It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Category Archives: My Truth
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
Sunny and cool this morning as I wait for my train on the railroad platform. This is my 2nd unexpected trip to New York in recent times, with the promise of 50 degree temps today there was no way I was staying home. The chores can wait till tomorrow. The New Year hasn’t turned out too good so far but of course it could be much worse. My father has been sick with a cold and asked me on New Years Eve morning to lookup online the symptoms of swelling in the legs. I ask to see it and it looks like cellulitis, just like my mom had which I chronicled in my story Anya,Mosquito’s and Me a few years ago. I tell dad to call his doctor and he is told to go to the ER. So I leave for the store because dad insists on finishing his toast and tea, like a sort of last meal before the cigarette and blindfold I guess. When I come back mom is up and I tell my brother through his closed-door what is happening and leave for the ER. This has become all too familiar in recent years.
When I park the car after letting dad out at the door I find him in triage being evaluated. I help them fill in the blanks of my dads memory and then they take him to chest ER and we are seen soon enough. The same jackass who misdiagnosed my brother with a simple nosebleed is my dads doctor, but I hold my tongue pending any legal action my brother might take against the hospital. They immediately put him on oxygen with a nebulizer and a double antibiotic drip. He has congestive heart failure, edema, cellulitis, possible pneumonia and anemia. He will be admitted as soon as they do some tests and find a bed. I go down to find some breakfast but they don’t open till eleven for lunch, so I get some free utility coffee and graham crackers in the pantry and wait as more blood is drawn for a second round of tests.
When my mom and brother show up I say goodbye to dad and head home stopping first at the liquor store to see my friends and fill them in on what’s happening. They are shocked and sorry for us as another holiday is ruined. They don’t even know about the trouble with mom at Christmas which wasn’t medical but just as devastating. I go home and clean up a bit and pour myself a glass of wine and settle in to make a meat and vegetable lasagna, with no bake whole wheat pasta, skim milk cheese and ricotta with fresh tomato sauce. I’m so glad I can get healthy foods in under the radar like this and nobody is any the wiser. It’s getting dark and I really wish that mom and bro would get home before the crazies start driving around. They finally arrive and we sit down to eat the food which was awesome, later we toast the New Year with Negroni’s for me and beer for my brother and we watch the ball drop with mom. I note that Carson Daley has almost completed his transformation into Dick Clark. We are all mad at dad for refusing to go to the doctor until his scheduled visit in January and landing himself in the ER again. This is an exact repeat of Christmas 2010.
The next day I plan to try making French macaron’s for the first time followed by a small pork roast I got on sale as our holiday dinner. I visit dad in the morning and bring him the paper and he is looking better already, I try to make the best of it by making small talk and watching TV but he is mad. I take the opportunity to speak with the floor doctor to correct any false statements my dad made and fill in gaps about his last trip to the ER. Soon after I leave and wish him a happier New Year with assurances that mom and bro will be there later. Despite my efforts to make his tea and heat up his lunch and prep it for him he is miserable. There is nothing I can do. I go home to find the house empty and since I’ve again had nothing all day, I don’t know it yet. But I’m about to make the best Fritatta of my life! I combined chopped onions, ham, potato and goat cheddar cheese cooked on the stove top and then into the oven to broil the top and melt the cheese. It was a masterpiece, cooked to perfection! The flavor was out of this world and no one was there to see it. Someday I will make some lucky girl very happy, I cook well , don’t watch sports ( except the Olympics), I actually enjoy shopping and I’m an artist. But enough bragging about me…my euphoria was cut short as the unforgiving macarons would remind me just how much of an amateur baker I am. I set up my mise-en-place and have my instructions out and while the oven heats up I mix the almond meal with the egg whites and then pipe them on to the baking sheets, but my first batch doesn’t rise and spread the way it should, and despite lowering the heat and doubling up the pans my second or third don’t work either. I have succeeded in making crunchy buttons that’s all. So I clean up the Fritatta, storing it to take to work for the week and clean up my mess when I hear a strange noise in the house.
What sounds like the blinds on the back door being ruffled by someone brings me to full alert, I go into the dinning room expecting God only knows but there is nothing there. I’m alone in the house, it is then that I smell that ugly burning wire smell that sends me racing upstairs to check the rooms and then back down again to find the source. I finally call the fire dept who advise me to get out of the house but I stay. I move the furniture around to find the source looking for the problem when I look up and see the chandelier has one candle that is black and melted. I quickly turn off the light and call back the firehouse to cancel the call but as I can hear they are already on their way. I go out side to find they have brought every truck imagineable as well as the Chief dressed in his dress blues and the others in full battle gear. I shake hands with the Captain and explain that he didn’t have to get dressed up for the occasion but he laughs and tells me they just came from a swearing-in ceremony. I tell him what I found and they go in to check it out and we turn off all the breakers just to be sure. I sign some papers and they leave me to air out the house and I pour myself a large white wine and try to calm my jangled nerves. I thank God this didn’t happen when we were at my cousins for Christmas, we could have come home to a smoking ruin, especially when I think that dad wanted to leave the dinning rooms light on while we were away. Once again my instincts told me to shut it off after he went to the car, my guardian angel, sixth sense or whatever you believe in saved us again.
I come up from Penn Station and waste no time in getting over to 9th Ave , I’m glad I dressed warmly as it’s still cool and breezy. I head south and stop in a bodega for a coffee and a loo break and sit and write looking out the window, the sun is warm on my face as I sit and the promise of spring is on my mind as I watch the passers-by. But I move on passing thru Chelsea, a quieter section with Asian influences, stopping to take a photo a French cafe called Le Grannie. It looks inviting for lunch despite the ugly black door but they are full up. So I move on stopping to take pictures of the Maritime Building, built-in 1968 it features round port-hole windows which I love. I continue on down Greenwich St to Gansevoot where 9th Ave ends. A photographer is photo shooting a model in the cobblestone plaza across from another French place called Pastis. It’s relatively quiet here except for the street construction it’s like the suburbs. I continue on stopping to look at the menu of the Spotted Pig, an old gastropub that I’ve mentioned before, it’s a little expensive so I move on past the remnants of Christmas trees that have been picked up by NYC Sanitation, the needles litter the sidewalk and out into the street like green blood of a murder scene that has yet to be cleaned. I turn back and decide to try the Spotted Pig after all, I know it will be good here. The place is like a hunters tavern, old brick pillars, wood floors and artwork featuring pigs, ducks and game birds in all states of life and death. There’s an attractive hipster staff and good old standards and jazz playing at just the right volume. This is the kind of place I would love to have back home in boring Long Island. I like it here a whole lot, if I wasn’t watching my budget I’d have a drink or two but it’s not even noon yet. The menu is amazing and the bar specials too, they include rock shrimp over grits with poached egg, rabbit rillettes, sardines et toast but I decide on an Omelet Albert Bennet, an omelet covered in bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese. They bring you a small pot of coffee here God love em, I sip my coffee and write for a while till my food comes. The omelet is a little over browned but it’s rich and creamy, simple rustic food served with crusty Italian grain bread and olive oil. This is the kind of place I love, no TV, quiet music, great food and drinks and a lot of atmosphere. I pay my check and go out heading east to Hudson St, stopping to take pics and deciding to walk to the Bowery. I want to go to the kitchen supply store where Anthony Bourdain shot scenes for his show. I pass the familiar A.O.C. where a very naive me ate his first Cassoulet years ago, I didn’t even know it was an overcooked mess. But that was before I started teaching myself classic French cooking.
I walk down W.Houston street among the throngs of people, this for me is the non-Asian speaking equivalent of Canal St and I stop opposite The Angelika Film center to make a call and sit for a while. It’s a long walk but I love to walk far in the city. It’s what makes a stress test so difficult for me, they have to raise the incline and increase the speed far above many people to get my heart rate up to complete the test. The nurses always ask me “Do you do a lot of walking?” I had no choice today anyway, I heard that the subways are undergoing a makeover today and several lines are closed. So it’s walkies for me today for real. I find the Kitchen Supply Co easily and go inside to look around, they have got everything here. The next time you go to a eatery and look at the stainless steel counters and utensils, chances are it came from this place or one of the others that are in this area. I find the saute pans that Tony showed on his show and just like he said $18.95, I get a little chill to think that I’m standing where he stood. Especially when I realize I already have pans like these, so I am using the stuff that is recommended to Chefs all over New York. I leave without buying anything else, I’ve got all I need for now. It isn’t long before I’m walking down into Criff Dogs, a steamy small place serving the most unusual hot dogs and hiding a secret. This is also a Tony place and I order a BLT dog, a wiener wrapped in bacon and served with lettuce tomato and mayo. The phone booth is where the secret lies, it leads to a small bar that serves good drinks and dogs that you can only get in the bar called PDT. But it’s too early-not open for another two hours, so I eat my crunchy BLT dog and drink my Sprite and leave. I will make it a point to come back one night when I’m in town. I begin to head back to mid-town and start the long walk home, it’s a beautiful day filled with people moving around enjoying the sunshine and warmer temperatures.
In France people often wish each other to step in Merde, it’s like break a leg in theater… it’s for good luck. The dog poo laws being what they are there’s an excellent chance of stepping in some if you’re in Paris, as I can attest to. The New York version is getting pooped on by a pigeon or at least a sparrow, and for the first time in New York and the second time today I am hit by an incoming round! I hope it’s the bluebird of happiness, after the last few months I could well use some. I decide to stop at a pub on 33rd and 2nd called Jack Kavanaugh’s for a drink or two before the train. I sit at the end of the bar and the bartender comes over, mid fifties and Irish as they come. “What can I get yah?” I think for a moment and say “Ill have a Manhattan” and looks at me and says in a thick accent “Streyhtwup?” and I say “Excuse me?” and he says again leaning in a little. “StraightUP!” So I think for split second and say “Yes thanks.” Trying to appear deaf instead of naive. He tells me he was invited to a New Years party where he drank only Manhattans because he was given no choice in the matter. I laugh and tell him I decided to try all the old school drinks I’ve never had just for kicks to see what I’m missing. He seems pleased that someone ordered something other than beer and brings me my drink in a Martini glass with 2 cherries laying in the bottom. It is smoky and bitter, strong and smooth, just what the doctor ordered. I sit back and read the Village Voice in the fading light of afternoon and think this is about the happiest I’ve been in a long time. The stress of the past few weeks melts away with the second drink as I listen to the sounds of the city as I read. I start to think about getting home and after a trip to the loo I walk down 33rd St west toward the LIRR. Moving with the throngs of people I think how the family is changing, the old people are sickly and some will be gone soon. The forty somethings are turning fifty and the thirty somethings are turning forty. Then there is the young ones who are not so young anymore, they have become the twenty somethings pushing at thirty. The old guard is coming to a close and the rest of us single people will have to close ranks, find mates and form a new family bond in an ever uncertain world we are all we’ve got. It might be the booze but I start to feel a little blue at the thought of all who are passed. I start to feel a little sorry for myself. But the city always provides the answer in the form of a young Hispanic couple I pass on the street. She is taking a picture of her boyfriend and I pass them by-but then I stop. And turn back and say “Would you like me to take a picture of you together?” “Sure!” they say in unison and hand me their camera. They pose and I take a shot, but after giving it back they ask for another…she had her eyes closed. I take the second shot grinning now at them and they are pleased. They thank me and I walk away feeling better about things with a spring in my step now that I made a difference to someone today. I can only hope that their love lasts as long as my love for New York City. I ride the escalator down to the waiting trains below.
In a previous story (Always In The Small Hours) I told the tale of my brothers trips to the ER. He had come home after being diagnosed the first ER trip with a nosebleed, then he went back 24 hours later and was re-diagnosed with possible pneumonia and given a z-pac and told to follow-up with his own doctor in a week. He tried hard to get better but he was not feeling well, he seemed to rally and then his coughing would start again and so did the bleeding. This time it was no joke, we took him back to the ER and he was admitted. Now they are checking him for Tuberculosis and after a cat scan, bronchioscapy and more blood tests than you can imagine. My parents and I run back and forth to the hospital to see him donning masks every time. We brought his laptop day two so he could alert his online teachers of his predicament. The four of us waited out the test results and prayed that all that blood my brother coughed up was just a Pneumonia and not TB. It was a scary time for all of us, I tried not to think about the unhappy possibilities of losing my brother. He made the best of it by the second day of strong meds and fluids and was up and around, working on his online degree with renewed energy. I called all the relatives and cancelled hosting Thanksgiving for the family, I was too tired and my brothers favorite holiday was ruined, I just couldn’t go on without my brother and sit and eat turkey while he was in isolation eating hospital food.
Thanksgiving Day we got a nice surprise at the hospital, the downstairs cafeteria for the employees; which also serves the public, was putting up a free holiday dinner for the employees and the families of the patients! This is something they do every holiday apparently, and since my mom had been making an issue out of having turkey on Thanksgiving to the point of being willing to spend $25 each on the privilege of eating it in a diner. It was indeed a happy accident that she found out we could eat for free. Only after I suggested she call and see if the hospital had any special food for the holiday on the menu. So I was glad I stuck to my guns and refused to spend upwards of 75 bucks on dinner. The hospital dinner was really good, I was shocked. We had turkey of course and cornbread stuffing, asparagus, and candied yams with loads of gravy and coffee,tea and your choice of dessert for free! I shook hands with the manager a told him and the head of the kitchen how much we appreciated the food and the gesture of feeding the families for free.
But the next day (Friday) I got an unusual call in the morning from the hospital, they wanted to know how my brother was doing at home, I told the woman on the phone that he was still in the hospital and she needed to check her records. Yet I was puzzled, so I called my brother only to find out his tests came back negative and he was free to go home. So as soon as his doctor signed his release he was sprung. I got into his car and bolted to the hospital to grease the wheels any way I could. I arrived to find him getting dressed with laptop open on the bed, towels on the floor and suitcase being packed like he was leaving a hotel. There was nothing to do now but get the IV line out of his hand and sign the paperwork. He goes home with no restrictions on anything except to stay away from tobacco and to see his doctor in two weeks. I hand him his keys as we walk out of the hospital and we get into his car and immediately drive to 7-11 for soda and beer for him. He has had nothing but ginger ale and water for days and days. We come home to the relief of my folks, this was really hard for them. This year there is much to be thankful for at this time of celebration.
So I’ve just finished my meager breakfast as we hurtle to New York City on an express train. There are dozens of people heading in to the city today, mostly to shop I imagine. This is Black Friday weekend and I’m taking a trip in today to do a photo-shoot and enjoy the unusual 60 degree plus weather before the rain comes in on Monday. This is totally unexpected as I figured this little mini vacation was going to be a bust. The fact is that for once we got really lucky. I come up from the tracks and head out of the station into the street, throngs of people are about moving in all directions. I head to Macy’s Herald Square for a loo and also I’d like to see it again in full Christmas regalia. I haven’t been here since 2008 and its in full bloom. This place is packed with a choking crowd of people already and it’s not even eleven yet. It takes me twenty minutes to find the loo and twenty minutes to get back out onto the street. I look around a little feeling bad that mom, dad, and brother man never get to see NYC. The fact is that dad has no interest, bro has school and mom is not in good enough shape to travel to the big apple. I wish we were all twenty-five years younger.
I begin to wander in the general direction of The Meatball Shop on 11th between Greenwich and Perry. This is my new obsession after seeing it on the cooking channel, this place serves up six different kinds of meatballs daily. It’s the go to place for lunch and late night college snacks, and families with a kid friendly menu too. I stop and take pictures of the New Yorker Hotel and wander in the general direction of the lower west side. By roundabout ways I come to that section of Greenwich St that’s fighting to be chic while still retaining it’s village feel. The cobblestone streets surrounded by new trendy clothing shops and restaurants thinly veil the general feel of decay that lies just beyond the reach of the storefronts and al-fresco dinning. The ongoing construction seems to do little to change the landscape. It appears the same as the first time I came here years ago before I had my blog. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t got promise, in a few years this could be a go to area for the city’s trendy.
You find little gems when you peek under the city’s petticoats, and this time I find a little gem called The Spotted Pig, an old Irish pub that looks inviting and cheery outside with potted plants that even in death of winter seem ripe with promise. Further down hidden under scaffolding is the equally amazing Kaas Glass Works, a place where hand-made glass trays and plates meet a kind of esoteric zeal for the old and new. The place is small and a big man like myself treads carefully in the shop. The plate designs feature old botanical illustrations, advertisements, scenes of New York and Paris, and even a series of plates featuring a skeleton from Grays Anatomy split into four parts and displayed inside a presentation wall frame with museum glass. This is the kind of thing that I love about my travels. Sadly I cannot afford these beauties and would not buy them until I have my own place. I’m getting hungry now It’s been hours of wandering looking for just the right shot, so I move on to find The Meatball Shop on Greenwich Ave between 11th and Perry St. It’s a little place with charming white wainscot and a checkered black and white tile floor, old photographs decorate the walls and give the space an old world feel. The pretty blonde waitress explains the menu which is made of plastic and requires a little study. Basically there are five kinds of meatballs,beef, chicken, pork, spicy beef, vegetable and a wild card which changes daily. There are also five kinds of sauces classic tomato, Parmesan cream, spicy meat, pesto, and sweet teryaki. You can get you meatballs in a myriad of ways. Just plain in a bowl, on a hero or smashed on Brioche, over salad,pasta,risotto, or polenta. Even the simple slider is served here! The possibilities are endless and they also boast an impressive list of regional Italian and French wines. I mark my choices with a dry erase marker and go off to the loo for a washup.
When I come back I find my Pabst Blue Ribbon has been poured and I settle down to write a little , observing the people around me and listening to their stories. I hardly have time to do so before my food arrives hot and fresh. I got the classic beef balls with creamy Parmesan sauce over soft polenta. These are perhaps the best meatballs ever! The flavor of the sauce is savory and the sweet corn taste of the polenta combines with the strong meaty flavor of the meat making this qualify as one of the best things I ever ate. This is the thing I miss when I’m back home, no one is doing anything this remarkable in Nassau, not even close. After I finish my meal I look over the book they published about The Meatball Shop history, which can be signed by the chef/authors of the three locations they have. It’s a nice book packed with color photos and recipes so you can try it at home. I pay my bill and venture out again and growing tired I decide to begin to head uptown and see what develops-get it …develops, no oh well. I stop to take pictures, check out menus in windows and take a walk through Union Square market which has been set up like a Christmas village with each vendor next to the other in a long row. The tents are decorated and the whole atmosphere is very cheery if not very crowded, there is occasional breaks to allow people to escape and get some air. I come out the other side of the square and I’m stopped by a young guy hawking a CD, he has pigtail’s and looks a little more mixed race than American Indian but he explains its virtues and I give him my last three bucks for it. He said it was a donation and any amount would do so I gave what I had and continued heading home. In the warm sunshine of a perfect day I make my way uptown admiring the window displays of the stores, the lights are just beginning to come on as the shadows grow longer and longer. It was as good a day especially for a trip that was not originally going to happen. We got really lucky this time and I’m lucky to be alive in the city I love, doing my thing. It may never make me any money or any notoriety in artistic or literary circles, but damn I love what I do.
I open my eyes to the sound of someone banging on the wall downstairs, I look at the clock as I stagger to my feet and make my way across my bedroom. There are only a few things that this could mean at 2:45 AM, either my mom or dad is sick, hurt, or dead. I’m not being a ghoul really but when you live with sickly aging parents that’s what it usually means. So you can imagine my surprise to open the door and look downstairs to see my mom fully dressed with jacket on and dad visible outside the front door. “Your brother is on the way to the hospital, he’s coughing up blood” mom says kind of matter of fact, like she’s just told me something commonplace. “We were gonna let you sleep, but we didn’t want you to wake up to an empty house and be shocked. So were going in a few minutes.” mom says as she looks up at me and out to the street. I say “Dad’s got night blindness and if anyone’s going to drive to the hospital at three am it’s gonna be me!” and turn to get dressed with rubbery legs and jangled nerves. I have been asleep maybe two and a half hours and I am still wondering what’s going on with my brother, he has always got a sinus problem and a smokers hack, but I didn’t realize he was actually sick. The small bathroom garbage can full of bloody tissues tells the tale, it looks like something out of a horror movie.
In the cold chill of the fall night we drive to the ER and I drop them off. By the time I park the car and walk into the waiting area I find my family including my brother sitting in an mostly empty room while the Turner classic movies channel features ‘Jason and the Argonauts!’ My brother, looking dismal, apologizes for the fuss and fills me in on what’s happened since I went to bed. He has had uncontrollable coughing fits spewing up blood and mucus which isn’t letting up. He informs me that he has been sick with a cough and cold for weeks but with him sequestered in his room as he attends online college and me at work all day, I’m afraid I didn’t notice he was sick. They finally call his name and I sit down for a long night, armed with an interesting book called “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis, an unusual read for me about the investment industry. The author was on NPR (National Public Radio) the previous Saturday promoting his new book “Boomerang” and sparked my interest. The ER waiting rooms refreshment area features a broken free coffee maker, soda machine and snack machine. So wearily at my mom’s request I go on a walkabout looking for coffee but finding none I sit down to read and watch TV.
I sit with my mom while dad wanders around unable to sit still. We speculate about our worse fears for my brother’s health. It’s about 4:00 am now and they are taking him for a chest x-ray when I look up and see through the glass of the children’s play area another TV with a breaking news story. I get up to see what’s going on now, and am not surprised to see that the police in New York City have raided Zucotti Park and driven the Occupy Wall Street protesters out, to clean up the park ostensibly. The operation was conducted by police in riot gear and SWAT teams with precise military maneuvers. The action began at 1:00 am and these kinds of operations are always done in the small hours, it’s the best time to attack your enemy. The protesters didn’t stand a chance, and even the efforts of reinforcements coming to aid the protesters never made it to the park, they were driven back. This is no surprise to me as I predicted this would happen weeks ago; if only to myself. But what shocked me was the lack of violence, many protestors went peacefully and the few who didn’t were not beaten up too bad. That is at least not from what we witnessed on TV, the next day the mayor held a press conference stating that things went well-better than expected! Also the protestors would be allowed to come back to the park, but not with sleeping bags or tents this time.
The Occupy Wall Street movement begun on Sept 17th in New York’s financial district, inspired by the Egyptian Tahir Square uprisings in June and the Spanish “Acampadas”. It is at its core vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy. The anti-consumerist/pro-environment magazine” Adbusters” published in Canada is credited with calling for the peaceful protest movement as a means to bring about social change for the 99 percent of people making under $100,000 a year. While the 1 percent who make upwards of $100,000 a year enjoy an extravagant lifestyle and pay way less than they should in taxes, the 99 percent are trimming down to only the essentials and yet are still being asked to bear the burden for the good of the country. If you look at a map of the cities where protesters have gathered, you can see that the concentration of the movement is in the northeast, but it reaches all the way to the west coast and a sprinkling of the mid-Atlantic states. The mid-section of the country is where you see the least amount of protest, in some states none at all.
The OWS is a leaderless movement and seems to have no clear set path for establishing their agenda. A few weeks ago I watched an interview with one of the organizers on TV and was amazed at what I saw. He was a young guy in his maybe late twenty’s, he was clearly a corporate hipster type, the kind that wears a suit and is well versed in office protocol but you could easily find him at a Dresden Dolls concert on the weekend. He was telling the interviewer that “We are sending a clear message to Wall Street and to Washington that we want change, we are going to be here, we are not going anywhere until there is real change in this country” He talked in that post valley girl/guy hipster twang with that tinge of the feminine that makes people think your either gay or a snob. The powers that be have got be looking at this and laughing at him. This is not any threat to the 1 percent, and guess what else. The one percentile includes all of our leaders and their families and friends and the leaders of big business right down to the owner of the company you work for who has more money in the bank than you will make in your entire life. They don’t care about you or anyone else in the 99 percentile. My brother came out of his x-ray and waited for the results in the ER and we chatted with him until the doctor came and told my brother that he had a nosebleed. I for one was not convinced since the blood wasn’t coming from his nose, but he gave my brother a set of instructions and a bottle of Afrin nasal spray and said see ya later. So at 5:15 am we arrived home and since I usually get up a six o”clock, I decided it was useless to try to sleep and got dressed for work and made my lunch.
When I came home after a very busy grueling day I found my mom made a meatloaf, so I jumped in to help sous chef the veg and mash and set the table. I asked about my brother who had more coughing fits and while we were just about to sit down to eat, my brother came in again with a garbage can full of bloody tissues and said “I guess we better go back to the hospital.” I got out of my sweats and into jeans and a shirt and took my brother to the hospital alone this time, my parents stayed home and ate the nice dinner she prepared. This time it was more of the same, the coffee machine was still broken and because it was after seven o’clock the cafeterias were both closed so we sat and sat and sat. My brother wasn’t allowed to eat until he had a CAT scan of the chest to see what was going on. So we both starved miserably and I read and watched some TV while he was examined and taken away for his scan. I bought a bag of hard pretzels out of a vending machine and took a small orange juice from a fridge and that was dinner. He came back and after an eternity was told that he had a touch on Pneumonia in his upper left lung, so they hung a bag of anti-biotic solution given intravenously and got him a lovely dinner of crackers, applesauce, lime jello, and graham crackers with nothing to drink. That took four requests to be accomplished but he finally got some from the staff who seemed eager to get out and go home. While we waited for the meds to finish we watched re-runs of Seinfeld and kept mom, dad and friends posted on developments. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and when I came back I realized that we had been alone in that area for quite a while, the meds were now done and we had been forgotten. I joked with my brother that he should take out the I.V. and we should skip this place. He chuckled and I said “No really, take out that thing then put a piece of gauze and tape and put on your jacket, I’ll hit the button on the elevator and out we go down to the basement, then up the stairs by the cafeteria into the front lobby and out the door!” He laughed and said he still needed his script for the Z-pac pills he has to take for the next 10 days but I was only kidding anyway, I just wanted to cheer him up after what amounts to his first brush with a serious illness.
We got home at about 12:30 and I had a few crackers and milk and went to bed exhausted but happy that it wasn’t worse than it could have been. Still in the morning I was shot and considered staying home but needing the money I pushed myself to dig deep and get going to work. I stopped for coffee at the supermarket where I usually go and greeted my friends getting their morning cup before work. This machine makes the best decaf ever and I smiled into my cup as I tasted my first gulp. Then continuing my ritual I walked over to the newspapers and looked at each front cover to get an idea of what’s happening today. The front page of Newsday made me laugh out loud. The picture shows a NYC policemen in profile and behind him a girl in her twenties is wearing only stockings and garter belt, sun glasses and a big smile! The caption read that the police have been turning a blind eye to incidents like this at Zucotti Park where protesters are stepping up the civil disobedience! That’s right they did turn a blind eye. Because the picture was taken the day before the police cleared the park, they allowed the incident to go without arrest to lull the protesters into thinking they could get away with anything. The police knew what would happen less than 24 hours later and besides… she wasn’t half bad-looking. Alls well that ends well. My brother is making good progress and should be fine. He threw his pouch of tobacco out on the way to the car when we left the hospital…it made all the effort and lack of sleep worthwhile, I just hope he doesn’t have a relapse…I mean on smoking.
Well today marks the third year of my writing this blog and finds me staying at home instead of heading into New York. The nor-easter that has come out of nowhere has shut down my plans to see Rasputina tonight at the Highline Ballroom, it would have been nice to finish the year exactly the way it started back in Feb. But with snow, high winds, and a cold biting rain coming down I just can’t face the prospect of standing outside waiting for the doors to open. Tomorrow is supposed to be really nice and sunny in the fifties as well as all next week, this is a freak storm so doom on me I guess. I will make the best of it by writing and painting and later I will be making a beef stew over noodles for dinner. I have been thinking much about my writing this year and about the changes that I might want to make to it. In some ways when I look at the body of work I’ve written I am disgusted by the amateurish style of some stories. While on the other hand there are some passages that I am genuinely proud of and see as readable in magazines. I expect the best from myself and get discouraged when I don’t measure up to my expectations, but with only one college course in English to my credit I think on balance-I write well.
The tough reality is that the only way to get better is to write and study writing, and maybe also to read, but without more schooling I feel like I’m never going to make it as a writer. I need to take classes at the Gotham Writers Workshop in NY and beside the fact that I don’t have the money, I also can’t make it from my job in Suffolk all the way to Midtown by the time class starts. I would be an aggravated, sweating, stressed out mess with a headache by the time I got to class. I’m not one for taking online classes either, my brother is pursuing an online degree and I find too many distractions would keep me unfocused. Personally, I don’t know how he does it, but he is doing very well!
I am however starting to feel as though I have to change, this blog is not a blog in the usual sense, it is not a few short paragraphs written hastily each day, but a blog of short stories for readers. If you read my about me page I call it “a selfish venture” and indicate that it is at it’s core an open diary. While that is true I find myself wishing I had more fans and more comments. I see with an app added to my page that people from all over the world are visiting, some multiple times. I can even extrapolate that a few high school or college students might be hijacking my words for school papers, why else would I see people logging on from the same place over and over again sometimes a few hours or minutes apart? I don’t care as long as no one is getting paid for it, but it’s a shame that kids are so lazy these days. The change I think I have to make is to write more to an audience and less to myself, while I thought I was doing that already I think now that some stories are too cookie cutter too much the same basic story I wrote the last time. The fact is that not every trip is that interesting or noteworthy, some trips cool stuff happens and I’m cooking on all burners and others I’m too absorbed in what I’m doing to gather all the stimuli around me. It’s a tightrope but I have to try and do it better in the future, if I ever want to get published I must walk that line.
So tonight I will start writing a new piece about the city trip I took last week, and an editorial about this whole Occupy Wall St movement that’s so controversial and so confusing. I must again give thanks to the people that got me here. Thanks to Professor Wigetow for your teaching and for believing in my potential, to W.B. Wilkins whom I owe this blog to for giving me the key to being a good writer, hopefully I will use it to unlock all the right doors, to J.R.R. Tolkien for the obvious, to Jack Kerouac for teaching me to write in the moment, to William Burroughs for showing me the way to color my words, to Anthony Bourdain for infusing my imagination with his words and especially for turning me on to Graham Greene, to Graham Greene for igniting my desire to be a better writer and for creating some of the most unforgettable characters ever, to Maureen for being my friend and my number one fan, to my mom Alyce for teaching me my A B C’s while still in the crib, sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. No matter what happens I will keep writing and keep painting and strive as I have all my life to do something with nothing, I will keep hoping, planning, wishing, praying and insisting that life can be what you want it to be with a ton of hard work and a little luck. The work is hard, it’s the luck part that I find is so much harder.
Long Island N.Y. 2011
It’s a gorgeous day as I wait for my train on the platform bound for New York City. I’ve just finished a light breakfast of a coffee and a light airy pumpkin muffin. The first sign of fall is not the solstice on the 23rd, but rather the arrival of pumpkin products in the stores and eateries. This does not depress me as usual, in fact I will go so far as to say I welcome it. It will mean meat cooked over an open fire while me and my bro ponder the meaning of life and hold a meeting of “The Office of Separate and Collective Endeavors” a geeky name for some quality time spent together over food and alcohol.
But today I am on a special mission in New York, I mentioned that I put brush to paper for the first time in almost four years, after three abortive attempts to paint a cafe scene from the instructional book on watercolors. I finally got a finished piece on the forth try, I learned much about watercolor painting but have miles to go. I wrote in “Doing A Slow Burn” that I have to find good pictures of Paris cafe’s on the net to use for watercolor paintings. But I had a genius attack the other day in the city, and decided that my own pictures taken in my travels would be a better choice. Most good pictures on the net are copyright protected or you pay to use them, the last quiet trip to the city only yielded one picture good enough for a painting. So today I will be taking multiple shots of every scene that catches my eye, different angles will be tried and the element of chance will be invited to come along. I have found out that I can make my own watercolor block at home using home-made glue and sheets of watercolor paper cut to size and pressed together. This will save me lots of money, block is expensive. Especially the superior French Arches Blocks that cost arms and legs for the large sizes.
I am very excited about this new reason to go into New York, I stand at work and think about how I will sit and listen to Pandora Radio and create art later. It takes the idea of being stuck in for the winter a happier thought, and at the same time it ties together all my interests into one. It’s all here in a nice package Art, New York City, Food, Photography, and Writing. It’s been a quiet ride so far, but in Woodside, Queens things change. A big guy in shorts and t-shirt with a baseball cap get on the train and sits down in front of me. By all accounts he’s very normal looking. But after the train pulls out he starts talking to himself in a high-pitched nasal voice. I wonder if he’s nuts or if he’s practicing lines for a voice over in a commercial or something, either way it’s a little annoying. We slow to begin the descent into Penn Station and I fill with anticipation for the day. I emerge from the station and decide to walk to West 10th st and head south. I am looking for film for my Advantix camera which I haven’t used since I got the Samsung from my English relative in 2008. I don’t find any in two places I stop in so I start walking west. What I don’t know is that they stopped making the film and I will have to find it online. By the time I write this however-ten rolls are sitting in my fridge and I will buy more when I can. I will not give up on those beautiful wide-angle shots, some of my best pictures were shot using that camera!
I’ve never gone this way before and it turns out to be a good decision, as I begin walking south I stop after a few blocks and notice people walking towards something. I turn and see the entrance to the Highline, an old elevated railroad that used to be the carrier of freight trains into and out of the city. But for many years it was the haunt of the homeless, junkies, and crazy kids looking for some free fun in a shrinking economy. Of course it was illegal to be up there but with dozens of ways in, people found a way to do it. It’s kinda like the sewers and catacombs beneath Paris, you’re not supposed to be there but no one really has the time to enforce the law. The powers that be in New York decided a few years ago to turn this space into a public park, so I go up to investigate. There are stairs leading to walkways that have been built over the tracks, and on either side are planting beds with a wonderful array of trees, shrubs and flowering perennials. There are nice benches along the way, special seating areas and viewing platforms that jut out into space. The park police patrol to keep things cool and emergency call boxes in case of an accident.
There are times when the buildings rise up around you and others when you are open to the sky, it almost feels like your flying as you look out over roofs where only pigeons walk, they stare at you unable to fathom the invasion of their domain. This is a truly wonderful space, you can see the contentment on the faces of the native New Yorker’s and the delight of the visitors is apparent too. I hear a man say to his fellows that the time to come here is in Feb, when it’s not too cold and there’s no one here in the early morning. I can imagine how tranquil that might be especially if it’s snowing. I will have to remember that for the future. I walk some three miles to the end, along the way I encounter common areas where events are staged, a place where the children can splash about in an inch of water while mom and dad sit in chairs big enough for two, and a roofed-over area near the bathrooms where the kids can play with giant wood and plastic Erector set pieces and build small contraptions. I make my way to street level and start for the West Village, walking down Greenwich Ave again for the first time in two years. I pace myself slow, taking pictures, reading menus, and find myself down by the waterside-just a short walk away from the piers. I pass a huge meat distributor and wonder how many millions of dollars of food are inside, then doubling back to civilization to find lunch. So many good places to eat, but I can’t afford them, I need to spend under twenty dollars today so I walk on looking for a sandwich and a beer.
I find it at the Fish on Bleeker St, a small place that has been here since the fifties I think as I look around at the decor and the pictures of the old days. I order an Oyster PO-Boy sandwich and a Stella Artois and relax at the old wooden bar and watch TV. I see a huge pyramid of shellfish go by and is laid down on a table in front of six people, they immediately go at the crab legs, lobster’s, clams and mussels with a vengeance. In fact all you can hear is cracking and the banging of small hammers to break shells to get at the wonderful treasure inside, along with corn on the cob and boiled potatoes it’s a meal fit for a king. My sandwich is taking a long time but I watch the prep chef at the raw bar set up his mise-en-place a few feet away. He’s setting up dozens of oysters and clams, making sure he has plenty of sauces and lemons. He stops to put orders together which spit out of a gadget that looks like a credit card machine, then after setting up a plate he rings a bell and it’s picked up and delivered. When my sandwich arrives it’s a big plate. There’s a bunch of fries and a nice side salad with greens, sliced tomato and pickle with a tangy sauce. The po-boy is another matter. It is light on soft bread, the crunch comes from the oysters that have a delicate flavor that deepens as you chew, they taste of the sea and the stones where they grow. It’s altogether a delicious and filling meal, but I can’t resist going down the street for dessert. So I sit and let my food go down and then after paying my bill I go to a place called “Cones” an ice cream shop like no other.
I know I have seen this place on the Food Network or the Travel channel as soon as I walk in. There are many different colors of gelato in the case and as others get theirs I look past them to see many strange flavors. There is Yerba Mate,made with a South American tea. There’s kumquat with Johnnie Walker Black Label which costs a dollar to try a spoonful. Zabayone, based on an Italian dessert with cream and sweet Marsala wine-amazing. But I go for the Corn after the pretty Argentinian woman behind the counter gives me a taste. Made with real corn and cream and with a dash of cinnamon on top, it is a thing of beauty for the tongue. Imagine a piece of corn bread with butter and cinnamon and you’ll get the flavor profile. I talk a while with the waitress who is also Italian, we chat about living in her home countries, life in the city, and especially about Cones. They have been featured in articles in the New York Times, New York magazine and Zagat’s. They are number four in the top ten places making the best “corn” dish in New York City. I am sure I’ve seen this woman on TV. I finish my treat while she helps other customers and I bid her farewell and head out again. I’m on Bleeker St in the West Village so I decide to head east arriving on 1st Ave. This is the exact opposite of where I started so I think I’ll walk up 1st Ave and see what happens. I feel the heat and humidity more now after eating as the afternoon heats up. This is a fast paced area sporting many Italian, Latin and Indian eateries but not many good photo opportunities. So I begin to work my way back to the center of things and find brassiere Les Halles on Park Ave and a few others. Then I cool off inside a Greistede’s supermarket for a few minutes with a cold bottle of water. I retrace some of my steps from past trips but I always walk down a street I’ve never been before. I always find something new and today is no exception. Mille Feuille is a French bakery on LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village featuring its namesake dessert and the bright Macarons that thrill and delight children from Paris to Provence. I order a coffee and a Mille Feuille and sit at the bar against the wall. The pastry cream is delicious and the crispy layers make it difficult to eat but oh so worth the effort. I see a mom coming with a stroller so I get up and open the door for her and two kids and her husband follow. They thank me and they are French, looking for a taste of home. The adults order Espresso’s and the kids are so cute asking for “Pain de Shokolat” as they loudly look at everything asking so many questions and running around the small space. I decide not to get into a conversation about France.
I continue my long walk back to Penn Station and think it’s been a almost perfect day. The only way it could have been better would have been to have a little more money to spend and if it had been about ten degrees cooler, but that will come soon enough. The final act of the day is a stop in tracks for a wash-up and a drink. It’s been a hot walk back and my french dessert was burned up hours ago. I ask for a St Germain cocktail and the Irish waitress says to me “What’s that?” so I order a glass of Harp instead. I didn’t really want a beer but when in Rome…
It was a crappy week at work so I really needed a good day out, I am tired and happy. Tomorrow will be a rainy day and I will work on pictures and remember today.
When I heard that Amy Winehouse had died, I was strangely affected. I wasn’t even a fan of her music, yet somehow I was saddened. Maybe it was the coincidence of Jay Leno making a joke about her in his monologue the night before, or maybe just the fact that another young star was lost to us that hit a nerve. The first time I heard her music on TV, it was the self-fulfilling prophecy “Rehab” that was playing. The image of the beehive hairdo combined with the lyrics just made me roll my eyes. Crafting a song about drug addiction like it was something to be proud of bothered me. I also thought she was just another white girl trying to be a sister, from the sixties this time around. But nevertheless I totally ignored her from that point on. Now I wish I hadn’t, now I know that I missed something.
The reaction from people around me went from total indifference to those who felt she got what she deserved. The sad thing is that most of the people who feel that way will never know what it’s like to be an addict, how it can destroy your will to do what you love or be who you want to be. I have seen addiction firsthand and can tell you it’s not the barrel of fun that people make it out to be. I watched a co-worker scramble for drugs every day for over a year.While I drove him home every day, I listened to the phone calls trying to score a hit and out of the corner of my eye watched as he counted money, going through all his pockets to collate what he had hoping it would be enough. I could feel his eyes upon me when he didn’t have enough money and I lied many times that I was broke. He left the company and I was relieved, the strain of watching him feed his addiction was starting to take its toll on me emotionally.
There are some who are blaming Amy’s close friend Kelly Osbourne and Amy’s parents, saying they should have done more to help her, but I think this is unfair to Kelly and also her parents who are most likely experiencing a lot of guilt. This is an old story unfortunately, for Amy and a handful of other stars. When a group of friends gathered to try an intervention with CSN legend David Crosby back in the day, his response was to do a line of coke and walk out the door. You can’t sit on top of someone 24-7, sooner or later they have to be alone and no one can possibly be there every minute. The fact is that Amy had been rumored to have been in rehab recently, and after treatment in hospital and as an out-patient for lung problems associated with smoking tobacco and crack cocaine, she had received a clean bill of health from her doctor. She like other stars who died young was embarking on a comeback, with a new album in the works and a tour to follow-she was in good spirits according to those close to her. There was no reason to suspect that she would wind up like she did, in fact it will be several weeks before the toxicology reports are done. So far foul play has been ruled out and the autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death.
In interviews her former band mates concluded that the sudden overnight success took a toll on the sensitive young singer and she responded in the typical manner of the gritty Camden neighborhood she grew up in, it’s a place where fast times and the rock-n-roll club life are part of the nightly music scene, where the young singer was easily drawn into the drugs and heavy drinking while she was paying her dues and learning her craft. The pressure of stardom took its toll on Amy, after her sudden explosive success followed emergency room visits and arrests and rehab. But it was the relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil that was the turning point for Amy, at least one band mate Neal Sugarman remarked that the change in her was visible. The first tour was a lot of fun compared to the second tour supporting “Back To Black” which wasn’t fun at all. Sugarmen felt that the return of Blake was when Amy started taking drugs again, he remarked that the last time he saw her in London “it was not a pretty sight”. She was unable to sing on some of the songs they were working on and said “it was really depressing”. In their hit song “Truckin” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead sings “What in the world ever became of sweet Jane, she’s lost her sparkle you know she isn’t the same. Living on Reds, Vitamin C and Cocaine…all her friends can say is ain’t it a shame.” This seems to be a direct reference to Janis Joplin, a friend of the band and one of the members of the unfortunate 27 Club; rock stars who died at 27. This includes Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison among others.
But the warning signs were there and some people in the industry said that Amy was on what they call a “death watch”, an interesting term considering that people on a death watch are usually behind bars and kept from using any devices that could cause themselves harm. Why then don’t we have the same precautions in place for family and friends. In her short life Amy suffered and struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, depression, eating disorders and self-harm issues. The real tragedy is that brilliant career that could have been hers is now lost forever, we’ll never know what might have been had she lived and kept recording the kind of music she loved. What we do know is that she opened the door for new female artists to walk through, Lily Allen rode in after Amy’s release of Back To Black, and Adele credits Winehouse with making the US market easier for herself and Duffy to achieve success. This also ushered in a third wave of female artists including VV Brown, Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots. But the most acclaim came from Lady Gaga who said Amy Winehouse “paved the way” for her rise to the top of the charts. Winehouse could be said to have jump started a revival of soul music that started in 2000. Amy’s work made it possible in 2009 for five female artists to be nominated for the Mercury Prize in the UK and that year to be called the “year of the woman” in music circles. That is more than can be said for many artists who had hit records who were clean and sober, that she was able to do all this and stand up for causes and start her own record label speaks well of her ambition and energy. Not quite the picture of the irresponsible addict painted by so many. One can easily imagine a new young singer somewhere in the UK or US, unknown at the moment. She has been watching Amy on TV and dreaming of stardom. The thrill of it all, a new sound that harkens back to the age of soul, who many will compare to Amy Winehouse, but a new face, and hopefully a career that will stand the test of time and the roller coaster ride of fame without breaking under the enormous pressure. That is the legacy of a singer like Amy Winehouse.
My unexpected reaction to her death was to sit and watch You Tube videos of Amy in concert, that is where I first realized the power of her vocals and the emotional element she added to them, a conviction about the lyrics and the honesty with which she sings her songs. I have tried to analyze my feelings of loss, were they driven by a latent sexual desire?…no, she’s not my type so I don’t think that played a role. Was there a deeper issue involved? Such as my lifelong struggle with food and weight loss issues? Yes, that was at least part of it, I could understand the desire for something that was off-limits, and potentially dangerous. But it had to be something more, buried deep in my subconscious. I still haven’t found what it is that moved me so much as I sat at my kitchen table stunned from the news. I can totally understand now why Elton John was moved to write “Candle In The Wind about Marilyn Monroe. I will be sure to buy all available recordings of Amy on CD or DVD, and like so many bands that are no more, I will cherish what we have of them to enjoy. Perhaps the greatest gift Amy unknowingly gave me is the gift of being more open in my mind to new ideas. To listen to new sounds and really see new images before passing judgement and moving on. So goodbye Amy, maybe you didn’t realize how much love was coming your way. While you were searching for the perfect love that doesn’t exist in life,perhaps you finally found it in death. I hope so for your sake…rest in peace.