Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Visit to Dana

How are you, I asked Dana.

"It's a slanting period between 'then' and 'now'", she answered.  "Reality is not easy for me and this is a real shot in the arm of reality."

A real shot in the arm.  That was something Florence always used to say.  I don't hear it very often anymore.  It seems we use less and less words every day, leaving our sentences less and less beautiful.

Dana looks at me like I'm a beautiful sentence.  She always has.  It's why I used to run down Grand Street shouting her name when I saw her and why I sang Beatle love songs under my breath as we waited on Broome Street for her and George.  

"I'm looking at you as if I just met my past and my future and they hugged," she says.

If ever a way to reconcile the past with dreams still yearned for that would be it.

I tell her about the pre-elopement honeymoon the Mariner and I just took.

"It's nice you had a honeymoon.  To hell with marriage," she exclaims.  "He has to give a little! Take a little!  Have his heart breaaaaak a little...."

David and I join in.  "That's the storeeee.... that's the gloreeee.... of LUUUUUUVVVVVVV!"

Then she digs into her favorite soup.  Mushroom barley from Veselkas.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Memories of Fire and Smoke

Down at Dana's, facing the bridge I grew up across the street from, the Empire State Building kept disappearing and reappearing as the smoke from the fire grew and the winds changed. 

Florence had watched that bridge become an escape route not so long ago from other events that broke our city's heart.  This time no one had to cross the bridge to safety.

Walking back to Second Avenue, most of the side streets closed to folks, it was the smell that was familiar.  Been a while, but I recognized it immediately.  More so when I stepped into the lobby where a haze had settled.

Outside, the Avenue once again became a sad corridor.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

This Is What a Warrior Looks Like

I decided to try a new yoga class. Stepping into the room, I saw only one other young woman and she looked at least 35. Everyone else looked like 80. 

This 9:00 a.m. class is going to be a snap, I thought to myself. Especially after the teacher said in her best kindergarten voice, "Class is starting. Class is starting," and everyone kept on gossiping and catching up on all the health problems they were all having.

Things began slow and easy enough. And I was feeling all smug and stuff when suddenly, like an army rising out of invisibility, thirty-odd women became a fierceness that only comes with the decades they earned.

The Warrior Pose

These were warriors who fought battles never seen in Hollywood blockbusters or comic books.  I was barely keeping up.

Finally, the end of class was near.  The teacher, in her best kindergarten voice, asked, "Is there any pose you'd like to do?"

"Side plank," someone called out.

Are you fucking kidding me I quietly thought to myself? Side plank was what I watched skinny healthy 18-year-old girls straight out of athletic wear catalogs do on yoga DVDs.

A woman near me said, “Oh I can't do that."

"Me neither" I told her.

"Knee operation," she said.

"Me too!" (Yeah, so what if it was a year ago.)

The teacher, in her best kindergarten voice, began instructing.

And once again, an army of warriors, including that woman who just had a knee operation, emerged from my disbelief.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bad Girls of the Gym

I knew they were trouble the minute I saw them in the back.

The entire basketball court was packed with 60-odd ladies and a few gents of all ages - or at least the ages that remembered the lyrics of songs younger people call 'oldies'.

There was no room anywhere but by them, so I joined them.

We were all marching in place and stepping and toeing and heeling when "Peggy Sue" came on and these back-of-the-room ladies started singing and dancing their own steps.

They had that sparkle in their eyes and I swear if we were all in high school together, I'd do anything to go smoke with them in the girls bathroom.

Then the teacher said, "O.K. I'm changing the music, so NO CHIT-CHATTING!  O.K? NO CHIT-CHATTING."

The minute she said that, all three were off to visit with other friends in the far-flung corners of the huge basketball court.

Aretha came on and well, what the hell why not... while everyone was doing triceps and bicep and shoulder presses, the four of us started dancing and singing "Rescue me! Take me in your arms! Rescue me..."

Just as good as the girls' bathroom and well, much healthier than smoking.

However, getting them to stand still for a picture?

Like herding cats.  

You want me to use your names, I asked them, or should I just call you the Bad Girls of the Gym?

"BAD GIRLS OF THE GYM!" they shouted and went off laughing and joking with all their friends.

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Sometimes You Can Go Home Again

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Memories: Look Back in Love
At a Dream

The honeymoon trip over and the elopement still an unplanned surprise, cliches rattle about in the haze of jetlag.

"It was the trip of a lifetime."

"It was like a dream."

"It went by in a flash."

"It felt like ages ago."

"It felt like just yesterday...."

What better time then to look back and remember the delight of falling in love with a new world.

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Look Back in Love at Home

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Look Back in Love at Home

Under the category, "Eat Dessert First!" the Mariner and I have come to the end of our pre-elopement honeymoon. What better time than to look back in love at home.

A friend told me about a new documentary on homelessness.  The film revealed that homelessness became profoundly difficult to change when community and relationships were severed or lost.

That stayed with me for a long time.

Home was many things.

It was where Florence began to fade. 

It was the city that still trumpeted her spirit.

It was a meal with good friends, regardless of where we were or how old we had gotten.

It was the intimacy of familiar things and normal moments.

It was what we left and what we sought.

In recent days spent wandering from one place to another,  the Mariner and I had each other and, because of that, home was always there - be it the walls of an apartment in Spain or the stern of a houseboat in Amsterdam. 

Now familiar walls beckon.  It is time to go home.  But in many ways, we had never left.

Related Posts:

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Home is Where the Heart is and the Heart is Always Home

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Sunday Memories of the Future of Love

Rare Friendships: Coming Home

Blog with a View

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Look Back In Love: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and a Couple of Other Places Too

 This used to be the sea.

Now it's farmland, built slowly over decades. 

The Dutch reclaimed it from the waters that surrounded them.  They needed to transform and reshape their world so they could eat food and not drown.

If they could reclaim land from sea, then what could possibly stop any of us?

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Look Back in Love
at Sunday Memories of Old Friends

Us in Paris

photo: Ted Krever

I would have never left my apartment to go visit a foreign city, which in my book also included New Jersey.   But accidentally meeting Dutchie when I thought I was really old but only just a kid, I found myself crossing the Atlantic for the first time to see how she lived.  For someone who didn't visit Brooklyn at that time, I am not sure how that came about, but go I did. 

And then it was as if we could not stop traveling.  In cars to farms or trains to parades and on several planes to parties or really good food, and once to a pig race.

Maybe when you are traveling so much you finally get to where you are going.   Who knew in all our adventures we were also going home.

Years ago I wrote: In the whirl of time, we hold each others' footsteps, the ones we took towards love, through loss and then back into unexpected life again, and we bear witness for one another of how amazing and surprising life turned out to be. 

Not seen in the picture are the two  patient, good humor partners who somehow, in their own journeys to an amazing and surprising life, built a doorstep to a beautiful home that always welcomed us in, no matter where we were, no matter what. 


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Look Back in Love, 200 Miles an Hour

the high-speed train between Barcelona and Paris

After her marriage and familial responsibilities ended and she stepped into her own life, late 50's maybe 60, Florence kept saying "I was asleep all my life.  I was asleep."  The fury and regret that fueled those words were palpable.

Who the hell wanted to grow old like that?  I did everything I could to stay awake to what was actually happening.  Coffee helped.

The thing is when you are really and truly awake, the horrible stuff becomes something wonderful and the wonderful stuff flies by.  I wasn't waiting for things to begin.  I wasn't dreaming of something that would never happen.  I wasn't holding my breath.

From the beginning, it felt like the Mariner had always been here.  From the beginning it felt like we just met.

Every once in a while I'd glanced back just before the horrible and the wonderful became a memory but unless I was reminded or reread my diary I was sure to forget.  Like being on the high speed train, attempting a picture of things so beautiful became almost impossible because they were gone before I could snap a photo.

There was nothing left to do except sit back, enjoy the beauty and stay awake.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Look Back in Love
With Some Really Good Food

Under the category, "Eat Dessert First!"  the Mariner and I are off to our pre-elopement honeymoon.  What better time than to look back in love.  With food.  Which is also love.

In this city where modern means 1897 because old means 1305, there are a billion more small shops than there are supermarkets.

And there are a trillion more candy shops. Like this one where the streets are paved not with gold, but with chocolate.  Looking at it I wondered how the diaspora would have turned out if that's what my grandparents had heard.

In this old city that feels as sprightly as New York, there are restaurants where the house wine comes out of a sprocket in the wall...

....bottled in a whiskey bottle and chilled.

And dinner is so beautiful, even the soccer player had to take a picture of it...

...with a real camera, not a cell phone.

The meal disappeared in half the time it took to cook it.

And in quiet corners by monuments of love and prayer to the angels still unfinished after 100 years....

...sweet, warm drinks are there to remind us love feeds us just like a good meal.

And to start thinking about where we are going to eat dinner.


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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Memories: Look Back In Love: Dancing in the Streets

Visiting a continent neither Florence or my father had ever gone to, there, in a small square built from stones older than the Bible, barely noticeable on the map but huge as we stood looking around it, were hundreds of people and a live brass band.  

The minutes they started playing this traditional music everyone, young, old, middle-aged, grabbed hands to make a dozen circles and began dancing in ancient steps the love they felt for their city.

Placa Nova

My Mama Done Told Me

Reruns of Sunday Memories: Lost in The Dangling Conversation, A Childhood Joy Found

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Look Back In Love: The Not-On-TV Office: Episode Two - Work Is Where The Heart Is

Under the category, "Eat Dessert First!"  the Mariner and I are off to our pre-elopement honeymoon.  What better time than to look back in love. This time in the Office.  Where love blooms in many different ways.

Originally posted August 19, 2008.

This is Nick. He's to my left.

He talks to me over the "hedges."

Sometimes I hear him giggling in shock while he listens on his headphones to Wendy Williams on BLS. We lend each other books and because of him I'm trapped in the middle of an adolescent vampire series where I am reliving the worst of every crush I ever had only these book characters have better luck than me even when they want to suck the blood of the one they love. I lent him a book about a woman's spiritual journey. I'm not sure if that's an even exchange, especially after he told me he reads two pages and falls dead asleep, even on the train. He also makes coffee every day. I supply popcorn. He's the go-to man for pop culture. I supply the moral advice.

This is me.

Thirty-hours a week I get a break from Florence-stuff (except when I have to get on the phone with the insurance company, Medicaid, CASA II, the doctor’s office, the home attendant agency…)

This is Adriene. She's to my right.

This is what I see when we talk.

If it's not Monday we talk quite a bit. She listens to Michael Baisden on her radio which, unlike my radio, doesn't get static. This is an actual exchange:

A: Oh he's so nauseating.
C: Why do you listen to him?
A: Because he's an idiot.

Sometimes we sing together, and when Kiss FM plays Rock Steady by Aretha, I turn on my radio and hug it so it doesn't get static and then me and Adriene get to chair-dance in stereo. She's the go-to woman for basic information like the seizures and video game connection, best methods to kill mice, and the 70's. I supply the cheerful morning greetings and once a gluten-free loaf of bread which turned out to be inedible to humans and mice. When she really wants to upset me she offers to hug me. When I really want to upset her I talk about foods with wheat.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Look Back In Love: My Mama Done Told Me

Under the category, "Eat Dessert First!"  the Mariner and I are off to our pre-elopement honeymoon.  What better time than to look back in love.

Originally posted on May 8, 2008:

Florence is refusing to do much but lie in bed.

I say, "Fine. You don't want to get out of bed, then go lay down and die."

She yells, "Lie down! Lie down!"

I say, "You can't get out of bed, but you can still correct my grammar?"

She yells, "Yes! It matters!"


She doesn't.

The Jonathan Schwartz show starts.

We settle in to listen.

I look at her butchered hair. That's because the week before I took the household scissors and chopped off big chunks of it. I did that because it was a huge halo of wildness, so thick and silver sparkling. Now it was a huge halo of wildness that got caught in a buzz saw.

Sinatra comes on. She sings along.

"My mama done told me... a woman is two faced... cry in the night..."

Knowing something of her dating history, I ask her if that's true.

She says, "I didn't make it up. That's what's written.

I start laughing. She asks why.

"You're singing with heart.”

Shrugs, "I'm just trying to get the words."

And then she - who broke many hearts of many old girls and garnered many angry love letters and hurtful looks across crowded dances put on by the local gay senior citizen group - she looks up and asks, "Is it true? A woman is two faced?"

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reruns of Sunday Memories: Lost in The Dangling Conversation, A Childhood Joy Found

Technical difficulties and medical happenings welcomes in rerun of technical difficulties and medical happenings.

Originally posted  April 28, 2013

A tense moment in The Rifleman

He had waited until 6:30 for HIS show to come on - The Rifleman.

I had never seen it.  I had never heard of it, my understanding of Westerns gleaned from Florence's critiques of bus driving styles and Bucko's Cowboy Lands.

But my father pulled up his chair close to the new flat screen TV that my sister had managed to incorporate into his life from 3,000 miles away, and watched with the rapture of a little boy

And then I remembered something.  A conversation had when he was speaking in more sentences than the few dozen he now repeated over and over again.  

Amidst the poverty and the brutal unhappiness, both  at home and on the streets of the Lower East Side, every once in a while, an extra nickel would be found and the kids would race off to the Saturday matinee, probably on Delancey Street.

There, beloved heroes fought favorite villains, the cheers and boos of hundreds of exhausted, usually hungry, tough little kids filling the beat-up old theater.  My father told me that every time the bad guy started sneaking up on their cowboy, they'd all shout, "Look behind you, Cowboy Hoot!!"

I telephoned him, seeing if I could shake loose from the mind slowly fading away, more of those days.  But, other than the names of the cowboys he loved and the cost of admission, there wasn't much left.

Before ringing off, his growing impatience and panic for Meals-On-Wheels to arrive now crowding our conversation, I told him I had never seen The Rifleman until I came to visit him.

"I'm wondering when they are going to run out of plot.  Awful lot of activity in that quiet little town," he said and then hung up to wait for lunch to be delivered.

Related Posts:

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Our Westerns
Sunday Memories: The Intimacy Of Men

And What Did My Sister Do On Her Birthday!

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Hoot Gibson