Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Years ago a medical examiner and I were talking about her job.  There's nothing pretty about facing the multitudes of dead bodies strewn across five boroughs.  

At some point it began to get to her, especially when it was a baby or a circumstance of great injustice.   So she went to her boss, the big medical examiner and asked him how he got through day after day of proof that mankind could be such a miserable, murdering creature.

"I surround myself with beauty," he replied, pointing to paintings he did of roses and tulips and sunflowers.

So she found her idea of beauty, a house in the country and when she felt her soul losing out to the horrors people were so capable of, she would briefly retreat and surround herself with beauty.  Then she would go back out again.

These days, the news bursting with the horrors people continue to be so capable of, the city streets offered its own beauty, perhaps not in flowers but in its own hidden cracks.

Sunday Memories of When There Were No Pictures For That Sound

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Memories of When there Were
No Pictures for that Sound

One day in 2008 no one could image what that sound looked like.

The scream from the office down the hall filled us like a tsunami of words strung together painting horror a son a son a son found dead. 
We all ran through fluorescent light down the linoleum hallway to grab hold tight a mother's body trying to push her way into another reality where the voice snapping from her cell phone was making a big mistake a big mistake calling the wrong number someone else with the same name and a son but not hers not hers.

But now it is 2016 and there are thousands and thousands of pictures of that sound, that sound of devastating heartbreak and a rage that must, if we are to be the country we claim to be, answered to.

Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
 Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

16 Ways to Show Support for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile & the Victims of the Dallas Shootings

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hot Summer Reruns of a Subway Rat

Originally posted February 7, 2013

I think that boyfriend in 1977 was complimenting me when he called me that.

But here are the things that are normal:
  • knowing which door to stand at so I could walk straight out to the street 
  • the many ways to get from point A to point B, and if I didn't know, calling Baby Boy (until he was eight years old and got bored with it), because he knew the entire MTA system - buses and subways and could map you from anywhere to anywhere, usually in multiple routes.
  • riding without holding on because it was too crowded and the pole was too far away, not realizing until recently that it was just like surfing, just without the cold water or the sharks
  • hanging out in between cars in the summer because the Lexington IRT never had any air conditioning in the summer, only in the winter, and it had air conditioning in the winter because it never had heat in the winter (that was the 70's and 80's)
  • walking from one car to another, and when the young kid cop stopped me and said "hey that's against the law - didn't you see the sign?" I said, "Oh?  I thought that was just for the tourists."
  • NOT knowing which damn color goes with which line.  They're called the BMT, IND and IRT for fucks sake.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Right to Par-tee!

We were talking about religion and my neighbor said I don't want to offend, I don't know if you are religious and I said born Jewish, practice Buddhism and she said oh then you're not religious and I knew exactly what she meant and we couldn't stop laughing for a couple of seconds.

Because what a word means - like religious - depends on the day, the time, the place and what insecure power is running the show.  

Those kids, those children of the elite in Bangladesh who took that restaurant hostage and died in a hail of gunfire 11 hours later - those boys who had so much to offer had gotten somebody's meaning of religion that had nothing to do with God.

Someone had found the crack that lives in all teenagers as they grow their brains and figure out their lives and rebel against their parents -  a crack that is made of anger and pimples and hormones and confusion. 

But someone had promised those kids a salve to that rupture -  the guarantee of something we all want - that feeling of joy when we connect with a greater good, a moment of beauty, a delight, gratitude, belonging, being part of a community - all the things that makes someone happy. Only this time packaged in a gun. 

The New York Times article said that one kid's father had noticed his son had stopped playing the guitar a couple of months ago and when asked the kid said, "Music is not good."

What could that kid have possibly been feeling in that hail of bullets?  The same feeling as when he had playing the guitar he had once loved?   Do any of us really think he felt joy the moment the shooting started?

The second most dangerous person in the world may be someone who isn't happy.  But the most dangerous person is someone who is.  Because it's hard to stick a gun in someone's hand when they are playing guitar or singing and dancing.
So perhaps, in fact, I'm seriously religious.  Because in my religion, my Buddha dances.

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The full quote by Emma Goldman (from ifIcantdance.org):  

Admonished for dancing at a party in New York, she was told “that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway.” 

Goldman responded furiously: “I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.” 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Memories: Gambling for Freedom

The only way to find out all the details would be if one of us became so famous Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had us on his show.

What I had heard was Sophie left behind her mother and brothers, especially the one that was supposed to be her favorite, to come to the United States.  It was a gamble but she wanted a chance at a life that in Belarus was 100% impossible for Jews.  Like going to school or working at what she wanted to work at or voting for who she wanted to vote for (although I'm not sure if she was even allowed to vote - both as a Jew and as a woman).

So she left her family forever and leaped into an unknown that promised the elusive dream of breathing and moving and being just as she was.  Freedom.

First in Trenton and then in Brooklyn and then on the Lower East Side, the money tight, the tenements tough, the husband absent, somehow Sophie made a life and raised a child with more freedom than what she left behind.

That freedom didn't erase the poverty or the domestic abuse or the crushed dreams and the mean, mean loneliness.   But it did make sure she could work where she wanted, read what she wanted, say what she wanted and vote how she so chose.

And her daughter, Florence, got to go to school and college and graduate school, not because she was or was not Jewish, but because she was talented and smart.  And even if there were still rules and laws and customs that said she couldn't do everything she wanted to, Florence still had 100% more freedom than if she had been born in Belarus.

And because of that, I, Sophie's granddaughter, grew up with 100% more freedom than Florence, always believing it was my birthright to speak out loud and vote as I so chose and write bad poems (which, at times, is the epitome of freedom - it requires leaping into an elusive dream).

Money might still be tight but the apartment is as far from a tenement as you can go, there is no domestic abuse, loneliness is a long-ago memory, and I get to vote as I so choose.

It is because someone, a young girl, my grandmother, left her family forever and took a gamble on an elusive dream. 

Happy Fourth of July.

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