Thursday, December 31, 2015

What Dana Says Starts the New Year Right

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

Yet, she is like a lighthouse.   

When you least expect it, her brilliant light explodes into clarity and words that change the world.  David, her son takes as many down as he can and shares them with me.

Over the next while, old stories and new moments of Dana will be noted.  What Dana Says is worth pulling close and holding tight. 


The grueling freelance gig coming to an end, there was a faint light way in the distance beckoning a visit to Dana.

How is she doing?, I wrote her son, David, my Boy Next Door.

His reply didn't surprise, but still saddened.  She had had some rough weeks, was frailer than the last time I visited, wasn't walking a whole lot.  And yet....

And yet....

"I gave her some yogurt the other day," he wrote me.   "She said it was delicious. I said it was because it was Greek.

And without missing a beat she said " Their yogurt is better than their economy.""


Related Posts;

What Dana Says Is a Blessing for the Future

You Never Expect What Dana Says

The First and the Last

A Visit to Dana

Sunday Memories:  Two! Two! Two Memories In One!!

Sunday Memories of the Boy Next Door

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Buddha Has Left the Building

It was one of those moments that only happens when the timing is perfect.

A holiday weekend
Exhausted over-sleeping
A long list of things to do
Deciding to go to the pharmacy first
Missing the light and walking on the 'other' side....

...and there the Mariner and I stumbled onto a small pile of amazing books and two lonely plants.

A guy, carrying a shitload of stuff bounded out of the building.  "Take them!" he said.  He was moving out.  And not just out.  Out and away. 


That beats New Jersey by a couple of thousand light-years.

We didn't need to be told twice. They were good books - Just Kids, New York Times photos book, a book about Levon and the Band, David Lynch's meditations - they were the kind of books we would have bought at the Strand.

Cart, knapsack full, we headed to errands.

"Come back later! There will be more!"

When we did swing back around, dragging shopping bags filled with cold medicine and freezer bags, a pro was hovering over the now much-bigger pile of books and magazines.  We knew he was a pro because when the Mariner bent down to check out something, the pro slammed his hand down on it and glared. 

"Let's wait for the guy to come back downstairs, maybe get a picture," I said.

He came bounding down the stairs, clutching a big Buddha. 
Like lots of musicians and painters and artists and writers, he had come to New York a ton of years ago, lived in just about every neighborhood, and then finally landed on 14th Street. 

Been there for like forever, watched the street fights on hot nights, went to every store, knew every store owner (until they all got kicked out because the rent went up), knew the neighborhood, and then one summer he had to get away and Nantucket seemed as away as away could be.

And there he met a woman he fell in love with and then he started this podcast about the island and now there was a kid and yeah, it was hard to leave,  he was defnitely feeling emotional about it, but New York wasn't New York anymore and there was a better, kinder life waiting for his new family in the middle of the ocean where new stories awaited. 

The woman he loved whipped out a phone and showed us a picture of the cutest baby in the world.

"Do you want this Buddha?" the guy asked.  "It's been with me in every home I had in New York. It's been with me through everything I went through."  Like good times.  Like bad times.  Like life.

But, of course.  It would be an honor, we said.  And then I snapped the picture before we all said goodbye to New York.

If you want to hear stories about His Nantucket, Doug Cote's podcast "INSIDE THE WHALE" can be found here

Related Posts:

Inside the Whale

Perfect Timing

Refusnik on 14th Street

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Memories:
Apres Le Joie
Avant que le Bus

He talked non-stop to his friend about his holiday.

And she finally rested.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Different Nutcracker for the Holiday Season

Everyone was running crazy on the street, what with packages and presents and deadlines and the avalanche of Christmas decorations crashing down from every lamppost and corporate window.

Except here.

Like zen masters, they moved around one another as customers slipped in and out of chairs that were built with the form and function of a beloved car from the 60's.

You could stand there for hours and never be bored of the ballet ... scissors sweeping up and clippers zooming down and folded bills tucked gratefully into artisan hands.

There is no need to dream of sugar plums when you have a great haircut.

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: The Intimacy of Men

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Being Sick During the Holidays
Calls for an Encore about the Holidays

Originally posted December 27, 2012:

When a friend got knifed to death, I got off the messengering bike, put on a skirt, a real bra, clean shirt, snappy beret and hit the many employment agencies on Fifth Avenue in the forties.  It was too hard to pedal  in midtown traffic when everything hurt so much inside.

It was 1977 and entry-level jobs could be found if you showed up to plastic chaired florescent testing rooms with battered typewriters and sharpened pencils.  I found out I was good at adding and subtracting, but sloppy on accuracy when retyping the paragraph about the brown fox that was quick.

An index card with a company's name got pulled out, a call got made and I entered these doors to be interviewed by a man whose eyes never left my breasts.

Finally, off the housekeeping-housecleaning-bikemessengering-babysitting route, I got to sit down and sit still in order to make money.

The other night, Christmas in full bloom, wandering during a work recess of a job I sit down for, weaving in and out ice skating and cute shops, the Mariner and I bumped into these doors, barely unchanged from almost forty years ago.

So hard to remember one day to the next, the word winter, or the fact I had seen one of my favorite documentaries with a good friend.  But standing at these doors, I remembered the 8 a.m. hustle of many girls in many heels, much perfume, tons of makeup and me waiting to enter elevators that rode us to jobs we sat down for.

Related Posts:

Tales From A Hard Day's Night: Mieux La Chance, Que L'Address (Better Luck Than Skill)

Sunday Memories: God Is In The Dominoes

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Being Sick Calls for an Encore about...
Being Sick

Originally posted on May 13, 2012

Sheriff Street Park
Until Florence got sick, I hadn't been back to the playground since kid-ness.

It was now renovated.  They had torn down the kindergarten building that had the public bathrooms we used during our kindergarten bathroom breaks, and put up a jungle gym instead.  The baby swings were still there and so was the sprinkler, which, when I was little, had been my idea of heaven.

But the sandbox was no longer there because sand had been deemed unsanitary. The big swings were gone because they had been deemed too dangerous (and judging from a small scar on my chin, perhaps they were). 

And the Men's Park was still empty.

However, the Bridge still loomed above the playground.  That constant song of train and car was the same as it always had been, from the very beginning of me playing there, sometimes by myself, sometimes with other kids, and when it was summer, sometimes in the summer camp program

Florence, five stories up, practicing, always a shout away if it was time for me to come up or if I had a question, like could I play outside a little bit longer.  That Bridge never left even when I went off to discovered Washington Square Park.

When I moved "uptown", I would pass the playground, year after year, decade after decade, on my way to visit Florence or a friend sitting shiva or a rare reunion with friends still on Grand Street.  But I don't recall ever entering it. 

Then Florence got sick.  Almost over night, she no longer could rush through her city and her life as ferociously as blood rushed through a body.  Suddenly days were filled with constant care.

So our big excursion, outside of making it to the car service waiting on the corner, became a trek to one of the park benches that faced the sprinkler and was practically under the Bridge.  We'd sit there for what felt like hours, but probably wasn't and listen to the only thing that hadn't changed, that song of train and car.

And then, Florence, with growing awareness that this was it for her day, her life, would ask to go home before she had to admit how heartbroken she was that the playground was now the limits of her world.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

It Ain't Girl Power. It's Power.

about a meeting in the Security Council, United Nations

You only have to glance at a rerun of a TV show from not so long ago and the only thing you'd see the wife-mother-sister-daughter-girlfriend-fatbestfriend doing was.... not much.

Maybe smiling, or crying, or being supportive or being dumb or being admiring or just being... well...wife-mother-sister-daughter-girlfriend-fatbestfriend.

And somewhere... well... everywhere girls and women are still doing just that.

Not here.  Because when Ambassador Samantha Power steps up, it ain't just smiling, or crying, or being supportive or being dumb or being admiring or just being... well...wife-mother-sister-daughter-girlfriend-fatbestfriend.

It's someone really smart and capable stepping into power.  And being a leader.
Related Posts:

Samantha Power

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Once Upon a Haunting...

the Henry Street Playhouse

This was the row where we often sat for concerts of Florence's colleagues or some of our classmates or visiting artists or the student orchestra.  The minute the lights went down, my father and I would fall fast asleep.  Either out of exhaustion or an attempt to escape yet another enforced concert.

It was the theater that David wove a story of global mass destruction when, just as the lights went down and the Paper Bag Players began to perform, I told him I wanted to run downstairs to see if my friend was there.  I stayed in my seat.  Terrified.

It was also where I saw the last public performance Florence gave during the Henry Street Centennial celebrations.   She had such debilitating stage fright that she had to come out to the piano before they raised the curtain.  

But the minute she started playing I sat up, not sleepy at all.  Each note opened up the heavens inside that old Playhouse and I heard something I had waited my entire life to hear.  I heard something I think she had waited her entire life to play.

That moment, decades into a submerged career, became a haunting.  I never returned to the Playhouse after that. 

Until... twenty years later,  Doug was cast as one of the ensemble in ONCE UPON A MATTRESS and of course they were performing at the now-historic Henry Street Playhouse... 

...and who knew an unspeakable grief about my mother's art never taking full flight until the very end could be softened by the delight and joy of one of her favorite musicals.

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS - playing through January 4th at the Henry Street Playhouse.

Related Posts:


Sunday Memories: The Boy Next Door

First In the Eyes of God, and Then In the Eyes of New York and Now By the Law of the Land

New York Daily News: Once Upon A Mattress

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Memories: Home for the Holidays and Remembering Christmas/Time Again

The lobby party was held again.  

Wallace, the Christmas dog, kept his nose to the ground making sure nothing missed his mouth.  

And we all gathered around, another year, grateful to see our lives in each others' faces.

Almost like being 30 again, tons of years ahead filled with promise and possibilities.  Deja vu all over again somehow made time move a little slower.

Originally posted December 16, 2014:

Gathering again, the lobby, for a brief moment, reminded us, like Dorian Gray's portrait...

...that there were holes in between one another.... missing neighbors heralded time fleeing.

Yet, Wallace still pranced with optimism.

This was his feast, knowing dozens of hands would reach down and slip a holiday treat.  Worth it to wear the bow.

And old friends, constant neighbors, traveling comrades still had things to say.

After all, there were still things to discover.

But, as the familiar walls echoed all our decades together...

... there were new neighbors, making their own memories of early times when they were young in the old building.

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: Ghosts Of Christmas Past, Present And Future

Sunday Memories: It's A Wonderful Lobby

Thursday, December 10, 2015

On the Way Home...

It was a long day with good news of a bad man finally getting arrested for condemning thousands to death.

The sidewalk was filled with a city still recognizable as home ...

... like three guys celebrating finding seriously good chairs someone put out for garbage night....

...a crew moving earth in the middle of a late-night traffic jam...

...friends making a movie about homelessness...

Every hello and chat was filled with gratitude for neighbors and grief for those thousands of people who never got to walk down a night street in their own cities and towns again. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Refusnik on 14th Street

It was morning.  We were on 14th Street, loaded down with groceries. 

The guy was a jerk, honking his horn in his big white truck you see in commercials for Viagra.

He was looking for an argument because we were crossing the street and he wanted to turn faster than we were walking. He wanted to let us know he didn't give a shit about lights and right of way. He had a truck that was good enough for Viagra.

I said "Thank you." And smiled like he was doing me a favor letting me know he was there.

The Mariner knows cars and driving so he had technical details on his side.  Which is why he stopped and gave him a look like, "What's your problem?"

Which was exactly what Mr. Viagra wanted. He wanted a fight.

 I refuse. I refuse to be that man's enemy.

If the employees at the Abulafia Bakery in Jaffa can wear tee shirts saying "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies", then I can refuse to be the enemy of some Viagra jerk. 

Related Posts:

Abulafia Bakery

Sunday Memories of Millions of Burgers

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Memories: Heart and Soul
And Then Some...

This is Joel.  He puts the world's heart and soul into photographs.

Sometimes it's India.  Sometimes it's Occupy Wall Street.  Depends on the day.

This is Joel's photo of me.

He got me to stand still for a split second and send a prayer to love with hopes it would be returned.   It was this picture, years later, that caught the Mariner's eye.

And this is Joel at his birthday party.

Two dozen friends from all over the tri-state area descended on New Jersey to celebrate, shower him with art books and good food and sing along with his renditions of Noel Cowards' bawdy songs and political parodies.

Joel just turned 69.  His mother is 100. This bodes well for the world.

Long live his heart and soul. 

Related Posts:

Three Decades at Veselka's (aka Joel: Inside and Out)

Joel Simpson

The First and the Last

Thursday, December 3, 2015

When Things Are Going to Hell,
A Brief Reminder of Better Days
And Better Men

The news about San Bernadino wouldn't come for another couple of hours.

Passing the old firehouse on 14th Street, lots of furniture was being moved out ...

... and lots of tools were being moved in.

But one thing stayed. 

Related Posts:

New York Times: San Bernardino

New York Fire Department:  Line of Duty Deaths 1890-1899

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Good Guys Win

"The world is in such a fragile place," I wrote friends.

"I often come home wondering if the bad guys, regardless of whether they are in governments or in insurgent groups, are winning.  So I hold on to the moments that speak of something better than war, including our dinner together, the happiest wedding ceremony ever, healthy food, running water, sanitation, heat on cold days and good health."

And a home filled with moments of well-loved cats and a good guy who wins over hearts and minds with his heart and his mind.

Wishing my friends peace and joy, I also sent hopes for moments that would last decades and speak of something better than war,  reminding us all that sometimes the good guys win.