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 :)