Thursday, April 28, 2016

Summer Reruns: Night Streets

While Her New York is on vacation, encores from the beginning.

Originally posted October 15, 2009

This is like daylight to me. Decades of working inside cubicles sometimes never going outside during the hours of nine and five, nighttime becomes freedom and joy and play, skipping down dark and bright streets.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What Diaspora Looks Like

The room almost emptied, the chair he sits on about to travel to a new home, Jutta's reading glasses I borrowed so I could see what I was doing.

Jutta's Sony CD/cassette/radio, her fingerprints in paint on the "play" buttons and drips and smears all over the speakers, now playing different tapes and CDs while a different kind of painting is attempted.

The little one claiming the chair Jutta sat in and claimed her art.

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Exhaustion of Diaspora: Home Where My Love Lies Waiting

Sunday Memories of the First Romance in Jutta's Kitchen

The Love that Guided the Remains of the Day

When All Is Said and Done

Jutta's Kitchen: Part Two

Sunday Memories: Jutta's Kitchen: Part Three

Jutta's Kitchen Revisited

Sunday Memories: Portrait

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Memories of the First Romance
In Jutta's Kitchen

Forty-five years ago, we held hands in this room.  Sitting exactly where I was sitting taking this picture.

That grasp between us was how we pulled each other through bewildering and frightening times.  When we couldn't hold hands, a secret signal - one ring - signaled the other that a phone call was critical...

...dragging the old phone extension into the bathroom, all those long talks deep into the night...

Teenage love rarely lasts, although Romeo and Juliet took it way too far.  We had other things to do.  Our grasp and our fierce adoration of his mother, Jutta continued us on in other ways.

 And so we did. 

Those days, like this room, are now both long gone.  It is time to pack up that former home he grew up in and I visited every chance I could.

I understand we are now near sixty, not near fifteen.  Yet, as we push cartons, and wrap plates, we still talk as we did as kids.  Perhaps less about high school and more about how to grieve and still hold onto hope.

It is that old grasp and our fierce adoration of his mother, Jutta that continue us on in other ways.

Related Posts:

The Love that Guided the Remains of the Day

When All Is Said and Done

Jutta's Kitchen: Part Two

Sunday Memories: Jutta's Kitchen: Part Three

Jutta's Kitchen Revisited

Sunday Memories: Portrait

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Love that Guided the Remains of the Day Into the Right Hands

We didn't know how much of Jutta's life lived tucked away in her apartment's corners and her decades of paintings.

As we began to clear out closets and cupboards, all the vases and pitchers and bowls immortalized in her watercolors and oils appeared.

One by one, day by day, her community came by to take moments Jutta had painted.

Neighbors took the kitchen table and chairs Jutta had served her son and his ragtag friends dinner all those years ago.  It was the kitchen table I sat at, young and on my own, and poured out my heart about life.

And it was the kitchen table at which I sat for Jutta when she picked up her paints again after decades away and began to reclaim who she was - an artist.  

Now it was going to be a whole new breakfast, lunch and dinner nook for an irreverent cook and a working actress.

The Sisters of Assumption called to say they could take all her pots and pans and bowls and vases for their thrift store in East Harlem.

A gaggle of painters - friends of Jutta's, Art Student League folk, people I knew, people I didn't know, came from all corners of New York.  Her frames, her canvases, her paper, her palates, her paints would not end up in the dumpster. 

These artists would carry on with what she loved so passionately.

But the old wooden easel still remained.  Someone offered to take pieces of it for lumber.   If it was still in the apartment, come our last day,  I guess we would have to.

Jutta, I said, let me know what you want.

Then I went through another pile of notebooks and papers.

An hour later, I got a message from a young woman I had met years ago in a workshop.  The very workshop I found out sorting Jutta's notes in that hour that she had taken years and years and years ago.

The young woman wrote that her paintings were outgrowing her easel and she was looking for a bigger one.  Was it still available?

Jutta's Declaration:

Related Posts:

When All Is Said and Done

Jutta's Kitchen: Part Two

Sunday Memories: Jutta's Kitchen: Part Three

Jutta's Kitchen Revisited

Sunday Memories: Portrait

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Encore of Diaspora and the Exhaustion that Often Follows: Even the Baby Chair
Is a Transient Moment

Another day of clearing of Jutta's home brought back memories of letting go and going on.
Originally posted April 1, 2009

"The Exhaustion of Diaspora" is a week long series of what it means to leave home and seek home and sometimes even find home, but not necessarily in any particular order.

Louise had it first but I didn't know that because I was either not born yet or too little to sit up on my own.

I only knew it as my baby chair. After Louise had her own kids, there was a brief moment where Florence said something about giving it to Louise and it was one of the few times I put my foot down and said no, it was my baby chair and I wasn't sharing it with anyone. I think I was in my 40's at the time. So it continued to live by the piano.

Fifty years after it was brought into this house, I folded it up and put it in the corner. I was sending it to Louise's. Even if it did have my name tag on it. And then I looked back and realized just like the picture of Florence and Whoopi visiting...

... this was it. A brief moment that would never happen again.

Related Posts:

When All Is Said and Done

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An Encore of Sunday Memories When Mothers Are Remembered: What Remains

After a day of beginning the clearing of Jutta's home, we spoke of unexpected remembering.

Originally posted February 1, 2009:

What Remains

It happened in a yoga class.

Clair de Lune by Debussy.

A perfect musical selection to launch resting bodies into an hour of hell which was eventually suppose to lead to improved health.

But for me I was suddenly in a minefield of millions of years wandering around the house as her fingers broke the heart of her piano, this piece swirling through my childhood's silence, and sang her own sorrow and disappointment.

In a class of 40, the only student over the age of twenty-five, preparing to drag my fifty years from child pose toward some recovery, the vision of Florence - the young girl playing as if the piece heralded hope and love when she grew up - crushed me deeper into the mat.

Related Posts:

When All Is Said and Done

Thursday, April 14, 2016

For Mimi Who Insists Idealism Win:
An Encore of When This Was Normal

This is Bernie talking New York to New York about reclaiming America for Americans.  ALL Americans.

This is New York's primary day.

So whoever you are voting for - I DON'T CARE -- WE LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY SO JUST FUCKING VOTE! - GO VOTE!!

Here's why I am voting: 

Originally posted March 13, 2016

This was not only or just or always luxury housing.

It is now.  Because something this beautiful is now only afforded by lots of money. 

Nowadays, you don't see this kind of place filled with the people I grew up with. 

But back then, it was where the guys working at the post office lived. My neighbor's dad was the short-order cook at Kozy Korner and then a maintenance worker at one of the buildings (that's the guy who does all the dirty work the super tells him to do).

The two sisters on the other side of the courtyard were secretaries, not administrative assistants. Secretaries did everything too, just got paid less and were called "the girl" more.

My father, Seymour worked his way off the retail floor by getting a Masters in Business at"NY-Jew" night school.  (Back then NYU was one of the few big universities to let Jews in so everyone called it NY-Jew.)

That Masters in Business, like the housing we lived in, was not a luxury item. That Masters was affordable too.  My father did not spend the next 30 to 40 years paying off student loans.  (I only have $25,000 to go!)

This was not an expensive view.

It is now.

But then, it was just my grade school.  Florence would stick her head out the window and yell down to me when to cross Columbia Street.   Depending on who you talk to, that school sucked (friends) or was normal (me).  I was just glad I was taught how to read without switching up everything and that I survived every fist fight I found myself in the middle of.  Honestly, I didn't think it was such a big deal.  It was... just normal.

These days, it's a great school.  It has computers.   I don't think they have fist fights anymore

This is now a edgie view.  Meaning that now that this comes with luxury housing, you also get a bit of industrial and street edge too.  On the other side are the city projects.   They are still not luxury housing.

I wonder how many new folks cross to the other side of the bridge and wander up Columbia Street.  Maybe they do. 

This is now a "Real New York!" photograph (as in "wow look at the authentic old man in the authentic law chair - only in New York!").

Didn't use to be.  Used to be just.... normal.  Because this is how everyone sat in the sunshine.

In fact, all the old ladies would drag out their lawn chairs and sit in front of their own buildings, talking about all the old ladies on the other side of the courtyard sitting in their lawn chairs in front of their buildings.  It was like a turf war, only with lawn chairs.

Not sure why my family didn't have lawn chairs.  Maybe because Florence was always practicing and Seymour was always reading.  When I hung out with my friends, we sat on the steps.

Even when the steps were as far as Florence could go, we sat on the steps.

Then it became luxury housing and lawn chairs were banned.

Officially.  Banned.

Six decades of people sitting on the steps of their buildings or in lawn chairs and suddenly it was too low-class to have a lawn chair out in front of the building to enjoy the green grass and the fountain.

At that point Florence sat in a wheelchair.  

Even the maintenance guys made sure no one fucked with us.

I miss sitting on stoops and running past old ladies in lawn chairs.

I miss it being normal for post office guys and secretaries to have beautiful gardens outside their front door and sky outside their windows.   

These days listening to fucking assholes hate hard-working Americans like my parents and my grandparents who were immigrants I really miss my mother.

I miss normal.  O.K. not the fist fights because they really did suck.  But the normal where anyone who needs a good apartment is able to get a good apartment.  I want the American Dream to not be a winning lottery ticket.  I want it to be a great job that pays well, has real health insurance and allows whoever the fuck wants to to be able to go to college and not have to still be paying it off 30 years later.

I want normal back.

So, fuck it all to hell.  I'm voting Bernie.

Related Posts:

In Memory of Cindy: The Land of the Quartchyard

Sunday Memories: Matthew 26:52

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Busy Times=More Encores:
The Bridge to New Lands

As new lands appear in the horizon, so does a bridge to walk there.

Originally posted September 10, 2009

This is the Williamsburg Bridge.

When she was a teenager, Florence would walk across it to mail a letter in Brooklyn. It cost 2 cents to mail a letter in Manhattan, but only 1 cent from Brooklyn.

There was a bathhouse underneath it on Cannon Street and everyone in the neighborhood went to it.

We grew up across the street from it in one of the first buildings in the neighborhood to have elevators and bathrooms not in the halls. We would walk across it but never get off in Brooklyn. It had a concrete walkway with low railings and lots of broken things. Florence would panic if we leaned over too far.

During Christmas time, I'd look across it to the housing projects on the other side and count the holiday lights blinking in the windows. They were exotic promises of another kind of life. One definitely with more candy and presents.

It fell apart during the Koch administration.

They rebuilt it after to be prettier and stronger.

Adrian walked across it all the time.

I walked across it with Adrian and it was different from when I remembered - it was nice and pleasant, not the barren concrete but the comfort of a pedestrian walk welcoming strolls and bicycles. I don't think people even got mugged on it that often. Walking across this time, Adrian and I got off in Brooklyn and had a burger. Then we walked back.

And just the other day Dana insisted I go out on her balcony and take a picture of it and the moon. And I stood there wondering about all the bridges we have to cross to new lands and other points of view.

Related Posts:

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Sunday Memories of Dana and the MTA

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Memories' Encore: The Intimacy of Men

A busy week and wonderful comments from readers from Tunisia caused a bit of a delay... So behold the encore of what happens when hair gets cut.

Originally posted April 13, 2013


I've only seen this twice in the last year.  The barber shops on 14th Street devoid of the twirling candy cane, I had glimpsed one a couple of months ago as the M15, going too fast to get a picture, barreled  down Madison Street

Then of all places, there was this one, in a mall on Staten Island.  Mounted between two doors of a huge room divided by a wall, the men's barbers on one side, the women's hairdressers on the other.

I only peeked into the women's side as I followed the Mariner to his usual guy.  There were a lot of heads wearing ferocious colors demanding their youth back.

The men's side was quieter, both in color and resignation.  There were careful cuts and subtle bracelets.  One or two rings that stated pride and virility, and chains that maintained devotion and prayer.   Even the guy with the blondish pompadour napping in his chair seemed perfectly understated in his style.  

The men's side had their version of a radio playing familiar music - Roy Rogers on the TV.  A man, maybe facing 60, with thinning dark hair and a proud, impeccably groomed 1980's mustache stood transfixed.  For a second he looked like a six year old but with serious facial hair. 

The Mariner had been going to his barber for almost twenty years.  One day, he needed a haircut, the chair was free, his hair looked neat after and that was that.  Every couple of weeks for twenty years.  He was very glad his barber was a Met fan.

Today, as hair got trimmed and cut and buzzed, between murmurs of the season beginning and the dreaded roller coaster the Mets took everyone on, the merits of Staten Island were considered.

Maybe it was the cocoon men step into when they sit down in a barber's chair.  Or perhaps it was the space and privacy of their own vanity that was allowed to unfold.   Or maybe because today a woman was there, one not sweeping up small mountains of hair.  But unexpectedly, the Mariner's guy said almost too softly that he didn't care for Staten Island.

He grew up, he lived, he loved in Brooklyn.  But after the wife's funeral, the memories were too painful.  He had to move.  No memories in Staten Island.  But he still didn't like it.

Later, the Mariner said he never knew that.  Twenty years of every couple of weeks, he never knew that about the man who cut his hair.

I wondered about my father.  His face brutalized by adolescent acne, he had gone frequently to the barber on Grand Street to have his face steamed and his pimples attacked.  I wondered what quiet secrets he might have heard, what wishes he might have risked.

Related Posts:

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

When All Is Said and Done

The day had been spent sharing memories and wonderful food.  We cried and my old friend, Jutta's son made me laugh really, really hard about one of the worst moments.

Jutta's paintings were ready to be hung back up on spiffed-up walls.  The cats paid their respects.  Then we got to work.

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: All Together Again in Jutta's Kitchen

At the End There Is Nothing Left Except Love

Sunday Memories of a Home Called Jutta's Kitchen

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Restoring Story and Living Out Loud

Almost 15 years had passed since those boxes had been opened.  During that time everything had changed and what used to be normal was now obsolete. 

Not just the mom-and-pops and laundrymats and shoemakers...but also like three-quarter inch tape and mini-dvs, and high 8s...

Lots of places had transferring services, but uptown or Brooklyn or midtown or... What the heck - Maybe J&D Video Labs up the street was still in business and could do transfers from now ancient materials into present day discs.

"Do we still do...???  Do we still...??? " 

I guess with so much disappearing I hadn't expected to hear a live voice at the end of the phone.  Especially one with that familiar Brooklyn accent.

The building had the same tiny entrance and the same tinier elevator.  And on the fourth floor, the  same old floor - a normal floor I now only saw in brief glimpses every other year.

And walking into J&D... well... it felt like the same, even after 15 years. 

That business had been in business since 1966.  Joe had started it with his dad.  Now his son was there.  Every New York filmmaker had graced their door.   Many still did.

"Come on back, lemme show you what we have..."

And there in the back was a long and high wall of old machines so many of us had learned on... half inch... three-quarter... high 8...  we were like bartenders making cocktails, shifting from tape to tape all the pieces of video we needed to build a story.

Long nights in a tiny dark room whirling a knob back and forth and clicking into each frame an image and an idea of a story that made all the stories inside burst out into the world and paint a vast fairy tale picture...

Those old familiar blue and gray plastic boxes stacked up, each a word, a chapter, an attempt to live out loud...

"I'm trying to find who belongs to these tapes," Joe said.  "I don't want to throw anything away."

And this?

"From the 1930's," he proudly said.  Wanted to fix it up with a strip of 35mm film that would loop "WELCOME TO J&D!"

I got a lot of tapes, I told Joe.

"Bring them in! I love doing this."

And so I will. And so I will.

J&D Video Lab
27 East 21st Street
4th Floor
New York, New York

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday Memories of a Home
Called Jutta's Kitchen

When I was a kid, I swore I could see the bits and pieces of air.  It just made sense that I would be able to recognize something that whirled around me and kept me alive.

Jutta's kitchen was no different than the air I breathed.  For there, too, I recognized the bits and pieces that kept me alive.


The last in a series honoring Jutta Filippelli (1916-2016)

Originally posted March 5, 2013

Jutta's Kitchen 
Still Fighting Strong, 
Still Kicking Butt


An glimpse into Jutta's life which she paints with fire and with soul.

When we leave, I ask myself again.   You, you with all your dreams and passions.  Did you do enough today?

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: Jutta's Hands and the Life They Traveled

Painting from the Inside

Sunday Memories:  All Together Again In Jutta's Kitchen

Jutta's Kitchen: Part One

Jutta's Kitchen: Part Two

Jutta's Kitchen: Part Three

Jutta's Kitchen Revisited

Jutta's Kitchen Blooms

Jutta's Kitchen Meets The Internet

At the End There Is Nothing Left Except Love