"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.
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.
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
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?"
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
"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.
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.
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:
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. ** Related Posts:
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.
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. ** Related Posts:
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.
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.
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.
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!"
I yell, "THEN GET OUT OF BED!"
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?"
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: Getting Lost In The Dangling Conversations
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.