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Monday, February 22, 2016

Toiletries

You should never go into the first stall! Jamie wipes her brow, as if letting me in on this top secret knowledge has taken everything out of her. I am in awe of how much this woman perspires.  

They did a study and most people use the first stall... she eyes me proudly.

Ok but wouldn't everyone presume that and use the second? I mean, I would think that most people avoid direct contact to the general public and there is only ONE tiny unfinished wall between you and the rest of the bathroom goers!

I exhale deeply, shocked at how consumed I am about a subject I never thought about before. I like germs. I'm from New York. I believe that a healthy amount of immunity dosing keeps the plague away. I sit back pleased with my self and steal one of her smokes without asking. She buys non menthol just so I can bum one or two a night. She's the nicest person on the other side that I have ever met.  Jamie sits back and stares at the lightning over the Florida Keys. It's the only thing I like about this place.  We have settled into the "Florida Room"- which makes me giggle every time I enter the door frame. I can hear my grandpa saying it in his Brooklyn accent,  the Fla red dah room.  

I'm thinking this while staring at a baby scorpion on the other side of the screened window when Jamie yells excitedly:

You're right, which is why I always use the third! 

Jamie throws her cards down that she's been mindlessly shuffling. She waddles over to the kitchen and pulls out a giant pack of frozen tater tots from the fridge. That's the healthiest thing I've seen her eat in 3 weeks. At 5'3" she weighs about 300 lbs. She is as tanned as a Naugahyde purse and always matches her eye shadow to her shoelaces.

Allow me to rock-n-roll backwards. Three weeks earlier.  It was raining like g-d was angry.  I'm in the drivers seat with the engine still rolling. The Prius (privileged bitch) is shaking like an old man after having let out an angry rant. I just drove for 15 hours straight from Cleveland.  I'd never been to Ohio before, this was my first time on my last stop before hitting home.  Two months earlier I had sold almost everything I owned, including my Gran's tiled brass table. We had that table in our lives since I was born. My sister yelled at me for weeks as if I had given away our dowry. I took the table to LA along with a whole list of costly unnecessary items. That table surpassed memory's virtue: heavy in it's brass and plaster hardiness - it took great skill and aid to move it about. When we were little we would stand on top of it and dance around in the dark to the Bee Gees and Asia. It had a black, white, and gold tiled top. It was glorious to run your fingers on. It felt so real and tangible. It went to college with me. I think it had been in every one of my grandmother's children's houses. It was the closest thing I guess to a family heirloom. In it's crevices were weed, tobacco, sparkles, barley, staples, dust, blush, glue...endless crumbs of digestibles and decorations.  Sometimes Sister and I would shut the lights out in the basement. We'd put on all white. We looked like Branch Davidians. We'd turn on the record player.  One of us would run around and dance while the other watched.  Completely substance free, we marveled at how the white clothed figure flashed about like a dash of light, even in the dark. Perhaps this was the first time I fell in love with light.  I always picked the ladies: Blondie, Joan Jett, Nina, Heart. I would bounce atop that table like I was trying to break through. It held me, immutable, stable, it was always there.

As I counted up the wad of cash I made on my sale - I felt giddy with freedom. I was heading back home, everyone would know. I failed. But I was going to go on an adventure before moving back to my childhood bedroom and starting once again. I felt winded every time I thought of it. So when the antiques store dealer (unbeknownst to me) rolled up with $500, I held out my hand and smiled.  Moments later as she expertly rolled it into the back of her old Jetta, my pal elbowed me in the rib:  That lady owns that old furniture store on Silverlake Road. She is going to sell that for thousands. Swindled.  Good thing Grandma died 4 years ago.

Selling from the front yard of my landlord's house, I managed to make a killing.  I fit the rest of my stuff into my car and took off for Joshua tree with my best and oldest friend Ri. We traveled all over the southwest until we got to Colorado where my next childhood friend would take the baton and drive me through the mid-west with me. Then he would leave me in Chicago where I hung out for a while bouncing around some couches until I ran out of cash. I would save the gas money and charge home to my parent's house in Staten Island and that would be the final punctuation to my journey across country, leaving my failed attempt to leave my life behind me...well -behind me.

In the driveway- I could barely breath. I could smell the mothballs in the closets that were once mine but now were stuffed with my Dad's sweaters. I could hear the staccato'd yelps of their names as they called across floors to bother each-other with nonsense. Old age had turned my folks into cliches. They seemed squeezed of any original personality or vibrancy. They threw in the towel and surrendered to their crotchety fears and now I had to sleep under the mothball smelling blankets and cover my ears with the pillows as they screamed above the TV to hear each other.  There was also never any food.  There were condiments, hot chocolate mix, Pelligrino, frozen meats, and dried pasta boxes. Rotting onions and garlic littered the baskets above the sink. Stinky cheeses resided in a box on the bottom of the fridge and strange processed frozen deserts piled up aplenty in the freezer. Their entire diet was laced with corn syrup solids, red dye no9, and aspartame.  The middle of the kitchen table housed a lazy Susan covered in aspirin, senior vitamins, Lipitor, insulin injectors... Everything was processed and preserved. The air was stale. And it was, after all, Staten Island.  My heart sunk as I heard my head say those two little words: Staten Island- the land where your dreams die before they ever form.

I was never meant to sit still. I have never ever been able to be still. I am always a bird in motion.

Leni was a friend from film school. She still believed in me. She checked in regularly.  She was slotted to lead a film program in a geeky band camp in the middle of the Florida Keys when her cancer came back.  She wouldn't tell me anything.  She insisted I take over for her. She hung up so smoothly and magically I barely believed she called. I turned the car off. I walked towards the surname engraved door and entered.
Days later I was on a flight to Miami with a cool-aid grin and the false sense that everything would always come with an escape hatch.

TO BE CONTINUED.



"I'm the worst secretary ever." or " "On all accounts"

Waves of something sticky like emotion pass through my cheeks. I step out of the shadow and hope my neck isn't flushed.  I stand nervously shuffling papers, stapling, hole punching, pulling pages out, shifting, reorganizing and then shuffling them again. Ordering, numbering, "alphabizing," misspelling, mistaking, manhandling.
When I undress at night, paper clips and tiny "sign-here" post-its fall from my bra like tiny badges of shame, littering my bedroom floor. I leave them; I drag them with my shoe. I sleep.  I wake up. I dream of people I have not dreamt of in years. I presume ancient demons are rising as I feel I am on the lower rung of the tide. Cycles and cycles and cycles. I swim above for a while feeling good about the sun on my face and that I am floating instead of drowning. I forgot for a moment that I can never see the shore. But then it gets choppier and I am doggy paddling and breathing heavily and spitting water out. But I'm not under water. I'm just not.  Over and over and over again till perhaps in some form of human survival, like some pedantry fashioned form of fight or flight, I will lull myself into an office space meditation and quiet my brain. I could do it, if not for the stickiness.
Regrets, morning mournings, and deeply salty loathings that lose their taste by 6.
They don't like me much. They can't. They don't like their jobs. They don't like anything but the paperbacks they read at night and camels they smoke every hour. But they are nice. They gave me a job. They are innocuous and unaware. I am terrible at this. My head throbs as I see another pile of papers, I panic: where do they go? singed here, signed there. coded, audited, entered, filed, submitted.   So many actions. So many bins. Baskets of intentions. 
Every morning: wake, drink coffee, don't fuck up.  At night there is no reprieve for the dead. Laughter, clinking, smiles, everything seems great. I paid my rent. Good G-d All mighty! I paid the rent!
Rinse. Repeat.



Friday, February 5, 2016

Dear ___, I'm sorry. Notes from the rim of the Bell Jar.

Rejection is G-d's protection. That's what the putrid smelling homeless guy uttered to my disconsolate face as I walked, ever quickening, past him to the theater. Oh fuck you asshole, I say, ignoring the 'pearl clutching' strangers nearby. I don't need your stupid adages. Is G-d protecting you now? I am a jerk.  He grins a toothless grin.  He has a special power most do not. He knows that he is my worst fear.  He has the unfortunate luck of being a universal horrible outcome, and I am shame spiraling down the slide, feet first towards his life.  I throw a dollar at him hoping the wind doesn't carry it off to some undeserving lucky mother fucker. I am so very unemployed.

As soon as Nikia sees me, she jumps with excitement.  She's wearing a fake fur and dozens of shiny dangly chains and bangles. Every little instance of her shakes and jangles as she reaches out for a hug. Nikia tells me that I am a "brilliant girl" as we push past the eye rolling 'beautiful people' couple in the seats next to ours.  Popcorn spills on his skinny jeans, and she plucks the kernels off like a mamma lynx eyeing us the whole time. I stare down the beautiful people for a moment and then I tell Nikia that this is what they all say, right before they tell me that it's not my fault. There is someone else.  Another applicant, another candidate, an ex girlfriend, a better writer... but for some eye gauging reason- they always tell me I am "brilliant." Brilliant is shiny and extraordinary. I feel dulled and mediocre.  I slump down and beg for the lights to go down so that Nikia will stop pep talking me, and I can pretend for a moment in the dark that we are all the same.

And then by the time the night is over I am drunk.  Whiskey, neat.  Me- explaining once again what has been a perpetual nightmare of falling short of what I need and bending into the awkward position of being pitiable- no one really enjoys that- ever.  I cry as my train gets to my stop. Its ok- there is no-one on the train by the time it gets to Church Ave.  And even if there were- I won't care- I have a right to shed tears on these trains. I have lived here my whole life.  I try to suck it back because now I am walking and I can just imagine the men on the corner subsuming the opportunity to "comfort" me. So I pull my hat down, blow my nose and cross the street to take the long way home. My head is a diving bell teetering upside down on my neck holding little trite aphorisms like linguistic fish fighting to stay alive in my poisoned head.

You should keep perspective. You lost someone who didn't give a fuck about you. He lost someone who actually was starting to care about him.  

You probably did not get that job because it would have been bad for you to take on that big of a commitment. Maybe there are places you need to go. 

That volunteer opportunity is the most coveted spot. (BUT I CAN"T EVEN GET A JOB FOR FREE!) You can't work for free now anyway...

On and on and on they go.  Teaching me to ingest that which I can not have.  But with each rejection I start to turn back and pour over my own personal history with a researcher's eye.  Each page filled with nuances and messages that I missed before. Each moment that I could not react to swiftly enough because I was processing. Because I was hurt. Because I was insecure. Because I have never had a boyfriend. Because I have never had a great job. Because I have never been proud. Because even though this is all true - nothing pleases me like the feeling of the keys under my hands, as if magically I can figure this all out like a big mystery. If I could just stop being THAT me- it'll work out.  My memory turns to regret.  Rejection is the inseam of the jacket. Regret is the thread that starts to fray the coat. I begin to revise recent history. I'm bored. So bored. What else can I do but look for the places I messed up.

I dipped into the hometown well for love, something I never do, ever.  I'm from a petulant little island where everyone knows everyone and we are somewhat arrested in development and traumatized on some level, with the exception of those who've gotten far far far away.  I'm just over a bridge.  In any case, it was a harmless failure. On the richter scale of soul crushing- it was a 4 in facts alone.  It ended peaceably enough. But then "the others" spoke up.   I wish you had consulted me before you went down that route, he has the worst possible reputation ever... Oh that guy? Oh yeah that's what he does...he seems like a narcissistic douche bag...Oh yeah - everyone knows- stay clear of that one.  He's on a complicated journey. 

He is. We all are.  And that's not even the worst of it.  Hometown boy was on trial without even knowing it and all of these character witnesses were testifying for the prosecution. I felt awful. Suddenly a curly cue mustache was forming of the memory of his face. He was becoming the arch villain of my boring fairy tale.  I un-followed, I unfriended, I forced myself to go on dates with any harmless idiot who asked.  I blocked him so that I could not look. I felt duped.  How could I have misread someone so horribly.

I hadn't.  No one is a villain. Well maybe Cheney is, but I digress. People just make mistakes. People are on their own journey and they may make the same mistakes over and over and over again, but that doesn't mean they are driving purposely on a course of hurt.   Good people make mistakes. Heartfelt, well intended people make terrible mistakes because they can't even entertain the idea that their precious hearts could ever commit such an oversight.  So they keep repeating the same errors, hearing the same criticism and it all seems so unreal to them.   But emotionally stunted people show you their selves the minute you meet them. Emotionally stunted people can't see past their own discomfort and pain. Emotionally stunted people can't empathize with your position.  Maybe you are their type: you listen, you validate, you're patient, you try to provide insight and support...fuck- you put up with them! But there is another word for this: Therapist. Unless you are getting payed $200 an hour, you are the one who orchestrated this whole set up. You enabled this to turn into a neutered, one sided relationship until eventually it fizzled. So does this mean I am the emotionally stunted one? Perhaps.

I too committed the same mistake that I have been committing for years. He wasn't available AT ALL. He said he was practicing "being alone." He spoke so much about his ex the first night that I felt like I knew more about her than him.  He ran away from me on our second date (literally- freaked out and got his coat on and ran like he had discovered I had a third nipple) I can give you dozens of these examples that would make the hair on your arm stand up in horror over my obvious disregard for my emotional safety. I ran headfirst into another closed door and then scowled at the bruise.
But he made my brain crackle. Not many can. How is it possible that other people can possess so much ownership over who we are? So I became a revisionist historian.  I negated all positive aspects of my recent parable and steeped myself in the onslaught of well meaning friends' hateful commentary.

But YOU write your history. And only you know your own tale. Do I miss him? I miss all of them. I miss little drummer boy's jokes, and cooking and the way he grunted when I touched him.  I miss hummingbird's constant attention and overt positivity.  I miss DJ's unbelievable good taste and how much fun we had seeing shows. I miss Texas's records. I miss Florida's snuggling skills.  I miss Hometown's brain.  Which is to say- I miss their humanity, and I miss the humanity that they brought out in me. They were all so very good at what they did. They were all so very tunneled and focused.  They were all so fucking talented and devoted to their art. They had respect for their goals,  they didn't give a fuck about anything else, including me. They were teachers.  I didn't listen.  I wish I hadn't loaned out my old poloroid camera, or my signed Charles Burns book... or my projector... I wonder if those precious materials serve as faint vestiges of me. I hope so. And I refuse to vilify or dehumanize any of them for disappointing me- heart breaking as it is.  I adored them all.  I hope they remember me well.



Friday, December 11, 2015

Do you live with roommates? ( An essay about depression)

"Yes I do," I replied to the crusty old Polish accounting Professor who sat across from me every Yom Kippur. " Oh I see," he exhaled more than exclaimed, while barely hiding his disappointment.   "Lena! Give me some whitefish!" His wife put the printed pictures of her grandchildren down and scooped a large vat of congealed mayonnaise soaked carp onto his plate. "I brought these pictures because I knew you'd be here, Bella!" The family, and all the orphaned accoutrement who broke fast with us every year, had taken to calling me my father's endearment, and now the word felt more like irony than a compliment. I kept my mouth shut and ate.

Every holiday I have the same goal. Keep it clean dollface and you'll get through unscathed. But the four person unit I call my family works differently.  As if the language of privacy and discretion was a dialect lost on my immigrant derived famiglia:

FAMILY: In human context, a family (from Latinfamilia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children. Anthropologists most generally classify family organization asmatrilocal (a mother and her children); conjugal (a wife, husband, and children, also called nuclear family); and consanguinal (also called an extended family) in which parents and children co-reside with other members of one parent's family.


Echoing in the cold barren hallows of my brain I could hear that old crabby golum hissing: "Oy, she must be depressed."  Although my body stayed in the dining room, carb- loading and smiling, my mind travelled elsewhere. Somewhere along the way in my growth as a human being I was taught to be demure and discreet about depression.  Even though I grew up in a loud mouthed household full of colorful pushy characters who were never repressed about anything- somewhere along the way "Chin Up" translated into "get over it" or "act as if." And so my ire grew as I had to soak up the taste of my own bitter acrid self loathing induced by the ogre across the candelabra.

Later in the evening, after the alte kakkers bid their long adieus, my mom suggested I write a blog and practice being personal in public. This was a huge olive branch. She hates all virtual representations of people. She's scared of stalkers and people knowing 'our' business.  But she knew about my book  and that I was going to write about things she had done wrong and personal things about sex and bodies and even more humiliating: love.  Warts and all, she knows everything about my life and albeit it can be a cantankerous relationship sometimes - for the most part its a safe space. This complicity on her part to encourage me to speak out loud gave me a newfound inspiration that was much needed.
But then as quickly as she supplanted my courage, she tsunami'd it away; "will this help with your depression? Maybe you can get off those awful medications.  I mean I know it's for pelvic pain but hopefully you can just will your way out of this."  I felt like a beaten down prisoner. I relented.  I answered her in short concise answers, signifying nothing but filling in voids where my faint voice needed to be inserted."No I can't." "Yes, I will think about that." "Ok, I hear you." She's old. It's my turn to take care of them. It's my turn to practice thankless unconditional love and overcome whatever prior trespasses they unwittingly or wittingly executed. I'm 40. It's time. But hearing her exclaim my depression out loud rocked me.

I can not say that I have always identified as a sufferer of depression. One way or another, there was always an external reason to feel bad. I was sad because I was fat. I was sad because my love was unrequited.  I was sad because my dad was sick. I was sad because I was in horrible physical pain.  I was sad because I was failing... an endless array of excuses that were happening TO me (and only me).  At no given point did I understand that my feelings about my life were a choice. This disenfranchisement is most probably what caused the real despair.  The secondary pain is always the worst.  It's the radiating sorrow that comes from pondering what all of 'this' means about you.  What will others think? What kind of person am I to have this suffering? Who will love me if I am broken like this?  It's a caustic cocktail of shame, supposition and judgement that has absolutely no factual resonance. But it's very real to you. About a year ago I was in so much physical pain that I was ready to check myself into a hospital. I was suicidal.  Its not easy for me to say that word.  Its much like Valdemort in my house. I can't bare to imagine committing an act that would leave others with so much guilt and pain. I did not want to die necessarily, but I genuinely could not think of any other way out.  The nerves inside my body were twisting and mangling my pelvis so much that I could not quiet them down with extremely powerful pain killers. I could not sleep, eat, think, run or even sit.  I laid down in my room with ice packs on my privates and stared into a vortex of loneliness. I didn't want to tell anyone because I was afraid I had tapped my friends dry of their good will.  I was seriously broke. I owed my specialist thousands of dollars for procedures that did NOT work and were painful. I was exhausted. I just wanted the pain to stop.  I had this awful crystal clear window into what suicide is about.  I was ashamed to feel it.  I was ashamed to have judged others. So many layers of misguided perceptions standing firmly in my way to any form of relief.

 I broke down- I told my mom. We went to the specialist. She paid.  (more guilt, more shame) The Dr spoke plainly. She was tired of me. I could tell.  "Can you please let me drug you?" She gave me a script.  I took it to the pharmacist. He looked sternly at it and then up and down at me.  (more guilt, more shame) "Beware of drinking with this and watch your thoughts."  What the fuck does that mean? Listen buddy you have no idea how much I watch my thoughts- this head is in permanent dress rehearsal; constantly rewinding and examining! Don't pour oil on this fire! But all I did was nod and take the bottle with the pretty green pills.  Within days the primordial pains shrunk down like a loud bass note slowly moving farther and farther away.  As it dissipated, I could feel myself searching for it, clinging to it, afraid of being duped.  At first the medication truly made it all go away.  Within two weeks I was celebrating my birthday, dancing around, drinking, no dark thoughts, no pain.  But within a month a distant relative of the pain returned. A scowling irritable cousin who has made camp and stayed with me since. She's not horrible. She's a 2 on a scale of 1-10.  I don't have the bandwidth or money to pursue "a cure."  There is no "willing" my self out of this.  The best that I could hope for is to live a healthy life and be as honest and self preserving as possible.  And so I live with my dirty secret.  I have a broken body. I have depression. I take medication so that I can stand my life.  It numbs me. It creates a cognitive dissonance that makes it hard for me to retrieve words and collect my thoughts. It make me less smart.  (more guilt, more shame) The alternative is to want to die.  I chose degradation of the one thing I alway had and felt confident about: my brain. But perhaps I can will myself out of this emotional dissonance. Perhaps.
Still, to be fair, I sometimes feel like I suffer from oppositional defiance disorder the minute I set foot on the ugly green carpet in my parents' overly dressed living room.  Immediately I feel compounded by my differences, and by all the ways in which I have come up short in facilitating other people's pipe dreams for me.  Sure they said, "be whatever you wanna be Danielle...don't ever get married until you can take care of yourself...you are a genius." But in the tiny microscopic minutia laid bare deep in the semantics of my parents' language was, "why aren't you making money? What is it you do? Don't you like men? Who is going to love you when I am gone?" Recently my mom told me, minus any compunction or awareness of its detriment to me, "your father is truly depressed because he feels he failed you in making you so dysfunctional in relationships."  At first I felt really angry, but this tiny insidious grin quickly shone across my face. "Yeah, he probably should- but that's his problem Mamma, not mine at all. Can you pass the wine?" 

And like that, I burried it in the complaint department.  I mean fuck, at least we're talking about it. No?








Phaedra

She lives in a wispy loft in Jersey City, above a cobble stoned street in a building filled with ambient sounds of artists and hopeful startups.
Its a neighborhood that housed hedge funders who didn't have daddy's money, nor the misfortune to mourn a Brooklyn of later's past.
I remember Bill, and John and Amy, they had cool jobs like designing album covers, fixing cameras and lighting exhibits.
I was jealous, but only in a temporary way - the future was still bright.

As  I walk towards her industrially refined complex, the sun hits the side of the building in such a way, I'm reminded of the east village of my youth, when things were happening that my wiser self would have loved.

Her body and face are quite lithe, as if all the flesh on her body is consumed by the energy it takes to be her.
She glides about the loft in frenetic bursts to an fro, every turn and twist unveils a new page in her history.
With each new nook and cavern or her lair I feel as If I have just arrived and yet never a feeling of De Ja Vous
I leave her my unfinished business card and make promises that I still have yet to keep.

Chapter 4 (Dysphasia)

My heart is always for sale. 
I lurch outward through my eyes and stare,
hoping you'll feel the embers that have not yet gone to ash. 
It's a witless challenge built on fleeting hope and familiar afflictions.
I tell my self that I will make you feel safe and real. 
I can not.

I bare down and give you everything,
thinking there is power in my shameless abandonment of touch and adoration. 
But in the morning you retract;
you are scared that I want you to feel something for me.
And what you feel is not for sale.

My love is for sale.
At the first kind word I release all boundaries, letting you in, hoping you'll tell me how beautiful I am. 
Yet, angry when you don't embolden me like a man. 
My hunger is for sale. 
Its presence so tangible that you can wrap yourself in it and shield yourself from every doubt you ever had.
My love is a currency, easily amortized with every kiss and stroke.
But that's not love. At its best it's curiosity and at its worst it's relief.  

I am not satisfied. 
I am not safe.  
I am not really for sale. 


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Excerpt from Louis’s Son August 13 2006

This is a piece I wrote as a prose exercise to help me get my thoughts out for a script. By the end of my time at the writer's residency I was staying at I decided I wanted to write a book. There have been so many times that I sat down to write a screenplay and desperately wanted to write prose- it is only this year- 10 yrs after graduating from a film program that I realize that i love film- but I'm not sure I really want to or can make films. Its like learning you want a divorce. You end up having nothing in your life. How do your experiences quantify in the terrain of a constant visual tournament I play with my words and my computer skills.  Recently I sent this piece to a journalist as a template of what kind of storytelling I do.  I was happy to hear these compliments (which I've heard before) Your work is harrowing and humorous at the same time.  I'm pretty sure thats how I would describe my life. With the added addition of one more H = Humbling.

Without further ado ENJOY MY SHORT STORY! I don't normally publish my fiction.



It was extremely hot that day. Every time you looked out the window at the streets the spirits were dancing up from the pavement in sultry curvatures of steam.  I changed my shirt three times and ran ice cubes across my head as I stared out the window.  I sat hours waiting for the old man across the street to turn on his bathroom light.  I wanted to go over and sit with him and have him serve me his blackberry brandy that he brewed in his tub but I didn’t want to wake him.  Sometimes he would get me so drunk that Ma would have to cross the street and walk me home. 

I sat with Old Grandpa Falcone for hours.  His English was pretty rough; he mostly spoke kitchen Italian interrupted by short whistles through his missing teeth.  I liked thinking I was his best friend.  He never left the house- his old back was bowed and his nimble fingers arthritically frozen in some form of piano playing that no one would ever hear.  Poor old guy!

His son, Mr. Falcone or  “the dad” ran the “business.” His beautiful daughters never seemed to have boyfriends. Even my older brother, Michael, the equal opportunity lender, as Pop use to call him, refused to take Rosalie Falcone to the block party.  She practically begged him on our stoop. She stood there like an angel in a sweet fuzzy lavender sweater that encased her every breath.

Ma really didn’t care that she was a shiksa or that she wore her skirts too short.  It was more that no one really ever knew who the hell the Falcones were.  Worse still, they were the only family on the block who never needed anything from Pop.  Ma was mostly indifferent on all days, but if you didn’t have any business with her Louis than she had no way of knowing whether or not she could trust you.  She just cancelled you out.  She was real good like that.  The Falcones lived across the street from my Ma her whole marriage, which was practically her whole life.  Her Louis, my Pop, would bring the old man medicine in unmarked boxes, wholesale from the Pharmacist on Snyder and 81st.  Would you believe he did it for free! Pop never asked a dime- he was good like that.  But sometimes “the wife,” Mrs. Falcone, whose first name we could never pronounce, would make Michael plates of Pasta when he came home too late to stir up things in our kitchen. I bet Ma knew. Still, my Ma, old Rosy the riveter, she didn’t care. She was loyal.  She had no idea where the Falcones got their flour, coffee, furniture, gasoline…anything!  But she knew that they never asked Louis for nuthin- for her the matter was done.

That night, no one had a light on.  It was just too hot.  The elders sat in the dark playing violins singing Yiddishkeit songs that creaked from their backyards into my room.  No one else stirred. You couldn’t cook, play spades, or watch T.V. if you had one.  The neighborhood buzzed with anxious patience and hope.  Soon it would pass and the bay breeze would come lift up the leaves and make you feel good about Brooklyn again. 

The worst part of it all was the strike. The garbage smelled so bad my eyes would water the moment I leaned too far out of the window.  It had been a week already.  My Pop organized all the dads and the older brothers into a human pulley system that deposited the garbage into Danny Weinberger’s dad’s truck. They did it in shifts. People applauded from their windows.  Danny, along with Paul Cusimano loaded all the garbage into the dumpster out by Sheepshead bay.  They took an eternity to return from down at the end of the block.  They absolutely had to jump into the bay after each shift.  They returned all wound up, water beading about their muscles and their shirts glued to their ribs.  It was great summer for those guys.

Pop gave them each  $20 to get them to start loading that evening.  Ma was really mad. She shrieked at him:  “So? Now you’re the mayor of this schtetl?’ I should want for something because you’re the only schmuck gracious enough to pay Danny and Paul?”  At this she handed Paul and Danny each a trough of Blintzes without averting her eyes from Pop.  It was not their fault that the neighborhood was a bunch of schnorers. I heard Pops grab her and spin her around the table.  He always shushed her by swinging her into his own made up dance.  He sung to her, “By meir bis dushane, by meir bis dushane means I love you.”  Those were the only words he knew. 

Paul and Danny snuck out. They tossed the blintzes in the trash.  They were both sick of Yid food.  I think it was midnight already.  Time had forgotten all of its rules that day.  I think Ma and Pop were the only ones still up in the house. My little sister was at a sleepover at Michael’s house.  Grandpa Falcone put his bathroom light on.  I thought the late hour would forgive me running in my shorts over to his side of the street.  But the old guy was fighting with someone.  He sat on his toilet, barking to the windmills till finally, his large son: Mr. Falcone moved out of the shadows and into the windows.  He was handing his aging father a mug full of brandy from the tub. It splashed the walls and made the flies swarm near the droplets.  Old man Falcone kept saying his son’s name: Arturo, Arneldo, Antonio, we never knew exactly what is was- even though his wife was always screaming it from their kitchen. We did not like Mr. Falcone. He was the kind of guy who looked like he was on the verge of hitting someone but then something backed him off.  That something wasn’t kindness. Grandpa Falcone was not pleased with his son.  The ol guy threw the mug in his son’s face.  The loud crash broke the heat and sent chills through the air.  I was scared that he’d see me across the way but I couldn’t move.   Imagine picking on that 90 yr old dethroned guy. I bet once he ruled the Falcones with an iron fist but now?  Now he has a crapper for his throne. He just sat there brewing brandy and dreaming of his funeral march in the old country.  He’s resting peace-less somewhere in Queens now.

Mr. Falcone left his ol man sulking upstairs and stormed on to the street.  Danny and Paul were locking up the truck when they caught wind of Mr. Falcone’s stare. They were frozen. Paul’s hand instinctively guided Danny back by the shoulder, which Danny shuddered off embarrassed by Paul’s gutlessness.  Mr. Falcone looked west towards the bay.  At that moment a Garbage truck appeared out of the abyss whizzing by without its lights on. It went so fast that a wind rustled the curtains guarding the second story windows.
Mr. Falcone shook his head laughingly as then the truck just wiped him from the picture.  Like a snapshot thrown away- he was gone from the moment.  His body flew far and fast.  No one even heard it land.   I imagined the folks in the next neighborhood over lifting the human scraps of our tragedy in confusion; Mr. Falcone was somehow both ours, and the strange wiseguy on the street. It just did not seem right that some Brownsville guy should find the body of a Falcone from East Flatbush. 

The Garbage truck did not flinch, even for moment. It sped out of our street as quickly as it came.  A howl came out of young Danny.  He was on fire! No one had ever died on Ralph Avenue of anything but old age and SIDS. Life came at the beginning and left at the end when G-d said so.  I looked across the street to see what the old Grandpa thought but his light flickered out as soon as I could make out the white of his guinee tee. 


Word spread fast about Mr. Falcone.  Everyone fled to their stoops.  Although Arturo Vincente Falcone was a Catholic Ma lit a Yartseite candle and left it burning in the window the next evening.  Soon the rest of the block followed. Within two days the street had cooled off but it glowed warm amber by the light of the yellow wax mourning candles in every Jew’s window. Ma was good like that. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

'scuse me, is this seat taken? The awkward trespasses of a near sighted gal

I never wear my glasses. I shouldn't say never. I just don't put them on instinctually.  It's only at the exact moment that my lack of vision becomes glaringly apparent that I slide on my ocular apparel and enjoy a more thorough comprehension of the world.  The instances that I do are: driving, movies, TV, and seeing bands or performers. Only when that crisp vision leads to an escape do I choose to see the world for what it is. I wonder, often, if my hazy matte version of the world somehow creates a muted version of reality or at the very least a myopic one; I never realize that I am passing people I know until they are near (until it is too late to avoid).  I like not seeing the others around me in such vivid detail- I'm not looking to reconnect on the street or the subway as I am that person who is running 5 minutes behind or lost in her own malaise on any given day.  This makes for often awkward run-ins.

Last year I was cleaning up the street as part of a community building effort to get Washington Avenue clean and happy. I looked through my tunnel vision down the street and saw nothing but the sun, the trees and happy people floating with their coffee cups.  Safe in my invisible bubble, I bent down to pick up garbage. I hadn't showered that morning, my hair was in a weird bun. I had an orange plastic apron on, rubber gloves and my garbage bag was falling a part.  I could do with a little dose of vanity now and then to guide my "stepping out of the house" choices. Suddenly, two pairs of worn vans slid onto my tiny piece of ground that I was cleaning.   As I cranked up, garbage in hand, like a flamingo, there they stood halo'd in the sun: an ex lover and his brother.  I stood up fully- I touched my face by accident to brush the hair away from my eyes and smeared garbage all over my face. Perfect.  I had always imagined my self being really stand-offish and mean to this person when I finally ran into him- but I felt no inclination other than to say "hi" (a little too excitedly) and genuinely ask after his well being.  We hugged, and that was that- an awkward release from a useless grudge.  After all I was cleaning up the mess.  Ex lover and I never became friends again - there's no going back - but you can move forward and choose not to let others' rejections of you hold you hostage.  

I tend to let the shop close down quickly.  I get the wind knocked out of me because my ego is filled with light leaks. Again- my view is narrow. Love doesn't come often to me and it's a two way street: its a narrow playing field of choices filtered by my extremely picky taste and lugubrious self doubt.

The clean up was a fantastic day and I ended up meeting two friends that day who would later become two of the best friends I have ever had.  An upside to my tunnel vision is that it highlights the good ones sometimes too. Like a pinhole camera, everything fades out of focus in the background when I see the golden ones.

Later that evening I met someone. I barely noticed him for most of the night and then by the end, the focus shifted.  I had told him the story of the Washington Clean Up. Silly me- verbalizing my bad pattern of holding on- I had sentenced myself before even getting a trial. This is custommery.

Timing and perspective are everything. People never plan on being as meaningful as they end up being in your narrative. How can they know that the moment they are meeting you could quite possibly be a perfect storm waiting to envelop them into your story and make them main characters - a role they truly never auditioned for? But pain is like a magnifying glass and anything in its sights gets inflated.

So here was the context: I suffer from a crippling pelvic disorder that has/had taken up the main quotient of my energy to "cure" for the better part of the last three years of my life. It's a chronic health condition where I feel physical discomfort 24 hours a day ranging from a grade of 2 to 7. It effects highly intimate areas making physical and emotional connection an experience that literally can leave me feeling violated. It's a humbling battle to fight to say the least. It does not exactly make you feel like the bachelorette of the month. My self image was already encumbered by raging body dysmorphia and insane negativity planted in my brain as a child way before I had agency.   

Adding on another layer: during this time I was struggling in my career and coming upon "a certain age." I was starting to feel expired. My lifetime of no love felt  like a badge of shame or a dirty secret and my angry vagina wasn't helping. I had allowed this disease to take over. Have I mentioned I have tunnel vision?  I was buckling under the pressure to come up with thousands of dollars to pay for scary procedures involving nerve block injections in my pelvic bowl. My doctor was requesting a $3000 special MRI. If I had any chance at happiness to be a normal lovable woman- I had to figure this all out.  To make matters worse I was on a medication that affected my brain. It numbed certain nerves from over firing. It was barely helping me and it was causing "dark thoughts" I was losing the battle in every way possible and I felt so terribly NOT NORMAL. I needed a hero- somebody to save me from the puddle I was drowning in.

DJ was a nice guy (boy).  He was incredibly sharp and curious about the world. He was slightly younger than I but older in relationships, as he identified himself quicker than a sex offender registrant as a grade A "serial monogamist."  There were Las Vegas Red flashing signs to steer clear of him. But there was an intangible comfort to his tremendously nerdy yet hip persona. DJ gave off the false projection of being a safe proposition. He made my mind crackle. We were fresh air in a moment that was probably very stale for both of us. But unlike me- DJ's jail was "another relationship" where he "wasted time." My jail was solitude.  My ears perked with fire when I heard him speak so ungraciously of the time someone had loved him as  a regret. But I knew my perspective was skewed by the rabbit-hole I was living in. And so I chose to ignore the warning signs.  I forgot about anything horrible whenever he popped up on my g-chat. My symptoms lessoned around his presence and I swooned. He was the best medication I had found yet that year. I could see his lithe hand reaching down into the bell jar and swiftly pulling me out. I admit it- I was hoping he would cure me. Silly girl. But hope is the strongest drug I know and when your desperate for a fix, you see nothing else but it's source.

I was hooked. His own special brand of neurosis was readily apparent but I liked it. I tend to like overly structured personalities. I can be a tad too malleable and I lose focus fast. There's not much more too say. We hung out, we had two dates, on the second we went too far... and in the dark, naked, I told him my dirty secret, we were drunk. I spoke fast and in generalizations and tried to dumb down as best as possible. We worked it out. For about 5 seconds I felt really free that I had finally told the person engaged in the most private activity one could engage in- the most private and painful thing about me. I felt safer than I had ever felt, for five seconds. He was a doll about the confession and was frankly befuddled as to how I could think he would act any other way. With patience and time and gentleness- I might have been on the rode to a "normal" life... 

But that was fleeting. My confession was then met with a "while we are airing our dirty laundry..." monologue the size of Texas as to how he was a commitment-phobe and was not looking to be any body's partner for a long time.  "Its probably pretty fucked up that I am telling you this right now...hahaha" It wasn't funny. I outed my self and he gave me the emotional walking papers. Sure we could keep having sex, sure I could stay there but...a giant dead rat just appeared in between us in the bed and I felt winded.  The perfect person, the buddha on the mountain top,would have kissed him demurely on the forehead, thanked him for his time, dressed calmly, and walked out.  Even he knew this because at the sight of my stuttering confused face, he told me he could call me a cab if I needed to go. Brutal I suppose. The myopia began, I chose to ignore it all.

I didn't go that night. I stayed. We had sex two more times even though I mentioned before the third that I probably shouldn't have because I was sore. But what the fuck did either of us care- I was sexually wrist cutting and he was the blade.

DJs interest temperature cooled off quickly. We had a few post-mortem blips on the radar pseudo dates and then I got the message and let it disappear.  I was just a girl he was keeping on the back burner, something he would indulge in if he didn't get what he truly wanted. And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. It is what we all do and if were safely guarded with a healthy sense of worth - we might all be able to laugh about it after the fact.  But I'm not.

A month or so later we saw each-other at a show, danced up each other's space for the night and barely kissed goodbye on the subway platform.  He was drunk and almost imperceptibly belligerent when he texted "hate me? I'm at the bar..." I don't hate anyone, it hurts too much to hate. I leaned in and then left when the signs were clear that it was a wrap.  I walked home in the rain that night a little sad about how meaningless all of these failed acquaintances feel.  

Three days later I received a gratuitous and insultingly glib email clarifying for me that I was "not cool enough to pursue something with" and that we "should just be cool as friends"  I had been worried my whole life that I was not good enough to be anyone's girlfriend and DJ clumsily stabbed me right in that wound. I would use his words to legitimize my demons on loop. A part he never asked to play. It was his birthday soon and he had met someone else. Someone who was cool enough to pursue. I was an item that he need to clean off his 'to do' list.  Like throwing away the cigarettes so that you don't smoke them.

I'm not going to surmise much more about anyone else's feelings. I cut him off immediately. It wasn't hate, it was just an awareness that his presence no longer helped the situation and I needed to shove him out of my periphery if I was ever going to climb out of my rabit-hole.   And so he just became some dude who knew some of the same people as I. Someone who is according to twitter  "a user just like" me.

That was over a year ago. And though I got over it, I am ashamed to admit I never opened the shop again. Sure there were a few dalliances here and there but nothing to blog home about.  I had a mission. I was trying to break up with my disease. I gave up on my doctor and the physical therapists and I weaned painfully of the meds. I took a time out from my toxic job. I escaped into a vortex of solitude even though the expiration date of my lovability, not to mention fertility, seemed to loom close in like the monster under the bed.  Eventually I got way better at handling my disease and I'm physically doing much better, not cured, just better. It's time to pull the curtains and open up the shop.

I was thinking about all this when I walked out of my apartment with my friend KC to walk down to the local bar to watch a season finale.  I didn't have my glasses on.  As we entered the bar we immediately could see that we were in a quandary; there were no seats, save a few minor pieces of real estate on some couches and the possibility of placing a chair beside those "corner lots." We assumed everyone would understand that we might have to infringe on their space. And so I charged over to a table at a couch to ask a young girl if my friend could sit beside her. I barely noticed the card game happening on the table just past my peripheral view. It was only at her shock and dismay at my request, and the glance she gave her friend which directed my gaze up and over to the left that I noticed DJ sitting right there at a rousing game of magic.  "OH...HI" said I, clearly surprised at how avoidable this moment could have been had I just looked further than my nose. OH ...HI" said he. duly flummoxed. The gamers where not happy with our intrusion and my pal was enraged at what to her was just plain rude. I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I said sorry and walked away.  And like that, once again the band aid was ripped. He was just a person. I put my glasses on as we walked to the back and weighed out our options.  We couldn't really see or hear and both of us felt it was not worth it. We'd been bested by a nerd herd (harem) whose leader was my last detractor.  Despite my home field advantage I had lost this match.  So we left.

We walked over to my favorite bar and she expensed over $250 of cocktails. As soon as we sat down, two incredibly attractive and intelligent men engaged us in a great conversation.  Magically, I had forgotten the awkward mess where I oafishly stomped over to DJ's game table to clumsily crowd in on the couch with his crew to watch a fucking TV show.

It was a long night. It had been a long weekend. As a walked home holding my buddy up I could feel the newly received business card in my pocket. I palmed the bent edge of it marveling at how crisp it was when I first received it. This new guy was the kind of handsome that sparkled. But I was no longer in the eye of the storm,  I still had my glasses on from earlier. I had them on all night. No, he would remain a bit part for now. I could see all the garbage swirling on Washington Avenue. KC's makeup was a mess. I recalled all the tiny details of the bar that night as if that had been my season finale: the sideway glance Pat the bartender gave the girl who ordered "some kind of flavored margarita" The way men's gazes dwelled up and down our bodies with extra surveillance yet at the same time looking into our eyes seeming to comprehend everything- giving off the facade of listening closer.  Tiny little fragments of imperfections swirled about me. None of it seemed wrong. I was just happy that my view was now wider and more expansive; always awkward but nonetheless mine for the long haul.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blossom Time on Eastern Parkway.

It's Spring. Again.

Rebirth. And yet memory falls backwards when I sweep the browned leaves on the hardwood floor that were dragged in by the day's mishaps.

...smitten kisses were supposed to line the brownstone heavy blocks.

Thick heavy spring wind was suppose to lift me, but its hankering me down. It lies in my throat.  It hurts more than I can justify.

Somehow what has changed still feels snow covered.  And then you ask me, as I shiver, where do you store all that immutable feeling?

 It is rusting dangerously in my head my love. Or maybe in my core- whichever one you shall chose to ignore.

Time is moving too fast and my bones and muscles are getting worse.  

Just recently they searched my spine for an ancient disease.

I thought by now this would be a faint panicked memory of the past safe enough in its Kodachrome edited distance.

But destiny has a different ticket for me and its a long ass ride to China.

I just realized that this passing phase was really a choice. One you're quite happy with.

You always seem so very very happy. No one will ever get in your way again.

I admire you. You know how to live. Perhaps you were right about me. Not...enough.

Time might even be moving backwards.  Or at least I am tripping backwards. Falling on my own words,  Slipping in my watery logic.  I'd cry if the whole thing didn't seem absurd. I'd cry if it wasn't all my fault.

You always ask me if I hate you.  truthfully- I wish I did and I am afraid that I might.

I can't bring myself to see you as the true arch villain of our short lived tale. But nothing is blossoming and I feel dead inside

and the truth?

It happened so long ago. Years now. You were the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.  Unwittingly you are cemented in memories' cannon of rejection's greatest hits.

the one closest to the faint reality of my heart and the one furthest from ever being at reach.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Freaks and Geeks

It was just a Monday night- the start of the week. So much potential, so much promise. Monday is an irreverent "potential junky's" favorite day.  It had been a strange enough weekend filled with coincidences that might make me believe in "the universe" "The universe" is this bereft atheist's last attachment to spirituality.  An atheist's dilemma is their ongoing dearth of hope- or rather the inability to logically chose to hope, for anything, much less a beneficent spirit looking out for them.  But lady universe answered quite loudly.  I was thinking how long it had been since I travelled and how this must mean that there is something terribly wrong when the phone rang and Daniele was on the other side.  "hey B smoothie! Como Stai" He hadn't told me much - I hadn't heard much- just three words: "paid," "Genoa" and "edit."  "Sure!" I said, "make it happen." After all, it wouldn't be me if I didn't dive in head first. I was told to meet him in front of a restaurant for a party.

When I rolled up onto the corner of Stanton and Orchard all I saw was a small regular take out pizzeria with what I thought was possibly a delirious and/or mildly homeless senior citizen standing outside.   The name of the place was correct so I wondered in. My heart sank, this is so typical B, you should just permanently count on being crestfallen at every juncture of your life.  I shhhh'd my brain and tried to smile as I searched for Francesco.  Suddenly a gentle hand grabbed me from behind.  "ciao cara mia, Il mio suo."  "Oh" I let out as I turned to find the the elderly shlumpy gentlemen staring up at me.  Oh lord, what have you gotten us into???  He had the gentlest blue eyes I had ever seen in my life. He was shorter than I and had the scent of cologne and years lived long and hard.   I looked down at him from my meager 5.4 stance as Italian Golum ushered me away from Rosario's and over towards Allan.

I was floating,  In the usual place I dwell: a land of seedy and earnest behaviors executed by marginalized angels on the fringe.  It was clear immediately.  Italian-Golum and I entered the smallest Janky liquor store in the LES owned by a Russian, one day younger than God and even angrier.

Francesco chirped sharply that he wanted a bottle of red; no pricier than $9 dollars. What kind of an Italian is this?  The Russian grunted towards a section of un-imbibable stuff.  I grabbed a Corsican bottle and handed it to my tiny escort, but the Russian swiftly grabbed it from Francesco and slammed a new bottle down on the table.  "What, what's wrong, what did I do? Oh I see we grabbed the one with the price on it." He smiled so sweetly and apologetically to the Russian, my heart warmed. We chatted at the counter when the Russian barked, "Take your change!" I escorted Francesco out and yelled, "I'm not coming back Jerk!" We floated down Stanton into the next liquor store.  Our world flickered into another dimension as the beautiful oak shelves and brightly lit aisles cleansed us of our terrible peristroikan experience. The beautiful hipster sirens at the counter asked us what we needed. I decided to take control. No one was gonna mess with my weird homeless looking colleague if I could help it! (Even if I had just met him two minutes ago)  " I need a good cheap bottle of red, no Yellowtail or Coppola! Something earthy and real."  They gave us two $7 Cote du Rhones.  My mind was at ease. Francesco chatted up the ladies. He was charming.  They said they knew Rosario and ate there everyday.  He invited them to his going away party. They excepted. Now three of us were on our way to who knows what.

As we strolled back to Rosario's, Francesco explained that he sailed on a boat from Ancona to New York 35 yrs ago with Rosario. They were like brothers. There could be no other place to say farewell.  My hangups loosened. That old lesson clattered through my head: you got a good gut girl but stop making so many immediate false assumptions.  As we walked, he told me about his long career as a producer and director, dropping names like DePalma and Lumet.  And then the most fascinating word of the night was uttered: Pornologist.  In his long career - the seedy underbelly of life lured him in and he began to direct pornography. He met a woman named Candida Royalle. I had just begun to learn about this wave of feminist pornography when we rounded the corner and arrived at the beginning of our introduction. But I had gleaned that he had been a major director and producer for her feminine erotica.

When we got back to the restaurant, tables were set up. Francesco disappeared to the back where he helped himself to silverware and glasses. He returned and we began to drink. He had hoped that we could have our business talk before the party attendees arrived,  but as the minutes passed a carnival of sideshow lifers trotted through the door.  Each time Francesco's introduction of me became more graceful and intuitive. He demanded kindly that we be allowed to chat.  Francesco unearthed from me a lifetime of family history. He learned how my mother was a holocaust survivor from Bologna and how there was a famous film about her family called The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.   I told him my parent's love story and how their desire to leave their homes and forge their own history made me the wonderer I've painfully always been.  Rosario and Francesco kept speaking to me in Italian. Francesco's Italian was warm and smooth and slow and completely comprehensible.  Ages of non fluent frustration melted. We joked he could be my Zio.  And yet I felt it. I meant it.

Ironically, the first couple who entered the party were a nordica outlet wearing boating duo who lived up in Connecticut. The man, a friend who watched Francesco's boat on 79th street, and his new girlfriend post divorce: an innocuous math teacher and social worker whose face I would return to often in the evening as a mirror to the other side of the world.  They sat patiently chiming in and blending like troopers.  It became clear that what Franci wanted was a storyteller.  He shot 80 hours of footage of Genoa. He wanted to tell the story of his home town and the underworld that thrived beneath but as his shooting unravelled he became the center of this piece.  He wanted me to come to Genoa: paid, housed and fed to live there and help him edit this into a film.  He already had a big famous Italian editor but he felt I would be better. That guy showed up as well...

So we shelved our discussion of work and decided to enjoy the night and get to know each other. A motley cast of Felini-esque fringe dwellers rolled in.

When Vivian walked in, all I could see where her breasts. They consumed all of her 50 yr old body.  She had the wardrobe of an upper westside mom and was in fact late because she had to drop her daughter off at the airport to go back to Brown. She was an affable yet jittery lady who immediately dove into her time working for Penthouse Forum.  While Rosario and Francesco distracted me with talk of the history of Tortoloni (created in my mother's birth town), I eaves dropped on Vivian's genius discourse on the herstory of Porn and her film that she had produced: Freaks Uncensored!   Vivian described a world of dwarfsgiantstransgender peoplenudists, and circus freaks performing for parlor societies in the 20s to fullfil their hidden fetishes and the sideshows that became home to the mutant humans.  My mind wondered to images of Diane Arbus and her love for the unloved.  Vivian had been a major player on the talking circuit in the 90s for social reform for women and pornography.

The freak shows do not exist anymore. Modern science figured out how to cut apart limb connected twins. Reality television idealized dwarfism and non conformism is middle America's network television fodder while they eat their tv dinners. The new freaks are just humans: The Hilton sisters, Lindsey Lohan, Charlie Sheen. The freakiest thing in America is our collective loss of sanity and the need to show it out loud. 

I loved Vivian. She slurred her speech through her missing teeth and hinted at her own acting past. She drank water most of the night. Her film was written up in the times and played at Sundance. I guess we all want to learn more. 

A financier named Terry wearing Prada and Gucci pranced in. He was a post operative woman and the backer to Francesco's film. Her buddy Larry, a porn enthusiast with a mullet and a bald spot was her hanger on. Larry never leaves the LES.  Dario, the original editor sat next to me. He was handsome and had a sexuality that was so undetermined it aroused me and confused me all at once. Dario was writing a script about a single mom in the 20s in Italy who was promiscuous and therefore harangued by her town and eventually killed herself leaving an uptight teenage daughter to tell her tale. These were the stories I wanted to hear.  These were the people whose lives I wanted to know. My own book lingered in my head. So much of my book is about my sex, not just the act but the organ and the spiritual creature it inhabits. I felt so at home. No longer uncomfortable explaining its genesis.

Porn stars, photographers, transvestites, hopeful actors all streamed in. I was impervious to their marginalized status. I and the math teacher were the freaks. And as I glanced at gentle Debbie's face here and there I saw two things: a wonderment at it all and the hidden relief in her head that tonight she would go home to bed and return to a life filled with normalcy and structure in a microcosm where whenever the undercurrent of freakishness leered, it would be smoothed out like wrinkles on a silk table cloth by the unspoken moral authority that protected her little Connecticut town.  I could not share the latter thought.  My life would continue to be like a scifi movie wondering through one vortex deeper into the next getting further and further away from the cookie cutter life my parents had thought they had bred me to live.

I leave you with one last moment.  As we spoke of Arbus and "the Circus" Larry had begun an insightful historical speech about the history of this 42nd street haunt. He marveled how in the 50s it had been turned into a Time Square peep show. In the 70s it was a place where women stood behind glass walls with single holes cut in the glass and for a buck you could stick your hand in and touch them .  Larry's excitement about this place was uncontainable as he left us with one quote: "that damn Rudy shut it all down and it was so depressing. I just remember that if I hooked enough to make $20, well that just made my night- I coulda stayed there and touched those ladies forever!"  A unison retraction of chairs occurred at the table as even the misfits have morals.  Poor Debbie the math teacher had enough and they left. I tried to revive the moment by making fun of how Giuliani made Sensation the greatest show ever. What with his Catholic imperialism over the NY art scene, but it was unavoidable- somehow our philosophical connection over the perimeter of society and sex had now became once again a bedlam for nere-do-wellers and shame.  Where is the safe space?

Franci and I kissed double cheeks and parted with affection and a promise. This spring - I'm off to Genoa to tell the story of the pornologist and his love of his town and life...and sex... and women. It wasn't just about the party, or the freaks.  He was my country man. There was a strange familiarity to him and a wisdom that perhaps I had been hungry for. You never know where you are going to find your teacher or what you need to learn.  But in this dire search for full time work and structure in my life I found a ticket out of dodge in more ways than one. I might just take it.
Oh And Dario?  We have a date next week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Art and I- a repost

I don't remember the exact moment art and I broke up. It was sometime in my mid twenties but I walked around Brooklyn wearing his ring for years. I had this funny notion that if I just kept having an idea- well eventually art would consume me and elate me and tickle me. But it died in me and I never saw him again. Every year my conception of our relationship was extrapolated and diminished down to a newer less high maintenance relationship from last year's failed attempt. I thought the entire time that art was just not giving me what I needed or that he was acting like he really did not want to be in the relationship but the whole time it was just me withholding. Then one day - it occured to me: Art and I were never going to be together. Art was not mine to own. Others had surprisingly amazing open relationships with Art- but not me. I was just too conservative for Art, too much of a perfectionist. I wanted Art to take me over- but it was me who was trying to take over Art. While others relished in Art's beautiful and freeing presence, I cowered...I buckled. I got scared. Art did not care anymore for me than any other beautiful brained person. Art was a hippy, a polyamorous cad with a pention for making people feel self important when they were able to espouse Art's voice. But not Danielle. I do not know Art any more. I know Story. He's a good guy. He can be interesting. He is just there to help me get by. I miss the wild and crazy days when I thought Art and I were an item. It was intoxicating but I lost interest. Now, I just need story- that is until I get strong enough to be in Art's good graces- Until I get comfortable enough to be with Art with everyone else.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sandy and I- True Love.

I'm going to talk about the part of a crisis that we never talk about: The upside.  I know. I know. Too soon. But it's not.
"For all it's really horrible effects, I feel like the storm has made real a lot of issues in the election that were hypothetical, that were thrown around as debate topics—global warming; and Is Obama enough of a leader to handle a natural disaster?; and Do we need FEMA? It’s really interesting, and in a way useful, to see a lot of these things become actual issues that are right at hand." Adrian Tomine
It is a week today that we all hunkered down where we needed to be and awaited the Hurricane.  After a few days of unintended but heartfelt partying, laundry, working from home, bleaching shower curtains, going through Facebook and Twitter friends to pick who you want to see in your newsfeed (true story- heard from multiple friends), writing, and more drinking, WE -the unharmed middle Brooklynites-  found ourselves with nothing to do and frankly, a heart full of pity.  I would have felt guilty that I was rushing to a 9 hour shelter shift out of boredom but I remembered something I read that the Dalai Lama wrote:
Today's world requires us to realize and develop a sense of universal responsibility and caring. It is obvious that the challenges and issues faced by the global community today require us to cultivate not only the rational mind but also the other faculties of the human spirit; the power of love,compassion and solidarity. 
Sandy yanked my head out of my ass. 

The days before the storm hit I was lying under an anvil of self pity. Its true - I admit it fully. It was a gross misrepresentation of the good things in my life. But for some reason my mental filtration system only saw things in blue.  So when my roommate left to be with his girlfriend in Harlem and the rest of the building seemed to have left town...well... the wind started howling inside my apartment way before it did outside. 


On monday the winds grew and not knowing what to expect I felt I had to make a break for it before 6 or else I was going to be stuck inside alone for days.  Pre-storm- this is where I was at:


I have a bit of Liz Lemmon's fear of dying alone in my Brooklyn apartment.  I fear I will be found dead and solitary- limbs broken after falling off a ladder or passed out from smoke inhalation because I forgot to snuff out my "calm thoughts" jasmine lavender candle.  The nightmare gets grosser but I'll spare you.


My feelings of dissatisfaction had spread way past the limits of my apartment.  Things felt unreal. I've been looking at everything I possessed and have achieved and have found it all lacking in substance or value.  I hate to say it but I might be the poster child for  "white people issues" or "first world issues." 


Seriously:  around Sunday night I took a Yoga class with a great friend. She hugged me with vigor and headed off to be with her boyfriend and parents.  I then proceeded to act like I was independently wealthy and dined on duck steak and wine with a friend/sister from my neighborhood.   My friends have become my family- my lifeline. In some ways I am so grateful that I can always haunt the streets of Brooklyn and come across a close friend in every neighborhood.  But my desperate need for them disarms me.  Its hard to feel grateful for things that you feel you don't deserve... but need.  I had already been out of work for a week and was dwindling my squirrel share of nuts. I hadn't written in a month.  I hadn't made any headway in combatting some very debilitating health issue and I was feeling no better about the future.  My life has felt like a series of placating events.  In many ways I bobble just above the waters of depression and albeit that sounds so sad I feel as if I have become comfortably uncomfortable with my mal-disposition.  Depression will always be a part of me.  I am good at managing it- a skill that should be on my resume. My veneer is always shiny and functioning. Its only the inside that's rusting. 


So at 6pm I made a run for it. and left the 80 dollars of supplies and all the rest of my life locked up. I headed for my friend Jimmy's place a block away. There, Jimmy, myself and two other friends had what we could only describe as 'family night."  We ate, got high, drank, watched movies, played games.  At around 8pm we joked that Sandy was a sissy and walked outside to see the storm. Really, I had coaxed them to take a walk to my place to double check if I had left the stove on- remember my paranoia about dying alone?- the stove is a key character in that drama. After raiding my fridge and checking everything, we left and as we got to Jimmy's door, a giant tree snapped in half across the street. Shit was getting real. 


So we hunkered down and by 2am- it was over. Nothing had really happened in Prospect Heights.  If anything Sandy offered me a forced vacation and time to bond with others around me. I had reinforced my non-partner circle.  From the backyard of the building the storm felt mythical. It circled around the circumference of the yard but nare lifted a leaf in the circle of trust that was formed by the wind-block provided by the other buildings. 


Meanwhile, across the lower bay, my hometown Staten Island was suffering. Power went out. Giant 200 year old oaks were flying into people's houses. Coastal areas were submerged in water. My elderly parents huddled together in their room listening to these trees hit the house I was born in.  Their own power went out. My 72 yr old father went out the next AM to find the back of our house was wedded to an oak whose roots were 12 ft in diameter.  With little gas, he drove to the hospitals to help and then waited in line for a special doctor's depot of gas.  They were fine.  They lived - in a third world kinda way, for a week.  Others were worse off. No one had gas or power for days. The hospitals were  packed. People were mostly injured by flying debris but others were nearly drowned.  Other friends from the Island not only spoke of distress but they and all the other ex pats vocalized on Facebook et al their love for their forgotten boro and their desire to help.  I remained silent.  I volunteered in Park Slope. I rode my bike to Red Hook. I stayed true to "my boro."  While those that I loved the most suffered in a place I tried to forgot.  My insouciant  interest in Staten Island gave me an ill feeling in my stomach.  How dare I.  


Around me positive things were happening.  As Mr Tomine pointed out- issues that were at once intellectual and for debate were now real and perhaps would allow for the person I wanted in the white house to remain in his austere chair, hopefully with more vigor now that the fear of re-election could be omitted. Complacent  Gen Xers and Millennials were seeing the horizon above their boutique lattes.  Most people were discussing politics now with actual facts and knowledge.  Conversations were no longer misguided or irreverent to one side. People were helping each other out and certain points were becoming elucidated quickly:
Maybe we shouldn't be amazed at how people come together during disasters, but question how when "society" functions it keeps us apart.- Anonymous
Why can't we be this present and aware always? How do I lose my self involved filter?   Why did I hesitate to reach out to my Island.  I'll tell you why.  It was born out of a deep seeded embarrassment. A desire to somehow omit its incubation of me. A concern of sounding like a "Staten Island chick." It's bullshit.  I'm done with it.  I know. I know.  Other gains from Sandy? Writing.  I made major headway. And I need to - the window of opportunity for my book is small and lofty- that iron must be struck now.  But this is not the time to discuss personal projects.

So back to the Shelter: Demons were met. The shelter was not awful just intense  It was filled with mentally unstable senior citizens who were tired, un-showered and disoriented.  Remember my Liz Lemmon fears? Yeah those fears for fire crackling inside.  With every stinky octogenarian victim I hugged my demons roared.  I tried to stay busy. I coordinated the medical volunteers,  I flirted with the soldiers, I helped on the food service line. I mingled with all the Park Slope usuals: socially conscious lesbians, overly critical social working single women, metrosexual high maintenance men and Food CO-OPers. I love them all.  We are all a dime a dozen easily penned into a caricature and we all count.
Yet, It seemed everybody was not just helping out.  They too were seeing this storm through their own lens as well and using it to legitimize, optimize and explore their usual schticks.  Leaders were leaders, followers were followers, true do-gooders helped while the real workers who were forced to be there grumbled. Not all - mostly overworked nurses.  DMAT workers, MDs, soldiers, janitors, FEMA workers remained smiley and grateful.  They the far superior aiders deigned to thank us.  Residents were so grateful at the same time.  But the truth was not far from their consciousness- this storm had unearthed these victims from an already bleak existence. They had no family members, nor the were-withall and resource to take care of themselves.  There were so many who had no idea what happened to them.  There were so many singular poor souls walking around with wedding rings.  The thought of all their dearly departed made me weep.  How were they continuing on?  How do you survive a storm when your life was already ravaged of everything that makes it enjoyable??? I cry now just thinking about it.  My obscure and meaningless end seemed near to me.  I imagined myself in their place the whole night.  I needed to do more to distract myself. I needed to do more for others. Selfish intentions indeed but who cares?  Someone should benefit from my ongoing existential crisis and there is too much need in this city to live with one's self if you don't.

The truth is- I waste a lot time.  The biggest thing this storm gave me was the wake up call. Life can have more grace- I am sure of it.  I shouldn't need a storm to send me out to the shelters. I shouldn't need a storm to have family night. And I shouldn't need a storm to lift the tornado of mixed emotions I have about my adolescence in order to see the necessity of having pride and loyalty for your hometown and its brethren. But I did need her.  And I think others did as well.  I'm not naive enough to think the sunny skies signify its end.  Things are going to get more caustic as my city has to logistically figure out how to curatively fix and prepare things instead of palliatively making things run.   Others outside of the blue northeast coast will still vote, in my opinion for the wrong person- as my mayer put it:


When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.Of course, neither candidate has specified what hard decisions he will make to get our economy back on track while also balancing the budget. But in the end, what matters most isn’t the shape of any particular proposal; it’s the work that must be done to bring members of Congress together to achieve bipartisan solutions.Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress -- and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him. -Michael R Bloomberg
Not everything went well- the haves still almost superseded the have-nots as the marathon almost took generators and police people from the more needy. But eventually - good won out.  Good should win out. Forgiveness should win out. Care should win over blame and the good of the many should pull the singular away from its own ego- I hope so.

As the leaves get cleaned, the fallen trees burned, the houses mend and the displaced eventually find their way I think we will all hold on to this crisis induced righteousness. If not for anything else but for the fact that the storms are going to keep coming sooner and more regularly.  For me and maybe a lot of  others the storm viscously wiped away the fog of solipsism I was taking residency in.

Thanks Sandy,
xoxo DB