Sunday, August 30, 2015

Remembering on Sunday the Ride Home From Summer

Originally posted September 14, 2010

It was on a train back from Coney.

I had been visiting someone half way there and when I got on I could smell the sun and the sea and the sand.

It was a mother and her two daughters and one of the daugher's daughter and that daughter's son. Three generations.

Doing what I had done with my gramma. A day at a beach, bags of wet suits and empty sandwich and cookie containers and just like that little boy, the ride back lulling me to sleep, my head on a warm lap.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Reruns: The Showdown

Originally posted August 18, 2010

That pigeon knew what it was doing. Sort of like the stare across a school lunchroom when you knew there were a couple of teachers in between you and having to prove it.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summer Reruns: The Promise

Originally posted July 18, 2013

Everybody rushed to the railing to take a picture of the Lady.  Everybody, not just the tourists.

She was still and forever our promise for a fair, an equal, a just life in a fair, an equal, a just country.

A younger than me but older than young woman, dragging her older than me but younger than ancient mother behind her jockeyed their way closer to the view.  Then, in what sounded like Russian, the daughter told her mother to pose with the Lady and quickly snapped several pictures.

Whatever journey that mother and daughter had traveled to that moment,  they now had, from those quiet camera clicks, proof of the promise. 

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Sunday Memories:  Getting Out Of Town

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Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Reruns of Memories:
Home Home Home On The Range

Originally Posted August 2, 2011


At Queensboro Plaza getting the N or the Q because the 7 isn't going into Manhattan on the weekend

The same MTA guy there when I got on the 7 to Main Street three hours earlier, still there on my way back still shouting into the megaphone...

"I'm just delivering the information they can receive it or not" but admitting 9 hours of this well he was just going to have to pray and give it to God when he sang in church the next day...

...and the gaggle of boys, speaking something I thought at first Korean but one gets sassy with me thought I'd be too nervous to tell him yes his hair cut was very attractive...

...and when I tell him I had the same cut in the 1980s including the shade in the back he figures out I was born in the 60's...

"I'm good at math, I'm Asian" they're headed to a party, they're from Tibet, they're arguing about which stop to get off, there will be girls there and they keep asking me which of them I thought was cute ...

...he seems like a good looking kid" and the kid going "I'm 19!" and I go "I'm old enough to be your grandmother, you're a kid"...

...and them all laughing and pushing and fixing their many different hair cuts trying not to look too fussy, I say to the sassy kid "you want to know how to get a girl interested in you? Listen to her" and him nodding but hoping he doesn't have to do much more to get her to kiss him...

...and then after the boys rush out to somewhere in Queens finally on the home stretch a family - the mom, the older sister who looked just like the mom, the fierce little brother, and the middle sister who had asked the screaming MTA guy for directions because her mother didn't speak enough English...

They sit down and I knit another pair of socks and the girl asks me what I'm doing and who I'm giving them for and the older sister takes out their new pet, a beta fish they got at the 99 cent store but it cost $7 they named her Vanessa...

...and that little girl smiles and I tell her about my fishes Esmerelda, Harold and Skuzy and her fierce little brother comes over because he wants to listen and they all get off at 34th waving good-byes and I miss them already...

It's all home as I go home.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer Reruns: Love Letters from
the Most Beautiful Harbor in the World

Originally posted August 25, 2011

Until I got on the Ferry I had forgotten how the smells and sounds were as intimate with me as Florence's music.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Reruns of Guest Artist, Dana:
Bus Drivers and Me

Bits and pieces of Dana are slowly beginning to visit other places.   

Yet, she is like a lighthouse.   

Her brilliant light explodes into clarity and words that change the world.  For What Dana Says is worth pulling close and holding tight. 

From a series of Dana's writing, one of my favorite short stories.  


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 5 p.m. 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 started to get up 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."


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Reruns of Sunday Memories:
April Showers Bring May Flowers

Originally posts October, 2008


It was one of those rare departures from home, the kind only Doc seemed to be able to pull out of me.

Visiting a ramshackle house with a long picnic table booming with food, almost much to drink and smart minds to enjoy, I found myself unexpectedly alone with another guest.

She was a New York sparrow. Looked delicate and cute, but was tough as nails, could survive anything and had.

It wasn't the champagne that loosened tongues and poured story into waiting ears. It was the relief of finding another who understood.

Years ago, the Sparrow’s mother fell ill. The Sparrow picked up the reins of care and began the sometimes slow and often much too fast changing of places - the daughter becoming the mother and the mother becoming the daughter.

Soon taking a shower at the place the mother lived in was no longer an option.  The tub was insurmountable, the shower stall too small.

One day the mother and the Sparrow got invited to a home which had a shower stall big enough to accommodate the mother's walker.

The sponge baths had been O.K., but to have a real shower…could the Sparrow give her a shower? the mother asked.

Can you imagine having to ask your child to bathe you?
Can you imagine washing your mother’s vagina and anus?

The Sparrow said of course.  Of course she would.   It was then she realized this shower would require her to be in the stall with her mother. That was an intimacy they had never before shared.

It wasn't that they didn't like each other or love each other. They did very much so. But it wasn’t that kind of warmth and physical affection so often seen on Leave it to Beaver or The Partridge Family.  Or even Star Trek.

So the Sparrow packed a swimsuit so she could get in the shower with her mom.

When the time came and the mother was carefully situated and the water was pouring down, the Sparrow, snug in her suit, stepped into the shower.

There is that moment with an ailing or elderly parent where their sudden nakedness fills your eyes and goes beyond skin and breasts and and scrotum and tufts of hair in quiet places. That is the moment you are never to be their child again.

And so it was with the Sparrow.  The privilege of being a daughter now lived in rounded shoulders, paper-thin fragile skin, a hand full of tremors and very tired eyes. All that was left was the greater need to be clean and a desperation to not be humiliated in the process -a  clinging to hope that, in such nakedness, some dignity might still clothe the soul...

... The Sparrow looked down at her swimsuit and wondered at the barrier she had placed between her and her mother.  She wondered what it was at this point in life about seeing her mother naked and having her mother see her naked.  She was 60, her mother near 90.  What was it that had put the suit between them in the first place...

She slipped the suit off,  and with both of them now naked, she began to gently soap up her mom.  And as she did, they both started to laugh and weep and laugh and weep and laugh until there was no difference between what poured from the shower head and what poured from their hearts.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
-- Charles Wesley

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Summer Reruns of a Day at the Beach: Mamalochen

Originally posted August 7, 2011

"I'm goin' ta Coney," I tell Dana.

"Why?" she asks.

"'cause this Master's student is doing a documentary on home and New York and nostalgia and stuff and she asked if we could go to Coney to shoot some video."

"Oh. You're going to your Mamalochen."

And when I see these three after their morning-beach-sit I remember my mother tongue and the heart that goes with it.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Rerun of the 11 O'Clock News:
The Real Joy That Day

Originally posted June 10, 2008

They shut down 8th Avenue because a second guy climbed the Times Building.

Just like when we were kids, watching an accident or a fire, we all hung out smack in the middle of the street watching the flashing lights, playing with one another and reenacting the news we were going to watch later.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stepping Out of Sunday Memories
And Striding Into Rafik's

This is Rafik's Step By Step Shoe Repair.

Through the fog of too many yogurt shops, expensive espresso cafes and sports bars plucked straight out of a suburban mall, Step by Step is a unmistakeable, undeniable beacon - a real New York shoemaker who can coax out of beloved shoes another decade.  Or two.

Every corner and every inch in that shop has rare beauty that only exists when craft is wielded by hands that know an old machine.

And, one recent morning, every customer who came in asked about the family, talked about the weather, described their hopes for their beloved shoes, and shared their holiday plans.

And every pair of shoes I found in thrift stores or was given by neighbors was brought to Rafik whose expert eye knew immediately if it was worth fixing. 

If my mother and my grandmother came back from the dead to have their souls repaired, they would go straight to Step By Step Shoe Repair.

Rafik might be too shy for a picture to be taken, but his shop welcomes anyone who, with a beloved pair of shoes, stops by and steps in.

Rafik's Step By Step Shoe Repair
323 Second Avenue (18-19th Streets)
New York City
(212) 614-0654 

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer Reruns of Irene's New York
"It Looked Chaotic but Really It Was Quite Organized"

Originally Posted August 16, 2009

Irene, mother of one, Lower East Side Girl through and through, remembers Her Orchard Street and Other Sundry Moments.


One of the few stores left where Irene can buy her socks and nylons

"I remember the ladders that rolled along the wall of shelves and the hair accessories all stapled outside on each box so you could really see all the barrettes and clips. Thousands of products, all the merchandise, all stapled on the outside of the boxes. You'd have to ask for what you wanted and they'd go get it for you.

When you were Chinese, they never paid you no mind until you were ready. And it wasn't like we were dressed nicely. We shopped on Orchard Street every other week. I don't know what my mother was buying.

I'll tell you what Orchard Street taught me. It taught me to negotiate. Those Jews didn't respect you if you didn't. If you didn't they were insulted. These days I don't bargain. There's no one there to bargain with.

My friends and I wandered the streets incessantly. People watched out for each other. My mother never worried. I wish my son had the freedom I had. He's eleven and can't cross the street by himself. He's starting now. He's starting on the bus.

 But when I was 7 (second grade) and my brother was 4 (Pre-K), my mother put us on the 6 train to visit my aunt in the Bronx, a cruddy part, and no one questioned that. My brother and I walked to the Municipal Building and went under the turnstile. I don't think that my mother was lazy. She worked hard and needed some time to herself and did not care to spend five to seven hours in my aunt's hand laundry store. We were pesky and insistent so she relented and let us go. If I did that to my son, I'd be arrested. But I hear that from everyone, in Queens, here, everywhere. Kids are just not independent like we were.

And I confuse my friends because it's hard for them to understand how it could be so fantastic to have lived a less than idyllic life in the Lower East Side among projects, tenements, gangs, and having to watch your back. I laughed when I read about your asking your friend to put away his camera because he might get mugged. To this day when I sit in a restaurant I have to sit facing the door so that I can see who is coming in or if trouble is looming, something I learned in my youth that I cannot shake, even if I am in a fancy restaurant.

When you get older, and reach back into your memory, you don't remember vacations or trips. You remember the boring moments. My father worked six days a week, long, long hours. So I remember when on Sunday, his one day off, he'd join us because it was so rare. Everyone in Chinatown went to City Hall Park because it was green and beautiful. I remember the rare Sundays my father joined us in the park. I remember that, not the first vacation we took to Toronto when I was in my late teens.

My son has been everywhere, San Diego, Sanibel Island, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Disney Land, everywhere. Soon, he'll be going to Costa Rica and probably China. You know what his favorite memories are? Bedtime, when we read stories."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Midsummer Night's Walk

Wandering down a deserted Tenth Avenue the city reminded us how it is Still New York.

How good it felt to be home.

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Seconds Before Becoming a Sunday Memory

"We're the last tire shop in the city," the man said.

"How long do you got here?"

"Maybe seven months?" he said

"Then what?"

"I don't know.  They're talking Houston Street."

"Gotta be east by the projects, they're developing the west side..."


"This is such bullshit." 


And then there was nothing left to say because what words were left in the world that could stop barely occupied glass buildings from erasing needed businesses taxis and cars and livery and delivery trucks relied on to keep New York going.


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