Thursday, December 30, 2010

out with the old and in with the new

look for the silver lining

when er a cloud appears in the blue

remember somewhere the sun is shining

and so the right thing, to do is make is shine for you.

A heart full of joy and gladness

will always banish sadness and strife

so always look for the silver lining

and try to find the sunny side of life.


Here's to closing out a year of pitfalls and mishaps and unexpected joys and surprises.

To pushing oneself to the limit and realizing that sometimes your best isn't always good enough

here's to discovering new and amazing people, sometimes buried within your own heart,

here's to finding multiple ways to irritate government officials in new jersey who are use to shoveling out bullshit in the hopes you will go away ( look forward to seeing ya next year too!)

apply line above to those individuals in new york city, it sucks for them cause I live here.

here's to learning to be still and silent and listen...sometimes too much. You may not like what you hear but it's better than standing at the bottom of the hill with the snowball gaining momentum. I'm the loony one pushing it back up the slope, battered and bruised in the process.

Here's to discovering in surprising, humbling and sometimes frightening ways that you are on the right path though it may be twisted and unclear.

Here's to doing it all over again.

Hope everyone gets everything they want in the New Year. Good health, a chocolate bar or mega millions.

I'd settle for my book to be done and an oatmeal cookie. Hope to have both :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merle



She always bounces into a room and greets everyone in sight. I've known her since I first came here, she was one of the first people to come up to me when I ventured into a place I did not know looking to connect with someone.



This past weekend over pizza and salad I got to listen to her talk more than usual.



" When did you first come here?"



" 1962...in a snowstorm, it was one of the worst snowstorms in awhile."



" I met this nice spanish dancer in Toronto who said that if I ever came to New York I could stay with her. So when I arrived, I got in the cab and gave the driver the address. He turned and looked at me and said 'Are you sure you want to go there?' I said yes, my friend lives there."



" So we are driving up through East Harlem and he says again 'Are you sure this where you want to go?' I told him yes and that started it."



" I met my husband at a party, a little later on he said 'Do you want to move in together?' And I said ' You mean get married?'. He replied 'Ah, sure why not?"



You can read more about Merle here. She is quite an amazing lady.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

the ghost will be happy..

It's been a couple of weeks of writing in notebooks and taking a much needed break. ( which I did enjoy, the former and the latter) That changed today when a dear friend said she had the program I needed to make my new electronic "typewriter" type. So besides the excitement of being able to open stuff not asking for a 25 digit cryptic code is the possibility of dragging this typewriter to my second home on 42nd street, sitting under that ornate ceiling and spread out with as many research books as I want.
And this will most likely be the only place I take this thing to.
Cost of a laptop that I get to figure out day by day: no comment
Cost of Office software: indebtedness to a friend
Opportunity to sit in the Rose Reading Room of the library till at least 9pm during the week in silence and write: priceless!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

turning inward

Be Still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try to speak your name.
Listen to the living walls.

Who are you?, Who are you?
Who (be quiet)
are you(as these stones are quiet.)
Do not think of what you are still less of what you may one day be.

Rather be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one you do not know.
O be still, while you are still alive, and all things live around you speaking ( I do not hear)
in your own being, speaking by the unknown that is in you and in themselves.

-Thomas Merton

Thursday, December 2, 2010

forced stop on the side of the road

It's one thing when you procrastinate from working on something because you get distracted by life or just don't feel like sitting and squeezing every last morsel out of one's brain. It's quite another when the very instrument you use to write something on puts up a road block...though I guess in a twisted way that is a distraction by life also. Old computer gave signs that it was going to go to electronic heaven soon so there wasn't much I could do besides be paranoid until I was able to save everything and meanwhile write everything down on one of the gazillion tablets I have lying around as an alternative.

Then a very generous gift from a family member gave me my new computer which for me is learning how to use something that speaks a foreign language. And once that final program known as Word can be installed I can go back to writers block, breakthrough, frustration, writers block, breakthrough and frustration. Actually looking forward to it.

In the meantime I got to go back to wild goose chases and special surprises along the way which has been a nice alternative in the daily chaos of life.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

cross tongues over dinner

a much needed escape from the dark cloud generated by others that persisted over the turkey on the table yielded small clues to my state of mind...

dinner with a friend on an eerily quiet street in a city that for the most part is eerily quiet.

Me: " I found out that the rabbi who helped my grandfather just died in 2001 and he and his family lived in Brooklyn. I don't know if his wife is still alive but I thought about reaching out if I could."

Friend: " That's amazing!"

Me: "I don't think the synagogue he went to is here anymore. It says it is now a conservative congregation in Virginia, back then it was located on... on the Upper East Side...er, I mean the northeast."

Friend starts laughing and observes amusingly that I am no longer apart of this city.

" How did you get here?" she asks as we begin to walk.

Me: " I took the subway."

Friend laughs again, " you took the subway from New York to here?"

" I meant the train. I guess you can see where my head is right now."

We walk down a quiet street lamplight illuminating small pieces of it. I don't remember things being this way but then again I was never allowed to walk out at night when I use to live here.

When we reach the main artery of the city, I look south towards the yellowish glow of the clock in city hall and recall a dream I had recently. I was standing in the middle of a traffic divider and the whole street was plunged in darkness except for that yellow clock. I couldn't run as I was wearing heels.

Part of me wanted to go into all those decrepit structures that line each side of that artery for blocks on end, details from an era long gone, and the other part wanted to run towards that clock. Cause on the other side of it was the train that would take me to the city that was my home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

take two a day with water

taken on a cool fall day before the faucet got turned off for the harsh winter


Here's hoping that in the chaos of the next few days, my soul can be as calm as that reflection and not turn into Niagara falls. And that some of my scribblings and notes in a tattered book and photostatic images can keep me grounded.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nocturne, New York

The sky falls to the sea, The moon slips to the waning.
Dark flame piles the shore lights
Immerse in the sable river.
Luminous harps the ferries in tremolo string under water.

On either side, phantasmal, flung deep in the night mist,
The cities rest beneath shoals of stars
Low fallen from heaven.

H.G
-from the Almanac for New Yorkers, year 1938

Sunday, November 7, 2010

generations apart


one is mine, the other belonged to my great grandmother. Neither of them could resist the opportunity for a photo-op for the album I have in my heart.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

visit to the ol' block

bounced around the old neighborhood with a friend. Very happy ( and relieved) that not much has changed since I left as everything in this town seems to always be under the shadow of a nameless, faceless developer. Sure you had the occasional bar or boutique shop but they were oddities that blended in. Sidewalks still spilled with the stuff of people's lives from the past. An old cast iron teapot belonging to an Indian family, an old handle dangling with iron keys, Hebrew letters carved into a plaque, glassware, food carts making fresh empanadas, gyros and anything else. multiple tongues spoken and screamed from every corner, the bakeries, shoe shops and restaurants.

I would have stayed in this neighborhood, except the roommate was a bit off her knocker ( for another post) and I didn't quite feel that I belonged, it wasn't my home I was living in someone else's space with only a suitcase full of clothes and whatever books I could carry with me. So I dragged everything over sixty blocks down to a place that became my own.

Pass a man selling book bags. My friend recognizes him as she has bought bags from him before.

"Evening Ladies, how are ya?"

"You're downtown sometimes aren't you?"

"Sure, why you seen me before?"

"Yeah. I bought a bag from you before."

"Yup, I take everything with me so I move all over. You can't shoot a moving target eh?" He smiles and winks.

We smile back and continue on.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

evening musings

We can only offer , that which we have to give. We can't make others accept it.

I can live with the idea that we are merely actors playing a part. But I do wish whoever is writing my script would learn to use a few more happy endings.

Many people complain life never gave them any chances. We are given Life. We must take the Chances.

-Javan

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

split ends

people don't seem to comprehend the term simple anymore.

Trusty computer gives a slight warning sign that it will be time soon for me to let it go to electronic heaven. I hate shopping and I hate shopping for an expensive workhorse not exactly in my budget. get complexed looks from sales people when I tell them I ain't interested in something that can think for itself and dazzle me for hours on end as if I were a baby. I just need it to run. and save my book and pictures. That's it.

Find one and hears hoping trusty computer hangs on long enough for me to sell bootleg hooch to get it's replacement.

now I hear humming from another part of my house, so I gotta wait for somebody to come and look at that. I guess that is the upside to apartment living.

Then the cranky ghost decides to do a teaser and show two documents on a microfilm that doesn't run in sequence..nothing before or after.

I'm about to turn into the pyscho weasel from who framed roger rabbit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

dead men tell no tales...

..they just speak in mind boggling riddles...

a boy has never wept...nor dashed a thousand kim.

mother is the best bet and don't let Satan draw you too fast.

I showed him boss, did you hear him meet me? An appointment, appeal stuck. All right mother.

French Canadian bean soup, I want to pay, let them leave me alone.

I know what I am doing here with my collection of papers for crying out loud. It isn't worth a nickel to two guys like you or me. but to a collector it is worth a fortune, it is priceless. I am going to turn it over to....


Seventy five years later, I'm trying to make sense of it all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

journey to the center of the earth.

I left my city in a dark morning and I returned to it in a dark morning. In between that I encountered the following:

Day 1:


A bus ride, a train ride and then a car ride... then over a hundred miles of these....



A general store, a gun show, a museum dedicated to little league baseball, abandoned farms. Phone loses signal for most of the way and as service provider had warned service would be provided by another carrier, in this case a bunch of strange digits. and lots of ads on the road for these:



wanna deal on a 12-gauge shotgun???

couldn't drink the water as the filter system was down, given one bottle to use between two people and told if we needed more "we could go to the pharmacy down the street."


A news broadcast that played for over ten minutes phone calls of people who actually condoned the beating death of an immigrant saying things like "that's one less foreigner in the world and those boys just had a fight that got out of hand"

Travel Buddy: We really are in the middle of fucking nowhere.


Me: What time do you want to leave tomorrow?


TB: How bout near three? ( We left about an hour after this proposed time, still not bad)

Sleep with the dehumidifier on as a lullaby as the silence outside is too deafening.


Day 2:


Reason we are in the middle of bumble fuck goes beautifully, bride looks like a silver bell.


Then a five mile journey (up) through here:



To get to here:



Then back down the five mile path to a lovely dinner and dancing and just before me and travel buddy depart turn around to be gawked at by people in jeans, fur vests and shotguns.


Back through the rolling hills and mountains, racing against the sunlight ( almost like a reverse vampire), three cups of coffee in a row to be hot wired, bright eyed and bushy tailed, fight with relatives over the phone who are trying to get me to make a pit stop.

Me: I want to go home...thanks anyway...I already told you I am going home.

back to the train, rushing through the station that was the final leg of my journey, still bright eyed I get here:






Tip of the morning on Day 3:
Return to my city in the dark of morning, filled with a constant lullaby I recognize to go to sleep by.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

the medicine for the day

Wasn't feeling well, but there is only so long that I can stay in the house before getting cabin fever. Had enough strength to go somewhere familiar.

"Hello Mr. N"

" Oh hello!, you know what you're doing so you don't need my help." He says in his thick Russian accent and gestures to the back with a smile.

tabletops, shelves, floorspace and every corner filled with books, ledgers and boxes documenting over 100 plus years of history. All permanent, and a stroke of luck for me the originals as the state is too poor to document anything. Anger from the records keeper as no one seems to care.

Almost breaking my back to coax a cabinet to open it's drawers. This thing must be as old as some of the dusty ledgers around it. Been through it on three separate occasions and each time it refuses to open a different drawer.

Fingers black with dust as I gently sort through papers and for the second time this month I hear how unusual I am from the bespectacled man in the corner.

" You know, where I came from...history was destroyed on purpose, and here I go to work surrounded by it. People need to listen to what is in the documents as this is our future, not the technology that can rewrite history." He shakes his head and stares off in the distance for a minute. I try to keep the pages of ledger book from coming loose.

Monday, October 4, 2010

what I would prefer right now

Times Square-1943


The rain I would like to see, verses what is outside my door.


Penn Station-1910



If I had to leave New York, I wouldn't mind passing through here...




Soda Fountain-1921


If I needed a mental break in the afternoon.

*all photos from Shorpy




























Monday, September 27, 2010

a small treat



After emptying my head on paper the night before I wanted coffee and hotcakes. Diner coffee to be more specific and set out to get some. My usual haunt was filled to the max ( a good thing!) but I couldn't take the noise level and wanted some place a little more quiet. Thus appeared the little hole in the wall with the old style letters on the awning.

I had to adjust my vision when I stepped over the threshold. Everything seemed to be tinted in a yellow glow. The light covers, the in scripted tiles on the walls, and the cases displaying an assortment of cakes. I had to look up at the white tin ceiling to adjust my eyes a bit. Conversations in English, Spanish and Greek floated around me and I floated to the counter and swiveled on the stool, happy to have my coffee and hotcakes.

"Everything is a good? How bouta now? More coffee?" The owner inquires with a toothy smile.

I smile back and watches as he fills my cup, banters with a waitress and relish the quietness of the moment before I go home to bang my head out some more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

slight sensation


foreign language scripted in gold on the wall as I steal a moment to trace as many with my fingers standing on my toes. At one time I knew how to sound out those letters from the tattered paper that belonged to my grandfather, a paper in my hand that warranted looks of astonishment and disbelief from the Hasidim one morning on a packed A train to work and a few questions coming my way. I think it was my response of a "mixed marriage" that threw them off. I did get a wave and a tip of their hats out of it. I waved and smiled back.

Beautiful glass lamps, installed over 123 years before, use to be gas, made the transition to electric in 1907. The Edison bulbs still work, how's that for getting your monies worth. During a history lesson going on around me, I slip off a shoe and trace the worn grooves in the floorboards underneath my feet. Souls upon souls that offered up their hopes, dreams and fears and that wood absorbing every one of them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

baby steps for healing

vent your frustrations out on a dead research subject...

go into one of the oldest hat stores in the city, get wide-eyed at the newsboys, fedoras, bowlers, you know real men hats, with staff who wear said real men hats and get an impromptu history lesson on said hats and try not to grin as you imagine a time when gangsters, card sharps and the like wore such hats...and oh yeah and grin at the original moldings on the walls, ceilings and display cases.

repeat step one and vent frustrations out on dead research subject.

talk to my grandmother who remembers riding on the trolley when she was around 16 and going to the Stetson store cause she wanted to buy her father a Stetson hat for his birthday.

"Of course, I couldn't as I didn't have his head with me and men got measured. So they gave me a mini fedora in a little box with his appointment time on a card to come in and be measured. Next time you go in there ask them about the mini hats!"

repeat step one and vent frustrations out on dead research subject.

wonders whose apartment she can haggle into on Sunday nights as I don't have cable and Boardwalk Empire starts on Sunday.

talk to my great uncle on the phone:

" Me and Aunt Marie just celebrated our wedding anniversary. Been together over forty three years...I told her you been with me all this time, no use looking for anything else now! You know, we have arguments, but at the end of the day we're still together and that's what matters. The arguments fade away"

repeat step one and vent now cooled off frustrations out on dead research subject...subject no longer liking being beaten to a pulp starts talking...feebly, but still talking.

End result=heart slowly healing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interior

Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room and tall.
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom,
And mottoes on the wall.

There all the things are waxen neat,
And set in decorous lines.
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little straightened vines.

Her mind lives tidily apart,
From cold and noise and pain.
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.

Dorothy Parker

Saturday, September 11, 2010

blind spot


I bought it in a store downtown while in a weird mood. I needed something to replace what use to be in the spot. Something given to me by someone close to me. Something I couldn't bear to look at anymore cause it didn't represent what it use to. For too long a time I ignored the signs that things were different cause I didn't have the energy to go down that road. So confusion and fear got tucked in a corner. And then little by little I brought the pieces out and although I didn't like it I began to reflect on them and they were all adding up to the same conclusion. Then there were the clever let-me-pretend-she-won't-see signs that I wasn't suppose to pick up on but I did.

And then came the spot on the wall. The physical reminder in my face. The replacement hit me full blast in what I tried to cover for so long. So now my home is empty of all reminders. Except for the one in my chest and though I don't feel pain it hurts like hell. I guess this is the closest thing I've come to in having a broken heart and I don't like it. I don't like it one fucking bit.

Too bad there isn't a replacement for that.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

two opposite ends of the spectrum

one street, sparse with people, a long iron chain fence on what was at one time a gas station and a decrepit tenement, at least it was when I was there before. Hanging vertically along the middle is a large hand painted poster, the blurry image of a man with a gun pointed at another. In middle blazing with red and white letters:

Don't shoot! I LOVE my life!!


another street, sparse with people, trees galore. A little girl sits at a table close to the ground, books scattered around her, all on the sidewalk. children's books. She smiles up as I walk by.

" Books are twenty five cents and lemonade and cookies are free with purchase!"

Mother asks her to speak up as I politely ask her opinion of the tattered paperbacks. I buy one and get two cookies while that poster is still in my mind.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

tonic for the day

The start of a long weekend and I wake up early, apparently no sleeping late for me. I sat in the chair wondering what or more likely where I should go. Someplace different, the small voice said. Someplace you haven't been to in awhile. I glanced at the clock and debated for 10 minutes whether I would have time to get dressed and head to the train station and go someplace different. The good voice won and being extra early I actually made it to the station in enough time to warrant not flying up the stairs with a minute to spare.

It was nice being on a train with hardly any people on it and actually silent. Something I really needed to be enveloped in. Not city silence, where you can always hear the slight hum of life going on somewhere but the kind of silence that only happens in those far off places in the country, or for me a forty minute train ride out. Trees that rolled on hills for miles and miles and long roads that seemed to go on forever in the distance. I could mentally unwind without the interruption of an outside force infringing on it. I sat on an actual hill by myself and thanked my lucky stars that I had ventured to this place that I hadn't been to in awhile.

The return trip that brought me back was quite different. Hundreds of people tired of silence, looking for noise and making lots of it too. I had no choice but to use static noise to drown them out. But before the headphones slipped in my ears I glanced at a girl who couldn't have been more than 14 years old having an argument with her dad and using phrases I never would have mumbled at that age:

It's only a two year contract, why can't I get one?? I need an upgrade. If you don't want the five dollar bundle then just cancel it. It's not fair! If anything happens and I'm in a place where my phone won't work...."

When I was her age my parents were yelling at me cause I would spend my allowance money on books, would wear shoes and jackets into the ground and refused to ask for new ones and if I needed to reach family in an emergency I either used a payphone or went to the school office to use a desk phone. And secretly wishing that I had the means to find my own silent space from everyone. The bus outside my mother's house was not an option and the alluring train station located downtown was off my radar except for the rare instance a family member came in by train.

I wouldn't discover that escape route for almost nine years later. And thank my lucky stars that I did.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

a spoon full of sugar

if my week goes as nuts as the last one I am barricading myself in here:

New York Public Library-circa 1910

and I'm not coming out till Friday. I would rather deal with the antics of The Dutchman, The Bug and Mad Dog.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Banana oil



this is me after the most spastic week I've had in a long time. Thank god it's the weekend and I can detox and go back to mildly looking like a sane person....

guess I'm not the only one who was living in lala land, there's a man singing outside my window, off key without a care in the world and it's almost midnight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

sometimes...

Sometimes I wish I could jump in the picture and follow those tracks to the end.

Elevated tracks along 8th Avenue, 1905










Sometimes I wish I could jump in the picture to see what it was like..


Fifth Avenue-Easter 1915





And sometimes, I want to jump in just because....


Place Unknown, 1941

*all photos from Shorpy

Thursday, August 12, 2010

stopped me in my tracks

running around the office like a cat chasing catnip, numbers to crunch thrown at me at all angles...

lunch time...dash down the stairs into the sauna better known as the subway to my second home that I haven't been to in awhile. Guards actually smile with a greeting " Where you been?"

" Hiding"

Sourly gatekeeper still there, wearing a wrist brace to go with his already somber ensemble of plaid shirts and thick glasses. Would have time to feel a nano second of sympathy but I'm too busy fighting with a broken microfiche machine and wondering if someone else sprained it on purpose. Clock ticks by.

Back to the office when I hear from the desk in the corner as I whizz by:

" You know, for a 29 year old woman you are very unusual...very unusual. But in a good way." A wide grin is on the source's face, a woman who does not shell out compliments on a regular basis.

"Thanks, I take that as a compliment."

"As you should!"

"I wouldn't want to be like everyone else."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

details

dark corners illuminated by hanging globes, wood carved into mythical beings. The tiles white and black, gilt edged mirrors align the walls.

conversations of people around me...

" I turned up the lights because of the food, it's not too bright eh?" he says in a heavy Gaelic drawl.

" no, no, not at all. I thought you were trying to wake us up."

" Ahh my dear, you're a bright star all by yourself!"

" So being that they taught me the wrong way, I had to learn to survive."

" I had a Larry David moment, I went into...on Fulton and I ask for a roast beef sandwich, sandwich is $5.00. It comes with lettuce and tomato. So I says, can you put it on the side? He says 'That'll cost you $2.00'. I says are you fuckin kiddin me??? on the sandwich is five bucks, you put it on the side and it's seven dollars?!"

" I says, who says? He says 'cause my boss said so'. So I'm arguing with the guy for over ten minutes."

Other colleague: " Here's what you do, you tell them to put the lettuce and tomato on top and the bread and mayo on the side!"

Everybody laughs and then throws their hands up at the screen for there sitting in a box at a baseball game is Larry David.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

if you want the rainbow, you must have the rain.

a picture I took of a building that caught my attention, as so many of them do.

Pounding the sidewalk as daylight turns to dusk. Seething anger released each time my feet hit the sidewalk. Angry at the lie and because I can see straight through it like shattered glass and because the source thinks they're clever and I wouldn't notice it. A bitter after taste in my mouth that seems to be permeating through my core. If you're going to lie do a better job of it.

Pounding leads me to a place that I've gone by, but never into. There is a happy ending though. Who knew that a tattered photo, broken bottles and blown out safes combined with a really shitty day could be the spark to make me fall in love with my written work again.

I guess creativity works in mysterious ways.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

not the norm..

Haven't been able to write as much as I would like ( here or elsewhere) which has been driving me up a wall. The job that I go to during the day has been a bit crazier than normal and I didn't have the energy to write anything at night. Add the heat, family drama from afar and my body finally taking charge and making me slow down by causing one of my muscles to go out of wack and you wind up with moi in the present.

But hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime taking advantage of the break for as they say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Nuisance

The Past is dead

So let it be

A worn and tattered memory.

What's done is done

Let's not regret

Tis better far that we forget.

The past is queer

It will not stay

Buried in the yesterday

Instead it sneaks up

Softly sly

And pokes its finger in your eye.

-Latham Owens

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

escape route


during a two week period when I only had one day off, I flew to the station in time to catch the train to the farthest point I was yet to travel from new york by myself.

I flopped in the seat, lucky to be near the window, seeing lakes and trees and calmness that I hadn't seen yet.

Stood at the edge of the river bank seeing the Hudson expand in ways that seemed to go on forever and a yearning desire to follow it.

think I need to go back.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

question of the week

Have you ever been stung by a dead bee?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

better off abandoned


It was abandoned like so many other structures here for decades. Neighborhood lore held that in the bad old days, rival gangs would stash the bodies of their victims in the flooded basement. Was only a legend but it added to its mystery. Built in the late 1800's, the wife of Charles Becker, the only police officer in New York City history to be sent to the electric chair, taught here circa 1900. It was the site of a massive turnout for an electoral vote, one of the first where all of Harlem could participate.

I've only found one picture of it from back then, a grainy black and white photo, showing youths in jaunty caps and filling the entire courtyard, recognizable to me by the high arched windows that frame each side and the two buildings down the street that I pass going home from the train. For years, whenever I would walk by, peering past the overgrown trees and looking into its broken windows, especially noticeable in the summer, the middle sidewalk was eerily cold, even with sunlight beaming down at you. I notice odd things like that.

Neighborhood fought for years to have it turned back into a school. Nasty fights at the community boards, developers lying and saying "there aren't enough children in the area." Bullshit. The walls facing the courtyard were painted in a beautiful mural. Developer said it couldn't be saved. Clutching their trade mark coffees and wearing sweaters that seemed more suited to Vermont they wore looks of fear as staunch old timers and young ones like me shot them down. Now it's destined to be something it never should have been, a luxury amenity. Where children use to learn, soon to be a tenant's lounge and cookie cutter apartments. Windows that once looked onto an open courtyard that welcomed everyone will now see only the handful of people who can afford to live there. If they can at all.

I stand across the street, thinking it looked much better with broken windows, and haunted chandeliers glimpsed through long weeds. And that cold feeling? It's still there.

If your interested in learning more about Charles Becker, pick up The Starker by Rose Keefe

Sunday, June 27, 2010

the comedy continues...

Even this I had to laugh at... More dysfunction across the river.

Scene: A courthouse with a strange sounding name.

Players: Me and a clueless clerk.

" How can I help you?"

" I am looking for a criminal indictment from 1941."

Eyes go wide followed by a grin with laughter. Guess this isn't your run of the mill question in this joint.

"Oh boy! That's gonna be hard." She wanders over to a computer. At least it supposed to be a computer. It looks like the word processor I use to use in high school with the black screen and bright green letters jumping at you. She asks me for the name and I give it to her.

(Pause) " Do you have his social security number?"

Did she really just ask me that????

" Uh, no. Social Security wasn't used then."

"What's the victim's name?"

" Fleg..."

" Do you have his social security number?" Mind you, she still has that goofy grin on her face and I am trying my best not to look at her crooked.

" No, he died before social security was even a concept."

She still insists on giving me a form, telling me Archives would take at least a month to look and that if I could get the social security number it would make things easier.

Would love to know what's running in the tap water through this town.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

cheesecake, limonata soda and faces in dreams

We always agree to meet up at least once a month. It never happens and two, three, six of them go by before the timing is right.

Meet up on Mulberry street, eating dinner in the slightly warm restaurant, across the street from the one that still contains bullet holes from a gangster feud over 70 plus years ago ( or is it 80? I forget). Head down the street to the little cafe that I always go to for cheesecake as it's a special treat for me. Plus I love how the owner has been sitting outside, on the same street for forty years.

It's nice to be remembered by someone like that who has seen so many souls pass by. He has seen me in there a few times before.

" How was dinner? You like? You getta pasta?"

" Yes it was nice."

" I have a nice cake for you, you like, on me."

I get cheesecake. She gets pistachio gelato and some of the nice cake.

Conversation veers off into the realm of how we ended up in the places we are in our lives now. The importance of being able to face your demons head on as much as you can.

" You know, I knew a woman once who said " I want it to be that when I dream I can have a face behind it' and I told her, you never see faces in dreams." she remarked.

That's true most of time. The handful of times I did see a face it was of the ghost with the broken nose. And he was staring at me saying nothing. Which usually coincided when I wasn't writing enough.

Meanwhile the owner bid us farewell, he was supposed to leave a half hour before but he promised the next time he saw us he would have another cake made up.

"Ciao now, goodbye!"

I enjoyed my cheesecake, she enjoyed her ice cream and the nice cake.

And we both enjoyed the conversation.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

sums it up nicely


walking after my day job to clear my head, only to stumble on this as I went home to my other job in front of my computer. The one that despite the frustrations and occasional writers block, creates an even balance for me soul wise.
People work much in order to secure the future, I gave my mind much work and trouble trying to secure the past.
Think that's a nice job description.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

looking glass

my camera taking a picture of me peering through the lens of something too sophisticated for my taste.



got to look at myself through the lens of a friend's high powered camera. The tiredness showing in my eyes and on my face. The realization that I really need to take a break. Been running on an empty tank for quite some time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

piss poor management

go across the pond on a whim, maybe this time might yield something different.

Nope.

Scene: Police Department

Players: Me, police officer behind partition.

" How can I help you miss?"

" I need investigative notes on a shooting from 1935."

" Holy Shit!"

" Just tell me where I can go please, I've been bounced all over."

Up the elevator to the Homicide division. ( note: you never want to be there under any circumstances) a cold empty hallway: I get blank, suspicious looks, I put on my best shirley temple smile with my hands clearly visible.

One barks: " You a relative?" ( maybe I need to say that next time)

" I'm researching the victim."

" You gotta send a letter to the director for permission across the street"

Letters get me no where in this town, so I bypass that and head straight over. Those detectives are a little bit more friendlier, the one stops laughing when he sees I'm glaring at him.

" Ah, miss that's hard, ya talkin 75 years ago, see those records from back then were moved a hundred times, one place had a fire, the other there was water damage." So God struck twice to rid Babylon of it's sins in the form of old records? Must've been a slow year then.

Bounced back home gritting my teeth, not so much from hitting a road block but more at how poorly kept things are and no one cares until someone comes calling for it. Well, as long as there's a will, there's a way and I'm gonna find it. Somewhere. Just need a bigger flashlight and a whole new bottle of patience.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

the diner on wheels

I love diners, always have and especially here as they are a rapidly vanishing entity. Keep your six dollar cups of coffee and give me the small cup sitting in a saucer wet on the bottom from it being filled to the top for $1.25.

There is only one located near where I work, but instead of chromed seats and waitresses balancing plates of hot food, this one is on wheels. In a small beat up truck that sits on the same corner everyday near the Staten Island Ferry. I was in heaven the first time I found it, wandering around for something different. Guy who runs it has been there for close to 40 years, has a toothy grin and trades jabs with all the regulars. After visiting two or three times he remembered me and I was included into the fold.

" Who has the best grilled cheese sandwiches?" he says pointing a finger at me.

"You do!" He smiles his buck tooth grin and winks. Yesterday he asks:

" Ya married?"

"Nope."

" If ya don't mind me askin miss how old are ya?"

" 28"

" Ah, ya still a baby!"

" That's what they tell me."

" Ever been married?"

"Nope." His smile gets even bigger if it's possible.

" Ahh!! smart girl!" he says tapping his head and speaking with the kind of accent only natives of this city are blessed to have and everyone else wishes they could imitate. "You don't want the drama!"

He asks what building I work at and I tell him. His face turns to surprise then gratitude. "You come from all the way up there??! Hey Joe, you hear how far she comes from for us?"

He leans out the window and takes my hand in his suntanned one. " You could go to any place round here for a sandwich and you come to me. God bless ya sweetheart! Wanna pickle? And be sure to take some chips!"

I bid him a good weekend and he tells me to be careful crossing the street.

So if you're ever down near the ferry look for the truck that says All American Diner, and they guarantee their food will be the best you'll ever have.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

relaxing sound on a warm day

walking aimlessly on the city streets, not too hot of a day, but for someone who lives running on her feet, warmer that usual.

Window shopping, as this was the check that goes towards rent meaning not too much left until next time. That's ok, I have a roof over my head and food to sustain me when the ghosts of the past drain me out.

Drawn into the building with old objects beckoning in the window as I'm a sucker for such things. At the top of the stairs I hear it, that scratchy needle recognizable to me anywhere. I follow the sound to see the horn of the graphophone belting out in the cramped space filled with wax cylinders, microphones and radios. It echoes over the whole floor. The woman winding up the spring, testing old records for a couple that want to borrow it for a wedding and I stand there transfixed, wishing I had that in my house as it seems far more superior to my little boom box for drowning out the obnoxious neighbor blasting techno music when I'm trying to write.

" I think these are appropriate for a wedding, don't you think?" she smiles as she looks up at me.

I nod in agreement. Not bad for a 90 year old entertainment center.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

mixed signals

listening to a conversation.
of someone who sounds like they are settling for something less than they deserve.
trying to make someone feel something they can't.
me, tired, running on vapors, the ghost impatiently floating in the corner.
I don't know what to say to this cycle that repeats itself over and over.
So I remain silent, offering only an ear over a wire.
sometimes it's all one can do.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

peering in the well with a flashlight...

... can lead to many interesting objects being highlighted in fragmented rays. Some things are stuck in the crevices of the well, no matter how hard you bend over to pull they won't budge. Some things come out in curiosity, wondering where that piercing light came from. Some times the light is too harsh and those things that would like to come out end up burying themselves deeper and deeper into the cool dampness of the shadows in which they dwell.

And if you peer straight down you may see a reflection of yourself in those rays, reflected on a pool of impenetrable blackness. It can either beckon or intimidate. It's up to you on whether you can handle sliding down the slickness of that round cavity, to know what is on the other side of that reflection.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fulfilment

I do not sit and sigh for wealth untold,

It never thrusts itself into my schemes;

I shrink from all your piles of clanking gold,

Better my sparkling hoard of golden dreams.

A life of limousined and jeweled ease is but a round of fathomless ennui.

Your motor cars, your pearls, your sables, these are naught to me.

Better a homely flat in Harlem's wilds, than a costly living's spurious benefits.

Better a simple buttercake at Childs' than caviar and stalled ox at the Ritz.

Your unearned gold to me, is shot with flaws; A life of honest toil I'd make my lot.

Which really makes it very nice, because it's what I've got.

-Dorothy Parker

Sunday, May 9, 2010

power of a memory


How do you compact five decades of memories into one afternoon? I guess in instances like this time cannot be molded. I had never seen this until a few weeks ago, but there it was in a new frame, above the picture of my father and his brother and sisters.
In a house full of five decades of memories. Some good, some not so good. '
Pictures of cars that once had running boards wide enough for a man to stand on the side of and hoods long enough to stretch on.
Of my great grandparents, one of which I had the pleasure to meet and know in my lifetime. Her handmade Japanese panel hangs on my wall and an old camera is hidden in a drawer somewhere.
Photos of me I never knew existed and memories of which I cannot recall.
This photo was the first time I saw my grandfather smile. I guess three decades on the police force as a detective will do something to ya. Till this day I swear he's profiling people in public. My grandmother still has that smile of mischief and a hidden giggle. Still remembers the first time she saw him in the playground with his hat and the color shirt he was wearing. You don't hear things like that anymore.
She asked me to bless the table and I didn't even blink. As everyone joined hands, both of them surrounded by their two sons and daughters, friends and family, a memory was created for me that will last a lifetime.
After I was done with my little speech of which I had no clue what I was saying, I saw my grandparents cry for the first time. And for the second time I saw my grandfather smile.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

signs of a new beginning











She comes out every spring to replant all the gardens. A skill perfected over 40 years in her home, talents she got from her mother and father years before that in that distant homeland south of the equator. I always know it's spring by seeing her rake and shovel propped up against the wall opposite my kitchen window.


She was out early this morning and worked well into the evening, her voice giving words of encouragement to the property maintenance crew who always help. She asks if I would ever go into the garden but my talents always seem to work with plants that grow indoors. But maybe one day.


And as she rarely lets me take her picture I managed to sneak one while she was giving directions for where the perennials and rose bushes will go. Of course of her prior plantings are hiding her bright yellow shirt, wind visor and apron filled with seeds.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

rescued


I don't know how old it is, at the bottom it said it sold for 25 cents when it was brand new a long time ago. Even a coupon clung to its backside with the notation " ask your newsdealer about special offers!". But it was in pretty bad shape. Sent to the dollar pile of the castoffs of the 18,000 miles of books-bookstore. Me, always having a soft spot for the orphaned printed word spotted it face up on the damp ground, flung in the corner where it had fallen. The sides looked as if someone had burnt it, large chunks where missing from the spine and even the delicate page turn in my hands sent pieces of brittle paper spraying my coat.
But it still looked interesting by the pages that remained in tact and I figured I had a warm home it could spend the rest of its days verses a shelf barely covered from the raindrops dripping from above. So now it sits in comfort on my already crowded bookcase.

Friday, April 16, 2010

wishing-part 2

bouncing on a train to another city, this time with unexpected company in the form of my friend and colleague from the museum of the other city I left..she came to spend the day with me and I rewarded her with dragging her somewhere else other than the concrete jungle. Cause as I've learned it's better to get blank stares and mouths dropping to the floor in person than being passed from phone extension to phone extension.

Was worth the trip in many ways. Catching up with someone special, seeing frozen in time buildings of all shapes and sizes ( note to self, go early next time to discreetly snap more photos). The best treat was the domed ceiling, peeling paint and extensive moldings of the old courthouse as we walked through the musty corridors of typical government offices. And the comedy begins:

Bored government official: "Yes?"
Me: " I need to find investigatory notes on a shooting from 1935."
Bored agent, snapping to life, eyes getting big as saucers: "Ha! 1935??? You gonna have to go to the Archives! 1935 you weren't even born yet!"

Me: " Uh, I was told this was the Archives."

Agent: "No, no go out this building to ghdhdfhshssh" ( as in could not make it out, was a cross between Fulton, Hustle and something else). "At the light, that's the archives."

Back on the sidewalk, turned to Susie " OK, the light is over there so maybe it's that way. What the hell did she say?"

Susie: " I think she said Hill, there's Hill over there." We go another way, stop to ask a cop who was actually friendly, hence a quizzical look on my face. New York City cops don't smile like that.

Go back the other direction, find the un-pronouncable street with a building correctly named Archives and begin all over again. More dumbfounded looks between a security guard and a voice over an office partition.

"1993?"

" No, 1935."

" You gotta go to the City Clerk."

Susie: " We were just there and they told us to come here."

Finally after double talk they produce a form that I have to fill out only to take back to the office that we just left. I ended it by saying I didn't care what it was, it could be one sheet of paper, all I knew was the city had something in their files and I just wanted to see it. They take the form, log it and then say for another leg of the journey.

" For Essex County prosecutions you have to go to blah blah blah"

So off we bounce to yet another courthouse and arrive in a very old school little office that has three arrows: Bail Bonds, Complaints and Information. Except there was no information desk, just a tablet for you to write your name and what you were there for. At least I made it farther than I had in the past but the conversations around me told me people had more important things to deal with. Namely, the poor person who had to listen to the File a Complaint line. The last thing Susie and I heard before me saying I would do this part of the adventure another day was:

" This is your ninth arrest."

"So what? That doesn't give him the right to take my car!"

Me to Susie: " Let's go, and thanks for coming with me. Now you know what I go through most of the time."

Susie: "No problem, I'm having fun!"

Get on the elevator, hit the wrong button and end up in the Prisoners Detention Bureau and Susie bursts out laughing.

Me: " We need to get out of here."

And back to the concrete jungle we go so she can at least see apart of that city.

The end. For Now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I wish upon a star

The old bones spoke, but they did not give direct answers...

Here's wishing they speak fast enough for the large files to come in before my mental break from my other job ends next week. As for directly, they never do so I'm not even gonna hope for that.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

words of reflection, seventy one years later, from a usually tightlipped source

" I have a dollar in my pocket. And as long as I have that I can't be broke."

Jimmy Hines-Tammany Hall district leader
Jan. 1939

statement made during his criminal trial to a reporter's question on rumors that he was dead broke.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

75-8 a -c

Whenever I venture back to the city that I left, I have to go in and stop to visit the dust and old scents of the museum I left behind. Though according to the curator I never left. I am a "consultant". I just live far away. Thus begins the usual playful banter amongst oil paintings of men long gone, a giant 100 year old cash register that has to sit on a dolly to support its weight and other unknown nick knacks whose purpose are written on faded old cards.

"Can I go visit my baby now?"

"Sure, no one has been up to see it since you were last here."

" That's why you should give it to me. I will take good care of it. Anyway, you have at least twelve of them, you won't miss it."

He smiles and gently shakes his head like a parent. But he gives me the keys to the vault to go "and say hello."

So I make my way through the maze of tunnels to the 77 year old Otis elevator, pull the heavy gate and push the knob to the 4th floor. It bounces and clicks until dropping me off in a dark tunnel. I went this way a thousand times and know where to go until I reach the gate that says "museum artifacts are happier in the dark."

Unlocking the gate and going past light bulbs, model airplanes, 90 year old typewriters and city replicas I make my way to the back to the heavy graphophone featured in the 1896 World's Fair that won my heart all those years ago. And with slight touch of an old spring it hums back to life and warms my heart until the next visit.

ying, ying, ying, ying...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

check list

small bag packed.

box to fold myself into in place.

Notes on subject in folder are tucked in the side seam. that should maintain my sanity.

a large bottle of patience sits on top of bag.

sticky note reminding me of whatever I need to remember stuck to my head.

ok, think I'm good to go...

Monday, March 29, 2010

plunging into murky waters

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?- Meno

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That's where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from and where you will go.- Rebecca Solnit


Sometimes I feel like I am a blind bat flying in the dark, not knowing what I am going to stumble into, but something pulls and pushes me against the current and I always end up where I am meant to be. I guess because I never have a pre-disposition to know what I am seeking. I just know something is waiting to be discovered even for a moment.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

in the presence of ghosts



I always wanted to go in and never got the chance. A invitation to an honored event changed that. Once upon a time it was a theater, ornate columns and moldings on the ceiling and along the perimeter of the amphitheater. If you listened closely you could hear the faint echo of the talented giants that passed through its doors and had congregated under its bright lights hoping to be recognized.

Now it is a house of worship, hearing the private hopes, dreams and heartaches of those in its pews. And while a limited selection of talented women were honored for their lifetime achievements, I looked up and thought of the specters looking down on everyone making their own paths.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

the thread that leads to everywhere

People need to put a little bit more time and effort into following what their heart wants verses selling themselves short to go down the easy path. I got to thinking today how many times a dream or goal is swept to the wayside because someone else wants to pull the strings. Look how often children are told ( or in most instances, just humored with the "aww aren't they cute" looks) that they can do whatever they want when they grow up: be a firefighter, an astronaut, an explorer. Fast forward 15 to 20 years and the tolerance evaporates along with the glass ceiling that is put up as a barrier, you are told you can only go so high. Don't think different thoughts than us, don't pursue different things than us. Just make enough to take care of yourself and someone else and leave the dreams for the kids.

We all have to do things we may not like in order to survive, but that doesn't mean you sell yourself short. The dreams that are in your heart is what sustains you. Just live it and everything else will work out if you want it to. And it doesn't matter what it is, you could enjoy staring at earthworms in a jar all day or going through a box containing the stories of dead men who did bad things or learning how to turn nothing into something. You never know where the road is going to lead you. It only takes a single thread spun in different ways to make something magical.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

the unexpected question of the evening

It was a surprise birthday party in an old building on the Upper West Side. The hallway was turned into a makeshift extension of the apartment, with notes stuck on the doors of the neighbors to join in, you know in case they complained about the noise in the hall. The cat made her way around everyone's legs jumping up to have her head rubbed.

I didn't know any of the others, the usual awkward silence when you only know the host of the party. I stuck to the wall, a party hat on my head waiting for the birthday boy to arrive off the elevator. Lost in my concentration on focusing on the elevator buttons I hear the hostess say:

" You should really talk to her, she's writing a book on Jewish gangsters."

Meaning me, the only gentile in the group. Looks of interest my way turn to rushed excitement as the doorman phones to say the birthday boy is on his way up. Then for the next four hours I hear variations of "so how did you get interested in Jewish gangsters?"

"It's a long story. But a fun one."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

my easter present


it is over fifty years old, made by a woman long gone for my father when his hands could barely hold it and filled with easter eggs and fake grass. Sat in the giant cupboard in my grandparents dining room for years, next to the letter dated from 1945 from my great grandfather to my great grandmother. And after a weekend curled in my grandparents room watching Joan Blondell, Dick Powell and Carole Lombard, she reached in and said I should have it as I would take better care of it than my father. My grandpa gave me wrapping paper and I carefully tucked in my bag, holding onto a piece of my family before it vanished into thin air.
My dad won't mind, he misplaces things all the time anyway.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

catching sight of yourself by accident


"...she described you by your shoes. Said look for a woman in sneakers because you walk everywhere."
It was true, in a sea of heels and boots I was the only one in sneakers. Was the best description of myself that I've heard so far.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"none doing"


Mr. Agent,

Lemme take a few moments to introduce myself though I'm sure you've heard of me...I'm the Dutchman, my researcher's cranky, unpredictable, frustrating and fun subject of a book. Oh yeah, and I'm dead, as in shot with a bullet 75 years ago dead. She was real honored to meet ya this evening courtesy of the lovely dolls that brought her to the Chow Bar. However you freaked her out with the dreaded "D" word: deadline. She don't do deadlines. It never entered her mind. Not near completion yet and she was already given good advice by Mr. Downey on that subject of offering a porterhouse steak when all she has is ground up meat.

If she was writin a fiction piece that might not be so hard..but a bio? and a first time writer at that? she ain't ready for that. She thinks she's Dr. Seuss' little sister right about now. Personally I like sending her on wild goose chases or giving the silent treatment, after all I have all the time in the world and there's only so many times one can play pinochle in gangster purgatory. So don't worry, when she is ready to show anything she will. But don't say the "D" word again or else she's likely to turn into Dorothy Parker, smokin cigs and throwin back orange blossoms. And that lady never turned anything in on time.

Oh geez, I better go tap her on the shoulder, she's singing some Ruth Etting song at the top of her lungs and the neighbors won't like that. And I gotta go back to gangster purgatory, there's a poker game goin on and that bum Julie owes me 20 grand. But, I'll see ya some time in the future, after she gets the run over from her buddy in Jersey, Jupiter's mother and that doll out in Cleveland. Till then try to decipher a boy has never wept...that oughta keep ya occupied for awhile...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

peering into the rabbit hole...

has yielded all kinds of interesting goodies and still does. Think by my calculations I think I have inched over to the halfway point so now I can pull my hair out over the other half. Don't worry, I'm not getting done anytime soon. That would be way too easy and I don't believe in doing a half baked job at anything.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

87 year old words of wisdom

May your joys be as deep as the ocean, and your sorrow as light as the foam.

God made our relatives and I make my friends.

Never trouble trouble, until trouble, troubles you. For if you trouble trouble, trouble surely trouble you.

Friends are like melons, shall I tell you why? To find a good one you must a hundred try.

You may fall from a house top. You may fall from above. But the greatest fall is when you fall in love.


-All entries taken from the pages of an autograph book I own that was signed by the friends of a girl attending high school in Rye, New York from September to October 1923.

Monday, February 22, 2010

mourning prayer


It felt like I shouldn't be there. I was lightheaded from the uneven walkway. The ground felt lopsided, as if at any moment in a fit of angry grief the ground would give way beneath your feet and send you tumbling to the street below. I rarely get to look up into the insides of a structural corpse from such a close vantage point. Covered in its mourning shroud as the thin beautiful clones around me lamented about everything being dead and "unpretty", sipping expensive drinks in wooden lounge chairs and oblivious to the angry winds around them, I captured what remained, being torn apart in the name of progress and said a silent prayer for it's imminent departure.

Friday, February 19, 2010

from one misfit toy to another

the brassy ( since birth), blonde ( by choice) Latina has been my rock ever since I took this job in a corporate world and me the least corporate type, needing a blue print on how to navigate the suits and overblown egos of men and women who never grew up. She helped me my first week when the jock in the corner office wanted to drag me over the coals for answering his phone the wrong way and sat with me for over an hour in a conference room trying to figure out where the fuck I went wrong as I had no training on said phone with multifeatureswithnoinstructions.

She became a welcome reprieve, before I discovered the treasure trove the sourly gatekeepers were hoarding and listens with a co-conspirator grin when I ask depending on my mood (joking or serious) whether any of her Italian "construction" friends would like to come to visit family with me for the sole purpose of scaring the shit out of them and make them shut up about me living alone. Which mind you I don't live alone, I have very pretty, self containing plants to keep me company.

She grew up in Harlem when most of the surrounding structures were burnt out shells of their former selves and you would never wanna face her in a fight. She has the tough as nails persona I wish I had sometimes, though I've been told it's obvious I don't know my own strength. Put me in a corner and I push back with all my might. So this time she came to me, the year starting off shaky, seeing her tough as nails father break at the death of a grandmother she wasn't close to, to the passing of the tough as nails grandfather who raised her being buried in Florida with her money and bringing her grieving, self raging mother back to her ancestral home in New York.

" Listen darling, I became you. I raged and I finally broke." She smiles up at me, perched in the corner...snippets of said conversation spilled to me, rage held in for over twenty somethin years:

"Who the fuck are you to judge me? I'm tellin ya, I love my mother, she's my mother, but I've been seeing the truth for thirty fuckin years and it was time to come out."

"Your other daughter may have a Ph.D in business, but I got a doctorate in life, I know how to fuckin take care of my shit. The father of my son may not be perfect, but he loves me for who I am. Your other daughter? That motherfucka don't even respect her. And you want to put me under the microscope?"

"I buried my grandfather, cause that was the least I could do for that man, I will never get over my debts to him, cause he hand fed me many times. I came back to New York broke, wonderin what I was gonna do. And guess what? I get a call today and the money is going into my account. Now, who's the stupid one?"

"Lana, I had to go outside in the car after that and rage and cry, cause I think I never got a chance to mourn that man, and I had to let it out on her. I knew you would understand with your mother. You know what I mean mamma?"

Me: "Yes...yes I do, all too well."

With that she outstretched her arms in the air in a victory sign. " But listen darling, don't you go completely over the edge yet. I'm what? Less than ten years older than you? You gotta little while longer to let go like that." maybe not on blood yet, but I can on my adopted mother, the ever shifting world outside my door.

With all the punches from my adopted mother hitting my sides as I silently screamed up Sixth Avenue at 11pm at night, I threw my victory sign in the air. This misfit toy is pushing back with all her might and using the strength of the other one to know that after the raging comes the calm. Whether you see it on the horizon or not.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ann and Gertrude

I spotted them almost half a mile away. My first full day out and about, I decided to go to a familiar and difficult place to stretch my legs: the final home of such people as Foster, Dunlop and Mead. I don't know who these people were or what they did, but their elaborate homes are familiar markers in that vast community I have gone through many times before. Hence the easy part. No so easy if the pain were to return as I rarely see anything living in that vast city...unless you count the wild bird that startled me two springs ago on it's quest for nuts in the grass.

This time there was another human being, and a tiny canine wearing a red padded jacket to boot. The woman was trying to get the dog to move, but she refused, steadfast with her little frame, waiting for me to come down that winding road.

" Are you happy now? Here she comes...she wanted to wait for you." The owner said, as if they had been expecting me all along. The woman was very old, thin frame, with short cropped hair. She tugged on the leash. " Come on Gertrude". The dog looked up at me, now walking along side them and continued to walk ahead of me and my new companion.

" I walk her here every week, all the security guards know me" she paused and then chuckled as she looked around. " And all the dead know me too."

" I think I can say the same thing, at least about the dead."

" Oh you come here often too? Funny this is the first time we're meeting. I've been walking through here for almost 20 years. It's a nice place to get solitude."

We walked the entire length of that city, her giving me the story of her life: the husband she's had for 45 years, the small house with the 1906 parlor "thank god, not small enough where your knees would touch". Glad her husband was about to retire so that they can finally get away to St. Augustine, Florida.

Gertrude, pausing to make sure I was still between her and her owner, looking up at me and trying to jump up, though her paws barely reached my knees. At the end, the guards sure enough greeted her warmly and she said she hoped that she would meet me again sometime.

" You know, when I was younger I use to take laps around one of those pools in the city. This is your lap. You'll never get lonely or depressed here. You have a great way of clearing your mind. Hope to see you again." She told me her name was Ann.

I bid her farewell and made my way back through that city again to my entrance. The guard smiled and said " You walked the whole length huh?"

"Yup." Maybe he'll remember me next time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

another room, another story

the reconstructing of a life usually has me confined to one room in my home, important documents and notes within easy reach of my fingertips to jump start the words. Tonight, my body made stiff with pain caused me to be confined to another part of my home where mentally I reconstructed the lives of some nameless and faceless people on the street, in the stairway and in the vast courtyard below. Broken promises, unexpected joys and the plain foolishness that people bring out when they think no one is or can be listening.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

wishful thought...

that I can wake up tomorrow like a kid and be told by the AM radio that I don't have to go anywhere. That was always the best, the news report with the ticker going off in the background, crouched on the floor staring at my little radio that I still have now, waiting for the quick, somber voice of the broadcaster on the other end to say those magic words at 5:30 in the morning.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

the art of connecting/disconnecting

I miss the good old days when people could actually have a conversation. You know, face to face or a hand written letter or a phone call. Reaching out to someone and hearing back was a special feeling. Even email seems more of a human connection these days. People are always amazed that I do not possess and never will, anything that has an "I" as part of it's name, a portable computer that I can start up in any location to be connected or the fact that if I want to remember something I pull out my little notebook or a piece of paper that is in my bag to write it down verses pulling out my camera and taking a picture of it.

My computer is much more comfortable at home. The one time I had to take it out recently it gave me hell and paid me back from a much needed service visit by destroying the wheels of my carry on bag I carried it in, that I've had for over 11 years. Everyone was baffled by the fact that I refused to throw the bag out and buy a new one and I went on a mission to find a repair shop, which I did, almost 60 blocks away from my house during a walk. A little old hole in the wall, the smell of leather and shoe polish hitting you the minute you came through the door. After all, nothing is wrong with the bag, even the shopkeeper grunted that it was nice. All it needed was a new set of wheels.

I know this works for some people, upgrading their lives to tune in, but not for me. Recently I had to get up really early to run an errand before work and it was nice hearing just the usual morning sounds without someone walking by screaming into their cellphone. Even got to see some old signs that I had photographed long ago but hadn't looked at in awhile. Maybe I need to get up that early more often, just to disconnect from everyone else "connecting" before beginning my day. Because by the time I begin mine, which is still fairly early, people are already plugged in.

..I just realized, does anyone even say shopkeeper anymore? :) now all I need is a Child's restaurant where I can get coffee for 10 cents and I'll be set..

and thank you Claire, via Florence about always carrying a pencil and a piece of paper :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

good sign

found three pennies today from 1937, 1938 and 1942 respectively within the midst of $1.05 made up entirely of old coins, though not as old as those. Haven't found this much in one day in a long time so I'm gonna take that as a good omen. More things from the past about to show up? :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

different audience

I ran from my house, that cannot contain me...

Walked across the bridge as I had done many times before, it's spirals darting to the sky.

I ran from the noise and the silence, from the traffic on the streets..

Heard the slow whistle of the elevated train as it bounced over it's rickety track in the damp cool air.

I ran past the churches, and the crooked old mailbox, past the apple orchards and the lady that never talks...

Up into the hills, I ran to the cemetery..

Forced to exit, down the stairs, air getting colder, calm silence penetrating my mind, drowning out all thoughts.

And I saw the crumbling tombstones, of forgotten names.

Foster, Wyckoff, and Dr. Dunlop, M.D, small houses in the city of the dead, offering a quiet audience to my rambling thoughts.

I ran to the forest, I ran to the trees, I ran and I ran, I was looking for me.

Cover the paths I've walked a thousand times, though the journey is always a thousand times different.

I ran and I ran....

blockage broken, mind cleared, words flow again. well worth the trip.

italics- lyrics from Mer Girl

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I could walk 500 miles and get a new lesson each time.

I probably could walk that long. Literally. Friends and family can't keep up. I don't do it on purpose, I just simply get my mind going when my feet are strolling on the ground, not curled up on the couch. What better way to imagine what life might have been like for a research subject then standing in front of a 100 year old tenement, or a former speak or seeing the site of something that once was something else? Books and words will only reveal so much.

So I think yesterday I logged close to 10 miles or more. ( My friend did the counting close to the end of the day). From the Upper West Side to Central Harlem and back, then back and forth over twenty more blocks then, oh yeah think I need to grab something from the library, another notch on the invisible odometer. Wasn't worn out at all, then I go into this wacky vintage clothing store by accident and I hear this:

Sales woman with a real New York accent, not from a can, probably in her sixties referring to a customer:

" She's from Paris."

Another sales woman, same description as above:

" Nah, nah, she's from the Upper West Side now, it doesn't matter that she was born in Paris, she lives on the Upper West Side so that makes her apart of the UWS. We all came from somewhere else at some point in our lives."

Me: " I really like hearing that."

Sales Lady: " Well, it's true!" Looking at me: "How old are you? My, my this store has been here nearly twice as long as your age! You should visit us more often."

Just the fact that they have a giant leopard printed bag with a clock in the center of it, hanging next to cloche hats, and glittered shoes that would make Dorothy's head spin, makes me think I will..on my next 10 mile walk.

Friday, January 15, 2010

salt water taffy, steamboats and auto rides

If you are tired of bundling up and grabbing cocoa, hot toddy's or coffee, just imagine you're here...

Atlantic City Boardwalk-1904

Or if you are a lady wrapped in something like this...

Fox Furs-1911

Sorry fellas, I'll get ya next time.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Acting my Age

Here, according to the natives, my physical age is still "very young" or "your still a baby". Mind you I am roughly a year and half away from turning 30 which doesn't frighten me at all. Though much to my annoyance, whenever I venture away from home, family like to give me their worried looks. I guess for them it sucks that I didn't put on the white dress at 23 years old and pop out a couple of cute toddlers by now. But alas, that's not me, maybe one day, but that's not the brass ring I am aiming for at the moment. I never was one to act my age, half the time I forget how old I am.

I listen to music that was popular eighty years ago, I photograph faded pre-war signs on buildings, to the point where people with sharper vision than me can't see the faded outline of a letter or picture but I can. I see nothing troublesome with digging up old indictment files, mugshots, and manuscripts to name a few, the old fashioned way, meaning fighting with a microfiche machine ( you know, those archaic beasts with a roller and forward and rewind buttons to look at a photostatic image.)

I actually enjoy reading, not skimming one sentence with the conviction that I will figure out the rest of the paragraph. I've run into countless people who claim to be my age that seriously makes me wonder how did they pass high school by their endless insistence on having a limited attention span.

I hope that I never act my age, I like the number I've adopted for myself. A friend recently pointed out to me that my current age falls within the Saturn Return, which from as I understand it, you leave every vestige of childhood behind between the ages of 27 and 30 and step over a threshold into the next phase of your life as an adult. If your true self has been built on faulty layers, than your life will be filled with chaos until you become honest with yourself. So far I think I am on the right track. There has been some upheaval, but my core self has remained sound. When I think back on it, right after I turned 27, an idea was posed to me that seemed unfeasible and completely frightening at the same time. And although it has taken me awhile to admit it to myself, a year and a half later I'm doing it. Piece by piece, one step at a time. And I wouldn't trade it for all the instant gratification in the world.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Live Like You're Dying

One of these days you'll be under the covers, you'll be under the table and you'll realize...

That all of your days are numbered, all of them one to one hundred, all of them millons, all of them trillions.

So what are you gonna do with them all? Cause you cannot trade them in for more.

Live every moment, you know that you own them, it's all up to you to do whatever you choose.

Live like you're dyin, and never stop tryin, it's all up to you. Use what's been givin to you!

-Lenka

Friday, January 1, 2010

the ghosts of new year's


the name of the man who moved in 82 years ago is still on the front door. Telephone wiring from an era long gone still runs on the baseboards. Original moldings, furniture and pictures throughout, including a letter carrier from around 1910 showing the first Model T's. My neighbor had knocked on my door the night before asking if I would like to ring in the new year with her, her sister and uncle. I had planned to spend it curled up in my living room or working on my project, but I happily obliged.

The air was warm and inviting and people who I consider to be family warmly welcomed me. I long ago accepted ghosts as constant companions, in my field of interest they would be hard to ignore. So it came as no surprise when my neighbor said as if it were a common occurrence that the gold trimmed glasses used to ring in this new and unknown year where originally brought by her now deceased husband's mother sometime in the then unknown decade known as the Twenties. Still intact, gold trim and all and long before they were born. I had never known people to possess such tangible objects connecting the past and the present until I moved here. Maybe because in my family such things are lost, fought over by elders or hidden in secret places until people forget about their very existence.

We danced in her living room to music from the 50's, me promising to return for the big dinner scheduled for later in the day with more people, and eventually me leaving her and her ghostly companions behind and returning to mine spread out in the stacks paper where I had left them.

Happy New Year Everyone!