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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm the girl who is pointing her camera in the opposite direction of the Empire State building, at the faded sign on a tenement down the street. If not I'm bothering the folks at the Municipal Archives digging up info on people long gone and writing among other things a biography on a man who did wicked things. Stay tuned.