Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sunday's Memories Are Delayed Due to Joy and Amazement (and a Little Exhaustion)

But what do you expect after a mind-blowing evening of some of the bravest writers out there and a great audience.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

You Can't Make This Sh*#$&)T Up

Ruth is 92.  She knew Florence.

Ruth would organize buses for like 150 people from the Henry Street Settlement to go to Jones Beach and once she got everyone settled, she and Florence would lounge by the ocean and talk about anything and everything.

And Laurel's family and my family grew up next to each other on Henry Street and when I want to know anything about them, then or there, I ask her.

She's neighbors with Ruth.

So the other day Ruth had to get her hair cut and I wanted her to talk to these documentary people and Laurel wanted to catch up.

We TRIED to keep up with Ruth but the second we turned away, Ruth was gone and we went up and down Madison Street, going into every hair salon and using every word we knew in Spanish.  By the third place we were asking in almost full sentences. 

Didn't matter.  Nobody had seen her.

So we went back to the benches to catch up.

And while we were there, I took this picture because I couldn't get a picture of the rat that was HOPPING across the grass because it was HOPPING too fast.

Those are the Seward Park Houses.  George had been part of the team that had made them happen.  Lots of my friends grew up there.  Laurel still lived there. 

Did I mention the rat was HOPPING?  With a huge piece of something red in its mouth.

You'd take a picture of the sky too.

Here's the thing about sitting on the bench.  Eventually, everyone stops to talk to you. 


Including this couple.

AND RUTH.  who had gotten her hair cut in a salon by the bridge on Madison which is why we didn't find her - she just went further than us. 

Let's face it.  Ruth goes further than all of us.   But she was tired and she didn't want to go to any documentary film thing but she'd sit on the bench and if they called, then she'd go....

And everybody started talking, and in the tradition of the Lower East Side, talking all at the same time:

so-and-so and the heart attack on Essex Street
they had been together 40 years
two men a real marriage, a good one
he's now in a can in the living room....

Are you getting the His-and-Her's shopping carts? Laurel whispers to me. Are you writing this all down?

Forget it! You could get sued for writing this shit down.  You gotta hide it in a story and call it fiction.

....what? who's gonna ask if he was Jewish or not? 
They asked? 
They asked, he didn't lie and now he...
how was the broccoli today
how much for the cut? 
Only $14 but I think he wants me to come back
usually she's open 
it's prom season 
I paid $18 it adds up with the tint
the shopping cart is from Amazon?
but look it goes this-way-that-way
he's coming in from New Jersey you think that pumpkin pie is going to cut itself....

Just as everyone agreed that the shopping cart was fine even if the front wheels did go this-way-that-way and wild salmon in a can was delicious with a little vinegar and onion.... Ruth finally said, look are they going to interview me for that documentary or what...

....and that's when they called to say come on by we're ready for you. 

And Ruth told them a story about her life and our neighborhood.

Related Posts:

a) Inheritance b) Neighborhood c) Heritage d) All Of The Above: Part 1

a) Inheritance b) Neighborhood c) Heritage d) All Of The Above: Part 2

Sunday Memories: a) Inheritance b) Neighborhood c) Heritage d) All Of The Above: Part 3

 Guest Artist Dana: The Gift That Kept Giving

Sunday Memories: In the Beginning Was the Word

Free For All

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why Food Reviews from the Lower East Side Shouldn't Be Trusted

I hadn't been in since they renovated.

It was shocking.

Sundried wha? And what was with the subway tile you see everywhere but the subway?

I winced.  I'm not sure why but I did.  All I hoped was that no one I knew would ever give this to me thinking it was a funny present to give to their Jewish friend. 

I wasn't even sure what to think about some of the names.  But somehow the Czar and Bubby on the same menu seemed a bit...?  I mean even I know the song from Fiddler on the Roof where they sing "God Bless and keep the Czar far away from us".  On the other side of the menu board I don't think counts.

The nice, friendly young people behind the counter were very nice and friendly as I told them how ridiculous it all was and could I please have one bialy and a pumpernickel everything bagel which is one new innovation I agreed with?  Because whoever thought of that was a genius.

The sundried tomato one really IS good, the woman said but we're out.

NO! I'm not doing it - that's up there with cinnamon raisin bagels.  NO!

Then I asked if lots of old timers complained about the changes...

Yep. She said.  They also buy a lot.

The bagel and bialy officially lasted not very long. 

I wonder what the rugelach is like.

Kossars.  It looks silly but boy does it all taste delicious.

But I'm still not trying the sundried anything!

At least for now.

Related Posts:

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

This Will Be Her Sunday Memories
Of What Florence Taught Me

It was the annual Dance Parade and everybody came out to celebrate!

Everyone!  (She was like 80 and getting down in between making requests...)

And him?

Nothing was stopping him... nothing...

Not the traffic, not the cops, not the fact he didn't even have a float of his own

You don't need a float when the music is right and everyone is singing and dancing along with you...

But it was her, this little girl who made the parade the parade....

Maybe she didn't know how to read the teeshirts...

...but she danced to what they said.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016


Years ago Jeremiah's Vanishing New York a.k.a the Book of Lamentation asked me what I missed most about the tender rubble of New York.  I answered that that was asking a fish at a fish market what it missed about the water.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Doug, Shawn and the Mariner coaxed me into a sea I had only seen in pictures.   And there we saw a city of fish.  All kinds, living in different nooks and crannies of rocks and coral and some weird concrete slabs - I had no idea how those slabs got on the bottom of the ocean but there were lots of fish and even some lobsters that were glad to nestle underneath.

And then I thought about all the fish living in tanks.  Like the little guy I passed so often on my way home who always came up to the glass to look back at me.   I wondered if he missed his city like I missed mine.


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Monday, May 16, 2016

Same Job, Different Lunch

A lot of men died building the Chrysler Building.  A lot of men died building the city period.  But you'd never know looking the happy go-lucky lot of them eating lunch a million miles above the city.

These days are a little different. Better equipment, tougher regulations, reasonable hours....

...and a lunch you can eat on the ground.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Memories
In the Beginning Was the Word

All those years yearning for a TV were spent between these bookcases at the Seward Park Library.

Florence, seeking her own escape, parked me by a stack of Charles Addams books and disappeared into another row.   Those pictures were not macabre to me.  Oh no.  They were a glamorous call to adventure.  And perhaps an unsightly end.

Soon I graduated to being old enough to climb the stairs to the children's room on the second floor and books with more words than pictures.  Along with librarians eager to direct me and my friends to explicit and very well illustrated books on the facts of life, there were piles of biographies that taught me famous people like Thomas Edison or Jane Adams had once been a little kid like me.

And soon after that I graduated back down to the the first floor and the young adult corner where, as only it could be on the lower east side, there were shelves and shelves of books on young people surviving or not surviving the holocaust and one about a boy kissing another boy.  Gobbling up those books, three or four at a time, I felt so less alone with the difficulties I faced every day.  Sometimes life hurt and was frightening and confusing. Especially as a kid becoming a teenager.

Those years of curling up in wood and paper on East Broadway were as normal as breathing or walking or dreaming.  I had no interest to write my own book.  Nor did I have dreams of being a writer.  Just like Florence, I loved the relief of an escape, disappearing into a world I wished I could live in or one I was glad I didn't.

Perhaps all those words that poured off the page and into my heart had plans of their own.  Perhaps filling myself so full was what made all those words push into my fingers to tell my own story.  Who knows?

What is known more than fifty years later is that a library is a sacred place.  It holds for us a million stories from around the world, letting us know we are never alone in our experience, and assuring us of other doors to other ways we didn't know about.

And now the Seward Park Library is even more than that.  It is now a place that will hold and protect all the stories we don't write down.  They are collecting oral histories of us lower east siders.

So if you grew up below 14th Street and above the "bottom" and you know you are from the Lower East Side, join in.  Because every story, whether it is on a shelf or one we tell over dinner too many times, could be someone's door to a wonderful escape and other possibilities.

Tell your story and become a "book" for some kid, maybe one just like me, who needs to know about childhoods and challenges and other doors.

The Lower East Side Oral History Project

The Seward Park Branch of the New York Public Library aims to collect audio of memories and stories pertaining to the Lower East Side, including Chinatown, the Bowery, and the East Village. Stories may run 45 minutes to 2 hours long. It's a rather informal procedure, more of an extended story telling than an interview. Interviews may be done individually or as a group. We are hoping to gather stories from all ages, times periods, backgrounds, and outlooks--and you don't have to be a lifelong Lower East Sider to participate!
The stories collected will be a part of the Lower East Side Oral History Project, which will have its place among oral history initiatives throughout New York which the New York Public Library has been collecting for posterity.

Participants will need to sign a release form and have their picture taken, or send a picture they would like to use for the project's website.

To participate, please contact Andrew Fairweather via email ( or telephone (212-477-6770) at the Seward Park Library.

The Seward Park Library
192 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002

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Sunday Memories: Our Children's Stories

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sailing with the Mariner

It's in the wee hours of the morning that, after placing a full cup of coffee by my side of the bed, the sounds of typing fills the quiet. 

He doesn't use his desk computer.  Instead he props his feet up on a chair, puts his laptop on his lap and begins whirling and weaving words into another world.

Like awaking to Florence's morning scales, his soft tapping is music to me. 

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Guest Artist Alana: Jutta's Kitchen Moves on

Alana of Smoke and Gaslight:

“Would you like an adorable tea cup?”

Of course I would, I thought as I read the summons to head on down to an address on the Upper West Side.

I was distinctly aware that this was no random decluttering on a Sunday afternoon, but the release of scattered rays of light from Jutta’s amazing life. Out of respect, a large part of me didn’t want to rummage through the carefully packed boxes, but Claire took the lead.

Her every move vibrating with happiness and determination, showing me one adorable tea cup after another, and glasses you can’t buy in stores anymore unless it is the knockoff variety.

And of course books. I’m a sucker for books.

In a daze I barely took in the details as they were unwrapped and then repackaged in a box for me to take home. That moment was reserved for when I was standing in my kitchen, carefully unwrapping each one until the floor was covered in newspaper.

Details galore: bright flowers, gilt edges, silver hand painted patterns and glasses as blue as the sky. I’ve never seen cups like these up close...unless you count movies where the ladies wear white satin gloves and pour tea from a silver pot and ask for two cubes of sugar.

This past weekend, I decided I wanted to have my morning cup of coffee in one of Jutta’s teacups. The cream colored one with ornate flowers was my favorite with the word “Bavaria” written on the bottom of the saucer and the cup.

No fancy sugar cubes, but a dash of it, combined with coffee and creamer. I could have stared at the cloud swirls the creamer made on top for hours.

It took a vintage teacup to show me that I have been making coffee wrong all this time.  I can’t explain it, but everything blended perfectly.  I could savor and taste every part.  Thinking that lightning can’t strike twice I made another cup of coffee before heading to work today, with the same adorable teacup.

Thank you Jutta.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Summer Reruns: Tunnel of Love

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

Originally posted September 14, 2008:

One night, in the early 1980's, I left New York for a brief funeral.

In those days there were only three ways to get to Philadelphia - Greyhound, Amtrak and NJ Transit. Because death had come suddenly, I needed to leave within hours of getting the rare long-distance phone call telling me to come. Greyhound left every two hours.

I sat up front so I wouldn't get car sick. The bus was empty, the night was bleak and the roads leaving New York were fast. I am not sure how it began but the driver and I began to talk. It would not be the last time a man turned to me to confess.

He had just gotten back from World War II and out of boredom and mild curiosity started dating a young woman. One day he showed up at her house to find her and her mother busy addressing envelopes. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Sending out invitations to our wedding," the young woman replied.

So he got married to someone because of proximity and minor distraction and maybe postage already spent.

And he did all the right things. Brought home the bacon, raised their daughter, showed up at the functions husbands were supposed to show up at. And he stayed married. For decades, was still married and now his own daughter was married, he had a granddaughter, apple of his eye, told me if a pedophile ever came near her he'd kill him, just kill him didn't care what would happen next.

But. All these years with the woman he married. He hated the way she breathed when she slept. Hated it. Hated being in the bed with her listening to her breathe. The sound of her life.

He now slept in the other bedroom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Summer Reruns of the Beginnings: My Private Coney

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

Originally posted September 7, 2008

At 9pm tonight, Coney died. Condos will be built in its stead.

The place my mother, a teenager, went to in the middle of the night to swim naked, the place my aunt met her future husband, both barely teenagers, she wearing a swimsuit and telling me 60 years later "he liked me even after seeing my thighs," the place my grandmother took herself alone, no one really knowing what she thought or who she missed, the place said grandmother took me, dragging me into the ocean for the first time...

...feeding me Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies that forever after tasted like sand and salt to me, the place my mother, no one knowing what she thought or who she missed, took my sister and me early mornings so that we could get a good swim in and eat a hotdog for breakfast before returning to responsibilities...

...the place every New Years Day, our family went to, frozen on the boardwalk, but knowing nowhere else to to be, the place I could, in desperate twenties, needing to feel like I had someone beyond my own skin, go to and find my mother sitting in the same spot as she had for years - in front of the Aquarium,

The place I knew more than I knew the thoughts of my grandmother or my mother or even my own. The place I knew more than I knew what my grandmother or mother or even I missed.

Like Calvino's Invisible Cities and my mother, Florence's life, my private coney has become just a place within memory.

Daughter of Coney (under Audio)

my private coney (under Media)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Summer Reruns: Once I Was a Man

While Her New York is on vacation, and a good friend tends the beasts, encores from the beginning.

Originally posted October 29, 2009

Once I was a man.

Now I am a fucking eunuch with a cone around my head.*

*According to Dr. Gagliardi of Cooper Square Veterinary Hospital, of all the hundreds and hundreds of neutering he has done on dogs and cats, Jupiter was the first to chew off all his stitches. And then after getting fixed up again, go straight for them again.

Cooper Square Veterinary Hospital
211 East 5th Street
NY, NY 10003

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