for years that it was all made up. All I remember was that episode where the wife with the long hair yelled and cried and screamed as her husband left her for a prettier woman and my grandfather roared with laughter.
Ill and old himself, he would one day, steal all the money that Gramma had saved from being a practical nurse as she withered away in a nursing home.
Until then, he lived sick in the bedroom and she lived on the cot in the so-called living room wrapped in her own world remembering Kiev and better times. She would sometimes shout questions or comments to William and I think sometimes he answered her. I never really saw their marriage and when you don't see something, you don't know it's there.
There were times William must have been in the Veteran's Hospital and so perhaps those were the one or three nights I got to sleep over. I didn't notice if he was there or not. There were more important things awaiting me at Knickerbocker Village.
Suffering through Gramma's God-awful cooking and inedible meatballs was worth the rare dessert of Hostess cupcakes, and snoballs.
And then after dessert, television, and not just the usual Friday night television watching, but the Friday-night-as-late-as-I-could-stay-awake-into-Saturday-morning-no-curfew television watching.
We'd begin with our usual Friday night line-up - Hogan's Heroes, Here Comes The Brides, Love American Style, Star Trek. It was the only window into a life of hope and happily-ever-after - a world filled with handsome men like Hogan and his crew, and where conflicts were resolved through principles and words or, if you were Captain Kirk, an honest fight without shirts.
Then Gramma would pull out of the closet the 'guest' hospital cot, open it up for me and give me one of the thin blankets kept for such occasions. Then she'd crawl into her cot and fall asleep.
But I would perch at the edge of the beat-up old cot and start turning channels into worlds I knew existed outside of the tight parameters called my childhood.
And that's where I'd run into "Divorce Italian Style". Not once, not twice, but every time I stayed over Gramma's house.
Oh sure, now I understand it as a great piece of Italian cinematic comedy, nominated in Best Director and Best Actor categories in the Academy Awards. Sure, it won for Best Writing, Best Story and Screenplay. Sure, Marcello Mastroianni and Daniela Rocca were in it, blah blah blah blah blah...
None of that mattered to me in my pre-breasts life. What mattered to me was the only scene I remembered for years until one day recently and 45 years after those nights at Gramma, I watched it again.
There they were, on the beach, Daniela Rocca, laughing and smiling and happy thinking Marcello Mastroianni loved her. And he, dreaming for freedom to marry the pretty young girl, wishing the sand would suck her into its depth and bury her away from any marital commitment he had.
Only now do I give gratitude that I watched all those Hogan's Heroes, Love American Style, Here Comes The Brides and a shirtless Captain Kirk fighting for a better life and a kinder world more than those late night moments with marriage, Italian cinema style.
Just off the avenue I call the countryside because it has so many trees and behind these branches are benches circling a fountain that bubbles elegantly during summer months.
I spent many months sitting by that fountain, slowly brushing away, like an archeologist, the rubble of life events the Buddha said we would all suffer.
I don't sit there as much anymore, but the gently undigging never ends, nor should it. After all, every morning, Florence sat down to practice. Every night, we brushed our teeth. Every day, everyone gets to start anew.
When walking that daily Exodus into the birthright of Resurrection, a prayer is offered: take away what I don't need anymore so I may travel without burden to the life I was born to live.
And every trip, every time, no matter what, whether I was little and holding her hand, or a teenager, arguing and sulking, the minute the train began its ascent out of the tunnel and up onto this elevated station, Florence would say, "This is the highest point of the subway in New York."
Just the other night, decades later, on our way to that young cousin, still younger than me but no longer young, a mother of big, tall teenagers, the F train began that familiar climb. The Mariner turned to me and said, "Did you know that this is the highest point..."
It was only later I wept. For out of nowhere, or perhaps, from the highest point, I missed my mother.
Fay's gorgeous vintage handlebar mustache has inspired hipsters from Williamsburg to Bushwick.
Wonderfully warm and affectionate, she's three years old and gets on fantastically with everyone she meets. Interested in cozying up to this cool cat?
KUPCAKE, THE MUPPET
IS MR. APRIL
Wheaten-Terrier mix, a bouncy riot and 2 years old, 29 pound. Super friendly with every dog, cat, and person he meets, and he's eager to play and cuddle.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR AND ON THE COUCH
Another Social Tees Success Story!!! That's Macho on the right, a chubby and amazing senior Chi, now napping happily ever after with his new brother Emo!
His mom says, "When we put in the application for Macho, we were so surprised this cute little guy hadn't been snatched up! We're happy he wasn't because he has made a wonderfully goofy, loving addition to our family.
We're going on two weeks, and he's doing great. His foster mom did a wonderful job taking care of him, and he's already down to 19lb. It's easy to exercise him since he loves walks, but he's also a great napper, especially alongside his brother, Emo.
He loves sleeping under the covers, playing hide and seek, giving kisses, and, most of all, belly rubs. We knew we would love having an older dog since Emo is also 8-years-old. I would encourage everyone thinking about adopting to consider a senior dog, and don't assume a dog has already been adopted if you saw him on Susie's Senior Dogs."
A huge, ridiculously wet and sloppy thank you to Susie's Senior Dogs for the amazing exposure they give mature rescue pups!!!!
We didn't have anything like this. None of our neighbors in the courtyard had anything like this. The socialist, more modern families who lived in the high-rise co-ops definitely didn't.
But, lining the Bowery, interspersed between rococo chandeliers and deco dining room sets were these spectacular bursts of ceramics. Me, B. and Cindy knew they were meant for something grander than the apartments we lived in.
They were meant for houses where only one family lived and there were extra rooms you didn't go in except for when company came.
Gray grim, nothing beautiful, not the way gray is in the Dutch master's paintings where a white light makes everything glow.
It's just grim.
The pregnant woman told me when it started today, she wanted to sue someone. She's a lawyer so that made sense.
But I don't want to sue. When it rains, I just get disappointed in the weatherman who said it wouldn't and then I just grimly walk through, ignoring everybody else. And everybody else just walks grimly through it, ignoring me.
I don't how I did it, but I began to insist it couldn't be included in any sale and I told that to each and every person who came to see if this was their home that they could fill up with memories.
I don't know how she did it, but my sister got someone to take down this light fixture and put up another one that looks almost the same but isn't.
I didn't know what to do, so I put it somewhere safe, on top of the record player and looked at it, and then didn't look at it and then did and then gave up and then checked the internet for rewiring guys and then did other things and then checked again and then made a call and then sent an email and then...
I don't know how it worked out, but the taxi was right there and the shop was open and I still had some money...
I don't know how come I got so lucky, but that light not only got rewired, it got polished and some beautiful bulbs. Then it got the right threaded rod, the right crossbar and a dimmer that was not a billion dollars.
And then Sean came up on his day off and managed to make everything work.
This little muffin cake was recently rescued from a high kill shelter in California during Social Tees' recent LA rescue mission. (Thanks again to all of you amazing supporters who helped to make that happen!)
Now she's an East Coast girl chilling with her new mom who says, "Zoey is an absolute pleasure and sweetheart. She loves to play with her new favorite toy and also loves to snuggle up next to me on the couch.
The first few days she was very nervous and antsy but I can definitely tell she is starting to trust and love me. She constantly rolls over onto her back and loves to get belly tickles. We have even ventured home to my parent's house in Westchester where she got to run around outdoors and meet her doggie cousin. She absolutely loved it!
I have never seen her happier or more content. I can't wait to take her more often once the weather gets nicer. Everyone who meets her can't help but say how sweet, gentle and adorable she is. I can't imagine my home without her! Thanks so much again for everything!"
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN
TO MEET YOUR TRUE LOVE/ SOUL MATE
THIS MUPPET IS CALLED KUPCAKE!
Wheaten-Terrier mix, a bouncy riot and 2 years old, 29 pound. Super friendly with every dog, cat, and person he meets, and he's eager to play and cuddle.
Part Russian Blue kitten! Playful, sweet, and ready to chase anything dangling about.
Raddy is 8-10 yrs old and only 6 TINY pounds! Super sweet and well behaved, great with other animals,
These and other amazing puppies, dogs, kittens and cats are up for fostering and adoption at PETCO / Union Square on the weekends and at Social Tees 5-7 week day nights!
The pipes under the kitchen sink finally splintered into a thousand pieces.
In the excavation, a bottle emerged. It had either been there when I arrived 37 years ago or had come to stay shortly after.
Obviously, over the ensuing years, it had been inconceivable to throw it out because you never knew when you might needed to emergency polish something. Instead of running out to some drug store in the middle of the night, this kinda-almost full bottle was always there to fall back on.
But looking at the old bottle, I had to accept that no matter how reluctant I felt throwing out something that still had something in it, the fact was that any liquid other than booze that was still good after almost four decades under an old sink could not be good for anything that breathed or showed other signs of living. It, along with some other toxic cleaners which had been hidden from view would be given to a recycling event and hopefully released safely to their final resting place without harming animals, wildlife, vegetation or humans.
Bought in 1961, it was a fold-out sleeper in subtle turquoise and blues displaying extraordinary taste and success. When things ended for all of us, it moved to my father's divorcé apartment down the street from his former marital home.
He sat on that couch for quite some time before heading to greener pastures in California. Charged with emptying out his New York apartment, it was clear to me that couch had no life left in it. But that did not stop him from arguing that it was a "good couch" and somehow I should take it in and sit on it as he had. In his world, nothing got thrown out. Nothing got unused. Nothing went wasted.
I appreciate my reluctance to discard something even when it was quite past its usefulness or purpose. It is a trait inherited from two people who had grown up cherishing the privilege of having enough money to buy something.
Eating pizza, like breathing air, is only noticeable when you stop doing it. I took both for granted.
Seymour didn't say much to me about breathing, but drilled into me early on, "Pizza is the healthiest fast food. If you can't get a meal, get pizza." Since I was figuring out how to feed myself, that was important information.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.