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Lecture on the All Souls/Red Cross Connection

I have the honor of co-hosting the following event this weekend - come one, come all (there will be refreshments)!!!

Sunday, January 13, at 1p.m. in the Chapel of All Souls:
Lecture on the All Souls/Red Cross Connection
Mary-Ella Holst, President of the All Souls Historical Society and a fount of knowledge about our church and its myriad activities over the course of our nearly 200 year history will present an account of the historical connections between All Souls Church and The Red Cross. This year’s recipient of the Forrest Church Award for Humanitarian Service is Gail McGovern, President and CEO of The American Red Cross. If you aren’t already proud about being part of this institution and its activities, when you hear this story you will be! This fascinating program will be hosted by Heart & Soul board members Miles Chapin and Victor Fidel, author of The Quest for Religious & Community Identity: The Story Behind the Architecture and Evolution of All Souls Church, New York City.

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All Souls Book | Events | All Souls

My wife’s from Pittsburgh…but…I’m a New Yorker!

And I root for the underdog in about any contest…yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the authentic and original reason I started following the United States version of the sport titled “football”. You can only appreciate a sport if you understand it. Isn’t that the case with anything under the sun and beyond the stars? American football is a rush and a break. A break and then a rush. It’s got mad action and the stuff of soulful drama. It makes us bold and strong…and humbles us. The main event’s commercials are the best. No doubt about it. Victoria’s Secret, Hyundai, Doritos, Coke, Budweiser and GoDaddy.com have made fabulous contributions. But, let’s get back to the game: Watching a quarterback make a successful throw, the cause of which results in having a receiver complete an immaculate catch at the end-zone is the stuff of what dreams want to become…does it get better than this? Of course, but it feels darn awesome when your team does it!

The New York Jets, who practice in Long Island, and for games share a stadium with another New York team in The Garden State, have come farthest than any other team in American football history, by this amateur writer/spectator’s inexperienced eyes. Beating Eli Manning’s brother one week and the metrosexual Brady the week after, re-deeming themselves and beating the odds – masters of hope, leaving behind the cinders when no-one gave them a chance... I guess it’s too bad last Sunday’s game wasn’t the Super Bowl, but it could have been for the spirit of some. Yes, it was really spectacular.

But it ain’t over, is it? Two more successful games and the New York Jets can bring the Vince Lombardi trophy to Gotham. It’s almost too much to think that far. Especially when you still have another team that wants this victory just as much: The Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s a team with more soul than other teams. I may be biased, but that’s a team that has real heart. Not to say anything lackluster about the Pats or the Colts, but playing the Steelers in Iron City, in a play-off game, is I think, a harder challenge than playing Mr. Brady in New England. I only say it because Pittsburgh is really a football town. Really! Those terrible towels are the stuff of real Terror for anyone who’s not Black and Gold.

New York Jets, you are underdogs and I am with you. It’s a good thing my wife is forgiving, as is her family, who revealed to me the passion of the game. She’s a Pittsburgher, and with many rights to. After all, if it wasn’t for the Steelers, she may not be here. Her parents’ first date was at Three Rivers Stadium. Steeler blood runs really black and gold in Steel Country. It is one of the city’s many prides, perhaps the most stark of all. How/Why do you think the city’s team has won 6 Super Bowls? 

Gang Green has a real uphill battle…but, I am a New Yorker, and darn proud to be so, and I really love it when David defeats Goliath! This is my adopted country and I’m making the best in the Empire State. Can you hear Sinatra and Jay-Z in my voice…and don’t you forget Billy Joel…! Heather accurately said that I am a lover of the local, the present being where my heart is, and my heart is with you, who bring me passion and take my taxes: Gotham.

Make no mistake though: Should the Steelers win, they better win the Super Bowl, as that is the team that introduced me to American Football.

But for now, I’m in a New York state of Mind…

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Reflections

Our Soporific Sofa

We have this sofa that has soporific powers. I lay there and I'm gone, sleeping that is. I tried reading a sonnet there and I couldn't get past the 4th line as I was rhyming with snores. I’ve tried reading any book and as soon as I get past the 1st page, my ZZZ’s are all over our apartment. Anytime I'm hyper and I want to lowdown, this is where I go. Quinta-espresso or Yerba maté cannot break this sofa's powers, nor Red Bull.

When we have guests and they sleep over, they find that they sleep past their normal wake up times, even with the train noise outside and the light coming from our living room windows – we have light curtains, which let the sun's rays. To be fair, we face the west, so the sunrise doesn't cook anybody's feet or heads, but the light of the sun, ever present can be felt, but with mushroom wood underneath them, that’s just not enough to awaken the toughest early bird – the worm will get away.

The soporiferous power lies in the mushroom wood of which the sofa is made. Although you would not tell it has any wood – for it has the softest cover – there is a material underneath all the softness that gives it structure, and most importantly, its sleep-inducing qualities.  This wood was cultivated in Indonesia, timbered with splashes of anti-caffeine agents, little dashes of sarsaparilla, half-wormwood and plenty of owlapiccitus, a stimulant-chemical-based plant only native to that part of the world. Treatment of the wood was done at night when only the owls and other creatures abound freely hunting or escaping the chase, like some cute and furry rodents. It was thought that night-cultivating would have the effect of creating awake-inducing wood, but the opposite happened. When the Indonesians figured this out, they no longer produced this wood because they were looking for the most work-inducing sofa that ever existed, but by this point in time, about 167* sofas had been made. What else to do but sell them. They distributed them all over the world. The distribution went as follows: 21 to Europe; 14 to Africa; 15 to Australia; 28 to India; 39 to Los Angeles; 30 to Chile; 17 to Saudi Arabia and 3 to New York. The distributors discovered that Gotham did not want its workers to spend too much time sleeping, since it is supposed to be the City that never does it, hence the low sales numbers there. L.A. was no surprise, being so laid back, got the highest numbers. Though they were surprised that Europe had awakened from the work to live (not live to work) comma; yes it was surprising, but then again, this happened in the wake of the EU, and we did see the high Euro low Dollar effect. The Chileans, it was said, loved to drink their wine while sitting on sofas, so they bought as much as they could; the effect was, of course, that their next door competitors, the Argentineans, were now producing more wine (they did create Yerba maté, it was said). As for the Chinese, who did not want to be left out of the action, ended up buying some from the Indians, and they were both happy.

All of this may seem displaced or scarcely unbelievable, but it is the truth.

PS: Our sofa was a gift from a friend of of a friend of an acquaintance who was traveling from Madagascar, on her way to Melbourne, after having spent sometime in Bombay.

* Add 000 to this figure, i.e., 167 = 167 thousand

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Stories

First Day On “Crunches”

According to the MRI I took on Saturday, I have a stress fracture on my femur socket. Doc M explained it on a drawing where the crack was near the hip socket on the femur. He said, “You have a hard boiled egg and the shell is cracking. It cracks with the more weight you put on it. You have to stop everything you’re doing, otherwise no more running for a long long time.”

“What do I stop?” I said.

“Everything. Walking. Running. Swimming. If you keep putting weight on that joint, you’ll crack the femur and then you’ll have to get surgery, a hip replacement and you don’t want to be an old man being so young. You have to heal. So go get some crutches at Zee Chemist right downstairs.”

I went to get the crutches. Yelena, the attractive woman at the cosmetic counter helped me get them, though she did not know where they were; she had to ask someone at the pharmacy counter. Yelena was an expert in cosmetics, that being her department, but Yelena loved to be helpful to every customer, so when she saw me lost and the pharma-folks didn’t pay attention, she offered her services. When told where to find the crutches, which was “downstairs all the way to the back on the right,” she was eager to take me down there. We found wooden and aluminum ones. We both agreed that the wooden ones looked better, less institutional, “less to remind you of being in a hospital,” as she said in her Eastern European accent. They were “warmer”. I asked, “How much?” She said, “Let me go find out.” I looked at them and played with them, as Yelena suggested. I adjusted them, playing with the screws and adjustable settings, holes with screws to make them taller or shorter and to move the hand-rest up or down. Yelena came back and said, “Ok, she told me they were 29 dollars.”

“All right, I’ll take them, but can I have the ones in the back. These are dusty and dirty.” She said, “Sure.” Oh, I said, “But look, it says $39 on it.” Yelena said, “She told you $29, so don’t say anything. They’re $29,” and she took the price tag off. We took them upstairs and I gave her my MasterCard. We were by the cosmetics section once again. She rang my card with a $29 receipt, taxes included. Then she wiped the crutches, which she called “crunches,” with baby wipes. I said, “Thank you so much. What is your name?”

“I’m Y.”

“I’m Victor. Thank you Y. Looks like I’ll be wearing these for a month.”

“Best of luck,” she said.

I went back upstairs to Doc M’s office. There was M (not Doc M, I mean another M) and J, my physical therapists. They started instructing me how to use these crunches. First they adjusted the hand-rest; they debated the length of where the rest should fall. M said, “Don’t you think there has to be a slight bend to the elbow.” J asked me, “Are these the only ones they had.” I said, “Well…”

He said, “Did they have aluminum ones?”

I said, “Why – are these defective?”

“No, it’s just that the aluminum ones have more adjusting holes, but it’s ok, these are not bad at all. Ok, got’em,” and he managed to adjust them the way they needed adjustment. M & J were great. M showed me the method of going up and down curves and steps. She says, “Think, the good leg goes to Heaven and the bad to Hell.” I thought that was a bit freaky, but it makes practical sense for our up/down purposes. Basically, when climbing up, use the good leg, and then bring the crutches up. When going down, put the crutches down first, then bring the left (the good) leg forward. It’s systematic and makes sense. It would be awkward if the bad leg (or crutches) went up; they have to follow the good leg when going up and they lead when going down. M had her hand on my back as we practiced going up and down the stairs. It was nice of her.

Then…it was time. I left to crunch walk the streets of New York. On thing crutch wearing does is slow you down. Your pace makes you admire all that is in front of you. You observe more on account of your snail pace. So your eyes are fixated on your surroundings more. You can see those flowers that weren’t there before. You can see women and beauty better. You appreciate those things pleasing to the eyes more. At the same time, your arms ache, your hands ache, your upper ribs chafe against the crutch top, your good leg feels the strain of having to lead walk…

I had to get my bike gloves because I was feeling a blister coming on. See, you are resting your weight on your hands in between steps and I got this skin, which, while lovely and smooth, has a propensity to blister when repeated chafing occurs…

Somehow I’m taking all this with positive-ness, but I cringe at the thought of work with these crunches.

People are nice. People are courteous. They’ve been opening the doors for me. In fact, they stand in defense for me. Today, I was sitting on the disabled seating of the bus, something I am routinely doing and will do for the next four weeks, and the bus driver came to one of the stops. He got out of his driver’s seat and said to us sitting in the disabled seats, “Ok, I need one of these seats.” A lady in a wheelchair wanted to come in, so a set of those seats needed to be transformed  so as to fit her. Well, I got up and looked for a seat in the back. As I did that, a lady in the back said, “Why should you get up, you can’t walk. Let the other people get up.” She referred to the plump women sitting on the disabled seats – they had no visible disability, while I had my visible “crunches.”

It’s still hard to walk with these, but I’ve only walked for one day, for an approximate six or 7 city blocks, including street/avenue blocks, so far. It’s going to be interesting, but I repeat to myself: My problems are smaller than me. My problems are tiny. I am bigger than every obstacle I face from now one. Everything will be fine. In fact, sitting here in this patient waiting room, I can’t wait for the Gin & Tonic that awaits me at home. This will be a time of relaxation and mind exercises as well as the production of less-sweaty body work and instead doing more of that mental travail industry. I am really looking forward to it.

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Reflections

Wedding Planning Tales

ACTION-PLANATHON DAY TWO

As opposed to Day One, which happened yesterday, but I’ll write that one later.

The day started by me calling in sick. Important, stuff. The wedding industrial complex hasn’t yet figured out that a lot of people are working during “working” hours.

It’s 9:30AM, Heather and I had to get up finally. She had a strawberry pop tart. I had chocolate cereal with banana slices.

At 10:15AM, we boarded the 6 Subway Train to go all the way to Brooklyn Bridge station, the end of the line, that’s 18 stops in 29 minutes from 116th Street.

10:49AM  We walked to the Office of the City Clerk building to get our marriage license. Location: 141 Worth Street, short walking distance from one of a handful of treasure troves, the Brooklyn Bridge. As we walk we see people spruced up. It’s a building of marriage. The attendant at the desk is smiling and asks us how we can be “assisted.”

“We’re here to pick our marriage license.” I show him the application paper with the confirmation you get when you apply online.

“Ah lovely. Wonderful, and I see that you applied online. Good for you. It’s much quicker that way. Ok, I just need your ID. Ok, two states I see, Pee-Ay and N-Y. Ok, here’s your number. You may have a seat over there. Watch for the screen in the waiting room and just go to the desk that corresponds your number.” As this is not the Divorce Hall, he must love his job, everybody’s smiling and mostly everybody’s dressed up. Women in their wedding dresses, men in their suits, the invited guests in cocktail attire and their coats in their arms—it was cold outside. More women in designer high-heels, great sexy stockings showing. Men in their spiffy cufflinks, handsome as hell. And we were in our sneakers and jeans!

“Thank you.”

We had A053. The screen had A046 on.

The seats were comfy, nicely padded, but not many were sitting. Some couples were getting their pictures taken in front of the City Hall wall picture, it’s a picture of…City Hall. The gorgeous French inspired, built-in-1803 New York City Hall is blocked to traffic and so what the City Clerk Office has done is put in a huge wall picture inside the building. So you can get a picture with your spouse-to-be right in front of said building inside the comfort of warm and the guarantee of a sunny day as the picture was taken on a crisp early summer day; though I must say that New York is famed for blue skies; it’s those skyscrapers keeping the clouds away is what I was told as a little one.

11:15AM  A053 shows up on the board. “Go to Gate 7” it says. We go to gate 7. The seating in front of the counter is comfortable as well. They really want to make it a pleasant experience. The lady behind the counter has a smile. She says, “Hi. May I have your ID’s and code please.” Our application arises before our eyes on a screen facing us, the same stuff I put on two days ago in the comforts of home, parent’s names and country of birth, Heather’s side has California & Pennsylvania. I’ve got El Salvador & Nicaragua. We got Central & North America covered.

“How will you be paying?” She asks.

“Credit Card, Visa.” I give it to her. Hey, I get points on my New World Points card, no I didn’t use the Chase one as I’m keeping track on a separate card, courtesy of BOA, and yes, no annual fee on that too.

“$35”

I sign the receipt. We sign the proxy document that they keep. Then she gives us the marriage license document that our minister Cheryl M Walker will help us fill out at All Souls with our signatures and our chosen witnesses, Sharon (Maid of Honour) & Alex (Best Man).

11:30AM  Time to leave. As we part the building, the magic of happiness does not cease to amaze me. Like I said, it’s not the Divorce court. The building has a nifty chapel too. I tried to peek in but Heather said I shouldn’t because I’d be interrupting someone’s wedding and I didn’t want Karma to get mad back at me, so I listened to her, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the chapel was elegant and refined, secular but with more than just a hint of civil service – this was the nicest bureaucratic building I’ve ever been into in my life. The windows had linen curtains. The upholstery of the waiting sofas was clean and was cushy. How about the bouquets for sale? They had the flower arrangements in state-of-the-art glass encasings for show. Did I mention the gift store too? Yes, they have NYC things, but not tacky; in fact, they have a super-classy, Art-Deco set of salt-n-pepper shakers, with The Empire State as salt and The Chrysler as pepper, I thought of someone to give this as a gift to, and of course if you preferred pepper for your Empire State, you would not have made a faux pas, for whose to say it isn’t spicy.

The process was fast and efficient, but it was also pleasant and more than decent, definitely fancy would be a word to use here. No wonder Las Vegas is losing to Gotham in the destination-wedding department…

11:35AM  After calculating the best route to our next destinations, we decide to take the 6 Train back up. Our quandary of decisions is which to go for first, the Florist, located on 17th Street & 6th Avenue or the Village Paper Party Store on 18 Greenwich Ave, which is also close to 6th Avenue and 9th Street. We figure it’s better to work our way uptown (north), but we’ve the florist appointment at Noon and the train is taking some time to move, for it’s the Brooklyn Bridge station, the end of the line of the 6 train. We decide to take action once we reach Astor Place, the station closest to the Paper Party store.

11:40AM  The train’s at Astor Place. We decide to get off to go to the Village Paper Party store. A bus would get us there in 5 minutes. No bus though. Cold. No one twisting the Village Cube, that’s how cold it was. We walk on 8th. The traffic’s going the wrong way, of course no bus. So we walk on 9th. No bus. Forget the bus. Just walk. Walk just ‘till the Village squiggly streets mess us up.

11:49AM We reach the Village Paper Party Store. I call the Ariston Florist to tell them we were running late, “but I’ll be there soon.” No problem, they say.

11:53AM  The owner of the store helps us find the magenta cocktail napkins we were looking for. Easy. And, I choose a sympathy card for our neighbor. Her husband, the famous Joe Cuba, who invented the New York Boogaloo has passed away. Yes, a music legend lived in our building, how about that! We get the card; we get the napkins; we pay with Visa; we stimulate the economy. We walk past Patchin Place, where Marlon Brando used to live. Yes, the Godfather, Guys and Dolls, The Wild One. Whaddya got? You got it. And across the street: the Jefferson Market Courthouse (built 1874 by Vaux & Withers), a gorgeous High Victorian Gothic building that used to house a market, most certainly a victory for architecture, and it’s now a library, open everyday but Sunday.

11:57AM  Time to run up Sixth Ave, otherwise known as “The Avenue of The Americas,” until you reach Central Park. But we only manage to run across the street for this time there’s a bus that’ll take us to 17th Street, the M6 respectively. Traffic tried to make us miss the bus by not stopping, we trying to catch that bus and “those annoying cars,” as Heather calls them trying to discourage us, as cars have the ability to be the way they are…

11:59AM  We get off the bus.

12:00PM  On time at Ariston’s. Location: 110th W 17th Street, at 6th Ave. Just in time. The appointment is with John Z. Great guy. We gave him our concepts. He said no problem. We gave him a budget. He gave us a bargain. We chose him. We gave him a deposit. I ran to get it a block away. Thank Goodness Chase is on every corner – we’re using Benjamins on this one to get a kool discount. Amen. The guests will love the flowers. I’ll love my masculine flower, as I requested. Heather and Sharon will adore their bouquets. Heather will get her Stargazer Lilies! Amen.

1:10PM  Time to go to our next appointment: Ribbon & Cord. Location: M & J Trimmings, 1008 Sixth Avenue between 37th & 38th Streets, a few blocks off the New MetLife building.

We decide to take the F or V trains, which conveniently run up (or should I say, below) Sixth Avenue. It’s only two stops as we get off at 34th Street, Herald Square, where Macy’s is.

1:25PM  M & J Trimmings is interesting. It is all about the ribbon and cords. Yes, a ribbon and cord store. In Manhattan? Where else?! The ceilings are high enough to accommodate about 6 thousand ribbons and cords. After about enough searching, we find the ribbon(s). Yes, we’re going with two for the cake, double colour too. You’ll like it. I promise. We also get the cord for the Hand-fasting Ceremony. A magick 54 inches. What is 5 plus 4? There you go. What is 3 divided by 3? There you go. What is 6 times 9? There you go. All using the 3 & 9. Magick all over. Learn numbers – they are good to you. “If you just believe…”

1:37PM  Time to run uptown again. Time for me to meet Jessica the Cake Baker personally, the one who gave the yummiest samples. We chose her best on the taste of the filling and cream. And the price.

Price has been good. More than two vendors have already told us, “You are getting married in March, which is not high wedding season, so prices are lower. And you also chose a Thursday, ‘cause we’re mostly booked for weekends...”

Well, we didn’t choose Thursday, we chose our anniversary date and that’s what Thursday did for the Fifth Day of the Third Month in 2009, in celebration of our First Decade together. Got that? But we are glad the way timing has helped prices as we stimulate the economy and are rewarded for doing so.

1:45PM  So we wait for five minutes on Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, just across from the Bank of America Tower, the 2nd Tallest skyscraper in New York City. Can you guess what beauty is the First?

1:50PM  It’s still cold on Sixth Avenue. Our California relatives have much heart to come to New York in less than 2 weeks, but so do I, for my birth climate doesn’t include things like “wind chill”, “snow” or anything “freezing.”

The M7 Bus shows up finally. We take a seat and relax. Heather calls the cake place and asks for Jessica to “hold on for we are coming; we’re only 30 blocks away.” See Jessica had to leave by 2:30PM and we needed her to start&finish the business, well, the part about saying yes and accepting the terms, etc.

2:15PM  We arrive at Bakery Soutine, Location: 104 West 70th Street, at Columbus Avenue. Truly, Jessica of Bakery Soutine is sweet. She offered us Mocca Butter Cream filled Hazelnut Meringues that one patron said, “Do not eat those; you’ll be addicted for life.” Yes, well, Jessica was happy we chose her cake and like the clean money market moves, we got a discount as we chose to pay cash on this one – she was grateful we chose her. Heather gave her the ribbons and the master baker said, “Not a problem, we can do it.” We like to hear those words.

2:25PM  I was still enjoying the Mocca Butter Cream—see Jessica said, “Have some coffee while I type you an invoice.” I said, “How about a pastry?!” Her enthusiastic affirmative moved us right along in pleasantry. We agreed I’d give the rest of the payment next week, possibly Saturday, whichever was best and that a credit card may be used for final payment, which I found neat for I love getting my rewards, as you’ve blah blah blah heard.

2:35PM  Our stomachs have been growling but we have been ignoring them just so we finish this wedding-planner marathon day.

We step into the wild yonders of the Upper West Side, Columbus Avenue & 70th Street to be precise, a haven of restaurants; which to choose… I told Heather I needed my meat. She wanted meat. Meat is good. We love veggies too. We are proud omnivores.

2:43PM We only looked at the 5 restaurants on the Columbus Ave block between 70th & 71st Streets and choose the one on the corner, Lansky’s, Location: 235 Columbus Ave. Labeled itself, “Old World Deli,” it has a welcome ambiance, yes it’s a deli but it’s a restaurant with intimate tables; the seating is close, but it’s pleasant. They had burgers and that sold me, believe it or not! I wanted a meat I could hold with my hands and the buns provide great holding material. Heather had her favourite: Hot dog with Sweet Relish and 2 Potato Latkes with Apple Sauce. I had Mike’s Monster Burger with Sautéed Onions, Crispy Pastrami, Mushrooms, Vermont Cheddar, Lettuce & Tomato, and the thing also had meat too! It was a power burger. I was glad I did not order fries. My water got a bit cloudy as an onion fell into the glass as I was giving Heather a bite of my monster. I still finished the water. The busboy came to refill the glass, but he stopped and looked at the soiled glass and asked, “You’re having water?”

Yes, Onions fell into it; don’t worry, just give me another glass please. And he did. The place is great for locals and tourists. Steelers' Nation take note that this fine find has a specialty sandwich called, “The Pittsburgh Steeler,” which of course, has corned beef! Oh and there’s the Central Park Picnic Basket for $32 which includes 2 overstuffed sandwiches (looks like it can feed 4 people), a choice of 2 (of tomato salad, Cole slaw, German Potato Salad, Normal Potato Salad), plus 2 fresh fruit pies, 2 bottles of Dr. Brown’s Soda, with Pickles, Condiments, Napkins, Plates and Utensils – good enough to feed a Nation.

We were full with our burger & hot dog. The check came and Heather took the bill. I’m a lucky guy. Also a cheap date, no alcohol, but also no room in this belly. But who needs it when you’ve drank a lot the day before at a charity auction where Bill Clinton spoke, that’s another story I’ll tell later; he was great, a hero, for sure, and he talked our minister Forrest Church and his book “Love and Death”, and he talked about politics and why he supported Obama’s stimulus and many other things and he flattered; it’s…Clinton, end of story.

We were still full. Of Joy. Of accomplishment. Of fatigue. How many wedding-planning-birdies did we shoot on one day, in 5 hours? Who needs a wedding planner…

3:30PM  Time to go home. We decided now to take the 2 or 3 Subway uptown from 72nd Street, from where you can see several French Second Empire inspired apartment buildings, ah the voluptuousness of those Mansard roofs and plenty of peculiar cartouches, if you know what I mean…

3:40PM  Back in Harlem, Central that is, at 116th Street & Lenox Ave, otherwise known as Malcolm X Boulevard (or, even Sixth Ave, still!). As we get out a lady asks us, “Excuse me, where is Broadway?”

I point west, that way. But that’s a long walk in this cold. I’m assuming you’re looking for Columbia—unfortunately you took the wrong train; you needed the 1.

She says, “Great! I was at 96th Street and I was on the 1 and it stopped because of repairs they said so I saw the 2 and took it thinking it was faster and now here I am. So what can I do?”

Well, you can take that bus over there, the M116, it’ll take you to Broadway but only as fast as 106th Street, from there you’ll have to walk another 10 blocks. The easiest thing to do is go back on the 2 or 3 downtown and at 96th Street take the 1 going uptown, this time exiting at Columbia’s 116th.

She listened to the wisest option.

As we turn, we notice that our bus came just in time to take us home. That’s Instant Karma for you. “We all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun, yeah we all...” Yes, we usually end up walking those 3 long Avenue blocks because a bus doesn’t come at the time we want it to or just because we’re on the move that why wait for only three long avenue blocks, well, if it’s cold it’s not a bad idea, but who wants to wait in the cold, which is why we were so grateful for Karma. One hand washes the other. That lady went to her conference at Columbia. We got on our M102 bus and dropped us off virtually in front of home. Location: Lexington & 116th Street, Spanish Harlem, East Harlem, El Barrio, Spa-Ha, those are some of the names of our ‘hood.

Nearing 4:00ish. Ah, what a day.

4:01PM  Siesta time. In the bed. Yes. Lovely. It was less than a half hour though.

4:27PM  Heather had to prepare for her dear fashion-decorator-on-the-side-for-fun best friend Tanika, read below:

5:45PM  The saga continued as Heather went to meet Tanika in the Upper East Side to give her the details of our wedding as she has been selected Decorateur-in-Chief of our Reception Hall. From what I hear, she already has plans and she’s good with making short bills last a long way. The last bit of the budget.

Planning for a wedding is…planning for a big complicated complex expensive party... Or a good reason to run all over the city? Tiring, but lots of fun. And this is before the actual wedding. Now the suspense kills you. The ride is joyful, despite the running, maybe the running around is exciting, the choosing, the tasting, the wearing, the trying, the signing, the hearing, the listening, the drawing, the planning, the typing, the mailing, the writing, the following-up, the looking, the smelling, the feeling, the…feeling.

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Reflections

“Of course you don’t have a gift receipt”

Heather had to exchange the gift she did not like from Macy's. We went to the one on 34th Street, where one of the miracles happened. We walk in, ask for help from the man at the desk. We ask in casual New York form, "How you doin’?" He says, "I'm doin'." It's a Saturday.

"What time do you close today?"

"9:30pm"

I felt blessed that I worked at a bank, where I'd be done by 3:30 on Saturdays and no Sundays, no TD for me, thank economy, thank circumstances.

Heather said, "I would like to return a gift, but I don't have a gift receipt."

"Of course you don't. That's ok. What is the item you have?"

She pulls out the matronly blouse my aunt had given her.

"This item would be on the fifth floor. You can take the escalators right here." He points to his right he escalators that are hidden from the public masses, the side ones, not the ones in the middle where the multitudes walk. He knows the shortcuts, the indispensable orienting employee.

I ask him, "How about the bathrooms?"

"For you? That would be on the seventh floor."

"Thank you."

"Anytime."

We got to the matronly department on the fifth floor. We find the cashier. Heather says to the attendant, whose name-tag says Michelle, "Hi, I got a gift and I'd like to return it. Of course, I don't have a receipt."

"Oh, dear, the only problem is that without the receipt, Macy's will give you a credit for the lowest price the item was marked down."

"Oh, that's ok. I'd rather have five bucks than to have something I won't use."

Michelle processes the transaction after asking Heather for her license. She says, "Well, it comes out to $5.21."

Heather, prophetically stunned says, "Really?!"

I say, "Is that how much they paid?"

Michelle says, "No. It's just the price you get because you don't get the receipt."

A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Michelle says, "Because it's lower than ten dollars, you can get it in cash."

I add, "And now you can get your cheese fries. She loves cheese fries."

Heather asks her, "Where is the hosiery section?"

Michelle says, "It's in the 1 and a half floor. I know it sounds tricky. But you take the escalators there in the middle and when you pass the second floor, you get off and make a left then make a right to where it says 'Visitor's Center' and then keep on going straight till you see the stockings."

"Thank you."

Ok, now, as per my bladder, we go to the seventh floor.

We take the wooden staircase, the classic one, which brings a taste of history to our experience at Macy's, can we ever get enough of Old New York? Not I.

The Men's rest room had a door with a window. The first one I've seen as such. At least you could not see the urinals from the window; otherwise, I would feel the intrusion on my peeing action.

I come out. Heather asks, "So, shall we take the elevator?" I say, I prefer to take the classic escalator. "Ok, she says, but it'll take longer."

I love to ride in history, so we take the local, as Heather says.

As we reach the third floor, we see Michelle. She carries Heather's license. She says, "I was looking for you. You left your license."

Heather, graciously says, "Oh wow, thank you."

"You found us."

Michelle was heading to the one and a half floor and we might have missed her if we had taken the elevator or not have gone to the rest-room.

I am happy about that and amazed at coincidences, but I’m still convinced that one should always give a gift receipt, especially if the gift is clothing.

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Stories

They Met at the Check Cashing Place

They met at the check cashing place. He was cashing his check from a small electric company. This was on 116th Street, near Park Avenue. The sign of the place, like most of the signs on the ghetto, marketed what they sold, “Check Cashing.”

He paid his $50 and was happy he had 90% of his money. Actually, he wasn’t happy but content that he could do this transaction and get the hell out of there and not have to go to a bank where he wouldn’t have to pay 10% but have to have overdraft fees that could have totaled his check. Too many slobs, he thought, but too many people trying to take your money at banks too. He preferred to see the slobs at the check cashing place.

As he got out, a blond chick walked in, he thought he saw a chick in her, a girl stirring his attraction. He asked her to stop.

Please, wait.

She stopped.

Yes?, she asked.

I’m sorry. I don’t care what you say, but I need to talk with you.

He had never said anything to a blond chick with such words. In fact, he never said that to any other woman. He was not the pick-up artist type. He was in the military for 6 years now, but he was not a reservist. Last year, he had fallen in love with a Philippine woman 15 years his senior but her children didn’t like him and he had to leave on account of other martial assignments. He was responsible for his age. He respected life as it came.

Yes?, she said, again.

He struggled to find the words. They are so hard to come by when a woman freezes your spirit. He realized, she no longer was a chick, but a decent and beautiful person of the gender he attracted, one that stirred his passionate soul. He wasn’t going to try to pick her up, but he was not walking out without making an impression that would last.

I think you are so beautiful. 

Most women find this annoying and untrue, but the way he said it, the way she needed it, it was perfect. She didn’t know how to respond and said naturally, I need to go and cash a check.

Yes. May I please go in with you? He had come out already and was going back in. For some reason in her feminine brain, she didn’t feel alarmed, and it was daylight. A woman of any hair-color needed to be on alert for catcallers, misogynists, perverts, rapists, bad men, in general, but she got the feeling he was sincere…

…that was three years ago. They now live together.

They have two cats and two separate bank accounts.

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Stories

“The next stop is…”

When a New York Subway comes to the station and you happen to catch it just in time…

When you happen to get to a station and the subway enters…

When you catch a subway rushing to the station…

When a subway pulls into a station as you’re rushing in…

…it is the greatest feeling.

The silver train is stopping. You’re not even a dozen feet from where the doors will open and you know that’s your train. You can’t miss it.

Your ride, Madam, Sir.

You won’t wait in the station. You’ll get in Scott-free. Feelings of liberation and relief fill your soul, the way a goblet overflows with red wine at a harvest Renaissance fair. New York is alive.

I’ve made the subway. It came for me.

Yes, you, even in those half seconds you are more than special, as you walk closer and the train slowly comes to a stop. The screeching wheels of steel against the tracks cannot disturb you. You welcome the noise. You’re part of the concert; it is for you, an orchestra of mass-transit love. These feelings really are so beautiful, whether you’re late or early to your rendezvous, though everybody knows no one’s early. We’re all late, fashionably, in our rushed city of Gotham. 

But not this time. Your rush is calm.

You’ll get the train. You’ll make it. Ever since you swiped your MetroCard at the turnstile, that train, that time, that turnstile, all were made for you, and that makes it all worth it, whatever all is.

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Reflections

Armageddon NYC

Have you ever noticed how many movies partake in destroying New York City? We have this ogling passion in causing the greatest Armageddon in the city. Hollywood can’t get enough. It’s such a beautiful palace to destroy, be it aliens (re: “Independence Day”, “Cloverfield”, “The Day The Earth Stood Still”), terrorists (“The Siege”), global warming (“The Day After Tomorrow”), catastrophe (“Armageddon”, “Deep Impact”), old-school supernatural beings (“Godzilla”), inner-city warfare (“Fort Apache the Bronx”), futuristic chaos (“Escape from New York”)… – there’s no comparison to the destruction of any other city, perhaps because no other city is as recognizable; even remote aliens from a thousand galaxies know where Central Park is and what the Empire State Building looks like. What is it about the annihilation of all these buildings, structures and all these people that drive these movies? Is it something to do with our fascination of catastrophe? When an accident occurs, we stop and we look. When a fight is in progress, we stop and stare. Remember in secondary school seeing all the kids who used to form a circle around the two fighters, eyes wide open looking, mouths closed, just looking as if they were hypnotized by a drama, a show, a fight, the violent intercourse of two humans in battle…– gee, boxing’s a hit no wonder! We love to see conflict. Is New York City the greatest conflict porn place? Maybe it is. Maybe we love this place so much we want to see it destroyed in our imagination, the thought of crushing our modern civilization to pieces and it excites us, this fear turned reality in celluloid.  Maybe that’s why Hollywood loves it and we praise it by buying all these movie tix. Are we lovers of Shiva, the creator, destroyer and preserver in the Hinduism tradition? Maybe we love to destroy the creation and create the destruction… Will we really evolve to a species that does not destroy? We must, if we believe in Darwin. Because we are nature. Is the city a natural place? Are these centers places that should exist? Why not? They are made by us. And we are natural, or aren’t we? Or maybe we are just as alien as those aliens in the movies, raping the Earth, getting ready for an Armageddon, starting in Gotham, of course…

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Reflections

Two Thanksgiving Shorts

MY BROTHER FORGETS HIS ID --

Yes, he did. He forgot it. He left his wallet at his girlfriend’s dorm room. He had to take a flight the next day from Syracuse, NY to go to Pittsburgh, PA. His itinerary included a layover stop in Detroit, MI. But now, he was stuck in Oswego, NY, scrambling in his thoughts, wondering what excuse he could give the security personnel at the airport for not having required ID. He did not have a driver’s license. It was at his girlfriend’s dorm room in Cortland, NY. He did not have his passport. It was expired and in the hands of his mother, in Levittown, NY. He did not have anything else official. All he had was a Stafford loan letter, his social security card, high school and college id cards. None of those were in the “acceptable” id category at the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) website.

In his Facebook status update, he wrote “Alex is FUCKEDDDDDD.”

He realized that he did not have his wallet after he took the bus that drove him from Cortland to Oswego – this was a week before his flight. He called his girlfriend and asked what happened to the wallet. She said she mailed it to his dorm room. How, he asked her? By mail, she texted back. “Pkg?” he texted. She typed what deciphered to “just left it in the mail room at school.”  He did not want to call his brother or mother. He hoped for the post-office to bring that wallet package any hour now. But it was Monday night and the flight was Tuesday morning. He lost hair each time he thought what could happen. He would miss his flight in the worst case scenario, but then what could he do? He could take the bus instead. But with what money? It was all in the wallet he left at his girlfriend’s. He could go back to Oswego, but they would be closing the school for Thanksgiving break. He could take a ride with his buddy that lived in Long Island; at least he could go to Long Island. But his friends had already left. Just like he wrote on his Facebook updates, he was. He called the Continental airlines department. The lady on the other end of the line said, “You’ll be okay. Just make sure to bring your school ID.” Apparently, a SUNY (State University of New York) ID was as good as State ID, which was as good as an acceptable form of ID to enter into a plane. Good. He could sleep now. But he’d have to wake up early. He’d have to take the 9AM bus to arrive in Syracuse by 10AM. The flight was scheduled to depart at 11AM. He might not make it. He’d have to find another bus, an earlier one. Who could he call? The internet was the answer. There was an earlier bus, at 8AM. Good. The morning came. He took the bus. It dropped him at the Syracuse transportation center. He called his brother from there to ask how to get to the airport. His brother asked, “Why don’t you take a shuttle bus to the airport from the Trans-center?”

“Because there’s none,” he said.

“Then take a cab.”

“I can’t. Just tell me which is the route to take. My paper is wet. It’s raining here. What’s the highway route?—”

He took highway route I-81. He didn’t just take it. He walked it, the 7 miles, in the rain. There was no cab fare because that was in the wallet, which was stuck in the mail room in Cortland, NY.

He got to the airport twenty minutes before the flight. No problem with IDs. But it was too late to board the flight, but since it was overbooked to begin with, they scheduled him on the next flight, which took him to LaGuardia, just twenty minutes from where his brother lived, and then another flight took him to the final destination of Pittsburgh, PA, where he’d join his family and his brother’s fiancée's family for Thanksgiving.

He never forgot his wallet at any girl’s dorm again. He carries it currently in his pants.

 

CAT UNDER A TIN HOOD --

They had no space for another body. All five of them were crammed in a Honda Civic Hybrid, but they had enough comfort for an 8 hour drive, mostly on Interstate 80, going east to New York City from the wilds of Western Pennsylvania—they were also full from plenty of Thanksgiving food. There was no room in the trunk either. They had the mother and youngest son’s shopping bags filled with clothing and shoes from Black Friday. There was so much that they had to take a car-roof-top trunk and it was packed in there too.

Traffic was smooth.

And then, two miles from the George Washington Bridge on I-80, they are stopped by a swarming multitude of cars stopped, bumper-to-bumper, they all moved at less than a mile an hour. The signs prior had predicted a 45 minute delay for those two miles. It’s dark—it’s 8pm but with all these cars and their lights on, it’s a well-lit road.

A kitty is confused. He walks around each car. Now every car is stopped. All three lanes. Nobody wants to crush it with their wheels. Blinkers are put on. “Hey look it’s a kitty” is heard through their closed windows.

The kitty chooses the Honda Civic Hybrid as the best spot to hide in. The five inside are shocked and put on their blinkers too. The driver and his brother come out. They don’t see it. The driver’s fiancée sees the tail. It’s on the front wheel. When the driver comes to see, it’s not there. She says, “Honk so you can scare him.” His mother says, “Let’s go. I don’t care about the damn cat.” She wants to go to her party and leave her bad kids behind—they’re stalling the process caring for kitty. The driver opens the hood. The mother is angered profusely, but even she can’t help feeling the amazement of seeing a cat under her car’s hood.

The fiancée, a confirmed kitty-lover, takes the scratches of a kitty. She saves him from the possible carnage of being cooked by the carburetor or chopped by the fan, etc, et cetera. The driver stops the traffic, as they’re in the far left lane of the four lane highway and set the cat in the grass covered median strip.

The kitty is saved. The driver’s siblings, who are allergic to cats, are relieved.

Before reaching the toll, the fiancée calls 911 to alert the authorities that there’s a kitty a quarter mile from the George Washington Bridge, NJ side. They pay their 8 dollars, welcomed to New York with kitty hero feelings in their hearts, even the mother.

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Stories