Devil Dogs, TV and Pumpkin Pie


Autumn mornings such as today; 60 degrees, light rain falling and an overall tired Friday feeling to it. Baseball has 3 regular season games left to play and the Met’s seem on the cusp of making it to the one game playoff for the wildcard.

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I am a very sentimental person and I have been blessed with a childhood that brings back memories that I refuse to let go. So an old picture, a song on the radio or even the aroma of anything – can stimulate my memory and the visions within me of a time past begin to appear as if projected from right behind me.

Growing up in a house with 3 brothers and 1 sister, all of us with a passionate persona (ok, a really short temper) was memorable because each moment was filled with emotions. Emotions of love, solidarity to one another and an underlying competition of sorts in the kitchen, for the TV (we had one and there were 7 channels) and in our rooms. “Lower your radio!” I can hear over the static sounds of WNEW rock station or Bob Murphy calling the game for the Met’s.

I remember when my mom would come back from the supermarket I would run to get the Yodels, Ring Dings, Devil Dogs or Yankee Doodles. I would take one for right then and then hide one easily to be found and the other in a hiding spot I wont even reveal to you now. (Its my yodel I can hide if I want to!)

My mother is a prime example of what a mother should be and is. She can drive you crazy because she is a worrier – but she can calm you down and give you hope when you feel like all hope is gone. She is a fighter, a singer, a baker and a master chef. She is a mother, an adviser, a friend and a doctor all rolled into one.

My father was an icon, We didn’t realize it growing up, although I used to follow him and sit with him listening to the stories he would tell us. To me he was always a giant at barely five feet tall. His eyes and his smile can make me feel loved unconditionally no matter what the situation was.

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There was Friday night when I was less than 8 years old – we would watch the Partridge Family, Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple. We would all gather around the big zenith tv which was broken and watch from the black and white TV a quarter of the size of the TV it sat upon and watch.

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A couple of years later I remember the Saturday night TV lineup – it was Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, All in the Family, Alice and then Carol Burnett – wow! I remember those Saturday nights because my pop would make english muffin pizza and then I would go with him to buy the “Night Owl” edition of the Sunday Daily News.

As the weather began to cool and November would roll on in; I would find Entenmann’s Pumpkin Pie – no one can make it better.
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These are the uglier days of Autumn; October is promising to be much nicer and more colorful than September has been.

(To be Continued)

 

Elton John (Soundtracks from my Life)


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Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Perhaps more than any other singer songwriter Elton John has been the soundtrack of my life.

I remember driving with my mother in our old 1966 Chevrolet Impala to pick up my father from work. “Daniel” would come on the radio and we would sing and appreciate the melodies, the music and the words. It always brought a sense of sadness when he sung, “Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal? Your eyes have died, but you see more than I.” Even as a 7 or 8 year old kid I empathized with those “scars that wont heal.”

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“Your Song” is, to me, one of the perfect songs written across all musical genres. Its a simple love song with an opening piano that basically introduced him to the world and became “his song,” forever.

Elton John Your Song Through the Years

He owned the 1970’s; the decade where I went from being 4 years old to 14. Any time you turned on the radio his songs would be on one station or simultaneously on multiple stations.

This is the time when music was not as accessible as it is today. You couldnt google “The new elton john song” and listen to it instantly. (side note: the google founders were born in the same year that Elton release two of his best albums; “Dont Shoot me, I am only the Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” his 8th and 9th albums)

I remember changing stations on my radio; from KTU (92.3), WPLJ (95.5), 99x (98.7), to WNEW (102.7). I remember getting so excited whenever I would hear an Elton John song I had never heard before. The first time I heard, “Empty Garden,” the song Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote for John Lennon, was on the same station where I heard that John Lennon had been shot, 102.7. Scott Muni introduced the song and was emotional when it was over.

The first time I saw Elton in concert was at the Palladium in New York City, I believe it was in October 1979. Unbelievably I happened upon a video taken from the concert (not sure if its the one I was at).

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Ray Cooper and Elton John performing at the Palladium in New York City on October 23, 1979.

My brother, Carlos, took me to see him and it was mind boggling to see the man who’s music I had listened to, closed my eyes to and fell in love to; alive, live and on stage 4 rows in front of me! I was 13 years old at the time – there were no videos produced for mass distribution or music television stations. Thinking back on it – it reminds me how a person felt in the 1930’s or 40’s going to their first baseball game and being in awe of the colors and the sounds of the game. To put an exclamation point to the night Elton threw roses into the crowd and I caught one – in my memories I can see his gap toothed smile looking at me as if he knew who I was.

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In 1980 he played a free concert in Central Park. I could not make it there, unfortunately, but over 100,000 people did.

21 at 33 was the first album I purchased myself. I loved it – it was a return to Bernie and his writing together again, I think there were four songs they collaborated on. The main one being a semi-autobiographical song, “Two rooms, at the end of the world.”

In August of 1982, my mother took me to see Elton at Madison Square Garden. He opened with “Funeral for a friend” wearing a Captain outfit. It was Elton’s first show in New York since the death of John Lennon. Out of nowhere, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, her son with John, came on stage to greet Elton.

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I saw him five or six more times in my life – the last time (for now) being in Las Vegas during his Red Piano stay. I found the performance amazing but the video behind him distracting. Some performers need that extra entertainment – Elton just needs himself and the piano.

His albums in the late 70’s to around 1990 were a mixture of terrible to very good. There were albums released and I would go through the radio stations and read through Billboard magazine for any news, updates or pictures.

Here are my “Greatest Hits” from that era – albums in parenthesis

  1. Sartorial Eloquence (21 at 33)
  2. Nobody Wins (the Fox)
  3. Ball and Chain (Jump up!)
  4. Legal Boys (Jump up!)
  5. Empty Garden (Jump up!)
  6. Where have all the Good times gone (Jump up!)
  7. Cold as Christmas (Too Low for Zero)
  8. I’m Still Standing (Too Low for Zero)
  9. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues (Too Low for Zero)
  10. Breaking Hearts (Breaking Hearts)
  11. Burning Buildings (Breaking Hearts)
  12. In Neon (Breaking Hearts)
  13. Sad Songs Say So Much (Breaking Hearts)
  14. Soul Glove (Ice on Fire)
  15. Nikita (Ice on Fire)
  16. I don’t Want to go on with you like that (Reg Strikes Back)
  17. Healing Hands (Sleeping with the Past)
  18. Whispers (Sleeping with the Past)
  19. Club at the End of the Street (Sleeping with the Past)
  20. Sleeping with the Past (Sleeping with the Past)

In 1992 he released his first “Sober” album, “The One.” A great set of songs that were the precursor to his “Lion King” comeback. From then on, Elton was everywhere and back on top of the world.

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His songs continue to be the soundtrack of my life; “Something about the way you look tonight” was my wedding song and his “Songs from the West Coast” remains as one of my favorite and most listened to albums.

His “The Captain and the Kid” album was the sequel to “Captain Fantastic” album from 31 years earlier -I loved it and feel it was not given the attention it deserved.

But as time passes he continues to work with Bernie and create beautiful songs that for better or worse still have poignancy in my life. His album, “The Diving Board,” contains beautiful songs reminiscent of the 1970’s albums, “Tumbleweed Connection,” and “Madman Across the Water.” One song in particular struck me as a great Elton and Bernie collaboration – “My Quicksand.” Elton’s piano and his vocals interpret the lyrics perfectly. Especially during this verse.

So don’t you know I’ve been dressed to kill
If you got the tools be careful what you build
When the arrow’s in the bull’s-eye every time
It’s hard assuming that the archer’s blind

His latest album seemed to be a forced “Happy album.” I feel like they tried too hard on it – but there are some gems there and it shows that Elton is still not only standing, but dancing and having a great time while at it.

He recently said he may stop making new albums – I hope that is not the case. I need some Elton to play in the background as I find my way through the second chapter of my life – 50 years on.

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Jose Fernandez – This is Not how It was supposed to End


 

This is not how the story was suppose to unfold.

Jose Fernandez was a teenager fleeing from his homeland with his mother on a boat. When he saw that someone had fallen overboard, he jumped in and pulled her to safety. It was only then he realized it was his mother who had fallen and whom he had saved.

Jose Fernandez; with a love of life, of family and of baseball; lived life with a clear appreciation in everything he did. You could see it when he would be on the diamond; throwing a ball past the best hitters in the game making them each look like amateurs playing against a professional.

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A game was supposed to be played at 501 Marlins Way in Miami Florida. Instead the field and the stands are still and there is an eerie silence in the place of the roar of the crowd.

There is something about the relationship between baseball players and their fans. I have been watching baseball my entire life; I have been consumed with the 162 game schedule from the first pitch of the first game of a season until the final out, year after year for too many years.

When watching the games on TV you get to know the baseball players looks and idiosyncrasies; their batting stance, the way they field a ball and throw it; the way a pitcher sets up and delivers his pitch.

What draws in fans is the clockwork of the game which has no set times.

What draws in the fans are the decisions that must be made with each and every pitch.

What draws in the fans are the personalities and talents of each individual player.

There is the green grass and the immaculately clean dirt filled infield. The blue skies and the sound of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt followed by the scream of the umpire calling a, “Strike Three!”

The barehanded catch on a perfect bunt to the third baseman, the sound of the ball off the bat followed by sight of the ball sailing over the wall in the outfield just beyond the reach of the leaping outfielder. The the fans scrambling to get to the ball first.

These Major League ball players are human beings playing baseball. They are superhumans on the baseball field wearing uniforms made from polyester. 

We watch them perform superhuman feats on the diamond; first as rookies learning and perfecting their crafts.

Then we watch them in their prime years, we cheer them on and call them by their first names. We call them by their first names because we feel we know them, you see, in baseball we witness the human sides of the superhumans.

We watch closeups of them after a strikeout, frustration and anger at themselves for missing a pitch they could have hit better.

We watch them as they limp away after getting hit on the kneecap with a 100 mile an hour fastball. Wincing in pain but staying on the field because they want to keep on playing.

We see them at their best; as they get a key hit or a homerun to win a game. We watch them as they succeed and they improve and improve until the spring has suddenly turned into a cool autumn evening. 

We see them as they age quickly – the metamorphoses can be fleeting and painful to watch. But we watch them and we still cheer for them because we can remember when they were younger and in their prime.

They aren’t supposed to die in the spring of their lives. They are just not allowed to. Their story is supposed to be predictable and to unfold as great sports stories unfold.

As fans we watch or listen to the majority of the games within a season. We become very attached to the personalities of the team we follow and to the players they play against.

Baseball is played by players who possess a superior talent to hit, throw or catch balls. It is not a requirement for the players to be tall or bulked up as a behemoth. The hard work, determination and grind is what; coupled with a blessed talent and a support system; is what makes the player. One can be blessed with talent; but if they do not work hard at it the talent will slip away.

The infield is in the shape of a diamond. There are three bases and a plate. The goal for the batting team is to stand at the plate, bat in hand while watching the pitcher 60 feet and 6 inches away from them choose the pitch they will throw. 

Jose Fernandez was a pitcher who could tell you what pitch he would throw and still make you look like a fool trying to hit it. He possessed an exuberance and a passion in each step he took that was effervescent and alive.

Jose Fernandez was a pitcher, player and a person who lived each second with a joy and an excitement that was infectious, infuriating to his opponents and exciting for the fans to watch.

It’s a sad ending to a story that should not have ended so soon. Tomorrow the Met’s will come to the park on 501 Marlins Way and play a game against a team minus one hero. The hero who had a future ahead of him that was suddenly taken away.

His death comes way too soon and we wonder if someone who is in charge of who stays and goes might have dropped the ball up there.

This is not how his story was supposed to unfold.

 

What If? or, Sarah Laughed


What if everything that we were told to believe in is all predicated on a lie?

What if the history we follow, the faith we adhere to all began with a lie, an idea or a dream; but nothing truly based on reality?

Some live life searching for a meaning, searching for answers that may or not be found.

Some fictionalized the answers they want to hear, turn it into a belief system and then others, seeing the same answers simply follow along?

Abraham was a kid; unimpressed with the Idols the people all worshipped; his father, in business selling all sorts of idols for different needs. Idols for livelihood, idols for love, idols for a sunny weekend – anything your heart desires. One day, little Abe, still unimpressed; takes a stick and breaks them all.

His father, freaking out, comes in a sees the mess. “I leave you alone to watch the store for ten minutes and this is what happens? Who did this?”

“I did.”

“Why? How can you destroy the Gods we worship?”

Abes reply? “If they were so powerful, why didn’t they protect themselves or fight back?”

“Oy, I had to raise a philosopher?”

With the sun and the moon both taking their turns in the sky; how can one be more powerful than the other? He was unimpressed with the stars because there were way too many of them to form any one spirit or powerful force. “There must be something omnipotent out there…something that is in charge of the sun, the moon and the stars.”

In love with his wife, though unable to conceive any children – he closed his eyes on a hot day as he waited for some answers outside his tent. In the heat he daydreamed and in the dream came the voice telling him what he needed to hear.
“Yes you will have children and the children you have will be like those stars in the sky – too numerous to count. By next year at this time your wife will have a child.”

Sarah laughed.

“Did she just laugh?” The voice said.

“No, she was laughing at me – you know we have this joke and sometimes it pops up in your head and you can’t help but laugh.”

“Do you remember who you are talking to? I know she laughed just like I knew Cain killed his brother; it was a metaphorical question. Well anyway – I have some bad news as well, we are going to destroy Sodom.”

Abe negotiated with God and went from 50 men being pious to save the city to 10. But even 10 could not be found so a city was destroyed and at the age of 90, Sarah and Abraham had their first child, Isaac.

Was it divine intervention which caused Sarah to conceive or was it divine intervention which caused her not to conceive for the first 90 years of her life?

We all know what happened in Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s. We all know the “miracle” of 1948” returning the Jewish people to their homeland when just three years earlier they were being incinerated by the German efficiency machine.

Was it divine intervention which brought the Jewish people back home? Or was it divine intervention which allowed six million living souls to be destroyed without the world intervening?

Is God as powerful as we want God to be? Or is God as powerful as God can be? Is He limited to a fragment of the population? Is sickness and disease, wealth and poverty, hunger and indulgence, love and solitude all not in His power, His control?

There are so many answers we seek, the ones who dare question the unquestionable. Is God an interventional God?

What if it’s all a lie? What if all the faith we have clung to, that has kept us moving one foot in front of the other, is all based on something that never truly existed?

A father is leaving on a week long holiday with the mother. He tells their six kids to follow a basic set of rules while he is gone. He doesn’t force them or hypnotise them into following the rules or not. He does say the most important rule is to not do anything to each other that you do not want done to you. Simple enough, right? They have the ability to either follow the rules or not; he cannot force them to. A couple of the kids follow out of fear that their father will punish them, a couple break every rule and wreck havoc on the others; while the other two follow the rules out of trust that their father knows what is best for them.

God, as I believe, created a world for us. Gave us laws to follow in order for us to live in an society of equality and respect for others. (Do not do unto others as you would not want done unto yourself. That pretty much says it all). He gave man the freedom of choice – this way man is accountable for all his actions.

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We do not know the true answers – there is no tangible proof that God exists in any shape or form. It’s all a feeling which is embedded in the ones who believe possibly because it has been pounded into our thinking over and over again or possibly because the alternative of not believing has no positive aspect.

It’s hard to believe, to truly have faith in a non-tangible power and to follow the laws and the directions handed down. It’s hard, but we have true faith, that in the end there will be a new beginning.  

It’s harder not to have faith and to believe that further on down the road the end will be just that, the end.  

Seats with a View (photo challenge https://goo.gl/9JYWXJ)


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PHOTO BY– Rob Woodcox
WORDS BY Freddy Zalta

The end of the school year was two minutes away and the boys were transfixed by the second hand on the clock which hung from the wall above the chalkboard in room 202, Mr. Looney’s 7th grade Science class.

The bride and groom were walking through the forest, by the lake where their wedding was to be held two days from now, on a sunday. They had a full orchestra who’s members would be sitting in wooden boxes suspended with a cable from the top of the trees. He pulled her close to him and gently pushed his lips against hers. She didn’t resist. They seemed to be all alone in the area and it being a hot day, both feeling extra excited in more ways than the expected, decided to take a swim.

The bell rang. The principal of the school spoke on the loudspeaker but no one, least of all the 7th grade boys seated in room 202, paid him any mind. They ran out of class and to their bikes parked by the front entrance. Randy spoke up, “Lets ride in our shorts with no shirts so we can jump right in – first one in gets a free sundae!” They all roared, they were eight in total and they felt like the kings of the world.

As the bride, Sharon, slipped off her summer dress and walked closely to Bobby who was looking away as he pulled off his shirt and lowered his jeans. She threw her arms around him and he fell back onto her, turned around and she put her mouth against his lips.

Randy maneuvered his bike like a pro; pulled up his his handlebar to jump onto the grass from the street – left the bike on the dirt and ran towards the lake, his 7 buddies following him one by one.

Sharon was laying on the grass, beneath the tree as Bobby stood and then lay atop her and thrust himself towards her, mouth to mouth and skin to skin.

Randy came upon the lake and saw Sharon and Bobby; shocked he told his friends to be quiet. Looking around he saw these wooden things suspended in the air.

“Come on boys – I found us some seats with a view!”

 

Tales from the F Train Chapter Two Jacob


I was waiting for the F train on the Avenue P platform. It was drizzling outside while the sun shone to the east – fighting the clouds for it’s place in the sky. There were the usual morning commuters, school girls in their uniforms, businessmen squinting into their phones and a spattering of other characters.

The Russian girl with the long legs and short skirt no matter the temperature; dirty blond hair, sunglasses and the “Vulcanish” look on her face.

The twenty something year old, unshaven, hair pillow combed was listening to something way too loud on his way overpriced headphones. He was wearing ripped jeans and a tee-shirt with a black spring jacket draped over it.

There two spanish speaking ladies, laughing about something and speaking very quickly. Covering their mouths as they laughed as if it were some sort of infraction to laugh.

An older man, maybe in his 70’s, wearing a stetson gray flannel hat, raincoat and walking with a cane. He looked around and seemed to take in the scene. He then leaned against a bench deciding not to sit down as he noticed the train coming in the distance.

Me? I am wearing jeans and a polo shirt with a hooded sweater over it. I am headed to an office that seems to suck the life out of me and I am dreading it. I feel as if I am wasting my allotted time on this earth. I have bills to pay and a family to support, so, off I go day in and day out; smiling at the warden and pretending the cell is a cubicle and that somehow, something will happen that will exonerate me – nothing ever does.

I stood there wondering how many more days I would be squandering my life away. Feeling as if I had been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. Here I am, fifty years old and on the backend of my life span – the first fifty were good years, mostly. 

The train rolled into the station and each of us ran to make sure we got a seat. The train was still kind of empty because Avenue P was one of the first stops, so I took my usual seat back to the window and facing across the train.

Just as soon as I went to turn on my music, the older man sat down beside me, empty seat between us. I smiled and then turned away. Looking through the artists on my Android I choose Elton John and the album, “Tumbleweed Connection.” The album begins with “Ballad of a well Known Gun,” but since it’s on random, the first song played is , “Talking Old Soldiers.” As the opening chords began the old man sneezed really loud, scaring the shit out of me and making me jump in my seat.

“God bless you.”

He smiled, “Thank you, I hope I didn’t startle you?”

“Hey, who needs coffee, right?” I smiled at him. “How you doing today?” I asked him as I took of my headphones and shut off the music.

“Good now. I was finally released from jail.”

I laughed, thinking he meant something else.

“Why are you laughing? I wasn’t always 94 years old, you know?”

“You aren’t really 94 years old.”

“You aren’t a girl – why would I lie about my age?”

“Well, you look great, you aren’t my type, but you look amazing. Were you really in jail or are you busting my chops?”

“Why would I lie about being in jail? Its not something someone brags about.”

“Its also not something someone shares with a stranger on a train.”

He laughed.

“Why were you in jail?” I asked.

“You have a few minutes?”


Bay Parkway, next stop Avenue I
“As of right now you have a captive audience for the next 40 minutes or so. I would really love to hear about it.”

From Bay Parkway through Lexington Avenue Jacob told me his story.

“In 1945 I had just come back from being stationed at Fort Bragg. I had been released for what they called ‘section 8.’ My first night back at home, we lived at 99 Ryerson Street in Brooklyn, next to the park over there, my first night there I met with my girl. She was happy I was home and expected me to pop the question. I wasn’t ready to ask any questions to anyone. The next night she told me she had met someone while I was away and that he did have a question for her and she was ready to answer him, unless I would ask her first. I laughed, turned and walked away while she cried, ran up to her room and I never saw her again.”

Bergen Street
“Did you love her?” I asked him.

“Love? I was too young or too stupid to love. I was 22, 23 years old.I didn’t have a job and I had just been rejected by an Army who were begging for more soldiers”

“What was the reason for your release?”

“Doesn’t matter.” I didn’t press him.

Jay Street
“I got a job working with a steel plant in Homestead, outside of Pittsburgh. A friend of a friend was friends, you got all that? With one of the union bigs there. When he heard I was section 8 he wanted to help me out so he set us up with jobs. The guy I was with, I forget his name.” He pauses thinking.

East Broadway
“It doesn’t matter what his name was, he couldn’t stand the heat inside the mills and went back to Brooklyn and worked at his father’s place on Bay Parkway. Anyway, I was an assorter helper, which meant I would help check over the tin sheets to make sure they were exactly the specifications ordered by the customer. Cleaning, fixing bent corners, weighing, stacking – it was a lot of work. After a 2 day trial, I was given a job and a union card right away. The job paid  75 cents an hour. That was enough to get me a room and board and to be able to go out here and there.

There was this landlady who was running the place, her husband was an officer in the army and he was somewhere in the Pacific. She was in her late 20’s or early 30’s; she wasn’t Rita Hayworth but she had a wounded beauty about her. She kept me company at night and in return I made her feel loved. When her husband came home I moved out and never saw her again.

Each day after work a group of us would head to Chiodo’s for a beer or two. They had a sandwich there that was called, “The mystery sandwich,” that was mysteriously delicious. There was a lady of the evening who became my friend for free. She would come to my room at night and we would keep each other company.

One day I walked in on one of the union bigs doing something with another man in a bathroom stall. He saw me, his pants were down to his ankles.  I just turned away and went back to the bar paid my tab and went home.”

 

Delancey Street
The next day during my lunch break, I was sitting smoking a cigarette and draining a Coca-cola when these two thugs come at me.

“Donald wants to speak with you.”

“I am in lunch, can it wait until after work?”

“We don’t ask questions so we have no answers; Donald asks and we do. I suggest you get off your ass and do the same.”

I took that suggestion and followed them through the plant towards his office.

 

Broadway Lafayette (Almost)
The train stopped right before the station, after around five minutes they made an announcement. There was a sick passenger in the train ahead of us so we will be delayed.

“There was a long hallway between the locker rooms where we changed and cleaned up and the back door exit. As I walked down the hallway I could hear my footsteps echoing and I felt a sense something bad was about to happen.

I heard a lock turn and then a door open. I turned and the two bozos were still trailing me, up ahead it was dark and I couldn’t get a clear look. I slowed down my walk.”

“Keep walking, Mac.”

“It’s Jack, buddy, Jack.”

Silence.

“Now one of the reasons I was not the most popular person back home or at Fort Bragg was that I had a very bad temper. A big mouth and a temper. I was also very strong so the combinations of big mouth, bad temper and strength – was not so promising.

Up ahead I saw figure walking towards me, he clapped his hands, the guys behind me fell back and it was him and me.”

Broadway Lafayette
Across from me sat two Korean women who were speaking as if they were three hundred yards away from each other. Next to them was a Hasidic man reading a Yiddish newspaper. As soon as the train stopped they each stood up and as soon as the doors opened they were gone.  In their place came a Sikh, a Spanish man and a typical white hipster; beard, 1970’s style glasses and flannel jacket.

“So he asked me, “What did you see last night?” 

“When?”

“Are you playing games with me, Mac?”

“It’s Jack. If I was playing games with you I wouldn’t be here in a dark hallway with the two goons behind me.”
“They are not behind you now.”
“I didn’t see anything last night, let’s leave it at that.”

“That’s right, because you never saw me last night.”

“Come to think of it, I did see you. You were the man with his pants around his ankles, right?” He walked towards me. I added.

“If you want to erase history it’s going to cost you, Mac.”

“What did you say?” I heard the two goons in back of me again.

“I said, if you want me to lose my memory of what I saw last night. It will cost you.”

He nodded towards the goons.

“Take him and throw him in the blast.”

“Wait, what were we talking about? I forgot.”

“Too late.”

I turned around and punched one of the Mac’s in the stomach and then an uppercut into his face. The other Mac went to take something out of his pocket but I kicked him in the balls and then an upper kick into his face. There was blood all over – I turned to Big Mac and he had a gun in his hand and was pointing it at me.”

14th Street
The majority of people on the train now were ‘garmentos.’ People who worked in the garment district – 34th street through 42nd. You can tell because the men wore Metrosexual clothing, tight fitting and stylish. While the women wore heels and revealing outfits. Two of the men were talking loud as if we all wanted to hear what they had to say; one of them was nodding towards a girl across from them. She put on the annoyed act and looked into her phone as if what was on the screen was of major importance. 

“I heard a door open behind me, big Mac put his gun away and in walked two security guards from the plant.

“What’s going on here?” They asked us when they saw the two little Mac’s on the floor, bloody noses and broken teeth.

“We had a misunderstanding.”  I answered.

“ A misunderstanding? Well, clean it up I don’t need this shit going on in my plant.”

“OK sir you got it.” They both turned and walked out. I jumped on big Mac and held his arm with the gun, pushing his hand in an unnatural position which caused it to break and then the gun went off. The bullet struck him in the groin and he was down, seemingly not breathing. I ran and called security.”

 

23rd Street
The annoyed woman stood up and walked off the train. Before she walked out she smiled to herself as if satisfied to have drawn their attention. The two men just kept talking, clearly unbothered by the snub. 

“I found the same two security guards. I told them what had occurred and they ran with me. When we walked through the door we found the two little Mac’s waking up and Big Mac in a forever slumber lying in a pool of blood. 

They snapped the cuffs on me and brought me to the Police station down the road. I was thrown into a cell. The next morning I woke up and I spoke to a lawyer who told me to plead guilty.

I told him it was self-defense and he said, “Do you have any witnesses?”

“I said, no.”

“He said, plead guilty and I can work on getting your sentence to under 25 years.”
I told him to kiss my ass and I asked for another lawyer. They sent me this kid who must have just graduated law school.”

34th Street
I stayed on the train, I wanted to hear the rest of the story.

“It didn’t matter that it was self-defense and that the two Little Mac’s corroborated on my story; because they were scared of the unions then and they needed a scapegoat for what happened. Big Mac was high on the totem pole and the last thing they wanted was another strike or walkout. They sent me away to Lewisburg federal prison and made sure the local newspapers made a show of it. “

42nd Street
“Wait a minute – you mean to tell me you have been in jail since 1948 and you are now on a train going to the city so calm?”

“That is what I just spent 40 minutes telling you.  

The train moved ahead with a jump, which caused the man’s cane to fall to the floor. I went to pick it up and give it to him. He smiled at me.

“I knew your father, kid. He was a good man.”

“You know who I am?”

“I could spot a Zalta from a mile away.”

“What’s your last name?” He told me and laughed.

“Did you enjoy the train ride today?” He asked me.

Rockefeller Center

“Yes as a matter of fact. I even missed my stop because I wanted to continue speaking with you.” I answered.

“Good. Now you have a story to write about.” He was smiling.

“You weren’t really in jail, were you?”

“It depends on what you consider jail, kid.”

“Were you incarcerated in a federal prison?”

“No, but I did work at Homestead.”

“In the mills?”

“No, I worked at Chiodo’s; I was a bartender there for a summer.”

“You worked at – so this was all…”

“A story kid; I read your articles in the magazine – I wanted to give you a story to tell.”

“So you knew my father?”

“Yes, I was born in Brooklyn, raised and have lived in Brooklyn for the majority of my life. I was in Europe during the war; I was one of the Americans who liberated the camps – one of the worst things that I ever witnessed in my life. When I came home I proposed to my girlfriend, I asked her the question and she said yes. We are still married.”

“Wow…I don’t know what to say.”

“I knew your father very well. We used to have stores in Nashville at the same time. He would come eat dinner by us on Friday nights. What a gentleman; always with a smile.”

“I feel so stupid and gullible.”

“Don’t feel that way – I was a writer once myself and you did a good thing allowing me to tell you a story.”

Lexington Avenue

I needed to get off before we went into Queens.

“Thank you, sir, for the story. Your one helluva storyteller. I would love to read some of your writings, how can I access them?”

He made a waving hand motion which told me, “forget about it.”

I smiled and said, “I hope to see you again.”

“Be well – keep writing and don’t listen to anyone who says that it cannot be done. Always be curious, not judgmental.

“That what cannot be done?”

“That you cannot turn a dream into a reality. Dreams can and have come true, you know? And don’t forget, keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.”

I left the train and felt as if a weight had been lifted from me. It’s as if I was given permission to continue to keep my hope alive that something could and would happen to make it all worthwhile.

I felt as if I had been given parole from a lifetime sentence and was free.

Maybe it was the story he told, maybe it was the history he lived that ran through his veins that would radiate through his eyes. His way of speaking reminded me of my father and I felt a lightness moving within me as if the sun had beaten the clouds for its place in the sky. 

I never did see that man again and although he told me his name his identity remained a mystery to me.
One day, as I was browsing through Facebook, I saw a picture posted of the man, with a caption which revealed his name. Apparently he had died ten years earlier and was an apparition who told me a story and quoted Walt Whitman he told me to always be looking towards the sunshine and the shadows would fall behind me. 

 

Walt Whitman was quoted as saying “Always be curious, not judgmental.” as well as “keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.”

Tales from the F-Train Chapter One WANDA


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Wanda walked up the stairs to the Manhattan bound side of the elevated platform on Kings Highway and McDonald Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York. There was a light snow falling and you could see Coney Island on one end, the Verrazano Bridge in the middle and the New York City skyline on the other end.

Seeing Coney Island reminded her of going for a drive with her family to buy cotton candy. Once in awhile they would go to Luna Park for the day or the beach before the summer crowds and the freaks without a stage would be littered across the boardwalk and the sand. She smiled as assorted memories came to mind, felt a tinge of yearning for those times.

There were a lot of people on the platform waiting on the train; no one wore smiles, most wore hats and coats and they all were in a monday morning haze.

Wanda smiled, it had been some time since she had commuted early in the morning. She was headed to her first day at her new job after three months of searching for a position. She would be paid much less in her new position but it was better than having no destination, day in day out. Plus it was a couple hundred dollars more than the unemployment she had been collecting, so at least she would be able to have a little extra cash here and there.

She was living with her parents on West Street, a block away from the station. She was 26 years old and had seen her dreams bounce onto the side of the road with one careless evening with Bobby, eight years earlier.

The train came crawling into the station and she was glad. It was cold today and being on this elevated platform made it even colder.

As the train came to a stop there was the sound of a man singing, she turned towards the avenue S side of the station and saw a man picking up garbage from the floor and singing a song about “the Lord” saving the world from the non-believers. She just turned away.

When she told her parents about what had happened they were upset but they were supportive.
“Does Bobby know?”
“Yes, he offered to marry me right away.”
“Is that what you want?” Her father asked her.
“I am so confused right now I cannot think.”
“Come on and let’s sit down. You don’t need to make any decisions right now.”

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She watched as the train rolled into the Avenue P station. Slow moving F train – you can sense the impatience from the commuters waiting to get on with the day.

After a while she decided that she did not want to marry Bobby but she did want the baby. They decided that she would go to Israel to spend her pregnancy there with her sister, who lived in Jerusalem with her husband and 2 children.

Bay Parkway passes by and she remembers Bobby’s reaction when she told him.
“I am not ready to make a decision on us, Bobby.”
“What about the baby?” He asked.
“I am going to have the baby, our baby.”
In silence they sat together until one of them started to cry. Until they both held on to each other and whispered, “I love yous.”

18th Avenue – a lot of people getting on the train. Snow coming down harder and sticking on the ground below.

She stuck to her decision to have the kid because it didn’t feel right to simply abort it. She knew so many people who had trouble conceiving or keeping the child full term, she felt there was a reason for her to conceive. Stupidity? Carelessness? Maybe, but she wasn’t the only girl to take the chance but she was the only one of her friends to get knocked up. As far as she knew, at least.

Church Avenue and the train is officially crowded. A Chinese  parent runs in with her kid wearing his spiderman backpack. She runs to have him sit in an open slot – beating an older man to the space by a second. The older man looks at her and nods his head. She looks away and begins giving her child pieces of a cut up apple.

The year went by quicker than she had imagined. She gave birth a week and a half after her due date, August 23rd to a girl whom she named after Bobby’s mother, Hannah. Bobby had flown in a couple of weeks before the delivery to be there for her. When he proposed for a 3rd time she still politely declined. This time with tears and a kiss.

Fourth Avenue and the snow is coming on down hard now. She checks her phone and her email but there are no messages. She texts her mother to see if Hannah had gotten off to school yet. No response right away. Underground again and Carroll Street comes into view. There must be an issue with the G train because there must be a thousand people waiting to get on. They somehow squeeze in a majority of the people waiting and the train moves on. At Jay Street the train lightens the load and then moves on.

When she gave birth she felt as if she was going to die right then and there. She had been given an epidural, but the pain and the pressure was overwhelming. When the baby came out it was as if a grown person had vacated her body – she could not stop crying and when Bobby cut the cord she knew that she needed to as well.

East Broadway, the first stop in Manhattan.

She thought about the night she spoke with her parents and told her that she was moving back to Brooklyn. Her mother surprised her with an idea. She would take care of Hannah while Wanda went back to school and resumed her life.
“I am not going to deny she is my child.”
“You don’t have to – I am saying leave the responsibility to me for a while; finish school, clear your mind and then you can begin making decisions.”
“Mom, she is my responsibility…it was my carelessness that caused all of this.”
Her mother then said something that would change everything.
“Do not label this girl as a mistake. Do not make her feel that her own existence was an error in judgment. Was it Bobby and your own fault that you got pregnant? Yes. Was it Hannah’s fault that she was born? No. That was a decision you made and her existence is a gift, a blessing that you will understand one day. Always make her feel like she is a blessing to you – the world around her will always be causing her to fall – it’s the gravity supplied by the stupidity of the human beings.”

Delancey Street and the train gets a transfusion, more people exit the train than get on, so there is some breathing space. She looks around and sees an older lady caring for a little girl with a backpack on her back. The lady seems to be 160 years old while the little girl is around 6. A man comes on the train speaking out loud.
“My name is Sonny Payne, I am homeless and I am hungry, if you ain’t got it I can understand ‘cause I ain’t got it too. But if you can spare some change, some food or drink or even a smile, it would be appreciated.” As he walked down the train she heard him saying, “Thank you, God bless” several times. When he got to her, she smiled and gave him a dollar bill.
“Thank you, God bless, beautiful lady.”

Eight years had passed by and Hannah was the most beautiful girl in the world. The love that she felt for her was stronger than she could have imagined. She understood her parents now and she apologized to them very frequently for taking their love for granted.
“You are the child, you are supposed to take us for granted and we are supposed to continue to be there for you forever.” Her father had said to her on many occasions.

A lady began to apply makeup, she was sitting across from her. She applies the base, then staring into a handheld circular mirror and dabs concealer onto the imperfections on her skin. She than applies blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow and then lipstick. Purses her lips, stares in the mirror and she is done. It reminded Wanda of an artist she used to watch in Jerusalem, how she made up her face. In Jerusalem the empty canvas became a painting defined through the eyes of the artist. This lady was already beautiful – Wanda wondered if she was aware of this.

“It’s been eight years Wanda, I have shown you I am a responsible father with Hannah, I have been there for you all along. I want to marry you…”  Just last night Bobby had come to drop off Hannah and had plead with Wanda. Wanda smiled at him, rushed her hair from her eyes and put her hand on his face.
“If you love me – give me a little more time.”
She stayed up all night asking herself what it was that kept her from just saying yes; it would solve a lot of issues in their lives. For one thing she wouldn’t have to go to work if she chose not to. Bobby’s family was loaded and they were prepared to pay for the whole wedding, buy them a house and everything. At least that’s what Bobby said. That was her problem. She wanted Bobby to not have to bring up all of the details and even accept any money from his family. But how was that different than her mother helping her with Hannah? Why not get the house, the wedding, the whole fairytale?

West Fourth Street and there is a B train across the platform which causes a large number of people to leave to get on it since the next stop on the B is 34th Street, while the F has 14, 23 and then 34th street. She sits still even though 34th is her stop. She is early, has a seat and is enjoying this time on the train. She laughs when she sees several people get to the B train just in time for the doors to shut in their face. They then turn around and the F-train has already begun to leave.

Her father spoke with her after Bobby left and gave her his advice.
“Do you love him?” He asked.
“Yes, I have always loved him.”
“He has proven himself to be a man and to be devoted to you and Hannah.”
She was silent.
“You need to let him know once and for all how you feel. He hasn’t closed any doors behind him and has been faithful to you all along. He is good person, I like him. But he did not propose to me.”

She laughed and they embraced.
“I am scared.” She whispered into his shoulder as the tears flooded her eyes.
“I know. It’s ok everything will be ok. We love you and Hannah to the moon and back, kiddo.”

23rd Street and she wondered if she was being stubborn about life and the paths it takes. She never planned to be pregnant at 18 years old; she planned to go to college and to major in something. Bobby had been by her side all along; he loved her and she loved him. There was something holding her back from moving on.

She thought about that night often and always with a sense of regret. She remembered her mother’s words to her about Hannah being a blessing and a gift. She was right about that, so why always the feeling of dread or regret? That night…raining outside the car as it was parked almost beneath the Verrazano Bridge. They were fooling around and one thing led to another…his arms around her, the windows all foggy and the smell of teenage passion. His tongue on her and she wanted him inside of her…

34th Street and she stood up as the train slowed down and entered the station. Doors opened and she walked right through. Her phone began to beep with alerts, several at one time now. As she stood on the escalator and read the notices she smiled.
One was from Bobby asking her to meet him for lunch. Another was from her mother with a picture of Hannah in school clothes smiling with the text. “School closing at 11 today in preparation for a snowstorm. Your father is so excited to spend the day with Hannah.”

The third one was from someone which said, “Office is closed today, we’ll see you tomorrow. Should anything change we will contact you. Be safe.”

She walked up the stairs into the street and there must have been several inches of snow on the ground, although it was all gray slush where she stood – you could tell it was piling up.

She texted Bobby that she was heading home. “Why don’t you come by the house later; I want to talk.”

She took a deep breath, took out her metro card and walked down the steps towards the F train to Brooklyn hoping the train would not be delayed. Her phone vibrated.
“OK, good stuff?” He texted.
“Good stuff.” She texted back and walked down the stairs, past the Michael Jackson dancers and a lady with a baby asking for money. She walked down a ramp and then the stairs to the Brooklyn bound side of the station.

An old man was playing guitar with a harmonica around his neck, he was singing a song that sounded familiar but could not place. An announcement from the subway, unclear and garbled as usual. About to ask someone to translate but she was interrupted by the F train rolling into the station.
“Next stop, 23rd street, stand clear of the closing doors please.”

Somewhere in Time – Brooklyn


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     There is a distinct aroma which pulsates through these blocks filled with mansions from another time and place. A cocktail of homemade cooking, trees and assorted flowers. A stray dog walks across the street, sounds of horse shoes hitting cobblestone, some whispers from people unseen and the sound of children playing somewhere in the distance.  
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      Ghosts abound – couples walking hand in hand in their Sunday finest. Soldiers home for the weekend catch their girls jumping into their arms. While the curtain in the window upstairs is untied.
     There was a reservoir once upon a time, right over there just across from the park. In the park a statue of Teddy Roosevelt stands upright and proud.           Surrounding him are benches occupied by lovers – from the past and from today. An old man sits by himself, transistor radio, newspaper and pen in hand. He is listening to a baseball game from a long time ago.
     A poet sits alone on the grass and begins to write a letter to a lover he has yet to love.
I dream of you and I can taste you when I close my eyes. Your soft skin, your lips and the aroma that your body releases cures me, your wet skin intoxicates me and the sound of your voice as you surrender to my love is what saves me.
   There was a full moon, clear dark blue sky with flashes of lights, shooting stars and time passing by. There was a lonely man in the window upstairs, I caught a glimpse of him just before the curtain fell. He wasn’t alone, there was a shadow behind him, a silhouette of a woman, perhaps his wife or lover? He seemed lonely nevertheless.
      A young man walks alone, cigarette in his left hand, hat in his right. He has a satchel across his chest and he is coming home. Why does home seem so foreign? Why has nothing changed all the time he was in hell? Tommy, Ferreli, Grossman – all gone in front of his face. Exchanging jibes one second and blown to pieces the next. Why does this tree still stand? Why are there people laughing and going about their lives as if there is peace on earth? Where is the outrage? He turns around and heads back to the train station. He can’t go back home again.
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 There was a full moon, clouds were forming, white cotton balls against a dark blue sky. On the other side of town there is ranch house with a wrap around porch. On the porch there is a lady sitting on a chair waiting for something, someone to come on home. In the distance the young man stops walking, takes a deep breath and walks on.
 There were crickets, cicadas and an assortment of instruments being played. Whispers continued in the dark, voices from the past, lost like old photographs casting memories into the wind. One can hear them in the silence, through the tall grass and the cobblestoned streets – echoes through the mansions lost in time – the trees standing tall, roots strong, branches pointed towards the heavens.
Brooklyn, like a mistress, waiting for her paramour, lost in time. Like a man with nowhere to go, a road without end and a sky without a moon. The lady on the porch suddenly sees a form in motion heading in her direction. She smiles, stands and embraces him. Home. Some prayers do come true…in shades of colors we never could have guessed.

Fifty


A little of something for everyone – this ends on a positive note but there is no ending in sight.

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Freddy as an infant

 

Fifty

We all have fears or regrets that can overwhelm us; slow down our impulses, speed up our breathing and cause our heart to beat wildly; sounding like a horse galloping through the silent midnight streets.

We each have our “quicksand” which can quickly envelop us in an embrace that can suck the life out of us. A tornado within us that keeps us from turning around and doing what it takes to keep on moving ahead one step at a time.

Although the events of our past is what keeps us running, we cannot hold on to those events with too much intensity lest it break us rather than teach us.

I look at my children and I cannot come to terms with the fact that they are grown up and no longer feel the need to snuggle beside me to feel secure. No longer want to sit on my lap and throw their arms around me as they slowly fall asleep. Or jump into my arms when I come home at the end of a day. Those jumps, those smiles and that unconditional belief that I was superman – offset the reality that underneath the costume I felt more like Willy Loman or Howard Beale.

The clock swears it hasn’t sped up the pace; but it lies. The proof is in the clarity of our memories from 30, 40 years earlier. The games, the songs, the loves and the friendships – just as if they happened a week go or just yesterday.
The marks on the steps where I would play stoop ball or the way a wiffle ball would roll down from the roof jumping up from the drains or the feeling I felt when it never did come down and we needed to scrounge around for 35 cents or miss out on playing again that day.

When I hear Sgt Pepper I always anticipate the skip right when they sing “It was 20 years ago today, today, today, today…or on Elton John’s greatest hits album, “Bennie and the Jet’s” kept repeating “Bennie, Bennie, Bennie” with no “Jets” forthcoming unless I would stomp on the floor.

I look in the mirror and I still see the 18-year-old staring back at me. Maybe instead of acne there are some wrinkles and in place of dried Tenax, there is some gray hair I see.I still see some good looks there.  It’s when I see a photograph of myself that I am traumatized by the image. Who is that old man and when did he get so big?

I have become a cliché – lost maps and compasses which once led me to places I had never seen or been, now frighten me and inspire me to want to go home and hide. My life is made up of metaphors which I use to try and encapsulate life’s impossible questions which have no tangible answers.

Love is all we need, OK I get it and it’s fine, but love can also fog up our vision and force us to do things, in hindsight, we can never truly justify. Or was that lust? How many times have those two amazing, exhilarating emotions betrayed us by causing us to change courses in our lives?

Friends scatter but you are OK with it because you need to find your own way.  Feelings of being lost and wanting to be found – fade away when the sun is shining. Empty bedrooms in cold apartments leave you with an impulse to run. But you find yourself caught in a war within  – a struggle between your own visions and the visions that reality thrusts at you. All you ever needed was the one…but who is that?

The reflection in the mirror will reveal itself when you are ready and able to see that it is not her, him or them that can define you – it is you, you are the only one. It’s alright Ma, I can make it.

We are all in this carnival, musicians playing accordions and drummers walking upright with pretend aplomb.
We are all in this Circus walking a high wire act for the world to see while pushing away the impulse to look down.
We are all up on the screen, a member of the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges, using our zaniness to get through the craziness of the scene. Mirroring ourselves and questioning whether the image is really you or some impostor?

You were so sure you would change the world, make Atlas Shrug, but we all know about the best laid plans of Mice and Men. We all know the other side of paradise is just a blinking light and nothing is as sweet as the moment right before you realize your dreams. Just as the Old man and his Marlin dealing with the sharks – we all try to avoid the bridges that are falling down but sometimes we have no choice but to walk on the burning coals.

The Hotel New Hampshire, the beauty of the south through the eyes of the son of Santini. Painted visions of beauty, the words echoed the joy of life with smatterings of darkness and the pain that life can bestow upon even a man in full.

The girls at the social masquerades they misled you into dark and mysterious hallways and rooms – “Please let me hold your hand,” hypnotized by their arousing raspy tone, You follow, you have no choice. You once swore no surrender somewhere in the night, but you give in as you are lead to where the streets have no name.

She breaks you, over and over again, killing you softly with her song – yet with each word she sings to you there is a sense of healing; just as a scab grows upon your chest to cover up an open wound so it can heal inside. Then there is silence and you cannot find your way.

You hear the song at the most unexpected moment; just when you thought you were over her Sam plays the song. But you cannot shoot the piano man, you cannot outlaw the song – you see her from across the lake…Judy Jones…in a winter dream…There was a fish jumping and a star shining and the lights around the lake were gleaming…

The piano man plays in the garden, singing songs while we sing along, always in the mood for a melody and the need to feel alright. Songs from summers past…

Time is on my side, you croon “Why try and change me now?” You find yourself searching for the answers but Dylan said those answers are blowin’ in the wind and with each floating leaf, each discarded paper you find yourself grasping for to no avail.

Unshaven and in need of a haircut you apply for a review of the past year for hopes you can start again or at least get some explanation for the call out at home  – but the folks in Chelsea don’t answer the phone when it comes in from the field. Is there anyone even in that bunker?

You are handed the script and you read the lines, your heart just isn’t in it. You recite the lines and you play the part; you want to ad-lib and put some of yourself into it but it’s not to be.

You spend the nights practicing the night moves, alone you see a pretty girl with kaleidoscope eyes and two brave strangers find some kind of comfort while hiding out in the cornfields or in the back seat of a 60 Chevy.

You throw the cabbie 20 dollars and he stashes the bill in his shirt, the radio plays a song about burning down the mission and you wonder, is the mission what you were supposed to carry out? Or is the mission the place you were supposed to protect? Like a madman across the water you stand upon the diving board and search for a beacon in the night.

Stars in their multitude light up the sky, just like a sentinel or a parent keeping watch in the night.

“I’ll always love you,” is sung but you know that on the surface, this much is true, but where is the power behind those words? Those words can always comfort a lonely soul, can always get you to third base – it’s home plate that eludes you while she tells you she needs to know right now if “I’ll always love you” are sincere or is it just being used as a key to the locked entrance way to Paradise.

Still the singer asks, “when I want sincerity, tell me, where else can I turn?”

You sing the words to imagine, but you know it’s just a dream sung by a dreamer and that dream is over. It was always a tug of war between the reality of evil against the reality of the good – in this world we rationalize that the evil never win, but once they kill they have created a void that no freedom towers or amount of money can ever fill.

We are writers, artists, creators of universes trying to describe emotions in words, pictures or tunes. We are the red-headed step-child sleeping late always giving in at night to the seductiveness of sleep and dreams. Trying to succeed in a world where you are confined, forced to conform and to blend into the background is like trying to fit an elephant into a mole’s burrow.

After a while we begin to implode; first comes the sadness, then the restlessness, the loneliness, the anxiety of wanting to run while chained to a fence. As we try to adapt to the burrows in which we live – like the scarecrow in an abandoned farm – we slowly succumb to the bites, the sun and the rain. We wither away eventually becoming one with the wind and scattered across the fields.

We were created for something more and the fact that at 50 you find yourself lost, at a loss and losing – can be a debilitating feeling. You have the girl of your dreams and your children by your side – but you want to have so that you can give. The burrow has no hidden treasure, no answers in the sky beyond the rainbow or below it.

The pain of betrayal will never fully disappear, but it’s the pain of being mislabeled that hurts the most. Doubting yourself in the middle of the night, “Am I who they think I am or am I who I have always envisioned myself to be?” In the clarity of the morning light you know exactly who you are and you smile for even doubting yourself.

Twenty seven years, almost, of being a father has taught you the truth about the role – you can never be right or wrong; all you can do is love them and let them know it. The pride I feel when I see each one of them individually is overwhelming. Yet the images of them as younger children remains etched in my mind and the reality that they are now older and independent hatches a sense of time out of mind.

It’s the Story of a life; a man’s dreams have all come true in shiny bright colors. Could I have imagined the way she looks at me or the love that they pour o’er me? The scar runs down my chest it’s proof of survival of maybe not the fittest.

God has given me the answers to some questions; but there are so many more yet to be revealed. Why the fire? Why the rains? Why the sicknesses and why the pains? Why do the evil survive while the good mostly die young? Why do you sustain the ones who kill in Your name?

Baseball, rock n roll, a good Italian meal, Friday nights and holiday gatherings. Thanksgiving, egg nog and pumpkin pie. Lighting the candles, wearing a mask and eating the unleavened bread – all to commemorate our survival. We thank Him. But we ask for more because life can be difficult especially for the ones who care the most.

There are many conflicts inside of us black sheep – a feeling of wanting more out of this world while wanting to just graze in the field. There are voices inside of us screaming for equality and respect.
Voices inside of us wanting to describe the sun setting over the lake in late July with the temperature still in the 90’s.
Voices inside of us wanting to describe with only a whisper the shouting voices which surround you and guide you.
Voices inside of us wanting to express the love you feel for the ones who have stood by you.
Voices inside of you screaming, standing on a table and asking “What is my purpose?”

Fifty years of love, family, the crews of the USS Enterprise, New York Met’s and Rock n Roll, movies and television, popcorn and couch potatoes, rotary dial and smarter phones with live streams from Mars.

Fifty years of typewriters. Computers and laptops.

Fifty years of conflicting emotions of loneliness and claustrophobic episodes.

Fifty years of faith in God, twenty years of Emunah.

Fifty years with my parents, crazy brothers and sisters.

Fifty years surrounded by the love we have shared.

Here is a toast to another fifty years filled with the best of celebrations for all of us to share, dreams to come to life and to finally exhale. Two chairs on the sand facing the ocean, holding hands and laughing while forever surrounded by love.

By Freddy S. Zalta

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Freddy at 49 and 363 days

Nothing is Impossible


A story about my family’s business – forty year anniversary

July 13, 1976

It was the Bicentennial summer of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, The Israeli rescue of 100 hijacked passengers in Entebbe, The Son of Sam claimed his first victim on July 29th, Rocky One was released, a test-tube baby was conceived, a Peace agreement signed between Egypt and Israel, two Popes died and there was a newspaper strike in New York City.

Carrie, The Omen and Network were in the theaters; “Your Arms are Too Short to Box with God”, “Godspell” and “Fiddler on the Roof” were playing on Broadway. On the radio songs with names like, “Silly Love Songs”, “Don’t go Breaking my Heart” and “50 Ways to Leave your Lover,” were filling the airwaves.

There was a strip of retail stores on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, New York between Mcdonald and Ocean Avenues. There was “Jerry’s Auction Outlet,” “John’s Pizza,” “Joe’s Variety,” and “Robert Hall.” on South side and across the way, “Brooklyn Savings Bank” I don’t recall what was adjacent to the bank.

On Kings Highway between east 2nd street and east 3rd there were assorted Middle Eastern grocery stores, a fruit store, a hardware store and a diner. Across the way was “Decorative Dinette,” “Lou’s Delicatessen,” “Elite Photography studio” and “Metropolitan Life Insurance.” In between the insurance and the photographer studio was a “Dungaree” store that had recently closed down. It was sometime in 1975 that my father and my Uncle Nat moved into that location and thus began the birth of “Whiz Travel.”

There were other locations prior to this one; Avenue U and West Street and Ave S and east 7th. There were other names prior to Whiz Travel. There was “Emek Tours,” “Zalta Travel,” and inexplicably, “Kings Bay Travel.”

But the name Whiz Travel stuck. By 1976 it was my father and mother who were running the business. They would be there from early in the morning until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. At the time they were unable to write their own tickets, instead they would purchase the tickets from a 3rd party or direct from the airlines. It was no way to grow a business.  My father wanted to be able to print his own tickets but needed to raise a specific amount of money to do so. He approached several people who doubted that he could succeed in a business such as travel in a location suited more for groceries or clothing than a “full service travel agency.” In the end there were two or three people who ‘bought into’ the business and were made minor partners. This gave them the ability to attend “Familiarization trips” to different locales around the world and to travel at discounted rates. This was the beginning of the future – the first ticket written was called the “Golden ticket.” I didn’t understand that because it was a ticket from New York to Washington DC for $99.00.

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In those days all you needed to do was write the origin, destination, date and the form of payment. There were little stickers which were used to change the tickets by passengers and ticket agents. Those were legendary and invaluable. In those days the travelers were advised to “Go straight to the gate.” Each ticket needed to be accounted for by being put in a report to be sent to the Airlines reporting corporation each Tuesday without fail. That was my mother’s job and still is to this day. Each Tuesday you would hear her asking “where is ticket 7728 222 332?” or something to that effect. It was usually on my brother Maurice’s desk hidden somewhere beneath the rubble of paper and God knows what. Or on my father’s desk under a two day old cup of coffee stuck to the ticket which left its permanent circular mark.

The doubters still question the viability of the business. He would wave them away and say, “With God’s help, hard and honest business ethic, we will find a way.” He was never one to be told something was not doable. Between the presence of my mother by his side and his unyielding faith, he was emboldened to succeed.

Daily bus trips to Washington D.C., overnights to Niagara Falls and Philadelphia helped raise capital for the business but it wasn’t until he took a trip to Acapulco when the tide turned.

In Acapulco he made a contact at a hotel called, “The Condesa Del Mar.” He also made contacts at Eastern Airlines for a discounted group rate.

“How are you going to get that many people to come, Sam?”

“Don’t worry about how, that’s my job.”

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Back in Brooklyn he began the push. At that time the yeshiva’s had their winter recess at the same time the public school system did, from the days before Christmas until the Monday after New Year’s Day. In those days the majority of the community were retailers and the days leading up to Christmas were crazy. As were the days following Christmas. So a trip during intersession wasn’t a yearly trip to be taken for granted, it was a luxury reserved only for the wealthy.

“Acapulco! Money back guaranteed!” A sign was made and placed in the window. People came and my father promised them 10 days of perfect weather and a perfect vacation. My mother was livid, my brothers were speechless; my father? “Don’t worry.”

Within three years the vacations were moved to the end of January and my father had arranged for free upgrades at the Acapulco Plaza to a junior suite and reserved the whole Eastern Airlines flight on Thursday returning ten days later on Sunday.

My first trip alone with my friends was to Acapulco and it was there I had my first slow dance in a club across the street from the Plaza. I won’t mention her name because it probably meant nothing to her – but to me it’s a lifetime highlight. As I would walk anywhere in Acapulco people would run over to me and say how great my mother and father were. I would nod and say, “They really are amazing.”

Throughout the next 35 years or so the business changed; we were one of the first travel agencies to have an automated system (i.e. computers) in place. It was my father’s insistence to keep up with technology which thrust us into the 80’s, 90’s and the 21st century.

Two of my brothers and I worked in the agency alongside my parents. There were times we were so close to killing each other – there were times when we could not stop laughing. Looking back on it now, how amazing was it for us all to work together? Three brothers and our parents? My brother Marcos was the lawyer of the family so he had no desire to work with us. My brother Maurice moved to Israel in 1996 and I left the business in 2002. Charlie remains there and has kept the ship running smoothly over stormy waters throughout the years.

Looking back on those times working together, it’s easy to romanticize the past. We were young, we had jobs because our parents set us up with the family business.

Now 40 years later, my father passed away a year ago, although his presence is still felt in the smile of my son Saul. My mother still does the weekly reports and argues with everyone to be more organized while my brother, Sari and my son, Saul work with the lessons taught by my parents. The business is still a very important one for the traveler. A full service travel agent is always one phone call away for help when the flights have all been delayed or cancelled.

Through the door of 518 Kings Highway have walked men who were on front pages of newspapers, working men who survived the unimaginable and continued their survival tactics as working class heroes, homeless kids who came in for a quarter but were given a free lunch at the Deli courtesy of my pop. Jewish immigrants with not a word of english were told, “Go to see Sam Zalta, he will help get you settled.” Through the door at 518 Kings Highway walks an amazing woman who empowered the man by her side for 56 years. Their children and grandchildren all walk in with pride and wherever they travel all they need to say is Whiz Travel and an instant smile is hatched. You can’t buy a good name with money – a good name, hard work with integrity – that’s the golden ticket.

Forty years. These days terror seems to always be one step behind us; The Son of Sam is still alive yet behind bars, Rocky Seven was just released last year and technology has produced clones and printed vital human organs on 3D printers. The Peace agreement signed between Egypt and Israel still exists and New York City is still the center of the universe.

Paul Mccartney, Elton John and Paul Simon all released new music this year and are still touring around the world to sold out crowds. But these days the world is smaller, we can have a video conversation with someone around and out of this world instantly. An airplane, powered by Solar energy just flew around the world with no fuel at all. Like my father used to say, “It’s an amazing world, so much beauty, so much excitement.” Then watching as his grandchildren would crowd the apartment on a Friday night he would shout, “Rachel, can you buy this with money?” She would smile and take it all in. Nothing is impossible.

Fifty…Almost


In a little over 4 weeks I will be turning 50 years of age.

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I didn’t think this would hit me as it did, but its been weighing on my mind now for the past couple of months.
Its not that I feel old, hell I felt old at 12. Its just that I can hear the faint sounds of the second hand clicking. I am on the second lap around the track and I am feeling the strain.

Life is hard.
There are so many amazing scenes which propel us through the shitty parts of life’s scenes, but there is this fear that I have possibly ‘jumped the shark’ and I am no longer relevant in a world filled with giants and castles; the princesses look at me, the old Jester telling the same tired jokes and the same old routines, turn and look away. My queen sees me as a possible error in judgment and when I look in the mirror I can understand why.

Fifty years since I was born and I wonder if I have left a footprint. I have dreamed of success in businesses throughout the years and have come up short. I have sworn everlasting love only to be discarded. Too many whispers into my soul about the dreams that still have a pulse and I wonder if its ever going to come in its time.

The answers to life? They are simple to define but not as simple to enact. Darkness weighs the mind down and exhausts me until I only feel like disappearing into a dark room to camouflage myself against whatever it is that ails me.

Nike says, “Just do it,” while Nancy Reagan has said, “Just say no.” Just subliminal messages with red lights and green lights – but the traffic is thick ahead.

I have my children, the loves of my life, I sometimes advise them to live life to the fullest. Imploring them that there is no need for alcohol to use to acquire the courage to act or to use as an excuse for the acts. The power is inside of you – you must have faith in yourself before you can truly leap and fly.

Love is truly the only answer to life. There is an astronomical definition to this one word. Infinite amounts of emotional definitions, physical actions and empowerment. You can only truly experience this love, this most powerful tool in the universe, once you learn to love yourself for the true person you are.

The true person you are is the core, how you perceive yourself to be, what you enjoy and what you do not, changes from moment to moment. Life, death and time tarnish or polish the dreams, the hopes and the desires we possess. Passion is the fun part – in bed, on the playing field or in work; in arts and in the house. Passion is an extension of love – passion is the all encompassing ultimate enjoyment of anything, everything and more.

Drink it in, breath it in and absorb it all; take the road you choose not the one on google maps or in old books written by others who have experienced life much differently and in worlds you will never visit or see to be able to comprehend.

A man living in the apartment next to you for your whole life, born the same day as you and attended the same schools you have; you are still two different people who’s view is distorted by unseen forces.

We are all unique despite the fact that we are each identical is so many ways. We all feel, see, sense, smell and define everything differently. We breath the same air, yet each breath enters our bodies and have different meanings for each.

The man answer to life’s biggest questions? Love, that’s it. Everything in life stems from love. Loving yourself, loving what you do and loving others. We complicate life – but its really about love, passionate intoxicating love. At fifty I can say that “The story of my life,” has been her. I have been blessed with the love of so many but there is only one who rises above them all.

(To be continued)

A Typical Summer Morning on the Long Branch boardwalk.


There is an old man sitting alone on a bench. His skin is transparent; veins and age appear to be the main identifiers. He is wearing white shorts, topped by a light sweatshirt, no socks and flipflops. In his right hand is a pen and in his left hand, resting upon his lap is the crossword puzzle from today’s New York Times. He sits in that spot each morning and watches as the ladies run or walk on by. Multi tasking; finishing the puzzle, enjoying the sights and sipping at his very large coffee.

To the left of him is the snack bar with Judith and Elvira, two coeds trying to earn a few bucks and have fun at the same time. Judith is from the Bronx and Elvira is from Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. They became quick friends once they met in orientation and have become inseparable since. Both have long hair, light brown skin and brown eyes.

The boardwalk is an adobe color and it stretches two and half miles along the Jersey Shore. The white sands and the sparkling blue water in the distance, sail boats and surfers, volleyball games and the sunrise Yoga class. It’s all happening here at 7 o’clock in the morning.

Dogs run ahead of their walkers, smelling the flowers, the hydrant and each other. The aroma is saltwater that you can taste on your lips.

A young lady walks on the beach below and she is dressed up in an evening dress. She is walking barefoot, carrying her heels in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She makes her way up the stairs, greets the man doing his crossword with a smile and walks upon the grass towards the apartment complex across the way. Her dress is down to her feet and is a off white with a revealing cleavage of its which reveals a stunning view showcasing God’s good work.

Two women walk on by, arms swinging, clad in Orthodox Jewish modest clothing, speaking quietly, quickly, their words in rhythm with their speed.

A shirtless man, who seems to be in his 70’s is running and glistening in the heat. The temperature is already 80 or so and the high is said to be around a hundred and one. He is wearing white Adidas shorts and sneakers. He has a gold tooth and a cross on a chain around his neck. A tattoo of an anchor is on his left arm with the word, “Home” spelled beneath the anchor.

Seagulls are flying around in dizzying motions, a man walks with his metal detector searching in vain for some treasure in the sand; while the seagulls stick their beaks into the same sand searching for their own treasures.

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In the distance, Pier Village is waking and the sun spreads its orange glow all around like a broken yoke; two ladies walk across the street clutching their Rook Cold Brew, they are laughing.

The sun, rising still, is bringing on the heat quickly – the adobe flavored boardwalk is neutral to the heat. The old man drops his pen as a big breasted woman bounces on by. Right behind her is an old lady pushing her walker she gives the old man a dirty face and says, “You are not a kid anymore Herbie.”
“One can only hope Bethany, one can only dream.”

Blue skies above, sun shining to the east and wonderful sounds of summer all around. The nurses from the hospital, on a break or done for the night, stand up against the rail conversing, trading stories and bonding.

A golden retriever is running on the beach below, his owner tossing a tennis ball back and forth. The waves are hardly waving but there is a light breeze blowing some white clouds this way from the West. Back on the boardwalk, the man with the metal detector bends down and pulls something out of the sand. He smiles and puts it in his pocket.

The two ladies are still laughing and the old man has finished his crossword puzzle. Bethany is talking to her past as she finds herself a bench to sit on. The golden retriever finds his way towards her and sits beside her. While the young lady, in her home now, lets the dress fall off of her and falls into her bed.

Just a typical summer morning on the Long Branch Boardwalk.

 

The Rocket’s Red Glare


Elie Weisel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
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We the People MUST demand Change.
We the People of the United States of America must protest our leaders inadequate responses to the merciless slaughter being carried out by the Islamic Extremists
 
Throughout the world there are wars being fought. In the past it was the United States of America who would lead the fight for human rights and coalitions who would combat the evil doers in the world.
 
As the fireworks explode tonight in the sky, spreading bright colors and stars across the country – there is work to be done around the world.
 
We, the people, of the United States of America, must demand that our leadership take a stand against the Islamic Extremists who are quickly destroying freedom, lives and causing mass destruction and extreme imprisonment. Ordinary people are being slaughtered for the simple reason that they do not follow the Islamic religion.
 
We need a president who will make it a point to define the problem, gather the nations who demand freedom, demand liberty and believe in justice being served to the murderers, the terrorists and the evil doers. Right now, July 3, 2016, the enemy is easily defined as the Muslim Extremists.
If we continue to stand aside and only wear special colors, change our profile pictures on social media or simply nod our heads in disgust…what good are we?
Its time we do something that will make, the people of the United States of America, stand tall once again.
 

Decay


Through the dirty streets polluted with humidity, aromas of leftovers spilling from plastic bags, seven day cologne and cheap perfumes, I walk.

I walk as the streets below me are crumbling, the skies above me are thundering and the elevated platform in the distance is rumbling while the voices inside of me are troubling.

Can you understand my question, Sir?
Have you ever understood who I am?
Can you please look into my eyes, Miss?
Can you please take my hand?

I am lost, I am lost, there are thieves encircling me as I try to find my way home.
There are schemers, crooks and morally bankrupt folk who thank the Lord and then pickpocket the poor, the deaf and the blind.

Can you understand this world, Sir?
Can you explain it just a bit?
Can you please hold me in your arms, Miss?
Can you please give me a taste of your kiss?

Its a lonely world and I cant find my way back home.
Its a dark alley in a moonless night.
There are strangers, angry mobs and close friends, who’s greeting will break into a fight.
There are the folks who stay home who understand that its cold outside even if its warm.
Can you please translate the experiences I have had?
Can you please transcribe the words that were spoken?
Please set me free from this solitude and surround me with hearts that have been broken. I can, I can set them free…
I can, I can set you free…

Words of protestations and rationalizations – we were given permission to protect ourselves.
Bullets fly…the end.

Can you please explain why you need such a terrible weapon?
Can you please explain what you plan to do with that gun?
The gun is cocked, the revolver is filled with pellets of gunpowder and explosion. A piece of lead can destroy a world. Is that what you want done?

Its a violent world we live in, when men must compensate for their inadequate manhood by the size of their guns.
Its a dark ending coming to us soon when an angry man shoots and kills just for fun.
There is the notoriety afterwards – pictures and biographies abound.
But its the fame that ensures that once again we will hear the sounds of bullets taking away one world at a time.
Can you please take the guns and leave?
Words are twisted to help define what you want them to say.
Stay away, stay away…

 

A Walk Through Time


He walked eastward towards the building where he once lived. The sun was at his back and there were storm clouds gathering. The humidity was outrageous, the stench on the Brooklyn streets was putrid and the people walking among him were clearly not concerned with personal hygiene. He scratched the scar on his chest and took a deep breath; checked his messages and there were only social network alerts.

June something in the year 2016; twitter alerts filled with murders and destruction; so much progress in technology yet so much regress in humanity. He turned off his phone.

The clouds were forming, congregating above him and he could feel a cool breeze blowing.

As he walked, he felt a change coming over him and his surroundings. He noticed a change in the way people were dressed and the cars on the streets. Walking along Kings Highway he turned around and looked twice at the corner of East 4th and Kings Highway. Something felt strange, something was missing. He blinked, if only for a moment.

He opened his eyes and he felt a lightness to him, a sense of being able to physically do anything. He went to touch his chest but his scar was gone, perhaps life had been a dream? Sitting up he saw the Carvel on the corner of east 3rd street and King’s Highway; he saw cars parked in the lot and a line circling around to east 3rd. His friends were there, they were just as he remembered them from high school; 17 years old, lean and laughing. He spied Stacey and he couldn’t believe his eyes, she was exactly how she was before that shithead husband of his turned her life upside down.

She was smiling, that magical smile and then she let out a half laugh, she turned around as if looking for someone and then looked down at her feet. She was with her crew, seven girls who were like sisters. One minute great friends, the next minute each talking bad about the other – but always an underlying devotion to each other.

He was across the street on the other side of Kings Highway, right outside the “Hot Bagels” store when he heard his name being called in what sounded like a whisper. He turned to look but the sound and the source were gone.

Across the street, Stacey was looking his way and motioned him to cross the street. He crossed and jogged towards her and her smile was like a magnet to his soul…pulling him closer…

“Hi.” She said with that magnetic smile.

“Hi.” He wanted to kiss her, he wanted to throw his arms around her and carry her away. But something held him back.

“You look amazing, I am so happy to see you this way, Stace.” He said.

“Thanks – you ok?” She asked him.

“No, definitely not, I have no idea how I got here or if this is real or not. But I don’t care, you just, you look so refreshing.”

“Did you drink something?”

“No, I mean, a bad cup of coffee but, no. I don’t think so.” He looked around and he realized that all the old businesses were there. Nat’s Diner was on the corner, there was the Chinese restaurant, “Ying’s Garden,” “Sol’s Hardware” – there was old man Sol himself! He was speaking with Sam from the Dinette Store – they were both so young and alive. Zaki, who ran the grocery store across the way, was there speaking to…

“Oh my God, dad.” He was so young yet he had only remembered him always being old…here he was around 72 years old and he was solid. He wanted to go speak with his father…to try and understand things he never took the time to…

“How could I walk up to him? And Sam, just like a second father to me during those years…
How was this happening?”

He didn’t want to find out; but he did want to explore this time knowing what he knew as a 49 year old in this body of an 17 year old. He was skinny and he had crazy hair. He also had money in my pocket.

“Hey Stace, want to get some ice cream?”

“Not now, maybe later?” She winked at him and he thought, “oh yeah, the wink.”

“Definitely.” He answered, “I’ll be right back I am going to see my mom for a minute.” He said. He walked across East 3rd and past  Metropolitan Life Insurance building that was there in place of Duane Reade, as he got closer to Whiz Travel, his family’s business, he began to shake and sweat. He thought to himself.

“That was my pop crossing and walking towards me now with his smile.” He looked through the window and saw his beautiful mother on the phone, writing something down. His two brothers were there working and as he got closer; I thought about Lou’s Deli, how he wanted to get a hot dog there; to see Ruth and Lou behind the counter while Buddy walked around and managed the place. As he got closer to his father he heard his name being called.

Just as quickly it was all gone. He lay in bed and put all his energy into standing up.

“It felt so real…the people, the sights, the sounds of my past. The youth that we all possessed – life pulsating yet taken for granted as life and time often are.”

He lay back down and he thought about Stacey and how her life ended way too soon, a smile extinguished leaving a world colder and harder.  He thought about Sam and his faith and his strength. He thought about his parents and remembered just why he considered them his heroes.  

He pulled on his jeans and a shirt; walked outside; the scar on his chest was still there; he felt a sense of regret for the time he had let slip away. For decisions he had made that if he could, he would go back and think them over once again. Even with the knowledge that everything will fall into place somehow – that knowledge seemed to abandon him sporadically throughout the day and night.

When is a dream just a dream? Do dreams end when one wakes up or are those nightmares that disturb us from dreaming?

A walk through time – it wasn’t always easy back then but in retrospect it feels as if so much has been taken away from us that we tend to romanticize the past in order to make us feel safe from the present. So we go on holding on to just a small dose of nostalgia if only to recall a smile, that once upon a time, made one’s heart skip a beat or two.

 

Scar Tissue


We live life and its similar to walking along an avenue.
Some streets are crowded whiles others are seemingly deserted. Some streets are filled with restaurants, cafes and taverns. Music playing, people laughing and its forever 70 degrees and clear. A moon spreads its light while the stars pulsate with the rhthym of the gaiety below.
Other streets are filled with ghosts from a past that has long been forgotten. A mom and pop store on the corner of Bleeker and 1st still sells Root Beer Floats and New York Style Egg Creams for 99 cents. The old folk go there for the coffee, cigarettes and the morning newspaper. They walk in silence and at night there is no moon, just some shooting stars.
Other streets have some diners or some picnic areas where the parents take the children and the children play together.

The time passes and we find ourselves tiring with each passing block until each step is laborious and painful.

Still we march on with just a glance behind us every once in a while just to make sure there is nothing getting close to us from behind.
We accumulate a lot of stuff along the way; broken bones, hearts and lives. Soveniers from the time spent walking, maybe a rock or two and some sticks. We count the stars at night and we promise the moon to our lovers only to settle for a drawing or a sweet kiss goodnight.

We walk, we celebrate life, we fall in love and we fall out just as fast. We let each other down – the pedastal can be a dangerous place to stand. We sing songs, we read psalms and we philosphise about life and the Avenues surrounding us.

We jump up, we fall down and we run. We trip, skip and flip sometimes just to change the pace, change our moods or just to cause a breeze to blow.

The earth shakes and the sky screams – tears and ashes as the pain persists. On the avenue we see acts of violence for no reason at all. The tears and the ashes continue to fall.

We dream, we wake up and our dreams are gone in a flash.
We dare to dream while awake and end up being criticized or condemned as lazy.

This avenue is littered with the limbs and shards of glass from broken dreams, broken hearts and voids that can dwarf any sinkhole. The pulsating void felt within our gut, within our heart and in our minds can not be filled with anything but scar tissue. Scar tissue which confirms that events did take place and that life does go on.

We walk along this avenue, this boulevard, this lonesome road; alone, despite any company or loved ones by our side – we will walk to our own beat, sing and dance to our own tunes and jump, skip and hop to ourselves be true.

Soveniers, matchbooks and postcards may fade away – but the experiences we have accumulated along this walk, along this life has become our scar tissue that we will wear in pride and determination.

How do you Like to be Kissed?


     She looked at him and bit her lip. He saw her lip, with her front teeth nibbling it in, what was she thinking?

kiss       She blinked, swiped away her strand of hair that fell across her left eye, bit her lip again as she does when  she is expecting something but unsure of what. He saw her swipe her hair, her rusty brown hair with some specks of grays. He looked into her eyes and made up his mind and asked her.

     “How do you like to be kissed?”

     She smiled, let out a soft quick laugh and bit her lip again, throwing back her hair and then taking his hand.

“Like this…”

     Across from the great bridge of Manhattan there is Brooklyn. There is a promenade that overlooks the great Island, the great buildings seem like plastic toys set up on a table. Lego pieces with windows radiating light making it seem that something is always happening – but its all a secret. Shhh. On the promenade walks Amanda and Ricky. Its their first time alone all night having just come from a party at a mutual friends apartment. They had met on the terrace just above this promenade and had sat together speaking for three hours.

     Amanda had just graduated Brooklyn College and Ricky was four years removed from his final year in organized education, having dropped out as a sophomore. He was working at a jewelry store in Bay Ridge while also getting his real estate license. His bank account said one thousand on a good day – today was not a good day and it whispered 26.53. He had another 7 dollars and 32 cents in his pocket and figured he could buy a cup of coffee for her.

     Amanda was close to her father and chose to live with him rather than her mother. Her three brothers stayed with her while

Memorial Day 2016


The meaning of this day was long ago lost to barbecues, beaches and days off. Days of too many beers, too much sun and driving the car listening to music way too loud.
The lifestyle of the free people of the world is all about that, being free, acting free and taking freedom for granted.
The soldiers of freedom sacrifice their lives, their sanity and their youth to being stationed in mine fields, nests of terrorism and on the front line fighting the angels of death defending freedom.

Defending the free people of the world to take the freedom for granted, to try and understand that we as the once leading country of the free world must, once again, defend the ones who are not permited to live their lives as they choose.

Here in the United States – people always find something to complain about – transgender bathrooms, police targeting blacks, Muslims wanting to build Mosques outside or atop the hallowed ground where innocents were killed by, extreme Muslims. Protests are held – pro and anti different issues across the country.
That is freedom.

Can you imagine not being able to effect change in the world for fear of being killed or being put away forever?

The soldiers of the good countries of the world – they have sacrificed their lives – even if they survive the battles, their lives will never be the same again. Once you have seen war, your brain is reconfigured and one can never have the ability to see life as it once was.

They rush in where everyone fears to tread – they rush in because they have a mission to accomplish. A mission to destroy the evil so the good are able to live their lives in freedom, in peace…

Limbs are lost, organs destroyed, faces ripped apart…but they don’t look back – they stand and they stand proud. No human being has any right to be this courageous. No human being has any right to have the faith in freedom and liberty as they do. No human being has any right to be selfless to the point of losing their lives or limbs.

We should all stand when they walk into a room.
We should all shed a tear when one of them sheds a tear.
Provide a lifetime of security for all who defend the right for people to live free. Who fight to destroy the evil across the shores before they have the chance to, once again, strike freedom with death and destruction.

So, for the ones who have perished, the ones who have been wounded and the ones who have come home. For the families who have mourned, the ones who have received their loved ones back again – gratitude must be expressed.

So enjoy the day. The heroes of freedom have fought for the right for us to live life free from evil.

The First Amendment of the United States bill of rights states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petitition the Government for a redress of grievances.  

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will do whatever it takes to enforce these freedoms and to open up the worlds for the ones who are imprisoned by evil.

No Apologies


I am a creative person. It is a definite asset when it comes to assorted passions in my life. Being creative in the seduction of life’s roadblocks, detours or final destinations has brought me to unbridled ecstasy, pain and pure feelings of confusion. Confusion, due to the fact that not everyone has the same definition of the sights and sounds I experience.

As a creative person, people can be impatient with me and the decisions I make. For example. love is the ultimate achievement to me – expressing it both emotionally and physically – where creativity can lead one to both the summit and the nadirs of life. You see, creative people think too much, want more than others can offer and often find themselves wondering if they are crazy to have expectations, that, to others seem outlandish or unreasonable.

I walk in strange ways – sometimes I hop and sometimes I will walk on the bricks of a lawn just to change the course of my thinking.

I look at nature in awe and when I try to share those feelings, most people are kind enough to try and join in, but they are never truly awed as I am.

For example, you see, a tree is not just blocks of wood with branches and leaves. A tree, to me, is an expression of life that is sprouting from the ground, fortified by its girth and it’s relentless pursuit to regenerate. It’s main purpose in life is to reproduce. It begins with a seed, which fortified with carbohydrates and protein then turn into a “radicle.” Then, depending on the environment, begin to sprout both below – to access water and other vitamins, and above to receive the sun and it’s nutrients. A tree doesn’t simply show up; trees of all sizes, even redwoods, which grow up to 360 feets high – all begin with a seed. A seed the size of a popcorn kernel or smaller.

So when I see the trees, for example on a side street in Brooklyn, I marvel at the base of it, fortified over and over again by itself. The branches spreading out across the streets and working it’s way towards the sky. Birds singing to each other and feeding off of the lives that exist in the universe of this tree. A living thing that has withstood hurricane winds, snow, rain and sleet storms, way below zero temperatures, above 100 hundred degree sweltering days. Yet, still stands strong and continues in dignity.

That is what I see.

When the sun is setting and like a broken egg yolk, spreads it’s majestic colors across the western sky – I see a sun that has been there forever with a power which can never be duplicated. A sun that no matter what happens in the night – will be rising in the east come the morning.

The moon with it’s lonely place in the sky – keeping watch over us as we sleep – it’s wrinkles and pockmarks emitting a sense of age, of experience. For nothing worth admiring lacks the marks of pain, defeat, love and success.

I see it all in different shapes, forms, colors and definitions. I am, according to many people, “crazy.” That is ok – I’d rather be crazy and to posses the visions I have been blessed with.

In the eyes of strangers I can sense where they have been, what they have seen and what they yearn to be. In their voices I can sense the desperation, the hoarseness from crying, screaming and laughing.

In the sound of music memories and visions pop up and transport me to a place and time, from the past, present or future, where I can come and go as I please.

My love of the beauties of women…The softness of a woman’s lips, skin and the look in her eyes. The intelligence, the varieties of shapes and sizes which individually are accented by the beauty within that woman. One can have blue eyes – but without the spark inside of her lit up, they are simply a faded color. But with the spark within her on fire – browns, greens, blues or whatever colors – can dance with emotions, excitement and unrestrained possibilities.

I am creative, I love people and I love to see the real person. I write about them and I paint each individual with the different persona’s that I see in each person.

I am creative, I love life and I want to bring to light the dreams I have dreamed. I feel special, not in a narcissistic sort of way, but in a way that I am aware that I have been given special powers. Not in a superman sort of way, but the power to engage and to touch. My life has been spent in prisons throughout – from childhood on. The purgatory I find myself in now only leads to the frustrations of a creative mind. My only freedom is the love I have from my family, my friends. Yet…

I want more.

I want it all.

I want to change the world using the power of words, acts of kindness and respect. Silliness and laughter, compassion and empathy, love and peace, truth and the knowledge to understand when love and peace are not possible. Evil must always be defeated.

As I head onto my next destination, the next stop on my journey. I will get stared at, insulted, judged and will be disliked. I truly don’t really care about those judges who misjudge me out of jealousy or self-loathing. My strength is my inner self – my strength is love and the unwavering understanding and trust in my God.

I am who I am, I need more than the casual person.

I love more than the casual person and I yearn for the touch of love.

Still, tomorrow I will keep on looking for a job to pay the bills I have chosen to have. I will use my creativity to succeed to flourish. I will never lose the visions I see and feel, in the sights and sounds of this world.

Salt, Pepper and some Spice Please!


New York City, more than any other city in the world, is a glorious mixture of people with hundreds of different cultures; all thrown together and somehow finding a way, despite the different shades of color, hues and tints; to amass upon the dirty streets, underground universes and high atop the skyscrapers – to produce a tapestry so beautiful, that only the hallowed hands of God could have created it.

I board the F-Train on Avenue P in Brooklyn, New York, heading for Manhattan. The train begins to fill up with the usual suspects and I force myself to look around and absorb what I see.

Its a crowded train I look across and I see a bench with a Hasidic Jew, a Korean woman and a Sikh. To the left of them, a black man listening to music, bopping his head. A Russian woman applying makeup and a heavy man wearing a Yankee hat, Yankee nylon jacket and too tight jeans.

An old man walks on at Carroll Street and holds on to the pole. Simultaneously the black man and the Yankee fan jump up and offer him their seats. In an Irish brogue he says with a smile, “Thank you, but I am getting off on the next stop.”

Further on, as we pull into Delancey Street, the doors open and a Mexican Mariachi band walks into our car and begin to play their sad song. (I think they are sad most of those songs seem like they are). One of them walks with his hat upside down in his hand while singing along with his bandmates.  Coins and some dollar bills are dropped into the hat as he sings his way down the car.
“Gracias Nueva York!”

West Fourth Street and a Muslim family walks on. The man is wearing shorts and a T-shirt that says, “Hillary 2016,” while his wife is all in black with only the hint of her eyes exposed. They are with 3 children, boys, who are dressed in typical clothing. The woman sits silently while the kids all sit close together on one seat. The father is to the side of them and is reading a newspaper.

At the 14th Street station a man wearing only his underwear and squaking like a bird comes on and says “Love!” and then runs out before the doors close. It seems like he is running into each car and exclaiming different one word anthems. “Freedom,” “Dream,” “Live!”

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Matthew Silver lives to make people smile

The kids are laughing, the father tells them to be quiet and the mother is silent. Across from them the Hasidic man is laughing with the Yankee fan while the black man says, “only in New York.”

23rd Street Station and the train begins to have a transfusion – a lot of people off and a lot of people back on. A gay couple sit next to eachother holding hands as a giant of a man sits across from them staring into space. A young lady is applying her makeup in a hurry and when the train rolls into 34th Street she is done and out the door.

42nd Street and a man with a missing leg is preaching about “Jesus” and that “Its not to late to repent – to repent, to repent! But if you do not repent …the fires of hell with swallow you.”
The Hasidic man stands up and walks towards the door to be ready to leave once the train rolls into the 47-50th Street Station. The one legged man is still preaching, “Jesus will forgive you, the Jew, the Muslim, the non-believers – but first you must accept him! Repent!” No one gives him any mind or any spare change as the car empties.

Once refugees, now citizens.
Once immigrants, now proud Americans.
No obstructions should be placed around our borders to stop good people from seeking a better life. Our country was founded by refugees, immigrants and expelled members from other countries. Could you imagine who our country would be like if we all had one color, one language and one belief? How boring would that be? Like chicken soup with no flavoring. In order for our society to flourish we must add the pepper, salt and other spices to the broth. We must accept the differences and respect them.

We must keep the evil away from our borders – the ones who cannot accept freedom and live to destroy. But we must be that beacon of light in a world filled with darkness.

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Dylan’s 75th Year


God gave Robert Zimmerman a gift. The ability to connect, communicate and to express his poetry in ways that even the great poets of the past could not.

There are songwriters, but there is no songwriter with the talent to write, sing and to teach us that the only truth that matters is the truth that you yourself believe in.

Trust yourself to find the path where there is no if and when
Don’t trust me to show you the truth
When the truth may only be ashes and dust
If you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself (Empire Burlesque – Trust Yourself)

The lyrics to his songs, the poetry mixed with traditional folk, blues, pop, rock; (whatever you want to call it) have influenced the world in ways that no other poet, songwriter has or ever will. No one else could have written the songs the way he did, the way he continues to write them.

And if we never meet again, baby, remember me
How my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody
And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you, free
No one else could play that tune, you know it was up to me (Blood on the Tapes – Up to Me)

On stage he has a unique persona. Not everyone carries with them the responsibility to have to choose a set list from his over 50 years of songwriting.
Sometimes on stage he seems like he has to go to the bathroom and the teleprompter is out of wack, so the words to his songs are indecipherable. Its because he is constantly adjusting, editing and retooling his songs. He is not happy with promoting his “Greatest hits” and performing them the same way, night after night. He is an artist who needs to be challenged and challenges himself by recreating some of the greatest songs ever written.

Even after 55 years, he keeps on writing new songs which still have so much to say  – 12, 14 minute songs – which have been cut down from God knows how long. Lyrics which ecapsulate life with all its black and white moments sprinkled with hues of red, green and blue.

The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it’s not like the sun that used to be
The party’s over and there’s less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away (Time out of Mind – Highlands)

Bob Dylan can be resting on his laurels – instead he understands that as a man who has been blessed with abilities which have changed the world, it is his responsibility to give back. To keep on touring and to keep on writing; to keep on inspiring.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dylan – Ad 120!

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What Made the 80’s Great – Bob Dylan


He released great music – but Biograph began the release of alternative versions of his previously released music and songs that didn’t make the cut on the original release. Those songs that were omitted from the original releases are better songs than any other artist released on their best music compilation. 51 songs were on that collection – my personal favorite is an outake from the “Blood on the Tracks” album called, “Up to Me.” Click here to read lyrics and listen

Infidels was his return to non-gospel music and lyrics not preaching Christianity. The old testament had a major impact on this as well as his ode to Israel’s right to protect itself called, “Neighborhood Bully.”

Empire Burlesque had some very good songs but seemed like he was all over the place – the outakes from the album to be released in the future Bootleg Series 1,2,3.  

Knocked Out Loaded had one song, in my opinion, that made up for a lazy group of songs. “Brownsville Girl” co-written with Sam Shepard and rumored to be adapted into a motion picture. Great song – listen here.

 

The Pianist



Chapter One

He was born to play the ivory keys. His mother was a classical pianist and when he was an infant crying – she would put him in his playpen and play Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Bach, Beethoven and of course, Mozart. His mother, Bertha, was born in Hungary in 1924. Trained in the National Hungarian Royal Franz Liszt Academy from the age of 10 years old, she was labeled a “prodigy.” At the age of 14, now labeled as a “Jew,” she boarded a Ship to New York City to escape the growing anti-semitism and the pro-Nazi atmosphere.

In 1951 she married George Krazinski, and a year later gave birth to Jonathan. While she was pregnant she would be tickling the ivories to relax her nerves and to ease her anxiety. She yearned for her parents to be there with her but they were killed along with another half a million or so Jews. He brothers and sisters had joined her on the voyage but they had settled in different parts of America. She would play Franz Liszt’s  Annees de pelerinage (years of pilgrimage) which would remind her of being back with her family, all together, alive and happy.  She would play Mozart’s piano concertos number 9 through 27 and began to play some American standards especially “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin.

One evening as Bertha and George were cleaning up in the kitchen, they heard the sound of a piano being played. They walked in to find Jonathan playing what sounded like “It had to be you.” The notes were on and off as his fingers either hit too hard or too soft – but the tune was there.

At the age of six he was able to play the full “Rhapsody in Blue” and did so for his family and neighbors. One day a cousin of one of those neighbors was visiting when he saw for himself the prodigy at work.

When he was 10 years old his mother gave birth to the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

He stood by her crib and watched as Rebecca yawned. She was asleep but yawned none the less. She was beautiful. She was wearing pajamas and she was wrapped by a thin blanket. Her skin was light but she had some red patches scattered – nothing major, nothing that would last and certainly nothing that would take away her loveliness. He sat on the rocking chair where his mother would feed her and he just listened to her breathing. He closed his eyes…He woke up when he heard her crying really loud. He stood to see her and at the same time his mother came in and was startled.

“Hi, why are you awake?” She asked him as she picked up baby Rebecca.

“I was just watching over her; mommy she is so beautiful…” He began to sob.

“What’s wrong Johnny? Come here.” She held him with her free arm. “Whats wrong?”

“I just feel as if I love her so much that I am afraid it might hurt me.”

“Oh Johnny that is called love and love can never hurt anyone.”

“I am going to write a piece for her and I am going to call it ‘Rebecca Love.'”

His mother smiled and said, “That sounds wonderful now go to your bed and sleep, you have school tomorrow.”

“Good night Mom, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

This love was multiplied two years later when his mother gave birth to Rita who was just as beautiful as Rebecca.


Chapter Two

On his 16th birthday he met his second cousin Judy, who was 18 and in town from Miami. They had sat together at the dining room table and began to swap information.

She was a freshman at Florida State and was interested in Psychology as a major. She was also very pretty and had that college sexiness that only a college girl can possess.

“I love The Beatles but especially John. He is the heart of the band – Sgt. Pepper is my favorite album ever – I must have listened to it 500 times.”

“That is a great album – I am more of a Dylan fan – “Blonde on Blonde?”

“He’s amazing – a friend of mine said she saw him wandering around somewhere in Upstate New York, just like a regular person. She said ‘Hello’ he just waved and kept walking.”

“That is really groovy – I don’t know what I would say to him. What do you like doing?”

“I love to read poetry and to get high.” She looked at him, touched his hair and said. “Do you want to go for a walk?”

They went walking around the corner, she took out a joint and lit up. She passed it to him but he declined, “I need to keep clean, thank you. I would like to kiss you though.”

She took a step back and said, “We are cousins Jonathan Krazinski. How can even imagine I would want to kiss you?”

Taken aback he didn’t know how to respond, “I was kidding, I was just-” She put her lips against his, softly licking his lip and then smiling with a half-laugh.”

“Is there a place we can go?” She spoke softly into his ear with her arms wrapped around his neck.”

“Yes.” He took her hand and led her to the basement entrance of his house. It was dark and cool down there but no one would be coming down.

After they were spent they cleaned up and made their way outside and back around to the front entrance.

“Where were you guys? We have a special dessert for the birthday boy.” His mother said.

Judy tapped him on his back and whispered, “I thought we already had dessert – I love seconds.”

“But not in front of the family, Judy.” He responded with a sly smile.

It would be two years later when he heard that she had married an accountant who was an orthodox Jew. She apparently had “seen the light” and adapted to the Orthodox lifestyle. But she was his first and often wondered if she remembered that afternoon and the birthday present they shared.

By the age of 18, Jonathan was an award winning composer, performer and conductor. His concertos #1 and #2; written for and inspired by Rebecca and Rita. He was six feet tall, he had brown eyes and light skin. His hair was straight light brown and he had grown it shoulder length. He was a good looking man, talented; oh beyond talented. He could play back any song after hearing it just once. He could write, he could conduct and he had a presence about him whenever he walked into a room, an auditorium, a concert hall or just about anywhere.

But there was always something missing.


 

Chapter Three

After a performance one night Jonathan was kind of frustrated with himself. He knew he could play the piano better than anyone but why was he so bored on stage? Did the audience sense it and get bored as well? This nagging feeling he felt after each performance – there was something missing.

His father approached him the next evening after they had finished dinner.

“So, whats going on with you? Are you happy with your performances?”

“Yes, of course I am.” He responded defensively.

“As you should be.”

“Thank you Pop. My only problem is that I get bored up there.”

“You need to find your voice, Johnny, it will come in it’s time. You are so young and have accomplished so much yet, you still have so much to give.” He moved a strand of hair that had fallen onto Johnny’s face and then sat back and smiled.

“Why are you smiling like that?”

“Because you are bored.”

“So you are happy I am bored on stage?”

“Well, let me explain. When someone is given all the tools, the talent and the chances to express these gifts they can go in many ways. But the crossroads are what will define you, which road you choose will be your destiny.”

“I don’t understand, is this a ‘Don’t take drugs’ story? Trust me I do not have the desire to ingest any of that crap.”

“No this is not – but the point I am getting at in my clumsy way is; you are bored. So find a way to excite yourself on stage. You don’t have to fit the mold of the stuffy conductors or performers; you can be Johnny as well as Jonathan, but you need to find balance, you need to discover your unique identity within, just as you discovered your musical talents.”

“So, do you have any ideas?”

With that his father let out a laugh, “I have no idea whatsoever and no one does or should. It is your own identity you need to discover and you will be rediscovering it for the rest of your life.”

“So what do I need to do now to get a hint?”

“Kid, just be true to yourself and it will come out. When you go to see a performance of any kind, watch how it is presented by the artist. Take what you like out of it and make it your own. I am sure you will feel foolish at times, feel empowered at other times. But after a while you will develop your own stage persona and you will not only excite yourself but you will ignite the audience.”

In 1970 he was scheduled to perform at the Hollywood Bowl with an eclectic group of performers – all younger than 24 years of age. The main point for the show was to try try and gain enthusiasm for Classical Music; mostly for the younger generation. He was the final act since he was the best known out of the lineup – he wore a tuxedo with his long hair flowing onto the back of his coat.

He walked onto the stage – just him and a grand piano in the great amphitheater where so many legends had performed; Al Jolson, The Beatles, Leonard Bernstein…He walked onto the stage straight towards his piano bench, bowed towards the audience, sat down and began to play a slow version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Sensing the crowds so-so reaction to it he decided to introduce the next song.

“This song by Sergei Rachmaninov is one that sashays, bounces and reminds me of time passing, of confrontations and then soft kisses…”

He played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto 2 with an intensity that even surprised him. His fingers dancing across the keys and his mind picturing the music – the two lovers, loving, fighting, kissing, dancing, jumping, aging…and then a soft dance with twirls and a final dip sealed with a soft sensuality that can only be dreamed, can only be hoped for but never quite attained…ending it with that final abrupt plunge. The crowd roared with approval, he stood up and bowed. He sat down and began to speak again.

“My mother was blessed to get out of Europe before the war began. Her love of music and art was always a major part of our lives. She taught me about classical music, the Blues, Jazz, and of course Rock n Roll before it even had a name. She taught me that music has no barriers; music is never bound by race, color or religion. Music is about freedom; this piece by George Gershwin was written in the 1920’s and believe it or not, if you close your eyes and listen, really listen, you will see that it’s all about sex, love, rebellion, dancing and breaking free from, as Mr. Dylan would say, ‘Society’s pliers.’ At least that’s how I feel it and it’s how I play it.” He then broke into “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The crowd loved it and then he ended  with kicking his piano bench behind him and throwing his arms up in victory. He then stood up, bowed and to great applause walked off the stage. It was his finest performance up to that point and it sparked a new interest in Jonathan Krazinski. He had He was inspired, he would later say, from the night before the show.

The night before, a friend of his asked him to go to a show at The Troubadour in Hollywood. There was a piano player from England who was making his debut in the states and apparently it was a big ticket. When he walked in he saw all these famous people he had only heard on the radio or read about. Bob Dylan, Carole King and Neil Diamond, among a lot of others he didn’t recognize. Then this short dude with glasses and long hair took the stage, sat down and began his show. He was a presence on the stage and although his music had been kind of classical and dark on the album he had just come out with – he had added some other songs to the playlist. His name was Elton John and he inspired Jonathan to realize that the piano was not the only instrument that God had given him. He was also blessed with a personality that could light up a room. Until that evening at the Troubadour, he had held it in opting instead for the seriousness of the trade. It was then that he realized what was missing from his performance.

He loved the performance, especially the last song, “Burn Down the Mission.” Although there were other rock n roll pianists there was something about the way Elton played that night. It really made Jonathan realize that he wanted to play rock n roll and add in the blues and jazz. He wanted to mix up the classical music which he loved with some sex and some sweat. But that wasn’t who he was – he was a classical musician and he loved it. He loved to conduct, he loved to perform and he loved the atmosphere.


Chapter Four

Jonathan began what would be an amazing string of success – for the next twenty eight years, from 1971 until late 1999 he was known as “The Entertainer.” He headlined three separate one man shows on Broadway  and then for each he would tour the world with stops across each continent. He was successful beyond his expectations – celebrity had come to him he had not looked for it. He just wanted to be the best at what he loved to do the best and he was.

In 1976 as his star was still rising he was on Broadway performing five times a week to sell out crowds. One night his parents came to see him backstage with a neighbors niece.

“Jonathan, I would like you to meet Sophia, she is Mr. Greens niece; she is a big fan of yours.” Sensing what his parents were doing he was about to be distant and cold to the “Fan,” when he looked at her and saw her green eyes.

“Its beautiful to meet you.” He said, “I mean, it’s great to meet you Sophia.”

“Its an honor Mr. Krazinski, I have been a fan forever. I was at the Hollywood Bowl when you played that amazing set.”

“What were you doing all the way in Los Angeles?”

“I was living with my cousins in Sherman Oaks and going to a USC. I only went for the one semester and then came back when my father had a heart attack.”

“Oh I am sorry.”

“It’s OK he lived but was in the hospital for a month and it was during the winter break so I just stayed home.”

“Two minutes Mr. K!” The stage manager called out.

“You better get to your seats – how about we get something to eat after the show?”

“Sounds great!” George and Bertha simultaneously answered for all of them.

After the show George and Bertha told Sophia they would meet her and Jonathan at the restaurant.

“Hey Sophia, how did you feel about the show?”

“I truly enjoyed it – you really are a natural. When you speak to the audience it’s as if you are speaking to one or two people and each of us feel as if you are speaking to them directly.”

“Well I was speaking to you directly.”

She blushed and then smiled.

“Where are my parents?” He asked.

“They said they would meet us at the restaurant,” she replied, “By the way which restaurant?”

With that he burst out laughing and said, “It seems this is our first date.”

Six months later as he was about to perform the final song of his three month engagement at the Uris Theater in New York when he stepped away from his piano.

“These past three months have been nothing short of exhilarating. I have played here night after night for 3 months and each performance has a special place in my heart. But tonight, as I get ready to leave the stage I know that it’s time I take a break. There is someone in this audience that has added a dimension to my life that was totally unpredictable, at least to myself, that whatever trajectory my life was on its course has been changed. With that in mind I am going to walk back to my piano, my first love of my life and play a song for that person in the audience who has changed my life forever.”

Sophia, watching from the first row was in tears; she loved him and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Sophia thought back to when she was a little girl and the man she dreamed of meeting and marrying. She could not have dreamed of anyone better than her Piano Man. She watched and tears welled up in her eyes.

“I have often brought up my family when introducing the music I play. n pieces or, not to put mine in the same category, the pieces of music which have inspired me, moved me and somehow helped me identify who I am. My mother is from Hungary and one of her musical inspiration was a composer by the name of Franz Liszt. This piece, entitled ‘Prelude’ is one full of waves of emotional surrender. That’s how I sense it at least. To me, emotional surrender is when we reach a point in our lives where we are at peace within ourselves which in turn leads us to surrender any emotional barriers. this gives us the ability to accept love from another.”

 


 

Chapter Five

The wedding took place in a small temple in Brooklyn. He then whisked Mrs. Krazinski on a month long honeymoon which took them to Israel, Cannes and then to Paris.

One night while he was in the studio listening to the previous nights recordings he noticed his right hand began to sort of twitch. He shook it off and assumed it was a muscle spasm. When it began to happen more frequently he decided to go to a Doctor.

“It looks like it’s a nervous condition. I would recommend staying away from using your hands as much as you have been, take some time off from the piano if you can.”

“Do you think I should do anything for it?”

“Let’s try relaxation and see how that goes; come back in two weeks.”

There was a sense of relief when he was told to stay away from the piano. He went home and saw his wife sitting on the sofa and she was crying.

“What is it? Whats wrong?” He sat beside her and feared the worst.

“Nothing is wrong, Daddy.” She smiled with tears falling on her face.

“What? Oh, my…” He held her and kissed her. “I am going to write a song for our child and for their beautiful mother.” He sat at the piano and she sat beside him. He began to play when he felt his fingers aching. He stopped.

“What’s wrong?”

“I need to spend some time away from the keys – the Doctor thinks its overuse.”

“Is that even possible when you have been playing the piano since you were a baby practically?”

“Not sure…”

That night he had a dream…

He was on stage doing a sound check for that evening’s performance. He placed his hands on the keys when the piano door closed abruptly on his hands.

He woke up in a sweat and quickly checked his hands. He was alright, it was just a dream. Two weeks later he went to see his Doctor to update him that the pain and the spasms had continued. These were not frequent enough for any individual to panic but for a pianist it was a good reason to be concerned.

There was a bang and it was over. Just as what is written in the sand is erased when the tide comes in so are the lives of future generations when death comes too soon.

There was no Pianist in actuality. The Pianist was the dream that Bertha had one night in Auschwitz. She had dreamed of having a child who would change the world with their musical compositions. She had dreamed of watching her child light up the world with the songs that they themselves had written or the songs that she loved being played by her child.

Bertha never did board a ship to New York -there was no marriage to George Krazinski. Jonathan Krazinski never played the piano, never saw or listened to Elton John or anyone else. Jonathan Krazinski never played the concert halls or Broadway. He never fell in love or knew the feeling of conceiving a child. He never existed.

He was just one of the billions of children who could have changed the world if they ever were given the chance to live. Can something that was only a fleeting dream actually find its way into existence?

Can a flame that was extinguished still guide us or are we forever searching for the way to another sunrise?

What should have been and what was stolen from existence changes the level of expectancy and causes earthquakes and tsunamis as a show of anger, a show of resistance. Music that would have been played, medicines that could have cured, love that could have overwhelmed any hatred…

Instead there are unwritten symphonies and dark theaters, loneliness instead of companionship, silence where the sounds of a piano should have been echoing throughout the world bringing lovers together to dance and to sing. But the ghosts of what should have existed, what should have been born and what should have been; fill the hallowed air in silence causing a sad empty wind to blow across time and onto the darkness of possibilities which were destroyed.

A piano left unplayed is equivalent to a life unlived – the natural order is disrupted and all is meaningless in this silence.  

 

Never Too Old! Dare to Dream – Dare to Achieve!


I DID NOT WRITE THIS – BUT I LIKE IT! 

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.

At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 28, Wayne Coyne ( from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.

At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.

Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.

Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career and landed his first movie role at age 42.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first major movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at age 52.

Kathryn Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director when she made The Hurt Locker at age 57.

Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.

Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end uptomorrow.

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.

Never tell yourself you missed your chance.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.

You can do it. Whatever it is.

#inspiration #inspiring quotes #ambition #goals #life #artist #success

Boycott Baseless Hatred – Boycott Goldenvoice


wp-1460915572251.jpgBoycott Goldenvoice, Boycott Roger Waters and Boycott Baseless Hatred

Goldenvoice, the organizers of the Coachella Music Festival, are in talks to bring Paul Mcartney, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Neil Young among other to a festival at Empire Polo Field site in Indio California, on October 7th through 9th.
the Los Angeles Timesreports that Dylan and the Rolling Stones would be opening the festival on Friday night, Neil Young and McCartney Saturday night. What is perplexing is the inclusion of former Pink Floyd member, Roger Waters.
Roger Waters has been obsessed with condemning and working to hurt Israel since he saw that Israel had put up a “wall” to keep the Palestinians from infiltrating Israel. He seized on this to finally get some post-Pink Floyd recognition and attention. Its sad when a musician has never lived up to the expectations and needs to use hatred as a way to get attention. Waters has no place among the rock-n-roll legends due to perform in Indio. What has he done in comparison?

Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, The Who and then they add, Waters? For which accomplishment? For “The Wall?” Please!

I say all people of good conscience should boycott this festival, Goldenvoice who is organizing this festival and whoever decides to advertise their products there, whoever decides to air the performances and whoever gets to benefit from these performances.

Also – no innovation which originated in Israel should be allowed to be used. I have no time to list the inventions which originated there – nor space on this post…

BOYCOTT GOLDENVOICE, BOYCOTT ROGER WATERS AND BOYCOTT BASELESS HATRED.

Flashback Friday – Club Med Cancun


Club Med Cancun December 1993

I was separated from my kids after being asked to leave my home by my wife. I was feeling very down about myself and needed something to cheer me up.
It was on that beach in the picture on the second night of my trip that Jennifer and Cara, two college best friends became my friends and cheered me up. We danced and walked on the beach in the moonlight. When they told me they were leaving the next day I was deflated – only to be given :a reason to believe” when they each took my hand and we said our goodbyes. #flashbackfriday

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Elton John’s new single – In the Name of You


The latest Elton John album, “Wonderful Crazy Night” is a surprising bunch of songs written and recorded 46 years after Elton and Bernie Taupin’s first album, “Empty Sky.” To think that these two have been writing songs for a half a century is crazy. The Rolling Stone interview “The Bitch at Peace,” reveals that the Captain and the Kid are still writing, after all those years. 

The Clock on the Walls


Looking at old pictures can stir up too many emotions within this glorious bag of bones!

I am too sentimental – too sensitive to the time we spend going through the motions just to get through one day and then another. Trying to get from one paycheck to another without too many “turn-off” notices.  I spend too much time regretting the time I spend away from my true self and even lament the loss of the identity of that person.  So many of my standards lowered unknowingly or perhaps subconsciously with the inner understanding that I had no true choice – not crashing to the ground but not a soft landing either.

I see pictures of times that have past – strangers, family members or even of myself and I lament the time since. Have I lived it or have I just floated? Have i been the husband and father I always wanted to be?  Have I done my best to reach the top bar or have I lowered that as well so its attainable?

Oh poor me? Well, not all the time – just some passing moments when the seconds clock skips a number or two and I find myself stranded – out of time.

I see the smiles on the old pictures – with smiles and the looks of determination and arrogance in the eyes of the posers. I ask myself where have they gone?  Have they lived their lives as they had felt so strongly and confidently that they would? I know, I sound kind of morbid or depressing – but reality can sometimes cause me to overdose on the truth I try to suppress.

Basic truths that too much time has passed since I say with my love face to face over a candlelit dinner.

Truths that the bills need to be paid but only a supreme juggler could catch them all while looking down at a puzzle finding a way for the pieces to fit to create a full picture of, what? Life? Bank statements?

The truths that time is passing us by and the time for showing gratitude, affection and honor has passed along with the flying seconds hand. People have left us and we are left to wonder just what it was we could have done differently if we had the chance. Can we ever get that chance?

Our patience runs thin and the seconds hand keeps on turning up on that clock on the kitchen wall.

We conceive our dreams, conceive our love, conceive our children and they grow up and turn into walking talking commentary on how badly we live our lives – but we stand there, in pride  and just hope they can improve on what we are, who we are and hope that they never lower the bar too low for their own expectations, their own standards.

Life happens and repeats itself over and over again – at times we silently adjust to the changes and adjustments – some times not so silently. We sometimes find ourselves fighting for the right to be true to who we truly are and know in our heart of hearts – that no one can ever truly understand that true definition.

Our hairs thin out – the muscles slowly turn soft and so many memories once stored in our mind – silently disappear ceasing to exist.

Forgive me for this trip through the tunnel of life and personal seconds of contemplation. Some times  the water surrounding me feels kind of cold and at times I remember that I truly don’t know how to swim and that I have been faking it all along. Will the audience discover that I am an actor who has somehow forgotten his part to play and his lines? Can the audience actually tell that I have been substituting the lines that were written for the ones I could make up on the fly?

Ah well – I am my own writer so I can guess I can flub all I want – as long as I keep the audience and my cast mates entertained I should be allowed to stand here on stage until the lights dim and the curtains meet center stage.

Yup – you see what looking at old pictures can do to me?

The Power of Hatred


History and the Present

In the early 1930s, the mood in Germany was grim. The worldwide economic depression had hit the country especially hard, and millions of people were out of work. Still fresh in the minds of many was Germany’s humiliating defeat fifteen years earlier during World War I, and Germans lacked confidence in their weak government, known as the Weimar Republic.
Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

In the year 2016 the mood in the United States was grim. The Great Recession of 2008 had caused 8.4 millions jobs to be lost, seven million Americans lost their homes and over 200,000 small businesses were forced to close. The American people have lost faith in their government, faith in their employers and that combined with students graduating into a non-employable market has caused the people of the United States to begin pointing fingers and hatred to blossom.

In January 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed as the head of the German government.He based his platform on ridding Germany of all the excess non-Aryan people. Jews, he said  “How many diseases have their origin in the Jewish virus! … We shall regain our health only be eliminating the Jew.”

In January of 2017 Donald Trump may be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Trump has used a campaign of bullying, racism and mockery to thrust to the top of the polls.

I would not compare Trump to Hitler – simply because I do not consider Trump a mass murderer. I consider him someone who has lived in the elitist society for so long that he has lost all sense of what normal society is. I consider him the basis for the quote, “He was born on third base but acts as if he hit a triple.”

Trump sees something he wants and will do whatever it takes, hurt anyone along the way to get that prize. “The ends justify the means,” is his mantra.

 

Israel vs. the World 

I cannot tell you that I do not have a fear of the caliphate closing in especially as the world watches and ignores or downplays the atrocities that are being carried out by Muslims worldwide. The bring up the Christian Crusades, Spanish Inquisition and other fun times in the history of the world to seemingly give the Muslims a license to kill as if its part of the maturation of a people.

The same people compare the Jewish refugees of World War two – to the Islamic refugees of today. That is wrong and misguided. Its the Liberals trying to wrestle away any practical suspicion the free world should have against Muslims seeking refuge.

The Muslims are constantly recruiting other Muslims to die in the name of their God and to kill as many non-believers as possible. They hunt down the downtrodden, the poor, the orphan and the widow. The recruit them to join Allah in Paradise by killing all non-believers of their religion.

Despite what liberal Jews may quote from the bible; Judaism rejects all calls for murder – the commandment is Thou Shall not Kill any human being not Thou shall not Kill Jews. We reinforce this by living lives based on improving the world for each and every person regardless of their beliefs.

Since the Jews fought to get back Jerusalem, the city is open for all religions to live in freedom, practice their religion in freedom and are even protected by the Israeli police and army. There are Muslims within the Israeli government.  Six Muslims are in the Knesset as of today. How many Jews are in the whole of countries in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Iraq?

The Mexican Problem

Trump has used hatred and has increased our country’s xenophobia to new levels. He has added to the mix of Muslims to include Mexicans and any refugee seeking asylum.

Maybe we have reasons for the xenophobia that has united the states to propel “The Donald,” to the top.
I believe we have the right and the responsibility to destroy ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. along with our allies around the world. I do not believe we should target all Muslims.

Americans are in financial distress, we have still not recovered from the Great Recession. Jobs are scarce and the jobs that are available are not financially strong enough to help the work force. So, the economy continues to flounder. Which continues to stop expansion and continues to expand the decline of businesses across the board.

 

Americans have tired of the Obama non-presidency, the empty ultimatums and the empty promises to our allies. Obama not going to Paris, Obama drawing an invisible (non existent) line in the sand, Obama ignoring the terror around the world, many more examples of the Carteresque presidency can be found by reviewing the past 7 years. Tired of hearing about Obama reversing unemployment when people are no earning nearly as much as they earned in the past.

The Donald? He sees an opportunity – what unites the downtrodden? A scapegoat and an excuse for the situation they find themselves in. His platform has thrived.

“I love the Mexican people … I respect Mexico … but the problem we have is that their leaders are much sharper, smarter and more cunning than our leaders, and they’re killing us at the border,” Trump said. “They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.”

The unemployed, the underemployed and the co-workers of the illegals rejoice and consider Trump courageous because he “tells it like it is.”  Echos of hatred and resentment are heard around the country. How long until the mobs begin to attack innocents simply because they are a different race?

Its scary – just as scary as the caliphate closing in on our 50 states. A person being elected to the Oval office using this fascist platform is even scarier. He starts with the Mexicans, goes to the Muslims and then moves on over to the Jews. Will the baseball stadiums become concentration camps to rid our countries of the virus’ brought to the true Americans?

Maybe Trump will become a shell of who he promised to be once he is actually elected. Sort of like Atlantic City, Trump University or the countless other deals that ended up as failures with other people left holding the bag.

He can talk a big and frightening game but based on his business history hopefully it will only be grandstanding. With a little luck, the people who will vote for Trump will be left holding the bag once his new venture falls apart.

 

The Fainting Boy


Written by Freddy S. Zalta
Illustrations by Sylia Aboudi

Chapter One

It was in Kindergarten when he first felt that overwhelming paralyzing feeling; that poweful kick in the stomach, that heavenly cloudlike atmosphere where its just you and an ethereal presence. A knowledge that there must be a God and a devil. How else can one explain the two competing spirits inside of you. The prayer to be able to express ones feelings and the dreaded sulfuric scented inability to utter an intellible sound.

He was in recess  on his first day of school. He was walking alone by the circle of jumping Seahorses, the floor was tar black and the temperture on this September day seemed to be 250 degrees. He was sweating, he sat down on the yellow seahorse and watched as the other chiildren played on swings, slides or just ran around laughing or crying.

Freddy was 5 years old and he was homesick. He missed being home with his mother and siblings. He wanted to be laying on the livingroom floor watching “Lost in Space” or “The Andy Griffith Show.” He wanted to be in his room and just lay on his bed and listen to his brothers talking about stuff he didn’t really understand.

He was feeling that feeling of missing something, a feeling of sadness that overcame him at times causing him to become reclusive. Later on in life that feeling would be fought off by an overpowering overly gregarious upswing.

As he sat on the seahorse he began to be sucked into that blackhole when all of a sudden he saw a bright light in the person of female classmate. He was unsure what had happened but it was a life changing event which would always propel him through the darkest moment in his life.

There was this girl standing with some other girls across from the circle of seahorses and she was laughing. He walked closer with trepidation unsure what this alien feeling inside of him was.
He felt scared, yet he also felt that excitement inside of him similar to opening the box of a new toy.
He was paralyzed, yet he felt like he could have begun to jump around uncontrollably.
He wanted to get closer to hear what they were laughing about.
He wanted to get closer to try and understand what it was that had awakened something inside of him. He walked towards her slowly sort of in a trance.

Up close she was the most perfect person he had ever seen. She had short blonde hair and there was a headband which created a divide between the straight front and the cruly back. Her skin was freckled softly with a hint of the summer that had just passed. Her smile seemed to be electric. He didn’t understand what he was feeling, there was a tugging feeling, he was mesmerized.

He walked over to the group of girls and looked closer at the girl standing in the middle, her smile disappearing. He had no idea what he was going to say or do; so he rushed in, as he would do many times in his life, where smart people knew not to enter unless a plan was set in place.

“Hi, my name is Freddy.” He spoke directly to her. “What is your name?”
The girls all looked at him and covered their mouths as they laughed.
“My name is Danielle.”

“Freddy? are you ok?” He opened his eyes to find himself on the floor being prodded awake by his teacher.
“Its so hot out here, we shouldn’t have these kids outside. Get me water please.”
Someone put something wet on the back of his neck, another person was fanning him and then someone put a plastic cup of water to his lips.

“Sip it. When you feel you can walk inside, tell me and I will help you.”
“I am ok.” He went to stand up and they went inside to the nurses office where a fan was blowing and a cold plastic cup of orange juice with some stella doro cookies awaited. He drank and ate a pink coated flower cookie.
“Lay down Freddy, rest.”
He lay on a cot in the corner of the room and fell asleep. He heard his mother saying his name and he woke up and began to cry.
“I want to go home.”
“OK.”

They went to the Doctor that afternoon to rule out anything such as a concussion or whatever. The Doctor said he must have overheated and prescribed him to drink water and eat better before going outside again. The sound of his mother saying, “You need to eat if you want to feel better.” Would have an everlasting effect on his psyche and his weight.


 

Chapter Two

It took Freddy several years to work up the courage to speak to Danielle once again. He had approached his brother for advice, the advice was, “Offer the girl a piece of gum and then start speaking to her.”

After getting this piece of advice, he went to “Jerry’s Auction Outlet” and pick up a pack of Juicy Fruit.
“That’s 25 cents, kid.” He pulled together the change he had in his pocket, 10 pennies, 1 dime and 1 nickle. He looked around the store and saw the packs of baseball cards with the gum inside, Sen-sens, countless candy and chocolates. Behind Jerry there was a picture of President Kennedy, Gil Hodges and an American flag.
“Ok kid what are you waiting for? You got the gum, I got the money – now is when you say ‘thank you’ and walk out.”
“OK thank you.”

He walked up Kings Highway from the Mcdonald Avenue train platform to the Kings Highway movie theater, which at the time was showing, “The Bad News Bears.”  He was meeting some friends there for the 1pm showing and there was always the chance that Danielle would be there too.

There was a red carpet on the first floor of this theater. On the walls were movie posters from years back such as Casablanca, Limelight, and From here to Eternity. There were also advertisements for some upcoming movies – The Omen, Rocky and Silent Movie. There was this counter that ran from one side of the theater to the other; thats where they sold popcorn, candy and soda. It was there that he saw Danielle.

That gregarious energy that was mentioned earlier? Here it came. He began to tell jokes out loud, perhaps too loud. He made his way from one group of friends to the other. He was trying to get her attention but each time he snuck a quick peek she seemed oblivious.

So he ambled over to the group of girls she was standing with and said with a big smile, “How are you guys?” They looked at him and laughed.
“How are you Freddy?” Karen, the girl next to Danielle answered.
“I am alright, doing fine. Hey you guys want some juicy fruit?” It didnt quite come out like he wanted but he had no choice. He would try and talk to her later. As he was walking away Danielle called out to him, “Freddy.” He turned around quickly, perhaps too quickly.

He woke up on the floor of the Kingsway movie theater. Most of the kids had already gone to watch the movie but his best friends Jack and Joey were there.
“Are you ok?” Joey asked me.
“Yes I am ok, what happened?” Freddy asked.
“One second you are spinning like a dreidel and the next second you are sprawled out of the floor.”
“Oh no, Danielle?”
“They all went inside to watch the movie. Is it ok if we go in?”
“Yes its ok. How much did we miss?”
“Less than 3 minutes.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
“No he wont,” The manager of the theater corrected. “Your mother should be here any minute to pick you up. I cant have you getting all the customers sick.”
Same routine – went to the Doctor who said that when he twisted around he must have caused his blood pressure to drop which caused him to faint.

Deep inside Freddy knew it had nothing to do with the twist or the sun. But he shrugged it off and watched “Happy Days” with his family that night – it was forgotten until the next day in school when Danielle approached him.

“Hey Freddy?” Her soft voice caused his heart to beat hard and his mouth to be sealed tight.
He smiled, waved and then leaned against his locker.
“You aren’t going to faint again, are you?” She asked him more out of concern than derision.
“I don’t think so…”
“Well, there is this girl asks boy party next week and I wanted to ask you if you think that Joey would say yes if I asked him?”
“I would say ‘yes.'”
“That’s sweet…but do you think Joey would?”
Freddy knew that Joey would jump at it but he also thought that if he told her that he would say no, maybe she would ask him.
What he said next would become a pattern in his life in every area, every age and would piss him off each time. But that didn’t matter – Freddy knew what to say.
“I think he would definetly say yes.” She broke out in a big smile.
“Thank you Freddy! You are really a nice guy.” She turned and ran away.
“Nice guy? More like an idiot.” He said to himself. That title, “Nice Guy” would be thrust at him again and again. He didn’t know it yet, of course, but it was coming. Again and again.

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Free Will and God’s Response


And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ Genesis Chapter 1 – 6th Day

In the beginning God created the human beings in His image. I tend to hope that doesn’t mean a physical image because other than a few – most humans are ugly. I read the commentaries and went to yeshiva for 12 years so I was taught that it means, in a sense, we were given the ability to think for yourself. We have the capacity to stop and think and make decision based on rational thought.

So God gave us the world. He said, humans will reign supreme over the earth and all the creatures. So, now some several billion years after Eve ignored God and ate the apple from the tree; God is angry.

“I gave you a self-sustaining planet, I watered the earth when it was dry, I dried it when it was wet. Warmed it when it was cold and cooled it down when it was too hot. Seeds turned into trees which yielded fruits. Vegetables sprouted from the dirt of the ground  and I made sure that coffee was somehow discovered. I blessed humans with the ability to invent, discover and create. Sports, medicines and that lethal combination of cheese and tomato sauce.”

“I permitted the aroma to make sweet love to the senses, beautiful views to soothe tired eyes and the appreciation of the sounds of music, laughter and the ability to express yourselves in eloquent words and voices.”

God watched as humans killed his creations. Humans, nature, air and anything they had the power to destroy.

God watched as humans starved to death, while others feasted on bountiful breads and wines. God sat back during the crusades, black plague, slavery, rapes of all ages and pogroms.

God watched, or perhaps shrugged, when the earth shook, killing his creations and the homes that sheltered them. God watched as the rain kept falling and caused the rivers to overflow.

“It’s all about the thirst for power. First they build cities below the sea level; then they spend billions on hotels and attractions, filled with gluttony and sin. Why not spend a fraction of that on the levees to stop the water from overwhelming the barriers? It’s easy to point fingers, unfortunately it’s always the unfortunate who suffer when the powerful reveal their greed.”

“You give a man a million dollars and they still step all over other people and destroy natural beauty for the sole purpose of elevating their name. No regard for the other people. They place their names on the walls of the temples they build to ‘praise’ Me. It’s all a lie; why keep building separate places to praise Me when you can all congregate in one place as one people? I don’t need marble floors and winding stairwells. You spend millions on those ‘houses of worship’, rather, why not use that money to help the less fortunate? If you do that then that is not a house of worship to Me, it becomes a monument for the worshippers, a house of worship for the socially elite. They may have the most beautiful building, yet, because of their selfishly callous inactions, it is morally bankrupt.”

“I give you this world and the freedom to make decisions. I even tried to teach you how to live together by giving you ten simple rules to live by and I get repaid by you all praying to the ‘almighty dollar.’ You throw your parents to the side and then forget that all I asked was for that one day a week to devote in My name and what do you do? Ignore Me. You kill, you steal and you screw around with married people. You place zero importance into what I say unless you feel there is a benefit to you.”

“You throw your pennies to the poor and expect them to come back as dollar bills. You truly believe that the ends justify the means – no sir, never does and never will.”

God watched as the crazy evildoers opened fire on the children, he watched as a bomb fell on Hiroshima and on Nagasaki.  He watched on 9/11, on 12/7 and on the night the glass was broken. He watched as millions died even though prayers were recited faithfully believing that God knew what was best.

“I did know what was best. But the evil acts committed in My name can be invincible and are incomprehensible. Who would believe that a deity would desire such acts of destruction?”

“Progress was made and more could have been achieved. But the human’s desire for power stopped any progress. Illnesses came and destroyed bodies and lives; poverty and homelessness, starvation and disease…maybe if the governments of the world put in more money to heal the sick than to destroy their enemies; answers could have been found, cures could have been developed.”

“Instead they blame Me for the deaths and say, ‘God has a plan.’ There was a plan, free will was supposed to lead to innovation and ideas that would lead  to improvements to the standards of living for each and every person in the world. Instead there are children starving in New York City and in Paris; Syria is being decimated by its own people and the threat of imminent terror has paralyzed the progress of freedom. I created the human body and the humans have slowly destroyed it, one generation to the next.”

“Prayer heals the ill and the needy; action heals them quicker. Instead of sitting and praying; go to help the ones you know who need the help, hand in hand. You shake your hand in the air and express anger at a God who would allow these things to happen over and over. If it really bothers you, then go out and do something, say something. One word can have a larger impact than a hundred dollars.”

“Don’t blame me for the diluted version of the human I created on the sixth day. He was something that Adam, the original henpecked husband. But if you saw what Eve looked like before she ate the apple, then you would get it. But even they had issues; one son killed the other, I threw them all out of Eden and then – well, you know the story.”

Where is God today? There is a major error in the accounting department in heaven. The amount of suffering going on around the world – why can’t He kill the bad guys? Why does a mother of 5 die and Adolf Hitler live to destroy 6 million Jews?

“Where Am I? I am here, there and everywhere. All around the world the humans have taken the meaning of religion and perverted it to meet their own greedy agenda.”

“Power, once you give them a taste of it they can never be satiated. Look back at the Kings in history – David was a peeping Tom before Tom was even born. (That’s another one, Batsheva, in a way you can’t blame David for that one, she was one beauty.)  Then his son Solomon, got married more times than Liz Taylor; he could have gotten laid any time he wanted but he felt it would be more advantageous to marry. I heard one person say it was out of respect to the girls; please, I was there. But who would say anything to him? He was the king. Just like Mel Kaminsky says, ‘It’s good to be king.’ You really have no idea until it’s you with the crown on. These cheerleader girls run to you and leave the quarterback on the sidelines. The best of the world is thrust at you – why should you deny them their sense of charity?”

“But listen, I am getting off topic here. I have given the humans free will. You are free to make any choice you want. You can cross the street without looking or you can look both ways ten times, its your choice. You can help people or you can knock them down the stairs. You can take the easy road or you can stay true to yourself and walk among pebbles and stones. It’s a free world. Maybe it was a mistake giving free will; but I created them in My own image how can I turn them into robots? How can I create a people to just be told to do something and not have a choice in the matter? What good is that?”

“How was I to know that all these maniacs would start to rape, slaughter and enslave? How was I to know they would shout out my name and blow themselves up?”

“What people don’t understand is that the story of Job was an allegory, I never made a bet with the devil. The devil doesn’t exist in reality. The devil is within and around everyone in the world. The devil is the evil inclination that entices humans to eat that proverbial ‘apple.’ Do I have an evil inclination? No I do not, that is not who I am. I am not a human with emotions, I am not a vulcan either – I am a spirit that is omnipotent.”

“They call me a jealous God, I laugh at that one. Again, jealousy is a human response to a fear of losing someone or something. I do not get jealous, I have no fear, I am not human, no offense.”

“I tell you to worship only Me not for my own self; it’s for you to not have multiple gods for every event. Knowing there is one God to pray for rain, sun, money, health, happiness etc. is much simpler than pulling an Elvis and wearing a symbol for each deity.”

“One God, no symbols just faith. Its simple. But no, people have to wear a special hat or shirt to a sporting event, or they wear amulets in the shape of hands, eyes or crystals. A red string and other made up stuff that I strictly forbid for your own good. What happens if you rely on that string, hand or eye and all of a sudden you can’t find it? So I said specifically, “Do not With Me, I am everywhere.

“I hear each prayer, cry and expressions of gratitude; in a temple or in a Arab shouk. Spoken by anyone with a sincere voice – without looking for future rewards. I love people of all religions, colors, etc; you are all my children and whether you like it or not, you are all one family. But I also see the bad intentions and the pretentious prayers; the screaming of My name just before destruction. Those who hurt others to advance their agenda or their personal gain, they have no place in eternity.”

“In closing, you want to make this world a better place? Be less selfish and more selfless, more giving and less talking, more thanking and less asking. I know that the world with free will is complicated. But once you learn to be accountable for your own actions, your own decisions; that is when the world will begin to make more sense. It’s not always a fair place and a lot of stuff happens that you truly have no control over. That is the hardest part for Me. But there is a reason and a plan down the road; you are not capable at this point to understand that completely. But there will come a time.”

“In the meantime, blame me if you must, but once you learn to take responsibility for the decisions you have made in the world, that is when you will reach the next level of understanding. Be careful with the power you are given; the power to write, speak or express yourself. People are not as strong as they may seem. Do not do to others what you would not want done unto yourself. Follow that simple law – it may not stop others from hurting you to advance themselves, but change has to start somewhere.”

 

The Myths We Follow


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We are brought up in a world where the promises of bright futures, long trips abroad and the freedom to live as we please surround us and are repeatedly whispered to us as we sleep, eat and live.

Freedom in all its different shades and colors is the basic right of all living beings. The freedom to taste whatever apple or fruit we chose. Freedom to choose our God’s or to not choose at all, freedom to love whomever we felt a connection to and the freedom to build a home wherever we chose. Freedoms…the denying of freedoms for the billions (trillions?) of souls that have lived since those days when “the snake made me do it,” is tantamount to murder. Without freedom, what is a life?

Slavery has existed in many shapes and forms throughout time. The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years while the Africans were slaves for hundreds of years around the world. The chains of slavery are not confined to the plantations or the Pharoahs. Slavery still exists today all around the world, even in your neighbors backyard. 

Freedom, “just another word for nothing left to lose.” The child is born and placed in a crib where freedom is confined to a two by five cell. They learn to walk and talk. They are then confined to one room at a time and told what to say, when to say and to “be quiet a minute!” 

Finally they are let out of the house into another holding cell where they are taught how to think, how to believe and how to act. They are forced into believing that all roses are red, that all oceans are blue and that the color of money is green. No adjustment to hues and tints are considered a passing grade.

“Sit still, stop talking, this is the answer not that, be like him, be like her, cant you follow the rules?” The attempts to mold the child into an adult that society would hire, most times succeed, although the failures, in retrospect, turn out to be more of a success than the ones who were molded.

Go to college, get married, get a job just dont sit around all day dreaming and wasting your life away.

The Myth of “The One” and Losing it all

Hollywood, above all other mediums, has had the strongest influence on culture. Perfect people living virtually perfect lives. From the begining of literature and into the 21st century there is always that feeling of a void that must be filled with, “the one.”

“The one” who is the soulmate, “we must have loved each other in different lifetimes for our love to be this strong this fast.”
“The one” who can fill up all voids, heal all wounds and complete each dream of a life filled with the treasures of this world.

“The one,” is the biggest myth of all. We are told the stories of “Romeo and Juliet.” Cartoons and fairy tales about the Princess awaiting her Prince to complete her. Snow White cured by the magic kiss; Cinderella and her shoe and even Fay Wray in the grasp of King Kong.

tumblr_msdjykVSZO1suchdko1_400“The One?” Tell that to Zsa Zsa Gabor! She was married 9 times! 

How about the ones who marry and then divorce? Are they done? Is there no other “one?” How about “The Two”?
Or the widow or the widower, is the pursuit of love just settling for a replacement until death do they unite?
Before we can ever find love we must first find “the one.”

I was married at 21 years old and totally in love and convinced that she was “the one.” After the marriage ended in divorce 6 years later I began to wonder if there would be anyone else I would love as much as “the one.” Would I be able to look into another woman’s eyes and see forever again? Would that “forever” be a lie as well?

Finding the One, the real One

A funny thing happened on the way to recovery. I began to go through the stages of growing up. I punished myself, blamed myself and then forgave myself. I sequestered myself into my one bedroom apartment, once again a loss of freedom and enslaved by another.

I walked alone for several years and suddenly I was blessed with meeting the one person in this world that I would forever call, “the one.” The “one” came to me and illuminated the blindness that had imprisoned me throughout my life.

As a child, we are taught to conform. To emulate, parents, teachers, older siblings and friends – they all want you to be who they want you to be. You find yourself in a crowd of lemmings and you are singing that same tune while marching off the cliff. But something inside of you is sad – a feeling of lonliness in a crowd. A feeling of wanting to cry while others are laughing. Wanted to sit while the world is dancing.

You find yourself as an adult, a child in chains in the middle of the town square. A pariah, an enigma a stranger in a strange land. People speaking in languages you cannot understand.

As a man walking alone I found myself in the rain one afternoon. I began to run for shelter when I decided to just continue my stroll. I pictured “Gene Kelly” and I wanted to dance in the puddles that had formed. I didnt physically, but I did in my mind. I smiled and I let out a laugh. Soaked and cold, I found myself back in my apartment with the door slamming shut behind me. A cell door imprisoning me again. I looked into the mirror and I began to sing to myself.
“I’m singin’ in the rain…” I tapped danced although I know for a fact it would not be considered any sort of dance in reality.

I caught my reflection as I walked across the room, undressed and soaked, in need of a towel. I kept seeing that image as I went back to shower and was dressed and eating supper. I felt as if I had seen a ghost, an old friend from my childhood and even the sense of watching my children being born. But the meaning eluded me as I went to sleep that night.

It wasnt until the next evening when I realized who and what I had seen.

All my life I had been the person who everyone wanted me to be. If someone was sad, I would do ludicrous things to make her smile.
But I quickly learned that we can only do so much – the path to happiness needs to be found by the ones who are lacking. You can steer the sad, you can point the lost in the right direction and you can translate words so they can understand…but only they can get to where they need to be.

I came to the apartment the next evening and made myself some ravioli. Called my kids on the phone to tell them goodnight. Went to sit down and collect my thoughts. Out of reflex I began to feel sad, I began to feel alone. Until I realized that, at that moment at least, I was not sad, I did not feel alone.

It seems that the myths that had shaped my life had thrown me into a cellar filled with timed predispositions of emotions. Since I was alone and the house was dark, like an emotional alarm clock I was thrust into these feelings of sadness. So I questioned myself aloud.

“How are you feeling?” I took what my therapist had referred to as an “emotional temperture.” How exactly are you feeling at this moment?
My reflexive reaction was to say and feel, “sad.” But I took a deep breath, and began to feel what I was actually feeling at the moment.

“I am ok. I may not be where I thought I would be at this point in my life, but thats ok.”

The point I am trying to make here, as I trip over words, metaphors and runon sentences…is that we always are with “the one.” Until you discover the actual “one” you cannot truly discover any true emotion, true love.

Some people divert their attention by fooling themselves into believing they are in love because they are actually physically attracted to someone.
Some people take on the role of a savior by falling in love with the others who are disenfranchised and bringing them into their fold. An embrace that will lead to exhaustion once the novelty has run out.
Some people are told who is right and wrong for them and follow that path only to find themselves at impasses or deadend streets.
Some run to the first person who acknowledges them only to realize down the line that she never truly saw you at all.

Some feel a physical connection and cannot contain their passion or desire – that is called “lust” and is always, at first at least, misinterpreted as “love.”

“I can’t stop thinking of you.”
“Everytime I am near you I just want to jump on you.”
Lust.
Love is when you connect on spiritual levels. When the values of life are compatible. When they are the one you want to sit at a table with and either speak or remain silent. When mutual respect mandates their disagreements and their conversations.
The beauty of love is its unwillingness to be defined by gestures alone. Love has an infinite amount of definitions; with actions, words and understandings. Love is acceptance.

Acceptance, think about that word for a moment. Have you accepted your true self? Have you accepted your strengths and your weaknesses and tried to improve upon them for yourself, not for others?

“The one,” Ladies and gentlemen, “The love of your life, your destiny, the person you will grow old with, share good times and bad times with, ride the crazy roller coaster of life with, and eventually die with. The one is the person you see in the reflection.

I only realized that I could love another person, once I was able to love myself. To love my faults, my strengths, my gifts and my shortcomings. Love, true love, can only exist within yourself. Once that exists you can soar above the clouds, you can look in her eyes and promise forever because she accepts the whole package; warts, smiles, tears and hairy earlobes and all. If she doesn’t? You wouldn’t have continued to see her because your view would not be clouded by Hollywood dreams. By the myths that divert us from finding ourselves.

Love…Who would have thought you were with me all along?

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The Thief of Dignity


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There is a little man, stands around 4 foot 10, give or take an inch or so. He walks through the Main Street of the town slowly, staring into the store front windows, stopping for a coffee or a cool bottle of water, depending of course on the weather.
Tonight he is walking slowly with a cane that he doesn’t really need, a derby hat, a light jacket and corduroy pants. He is unshaven for a week or two and has a pair of reading glasses held upon his chest by a chain he found, somewhere.
The temperature is 40 degrees, give or take a degree and there is a slight breeze blowing. The streets are crowded still as it is only 4 O’clock on a weekday, high schoolers, mothers and shop keepers making up the usual suspects along with some local locos from the Church on Pacific.
The little man begins to walk again and crosses the street with no trepidation even though he is crossing against the light. A car stops a foot or so from hitting him; he drops his cane, stares at the driver, turns, picks up his cane and continues across Pacific towards Atlantic.

Its morning now, the town of Dignity is stirring. Across the lake as you enter the town, there is a sign that hangs across Main Street that reads “Welcome to Dignity.” Directly below the drooping welcome is an older lady sitting on the floor, wearing a wraparound blanket. She is well-known in this town as the former wife of a local politician. Pedestrians walk right past her, carrying a disease which causes avoidance of disturbances. Frankie sees the Mayor of Dignity walks past her and throws a quarter or a dime into the upside down hat that sits in front of her. Frankie knows her well, they were once dance partners in a long ago life.

The little man walking past her now and looks at her, nods and says; “Hi Evelyn.”
“Hi Frank.”
He continues to walk and finds himself in front of the coffee shop, sees the Mayor, winces and walks in.
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Tom and Agnes were the original owners and were still behind the counter. Straight from East Belfast, their dignity and pride were the main ingredients which made it the best cup of coffee for miles, even after all these years.

The little man ambles into the store and greets the usual. The mayor greets him with a wince.
“Did your patrolling go well last night Frankie?”
“Yes although I had to arrest your mother for soliciting the others in the cemetery, seems like somethings don’t change even after death, huh, Tommy?”
The mayor looks into his coffee and smiles.
“Oh Frankie – Irishing up your coffee still? Or are you pricking your skin like your old man?”
“You would know about pricking wouldn’t you, Mr. Mayor?”
“Here you go Frankie.” Two cups and a bag containing a Danish. Frankie as is his humor asks, “How much do I owe you now?”
“Today? We will charge you 60 cents to mark our 60th anniversary.”
“Really?”
“No, Frankie, its $3.00.”
“Thought so. Put it on my tab, will ya?” With a face tinged with a smile and two spoons of sadness. He walks out, the bell on the door slams against the door signaling his exit.
He walks towards Evelyn and sits beside her. “Here’s your Danish Ev. Lets get out of here Evvie, if we start walking now we can get somewhere else by nightfall.”
“Ya Frankie, several blocks away isn’t far enough.”
“I guess our time to run has come and gone. Time is a thief Ev, it’s a thief of so many of our wants and needs.”
“It’s a thief of Dignity, Frank. Dear old Frankie, we once blamed others for the theft, huh? Then we blamed ourselves for wasting too much time blaming and now, the time has stolen it all.”
“Time is the thief of dignity even the richest man in the world cannot avoid.”
“I am gonna find it again, Evvie, going to find that morsel of pride that I once carried with me. After the war, after the children came along and quickly left this place. It was you and I and here we are again, but the clouds are forming, we should head inside.”
“I am fine here – I don’t smell no breadth of a storm and I can handle the drizzle.”
“Suit yourself.”
“Frankie?”
“Yes?”
She paused, looked deep into his eyes and a million scenes of their memories came flashing by. “Thank you.”
“Oh you don’t have to thank me -”
“Look at me old man, look into my eyes, thank you.”
Frankie tried to avoid looking into her eyes – her blue eyes which had once caused him to slip and slide.  Frankie tried to remember if they had been intimate in their lives or if they were just platonic companions. Sometimes love is like that; better holding hands than locking lips – lips part while hands hold on tight.
“Right back at you Evelyn, you are and have been a lady in my life, a co-star in my biography, a catalyst for this bag of bones and broken dreams.”
“We all have them, dreams of pride and accomplishments but look at us now, the clock has run out and we find ourselves sitting and walking; waiting and searching for the lost morsels we once held so dear.”
“Don’t lose hope, Lady, don’t ever give up hope. As long as there is that light inside of you, never lose hope.”
“Hope? Frankie hope falls and slides away quicker than the wind blows. Your words ring hollow, but I understand they are well-meant; just don’t waste them on me. I am hopeless and a lost cause, my days are numbered, and I am ready to go home.”

There is something very sad when a death occurs. The person who dies is left without a shred of who they spent their lives trying to become. Evelyn was buried with Frankie standing watching the dirt cover her. When they finally put up a stone for her it said, “Evelyn a life in Dignity.”

The little man walks across the grassy, muddy road to drop off a Danish and a cup of coffee, “Hey Evvie, hope you found what you were searching for wherever you are now. Say hello to Rose for me, wont ya? Tell her not a moment goes by when…” He stops himself from breaking down. “All right, she knows, she knows.”

He walks up the path towards the road to the streets of Dignity. Drinks his coffee slowly and can feel the November chill beginning to set in. He sits on a park bench and watches as the town comes alive.

There was a clock in the center of town, it once hung upon the city hall building but had fallen during a winter storm some years back. Instinctively the older folk who were around in those days would look there when wanting to check the time. He looked up there now and could swear he saw the clock telling him it was five of eight. He stood to walk and lost his bearings. He leaned on the bench and for a moment did not know where he was or which role he was playing these days.
“Frankie, are you alright?”
“I am confused.”
“Daddy I want to go home.”
“What? I will take you home son.”
“Frankie? Are you ok?”
“I am fine – have to take him home to his mother now.”
“Who is that?”
“Little Frankie, there.”
“Little Frankie isn’t here, I can call him if you’d like.”
“No, no I am fine. I was dreaming.”
“Let me take you home.”
“No Rose will be worried if she sees you driving me.”
“Rose? OK. Sit down here Frank, let me get you something to drink.”
The young man ran into the Coffee shop and Frankie stands up and walks away.

There is Rose, hanging the laundry to dry in the backyard, as she did so many times before. Rose, with her auburn hair and her green eyes could sense him coming home from a mile away.
Oh Frankie – How I’ve missed you.”
Rosie…” In an embrace they fall to the ground and both feeling clumsy, begin to laugh.
“Frank, Frank? Its Tom, the ambulance is coming to bring you to the hospital. They just want to make sure you are ok. Frankie Jr. and Debra will be there soon.”
Shadows appear and slowly fade away, aromas from distance pasts; fresh-baked bread, springtime flowers and soft perfume.
Colors abound, soft yellows, blues and reds.
Musical sounds of birds singing, winds blowing through the bare branches of the trees and the sounds of rain falling against the pavement.
The sun is setting somewhere and rising somewhere as well. Frankie knows its time to leave but he is stuck and he cannot move.

In World war two, somewhere in a small town in Austria, outside of Czechoslovakia, the little man was a prisoner of war. He had been in the Battle of France and had been defeated. Now he was tied to a bed and being tortured. Here is was again, tied to a bed and being tortured. Photographs of lost loves, family members and memories once forgotten being shown in scenes around his bed.
“They make it seem so real.” He thought to himself.

Frank woke up to the sound of voices, kept his eyes shut so he could hear what they were saying.
“He is suffering from Alzheimer’s and its more advanced than we originally thought.” A woman with a slight New York accent was speaking.
“You originally thought? Didn’t anyone think to call one of his kids to let us know?” A man with a deep voice sounding so familiar.
“I am not going to go into the laws of patient/doctor confidentiality; I can just say that he told us he had no next of kin.”
“Well he does, as you can see, what now?”
He opened his eyes and he saw his mother and father waving him over to join him.
“Come along Little Frankie – hold my hand. We have a surprise for you. We are meeting your sisters and brothers on a trip to Coney Island!”
“Can I buy cotton candy and hot dog and knishes?”
“You can buy whatever -”

“Frank? Frank? Can you hear me?”
“Dad, dad?”
“Come on little Frankie there is the train.”
“Dad?”
“Frank?”
Tonight the little man walks right under it and stops to stare into the Pizza store. Inside he spies his children with their mother and decides to surprise them. He pulls the door open but there is a thick darkness. A light towards the back guides him and he is calling out their names. A sensation of falling hits him as if he just walked off a cliff.

There is a small town and its located twenty miles or so outside of New York City. The town is called “Dignity” and Frank Wasser lived there his whole life. It was in the last several months of his life that things became dizzy. Memories disappeared and faces turned to stone. When the lights turned out and he found himself landing on a crowded beach in Coney Island. Suddenly all around him were the players who made up the cast of his life. The sun was warm, the sand was white and the waves were clear as the air. He heard a voice and turned to see Rose, his beautiful Rose.

When a person ages and disease takes over, there is a loss of what they once held so dear. We live our lives in the quest of dignity; to acquire it, to wear it well, to keep it and to never let it go. Frank Wasser lived his life a man of Dignity. Until the time had come, in the small town, twenty miles or so from New York City, for the thief to take it all away.
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The Clock on the Walls (Originally published 3/7/2012)


Looking at old pictures can stir up too many emotions within this glorious bag of bones!

Common Sense


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The second amendment states, A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I am not a smart man – I just act like I am. What confuses me about this world we live in is the stubbornness displayed by people who claim to be spiritual or a person of God.

They stand on pulpits and denounce the ones who are their antithesis. They cite verses written thousands of years ago but only if it helps their cause – strengthens their agenda. They stand upon the elevated platform, full holier than thou attire and pump their fists in the air in declaration of what is right and what is wrong.

They cite history as examples, yet fail to learn from histories mistakes. They cite the great speeches orated by the great orators but fail to comprehend the gist of the words. Misquoting or placing the words in contexts miles away from the original inspiration.

Lately the main subject of conversation has been the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, written and signed in 1787.

Gun lobbyists, hobbyists or people who believe that in order to make this world a safer place people should be given the right to own and carry a firearm.

I don’t really agree with that opinion but I respect their right to have it and to express it. What I find appalling and quite insulting are the politicians and the people who want to do away with any sort of background checks or the continuing sale of weapons that are used for mass killings or more powerful weapons than the normal guns. The RIP bullet which is created to cause even more damage once it hits its target. Why would any normal citizen need that? Why would anyone who had to wait three or five days for the government to run a background check on them complain?

How many people, myself included, have days where they thank God for guns being

In the but if a right was granted during a time of upheaval some 225 years ago. People had land and there was no formal militia at the time that could handle the crime that was prevalent at the time. So they were given the right to carry protection.

These days – the world is, despite what you would think, a much safer place to live than it was in the 1700’s. Each county has a police force which is run by the different branches of the government. Are they the answer for protection? They should be – but like everything else they are human and imperfect. Some have racism in their blood and some want to serve and protect the places they live and the people who live there. Some want the job for the benefits provided while others would throw themselves in front of a bullet shot towards an innocent.

The world is a mess – the scales of justice, the scales of good and evil and the scales of judgment are all broken and out of whack. People are running for their lives from a movie theater, a concert hall, work places and they are having “lockdown drills” in elementary schools.

Airplanes are being brought down and hotels around the world are targets.

There is no understanding of the value of a life.

So why the argument for more guns, stronger guns and more lethal bullets?
Why is running a background check on would be purchasers and carriers of firearms a bad thing?

Personally I don’t believe in carrying a gun. In life each person has their sanity and their insanity – some days the line is too thin to avoid slippage in either direction. Tempers fly easily and I dont want that person carrying a gun or even to have access to one too easily.

My opinion, for whatever its worth, is guns should only be given to people who go through a rigorous psychological evaluation. They should also continue to be monitored closely as time passes.

If there were people in Paris who had guns on them at the concert where the Islamic terrorists killed all those people; I believe there would have been even more casualties. People shooting in every direction, while intoxicated, in the dark or perhaps high on some drug – would only have caused more harm than good.

Armed guards and increased police presence to me is the better way to go. With the police being educated and psychologically evaluated over and over again.

In my opinion, heads need to be examined thoroughly before any hand can hold a gun.

Will the absence of guns end terrorism? No, the destruction of evil is the only way out.
Will the addition of guns end terroris?I don’t believe so. But I am not the smartest person in the world. Just smart enough to know that the majority of human beings should not be allowed to carry firearms. I dont believe that the rights and laws of yesterday, in religion or in constitutions should be held to higher standards. We live in a different time than yesterday – more so hundreds or thousands of years ago. Religions can be easily misinterpreted, mistaught or misunderstood. Those laws, rights and commandments must be looked at again and again; held up above all standards and re-examined.

Isaac and the Old Man


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And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: ‘Abraham’; and he said: ‘Here am I.’
And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’

Genesis Chapter 22
Abraham walked into his son’s tent.
“What’s going on buddy?”
“Nothing, mom is forcing me to do homework and I truly am not in the mood.”
“You need to listen to her, trust me, you don’t want to get her angry. What subject?”
“History.”
“How much work can you have – nothing really has happened yet.”
“Why are you here?” Isaac asked, clearly annoyed.
“Oh, I need you to wake up early in the morning. I have spoken with the Lord and he has given me a task to perform.”
“What is it?” Isaac asked.
“You will find out when it’s time to tell you.”
“How long will we be away?”
“I don’t know, a couple of hours?” Abraham answered non-committal.
“What’s early?”
“Around 3 or so.”
“That’s not early, that’s inhumane. Do I have a choice?”
“You don’t really have a choice, I will have you woken at 3 O’clock, so try and go to sleep now.”
With that Abraham walked out. Isaac spoke to himself.
“Shit, I hate going on those ‘tasks,’ they aren’t ‘tasks’ they are some sort of crazy life changing experience. And it’s never just a couple of hours – it’s always days. Then the old man starts to act like he is hearing voices and goes off on his own and leaves me with the donkeys and the servants. Those guys are not the best company to be left overnight with either – I have seen them with the sheep, not a pretty sight.”

The next morning they set out on their walk.
“What are we going to be doing, pop?” Isaac asked.
“We are going to Moriah and we are going to make a sacrifice there.”
“I like that area, can we stop by and check out Aunt Edith?” Aunt Edith had turned into a pillar of salt when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for being really bad people. God told Lot, her husband, no one should turn to look. When someone tells you “Don’t look” the first thing human nature dictates you to do is, look. They called her Edith because she had sinned with salt or something. Maybe she cooked with too much salt. Who knows?

“Don’t call her that – no, we are not going there. Why would you want to see a human being who is now a pillar of salt?”
“I never really met her or even Uncle Lot for that matter.”
“They aren’t your Aunt and Uncle, they are your cousins. Well, Lot is. He is my nephew.”
“Why do you always refer to him as your ‘brother.'”
“It’s complicated and a long story. I’ll get you the book one day.”
“You wrote a book?”
“No, it hasn’t been written yet.”
“So you’re thinking of writing one?”
“No, no, no – listen, its complicated. Can we just walk?”
With that, they walked and walked, and walked until Abraham looked up and saw the place that God had instructed him to go.

“OK boys – you guys stay here with the donkey. Behave and we will be back soon. Isaac, you come with me. Give me the wood, actually, Isaac here carry the wood. I got the fire and the knife.”
“But, pop, where is the animal to sacrifice?”
“Animal? Oh, yeah, God will provide one, son, God will provide.”
They walked up the mountain. It was hot, probably 110 degrees and the sun was extremely oppressive.
“Dad, can we rest somewhere?”
“We are almost there son, almost there.”
They finally reached the top of the mountain. Isaac laid down the wood and lay upon them. He fell into a sleep and Abraham tied him up with the rope.
Isaac woke up.
“What the hell? What are you doing? What are you crazy? Un-tie me! Is this another circumcision? Don’t you think you cut off enough?”
“This is not a circumcision, my son, God has commanded me to sacrifice you as a burnt offering.”
“God has…You’re going to burn me alive??? Pop, I thought I was your favorite – you know you got rid of the Arab kid and his mother – I figured you made the right decision there. Now you are going to burn me alive because you heard a voice calling to you? You ever hear of dementia? You aren’t such a young man anymore – listen to me, pop, those voices were not really voices they were just sounds in your head. Please, un-tie me – let me go.”
“Sit still, I will slice your throat first so you wont feel a thing.”
“Well that’s thoughtful of you, no, I’ll tell mom!”
“Sit still – what?” Abraham looked around and began conversing with himself.
“I should not lay a hand on him? It was a test? A test???” Abraham responded to silence.
“A test? That’s what He calls it, a test?” Isaac screamed out.
“I passed? With flying colors? Oh good. So? What do I get?” Silence.
“You get to keep me alive – not cut this rope off of me, now.” Isaac throwing his legs up and down trying to get loose.
“Ah, look, there is a ram caught in the thicket!” Abraham cut the rope and Isaac quickly stood.
“What’s a thicket?”
“That, that’s a thicket and, help me get the ram so we can sacrifice it.”
“Help you? Are you kidding me? You’re crazy, you’re demented – wait until mommy hears about this.”
Isaac ran down the mountain and out of sight.

Abraham for his part, was spoken to by the angel of God.
And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven and said: ‘By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast hearkened to My voice.’

Abraham made it down the mountain.
“Did Isaac come down here?” He asked.
“We saw someone running down the mountain, couldn’t tell who it was. He was screaming some stuff about thickets or something.”
“Don’t pay any attention to that, he ate some strange mushrooms or something. Saddle up the ass and let’s get out of here.”

Isaac ran. He ran until he could barely breathe. It was then he came upon a large structure in the shape of a woman turned around. He licked his finger, touched the woman and tasted her.
“Aunty Edith?”

Isaac was on his way back home several days later and was met by Abraham as he walked.
“I thought you ran away with Aunt Edith.” He said.
“Funny, pop, funny.”
“I know you are angry at me, I can understand that.”
“You’re lucky I don’t press charges or worse, tell mom.”
“I appreciate that, but hear me out, son. When I hear God’s voice I know I am in the presence of an omnipotent force. I knew from when I was a child that all of the idols, the stars or the planets were not the creator of our world. I knew.”
“How did you know?” Isaac asked.
“To be honest? I don’t know. But I knew, I felt it. When I first heard him it wasn’t a sound like when I hear your voice or a thunder. It was all encompassing.”
“But why would he tell you to kill me?” Isaac was confused and in his eyes you could sense the feeling of betrayal.
“He never was going to let it happen, he was just testing me. I was an inch or so from killing -” With that Abraham realized what he came so close to actually doing. “It is called feeling and knowing for a fact, even though there is no concrete evidence of it – that God is watching over you.”
“You mean, having faith.”
“Yeah, but its more than that – having faith is believing – this feeling I am describing has no word for it – it is simply a part of a person such as a limb.”
“OK so what was the ‘prize’ you are getting for actually carrying out his commandment to you to kill your son.”
“Well, it’s not a ‘prize.’ It’s a promise that, me, a man who could not have children for the first century of his life, will be the father of infinite amount of people or as He put it, ‘I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore.'”
“You need to understand it was not an easy decision to make, not something I took lightly. You are my son with my love Sarah. You were the son God promised to your mother and me after being married forever. He told me that I should offer you to him as a sacrifice – I had no choice. But you see? When you listen to the words of God and you live your life as I have – treating people the way I would want to be treated – good things will happen. There were times I thought I would be killed, times I thought your mother would be taken away from me and times I thought I would never have a child. Now, here I am, an ‘old man’ as you called me. With your mother by my side and my son right in front of me. We go through crazy things in life, son, but if you stay true to who you are and you are a good man, things will always work out. But trust me – a lot of bad stuff will happen in your life. Betrayals, injuries, deaths…but, a lot of amazing things will fill it as well. Always remember the promise that God has made to me which extends to you, my son.”
“I am still freaked out pop, not gonna lie.”
“Yeah well, it will fade. At least I didn’t cut your-”
“OK let’s leave it at this. I love you pop.”
“I love you too, son.”

Empty Cup of Coffee (clock on the floor)


There is a distant almost ethereal feeling that overwhelms me. Midnight moons, street corner lamp posts and stray dogs searching for food, searching for a best friend.

An older man sits in his kitchen, staring into his coffee and occasionally twirling his spoon. He is thinking about the clock that must have fallen the night before. When there was a full moon and a cool wind was blowing. The earth shook, the clouds raced by and the moon snuck away ceding to the sunrise.

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A clock on the floor, empty cup of coffee and thoughts of ascension. A strange sound from the back of the house reminds me that its getting late for me.

A slamming door, a ringing bell and the sounds of sirens in the distance.
A strand of hair, on my shoulder from another time and place.
She was something special, but it wasn’t meant to last for too long – she used to count the stars on winter nights wearing just her night gown. Bare feet on the grass and fingers pointing to Alpha Centauri, Sirius and Antares among the stars, the star systems and constellations.  She had the best intentions and the best eyes I have ever seen through. When she left it was also with her best intention – a kiss and a hug with tears in her eyes she said, “Thank you.”

I take a sip from my coffee and notice it’s running low – the spoon is out of the cup now, at rest. The clock is back on the wall and it’s a panging reminder that it’s late – out of time, out of coffee…time to move on…

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In God’s Name?


These days we see otherworldly actions carried out in the name of God. No way to describe the destructive ways of the Islamic Extremists. Beheadings, rape, slavery, torture, death and death is the easy way out. They scream out their devotion and then they destroy.

Is God within their hearts?
Is God guiding their steps, one by one?
Is my God their God?

They look forward to death and believe rewards will be granted to those believers who will kill and die in the name of their god. Suicide bombers, hijacked planes, kidnapping and decapitation. Death and suffering disguised as religious devotion.

If this is how God’s power is being used we must put God on trial. We must put the Muslim faith on trial and if found guilty of mass destruction and murder, we must sentence them to death as well.

There are extremists throughout the world of God and religion. Some speak too much, some will push and prod while others will kill and maim. Does God value the prayers by the haters, the killers and the destroyers of civilization? Where is God when these people should be wiped off the face of the earth?

God has seemingly been silent – I believe He is somehow involved in each and every event, good or bad – perhaps one day we will find out the true reasons, not the rationalizations given by the ones who pretend to understand. No one knows why death and destruction exist.

As a child I was taught that God is an omnipotent power which cannot be touched, looked upon or clearly understood. God was all about life and love. God made the flowers grow and the stars shine. God said, “Let there be light, and there was, light.”

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As I aged and people I loved passed away one by one, sometimes I would wonder why God would allow such a special person to get sick and die? The black plague, the senseless murders and other illnesses which would cause unimaginable pain and destroy any sense of dignity which remained.

Where was He throughout World War 1 and then World War 2? They say God is here there and everywhere – was he in the concentration camps? Was he in the hole dug by Jews, then forced to lay down in and then covered in the same soil left to die a slow and lonely death?

Now as I have aged, I have been told by many that yes He was there. He was there within the hearts and minds of the ones who were there, who died and who suffered. He was the final words on their lips. I know for a fact that the words of God were on the lips of my father when he stopped being physically alive.

I know personally, in my most difficult times in life, He was there. The power of my faith kept me going even when I just wanted to crawl away and hide.

When I was divorced and literally in pain because of my separation from my children, I was alone, but I always felt God was with me. When I first saw my wife 6 years later – I know that God was with me. When I was jobless and felt abandoned, lost in fear and doubt, God was with me and kept me going. When I went through my emergency open heart surgery, a quadruple bypass back in 2013, God was with me and helped me to walk those first steps the next day.

So, God has been there within me throughout my life. Providing me with love, support and the strength to take that next step which seemed so hard to take. I have done so, in the name of God.

There is too much pain and sadness within this world; a world filled with beauty and reasons to be thrilled to be alive. A lake in the fall, scattered leaves floating away; birds flying south and sunrises and sunsets. Magical beauty – yet the Islamic Extremists destroy it all.

It is not the Christian faith, nor the Jewish. No other religion in this point of time, is guilty or suspected of killing, maiming or enslaving in the name of God.

God, as defined by these people, should be put on trial for the devastation caused and being caused each and every minute of the day.

Not all of Islam is on trial; only the Islamic Extremists need to be stopped cold.

Put this god on trial and if convicted of the crimes, give him the death penalty along with all the ones who have carried out the message of death.

Blood and Coffee and the Field of Dreams


Its a crazy world. One moment we are fixated on the inhumane acts across the globe – stabbings, enslaving, murders, living beings driven by hatred in the name of love. We cannot fathom nor try to understand this scope of insanity, fanatics killing, destroying and causing terror all in the name of their religion. But we feel it when the pictures of the victims are displayed. When the world, apparently infected by this viral insanity, nod their heads and wag their fingers in anger at the victims; we are confused.

When did good and evil become so confusing?

Pictures of blood stained shirts, live feeds of heads being decapitated on youtube; a child inspired by this behavior is videoed decapitating his teddy bear. Parents slaughtered in front of their newly orphaned children – in the name of hatred; destruction of life and love.
ShowImage-758x400On this side of the globe  We go to work, we try to live our lives within the borders of the “Golden Rule,” and hope for the best.
At the end of the day we are tired, emotionally and physically. We are tired because despite the fact we sit by a computer or work on our feet – we feel the pressure to try and succeed; success is measured by so many factors – redefined on a hourly basis.

We feel the winds of death blowing and shake our heads, wag our fingers in anger at the atrocities carried out. We cannot control the world but we do have our own little world and like they say, “you need to begin at home.”

Israel and democracy is always under attack by the ones who fear freedom. We must stand up and remind the evil that in the end they will not survive and will be obliterated.

un-netanyahu-glares-at-unga-to-condemn-deafening-silence-over-iranWe live a civilized life. At the end of the day our shirts are coffee stained and our face word down by wrinkles of concern and smiles. There is sadness in the form of memories and the people who are physically no longer with us. Their absence causes us to feel an emptiness and a sense of confusion. We wonder where did all the time go and how can we get it back? There is the pressure of bills to pay and people to feed, that is something to feel grateful for, but still a pressure none-the-less.

There is the real world and then – there is baseball. I have been watching the New York Metropolitans ever since I can remember. The New York “Mets”are never the favorited team to win anything. They are the perennial underdogs.

There are different sports, different teams and different kinds of fans. The sport I am talking about is a religion called baseball. The fans I am alluding to are the 162 baseball fans. The fans who are aware of each of the games being played by their team.

As true baseball fans, we are in-tune to each of the 162 baseball games throughout the season. If we aren’t watching it, we are following the game on our car radios, television set, smartphones of just being updated via text by a fellow 162 baseball fan.

I remember being a kid and calling “Sportsphone” (the phone number was 976-1313 and it was constantly being updated as the games went on) to check the scores over and over.

In New York City, (I am a New Yorker and I am writing about New York, nothing against any other baseball city, except for Los Angeles) there is an intense connection with the team of our choice. You cannot be a Met fan and a Yankee fan. Whoever says they can be is not a 162 baseball fan. That’s ok. Throughout the years the Yankees have dominated the world; winning, winning and getting all the girls.

The Met’s last won it all in 1986. Almost won it all in 2000 but were beaten by, of all teams, those Damn Yankees who celebrated on the Met’s home field.

Most, if not all, non-162 baseball fans will say how easy the sport is to play, especially when there are seemingly out of shape players.


Yet, not many people can step into the batters box and hit a small ball coming towards you at 100 miles per hour. Not many people can catch a ball hit a mile high into the sun or into the dark sky with seemingly little effort. Its a sport, it is entertainment, it is a distraction from all the craziness that surrounds us, which clouds our minds and scares the shit out of us. But, to some of us, its 162 days a year of baseball.

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The practicing begins each year around the 15th of February, when the days are still short and the wind is still cold. It reminds us of the summer and endless possibilities. It somehow speeds up the dog days of winter and delivers us the “Hope Springs of April.” In spring training, every team believes or wants to believe that they have a shot of winning it all. There is a clean slate and even if they are totally not expected to win, well, miracles do happen.
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The world is spinning out of control – Islamic extremists do not have any sense of the value of a single life. They worship a religion where death is the ultimate achievement. Whereas the rest of the world celebrates life and the value of each and every soul. We understand that with each death there is a value, a space, that is lost and the world, the whole world is changed forever.
So we watch baseball, we scream obscenities at the screen, jump for joy when we can and simply enjoy the pain of being a NY Met’s fan. My wife cannot understand. She cannot comprehend why, a grown man approaching 50 years of age, begins to make strange noises, and performs dance moves that would make Elaine Benes proud.

Baseball is a major artery in the lives of 162 fans – we develop a relationship with each member of the team. We identify with them because we are all trying to hit a round ball with a round bat. There are so many life metaphors in this sport – one on one, pitcher versus batter. The support system is familial. Always someone behind you and always someone waiting to step up to the plate to try and bring you home. The coach’s always a father figure in each.

Life is hard; no meme or positive affirmations can change the fact that although each morning is a brand new start – we are still faced with the same tasks of somehow staying healthy, paying impossible debts and keeping a smile on your face.

So for all of us 365 fans of life and love – may true peace come in our days and quickly. Otherwise, pitchers and catchers report on February 15th and hope will once again spring eternal on our fields of dreams.

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No more Romance


No more sunsets or sunrises. No more walks just to walk, an excuse to hold hands and talk. No more candle lit dinners, champagne on ice and laughter.
No more love songs, no more midnight beaches cold sand on your back, no more long exhales.
No more walking in the rain, no more lying in the grass, no more red wine on lazy Sunday afternoons.
It’s just not important, just not what real life is, those scenes in your mind are just memories we wish were true. Did it ever happen?

I can remember the sparkle in your eyes when you would see me walking towards you.
I can remember your body glistening in the moonlight and feeling the heat of your mouth…waves in the background and time on our side.
I can recall long walks through Central Park, getting lost and then finding the carousel.
Candle lit rooms, champagne glasses and a soft breeze from the terrace. Soft music playing, you and I entangled as one…

I love you, I love you, I love you…love is never a question. I just want your affection, I want to look into your eyes and change what you see when you see me. 
Empty tables, empty chairs and a cool wind is blowing tonight. No stars, no moon and the music is turned off. 

A shadow walking down an empty street illuminated by the streetlights; as a second shape merges with it – two shadows, walk side by side. The moon is out now and from an apartment across the road the sound of a Sinatra song from long ago is playing. The two shadows become one and their shapes, an explosive white light illuminating their lives. 

Lydia, Groucho, Anthony and a Dog Named Ike


Anthony and Lydia

Chapter 1 – Lydia, Groucho, Anthony and a Dog Named Ike

Lydia bought herself a chocolate frosted Entenmann’s cake for herself the night before she would be celebrating her 70th birthday. She didn’t expect anyone to remember her birthday aside from her children. They would reach out to her with the obligatory indifferent phone calls, force their children to get on the phone and mimic what they were being told to say.

The only one who ever cared or at least did a good acting job of it was Theodore. It was the one day in the year when he would avoid hitting or verbally abusing her. When he died on her 65th birthday, it was the best gift he had ever given to her.

She remembered her father and the love he always lavished on her mother. The flowers, the hugs and the kisses. The notes left around the house and the stolen moments they would spend alone. True love defined. She missed them…it had been almost 20 years since they both were killed when their car went off the highway in Staten Island.

Her daughters would call her daily and send her their love; never once listening to any answers to the mundane questions they would pose to her. If she was able to get a full sentence out about her own well being it was a rare occurrence. He sons would call as well, maybe once or twice in a week with insincere invitations to spend some time together.

Lydia was an artist who loved to sit by her easel, canvas white but for her vision. After some hot black coffee the visions would be born…there were the flowers in vases, small cafes in an open area – windows on the second floors of each establishment – each expressing a separate scene, a separate life of their own. Silhouettes of a lady, a window with a shelf of flowers, two lovers dancing and other scenes all dependant on her mood.

It was on her 66th birthday when she bought herself “Groucho.” Groucho was a Yorkie who was being sold by her neighbor in the building where she lived. She looked at the Yorkie she realized how lonely she was by seeing how lonely the little pup seemed.

When she moved into the building, while Theodore was still alive in the hospice, she felt as if the walls were closing in on her. Although the sounds of the neighbors, the occasional company in the elevators or in the mailroom had been strangely comforting. She missed the whole idea of having someone with her – but sure as hell did not miss the son of a bitch.

Anthony was an old school Italian man. He was born in New York City on the day the world and history would remember as “The day that will live in infamy;” December 7th 1941. His father was an older man tried to enlist into the army but was rejected due to his being 52 years old.

Anthony met Marie at Church one Sunday when he was 19 years old. He had been rejected by the army because of a leg injury that left him with a limp. He was one of the few 19 year old men at the church and when they saw each other he told his father that he would be marrying her. His father nodded and spoke to Mr. Berentelli right after church that day. The two families went to dinner at the same restaurant (without the kids knowing) and when the fathers greeted each other they combined tables. Anthony sat next to Marie – few words were spoken, their hearts pounded, they felt a strange uplift in spirit and their eyes look into each other as if they knew.

Anthony and Marie were married for 50 years when she felt a thrust of pain run up her chest, fell on the floor and died. Anthony was lost. He had never lived alone and had been “Mothered” his whole life. Now he found himself alone in a home where Marie and himself had spent their lives, raised 4 children, celebrated and mourned life’s twists and turns and loved one another.

Anthony was not the best communicator and was an old fashioned father. He didn’t want his childrens love he wanted their respect. He ignored their invitations to live with them after their mother died, saying he preferred to live alone.

A year after her death he put his house on the market and decided to take a one bedroom apartment in a building several blocks away. Since him and Marie had a dog, “Ike” (named after Eisenhower) it was the constant reminder of a life once shared with her. The kids, of course, but they carried too much of a responsibility to talk to, to give money to and to advise on things that he didn’t understand while he was going through them, much less now that he had gotten older.

Anthony was walking Ike one day on Ocean Parkway and began to feel pangs of sadness. He was not complete without his Marie – he was still feeling a sense of withdrawal from her departure. Still could not sleep on both sides of the bed, still could not sit by the table for meals and still made sure the space next to him in church was left vacant out of respect.

The day he moved out of the house was like a bandage being pulled from an open wound. He held in his tears until he got into his apartment, locked the doors and fell to the floor. He stayed inside, boxes still unpacked until his daughters showed up to help out.

It was in the middle of February and the temperature had turned into a very unseasonably warm 63 degrees. Anthony pulled on his sweatshirt, his derby hat and placed the leash on Ike.

“Come on now Dwight D – we are going to go breath in the fresh air before the cold air comes back again.” He walked towards the elevator, pushed the call button and stood there waiting. Whistling a tune from another lifetime he smiled as several memories came racing to him. The elevator bell rang and he stepped inside the empty car.

Lydia was in a singing mood and when she picked up Groucho’s leash, connected it to his collar and opened the door to go for a walk.

Lydia was singing “Summer Time and the living is Easy,” when she pushed the elevator button. The car arrived and there was a man inside with a dog.


Chapter 2 – Dogs 

As soon as Lydia saw that the elevator was occupied she stopped singing. The dogs barked at each other throughout the ride down to the lobby. Ike and Groucho seemed to hit it off and as the doors opened – they each began jumping in tandem.

“Its a good thing they are both males – otherwise we would need to get a priest to marry them.” Anthony said and Lydia let out a short laugh.

They walked together out the front door, the dogs leading them towards the same direction.

“What is your name?” Anthony asked.

“Lydia.”

“What a beautiful name.”

She blushed, fought back a smile and looked at the ground.

“Thank you, and what is your name?”

“Anthony – not such a beautiful name.”

“That’s not true – it is a handsome name.”

They walked in silence both betraying a sense of excitement by smiling as they watched Ike and Groucho leading the way.

“Groucho, stop it.” Lydia called out as Groucho began to bark as a little child walked past them.

“Groucho? I thought my naming Ike was strange.” They both laughed.

Lydia closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“I wish this weather could last…its been a long winter.”

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“I know – if it weren’t for Ike I probably wouldn’t even leave the apartment. I lost my wife a little over a year ago…” He said his voice trailing off.

“I am sorry. My husband passed five years ago, on my birthday actually. So its five years ago yesterday.”

“Oh I am sorry…I dont know whether to wish you a happy birthday or …”

“Oh its fine…it was actually the best gift he ever gave me, my freedom. Although freedom does come with a lot of chains and locked doors.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Sorry – I meant that the freedom I craved for is nice – but it can get kind of-.” She caught herself. “Its nothing. I have to go now, sorry. Come on Groucho.”

“Was it something I said – I didn’t mean to pry-”

“Its just too quick too soon I don’t even know you and here I am confessing my personal sins…”

“How about we get to know each other – would you like to get coffee tomorrow morning?”

“I don’t know…I cant…I have a lot of things to do tomorrow…”

“OK I understand – well, if you ever want to talk or have a walking companion…I am in apartment 5D.”

“OK Anthony…”

She walked away with Groucho barking in protestation. She was shaking and felt it would be inappropriate to give him her cell number. She smiled, she meant to say apartment number. She had been calling it a jail cell since Theodore passed away – feeling as if she was doing time for some sin she must have made somewhere, sometime to someone but she could not recall…

When the door closed to her apartment it would echo down the hall and give her a chilling reminder of her being in some sort of solitary confinement.

She had her friends but they were busy with their lives; husbands, jobs, grandchildren…she didn’t have a job, didnt need one and wasnt really sure what she would be able to do anyway. These days it was all computers – she wouldn’t know how to even turn one on if her life depended on it.

Anthony walked away and then turned to watch as Lydia, “What a pretty name for such a beautiful lady.” He thought to himself. What right does he have to be thinking such thoughts. “I will go to Father Fletcher tomorrow and confess my sin.” What sin? He thought again. Speaking to another lady who for some reason he felt an awakening with? He was feeling a surge of energy, like a school boy when the first glance of love is caught. He kept picturing her and feeling her presence- but it kept slipping away…


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 3 – Lydia

She couldn’t move from her bed. She felt the room spinning and spinning as if on a never ending merry-go-round. She looked up at the ceiling and noticed a shadow was moving closer and closer. A little girl was standing over her and whispering something. What?

Where was she? Sometime in…

She jumped up. Lydia had a bad dream. A nightmare where all memories have been wiped away – like the chalk from a board. Still somehow seen but totally illegible. Markings on a worn out stone from thousands of years ago – written in a language long dead.

Lydia’s fear was forgetting.

She had an Aunt who had lost all memories of herself – as if her mind had been stolen from her body and that remained was her physical self.

Lydia stood up, looked at the clock which said 532. Pulled on her robe and went to boil some water. Sitting down by the small table in the kitchen she thinks about her kids and hopes they have found what had eluded her…

True happiness was like sand in a hourglass – piling up one moment and slipping away the next. Who was this man, “Anthony.” Why had they connected so quickly? Why had been so frightened when she felt that she was speaking too much?

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Loneliness can be quite the impetus for two strangers to begin a relationship. For long ago forgotten emotions to spring awake and begin to poke and prod their way back into ones life.

Her phone rang.

“Hey mom.” It was Daniella, her eldest.

“Good morning Dani.”

“How you doing mom?”

“I am feeling good – just had a strange drea-”

“Cary woke up at 3 oclock with a fever. When I took his temperture he threw up all over the place.”

“Is he ok?”

“He is sleeping now and I am up doing laundry – so I guess he is ok. He doesn’t have fever now. Not sure if it’s the Motrin or if he is doing better.”

“Do you need my help? Do you want me to come over?”

“No its fine. So anyway…”

Lydia wanted to be needed, to be asked to come over and help out. She barley listened as Dani kept speaking about stupidity without even once thinking to inquire about her mother.

At one point Lydia put the phone down, refilled her cup with some hot water and came back without her brief absence being noticed. 

“Dani – I have to hang up.”

“Are you ok?”

“Yes, yes, how much of this can I hear over and over again?”

“What?”

“Nothing, there is a lot of noise – I will call you later.”

Lydia made her way out of the kitchen, looked outside and noticed it had clouded up since the night before. She thought about Daniella and how she was always self-absorbed even as a child. Abby on the other hand had changed. Abby was the good one, the caring daughter who was always dreaming and writing in her journal.

At twenty she thought she had found the answers to her questions in her philosophy professor. It turned out his philosophy in life was to screw every coed he could before he turned 60. When she walked in on him with another student, a freshman, pleasuring him at his desk. She threw her books at him and stormed out of the building. She never went back and began working as a waitress a week later in a diner a block from our home.

Today she lives outside of Port Washington. She is married to a lawyer who is as big of an asshole as her father was. Their three kids make up for any sadness that he causes her – she visits twice a month.

Daniella lived 30 minutes away and would stop frequently – it always felt as if it the visits were made out of duty than out of love. Her kids, 4 girls had taken after their father who was a much better person than Dani.

That thought saddened her – made her feel as if she failed as a mother.

A knock on the door.

“Who is it?”

“Its Dwight D and Anthony, good morning.”

Groucho began to bark and jump in circles by the door. She took his leash and connected it to his collar and opened the door.

“Good morning, I was just taking Groucho for his walk.”

“Would you mind if I joined you?”

“Not at all…maybe we can grab that coffee.” She smiled.

“Sounds absolutely wonderful.” He smiled right back.


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 4 – Anthony

Anthony walked back to his apartment after taking Dwight D for his evening walk. He was feeling kind of melancholy and lonely.

The night was navy blue and there was a winter silence on the streets. The temperature was dropping back to its February average – so the early spring was no more.

The brown leather leash was sagging and Dwight D seemed to share the melancholy. He had met a friend and then suddenly that friend was gone. Anthony thought about Marie – sweet Marie…

It had been one year but the year had been hard. Adjusting to sleeping alone in a bed – that was a tough one. Moving out of the house where they had spent their lives together was more cathartic than painful. He needed to leave – he couldn’t spend more time in a house that was no longer a home. She was the home – without her it was just bricks and wood. No aromas from the upcoming meals sneaking through the kitchen doors and windows. No love – no love…

Six months ago he had begun spending some time at the soup kitchen down the block – helping set up the tables, the chairs, cleaning the dishes and serving the soup. It was only 5 hours a week but it had a major impact on his life. He was needed, he worked hard, made people smile and was appreciated. What more could one ask for?

Anthony was still a handsome man. His hair was full and his weight had not changed in 50 years. He dressed in slacks and a buttoned down shirt each day – although he had given in to sneakers – his one concession to dressing well.  He was usually clean shaven but lately had begun to grow a pencil thin mustache – similar to Vincent Price once had. His eyes were blue and his hair a wild white.

One day as he sat in his livingroom he spoke to Dwight D; told him how much he was hurting – and Ike seemed to understand. He just sat there, face in Anthony’s lap and let him pet him. Anthony’s livingroom was sparse. There was a black leather couch that looked like a relic from the 1980’s which faced a television which in itself was a relic from perhaps an even earlier decade. Antenna made out of a wire hangar and only the broadcast channels available. The walls were painted a bone white with several drug store paintings adorning the four walls. The carpet was burgundy and was laid upon the ground of the apartment, save for the kitchen and bathroom. There were two windows facing the courtyard and a building right behind looming with its twenty or so windows facing him. He lay in bed at night and watch as each window would betray the isolation of nameless souls occupying each.

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“I need something more in our lives Ike…”

That same day they walked into Lydia as they stood in the elevator riding down. He enjoyed her company and felt a reawakening when he was with her for that short time. But there was something about her that made him feel she was what he needed.

She was a fragile soul, Lydia. Looked as if she was frightened of life – of expressing herself. He wanted to get to know her more and have Ike spend time with Groucho. She asked for some time but God knows time was not a luxury either of them had the leisure of wasting.

He decided the night before to go down to her apartment and ask her if she would like to take the dogs for a walk together.

He woke up an hour early, shaved, trimmed his ‘stache and splashed some Old Spice on his face. Combed his hair and worked in some Vitalis; then pulled on his pants and the newest shirt he had.

“Come on Mr. President, time to find something more before its too late.”


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 4 1/2 – The Lady with the Red and Black Suit
After the walk that morning a routine began to take shape. Anthony would knock on Lydia’s door and they would go for a walk. In the morning they would get coffee and in the afternoon they would walk to the cafe and have a cup of tea together. They had developed a routine and each one of them began to look forward to spending more and more time together.

Three weeks or so after their first meeting on the elevator, it was five o’clock in the afternoon and they were walking down Kings Highway. The temperature had warmed again and the clock had been set to Daylight savings time in New York. So the sun would be setting an hour later than it had been.

As they walked across the street Ike began to bark and Groucho joined in. There was a lady in a red and black suit sitting on a stool and handing out tarot cards.

She shooed the dogs for barking and they went silent.

“Please take a card.” She spoke in a gypsy accent. She was in her forties, leathery skin on her face pulled across her facial bones. Her hair was black, her eyes were black and she had a black diamond stud in her left nostril. Her coat was half red and half black. She wore a knit cap on the back of her head and by her feet was a satchel full of her tarots.

Anthony took a card and it was the card of lovers. Embarrassed he was undecided of what to do with it. Not that Anthony and Lydia were lovers, they not even held hands, but it was as if it were a sign of sorts. maj06

“Aah, you pulled the card of lovers. You both are not married, Am I right?”

“No, yes, I mean, no we are not married.” Lydia responded.

“Oh but there is feelings between you two…where are your spouses? Wait don’t answer…” She pulled a card and it was the death card.

“So they are both deceased and each of you are having feelings of guilt for enjoying each others company…dis is the reason you are not yet lovers.” She smiled a knowing smile.

“Not yet…um, ok.” Anthony did not know what to say – but he knew she was correct.

“Take another card…” She held one towards him.

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“Aah…the hanged man. This is interesting.”

“What she is going to hang me?”

“No – the hanged man is not what it seems. It is based on Odin the Norse God who hung himself upside down for 9 days to try and learn the knowledge of the runes.”

“So what does it mean?” Lydia asked.

“The hanged man is telling you to stop trying to control every aspect of your life. Let go and let things fall into place and they will. There is a destiny for each of us; the harder you try and to evade it the harder it is your life will be. Give up your sense of control – its as real as a fake orgasm. Looks real, feels real but it is not real and no benefit is derived from it.”

“You must go now…but stay together. There is adventure ahead.” She closed her eyes and gestured to her satchel.

Anthony went into his pocket and pulled a five dollar bill. Dropped it into the satchel and they walked away.

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Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 5 – Anthony and the Father

Father Fletcher looked exactly like Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel in “Its a Wonderful Life.” The stereo-typical old Irish man. His nose was usually red and his hair parted to the left. He would speak to himself and when caught would say he was speaking to the Lord. He would hum when he was nervous which presented him with some uncomfortable situations. He was Anthony’s oldest friend and confidant.

“Forgive me father for i have sinned, it has been you know how long since my last confession.”

Anthony confessed to sins he had not committed yet felt obliged to express. When he was done he let out a short laugh.
Father Fletcher responded quickly and ended with, “…and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.”

He crossed himself and said, “How are ya Anthony?”

“Good Peter, sorry I haven’t been around. I met someone – I feel alive again.”

“So why are you confessing that to me? Come on lets go have a tiny drop of somethin’.”

“I feel guilty Father.”

“Stop with the Father crap, lets speak as friends. Have you done anything to feel guilty about?”

“No I haven’t but I feel the temptation and I wonder, do you think Marie would mind?”

“Are you confessing to God or Marie?”

That silenced him into enforced introspection. He thought to himself, “If it were me that had died I would not want her to be alone…but would I be ok with her loving another man?”

“Anthony? Step outside and lets go for a walk as friends.”

“OK.”

The Father walked into the backroom, pulled on his coat and tapped on his stetson, tilted to the left. He threw his scarf around his neck and walked to greet Anthony.

“How you doing buddy?” The Father outstretched his hand.

“I am doing well Pete.”

“Shall we?” Gesturing towards the exit.

“We shall.” He smiled.

As they sat in a booth at “O’Leary’s,” a dark and damp rectangular tavern with wooden floors and walls. As you walked you could feel your shoes lightly sticking to the floor – the lights were always set to a low dim because it would be poor business to lighten up the room and expose the stains on the floors, walls and bar itself. The bar had been opened for sixty years and many a great man has spent moments of muddled confusion amid the aromas of vomit and a floor that had not had a proper mopping in over a decade. Al was at the helm today and he smiled as he greeted the old friends.

“Father?”

“Pete today, Father later on.” He winked.

They sat down as friends now – friends since they first met back in the 60’s some time. When Anthony looked across the table he thought to himself that his good friend had aged none to kindly. Then he caught a glimpse in the speckled mirror across the floor and saw what he mistook for an older man looking right back at him. OK I guess time spares no one…besides Sofia Loren I guess.

“So tell me about this ‘new found happiness.'”

“Well, I met this girl…”

“OK I am interrupting you. Is she a good person?”

“Yes, it seems like she-”

“Is she nice to you?”

“Yes, of cour-”

“The cut the bullshit, excuse me, and enjoy the company and the love – for a lot of people it comes once in a life, for some two or three times. But for some it never comes so – if God has blessed your ugly mug with love – grab it and don’t let it go.”

“Is that spoken as a father or friend?”

“Both now be quiet and order another round, I am thirsty.”

Anthony smiled, looked at his friend and noticed the emptiness in his eyes. He had helped hundreds, maybe thousands with his guidance over the years, still he found himself living alone and possibly in regret as well. Now he felt guilty again. How could he take love for granted? What kind of person would be given the chance to posses the most valuable stuff in the world and dismiss it as a nuisance? Love wasn’t to be taken for granted – love was to be treasured and grabbed onto each second of its presence.

The barkeep brought them their two shots and two extra’s “On me, gentlemen.” They smiled.

They looked at the glasses, smiled and Anthony proposed a toast.

“Le Chayim.”

“Le Chayim!”

They both laughed. Before they drank there was a pause.

“I miss that son of a bitch.” The Father’s eyes welled up with a sadness that could not be expressed too openly. Sometimes ‘love’ can be considered a sin even if its love.

“I know…I do as well. I love you Pete you are my brother.”

“If I am your brother and your Father – and Irv was my…we make up a really messed up family, kid.”

They drank and drank again; all the time laughter replaced the sadness they both felt inside. They time had been stolen from them from under their feet – the worlds laws and expectations causing shifts in the foundation of being human.

“What’s her name?”

“Lydia.” Anthony said with a smile.

The Father began to sing, “Lydia oh Lydia, have you met Lydia? Lydia the Queen of tattoos. Does she have any tattoos?”

“Not sure yet.” He winked, “But I intend to find out soon.”

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Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 6 – Lydia and the Girls

Daniella called her mother to let her know that her and Abby would be arriving that evening.

“Whats wrong?” She asked

“Whats wrong? A lot mom, all three of us need some time together.”

“I would love to spend time with you but is everything ok?”

“Abby and I are going to take you to Atlantic City for the night. We will leave in the morning spend the day and then the night there.”

“When? Why?”

“Tomorrow morning we are driving there – just us mom.”

“I need some warning, I need to plan in advance, you know I do have a life.”

“I know you do and we want to be more a part of it than we have been.”

Daniella was a little taller than her mom at 5 foot 6, she had reddish blonde hair, light skin and dark eyes framed by soft eye brows and freckles beneath them. She was an easy dressed lady – could have passed as a Gap model with her white collared blouse, blue jeans and uggs. She was not the prettiest looking woman out there but there was a pull which made her seem prettier than she was.

She pulled her mother closer and embraced her.

Abby arrived later that evening – on her cell phone arguing with her husband about something to do with him being late that evening to be with the kids.

“I understand that you work – ok, no problem. Just make sure they all eat dinner, finish their homework and then go to sleep. Three things – I love you. Thank you for this.”

Hearing Abby say “I love you” brought a sense of cheer to Lydia.

Abby gave her mother a long and strong hug as Daniella watched from the kitchen.

“Just like old times.” Her mother whispered.

Daniella joined in the hug and each began to tear up tears of their own recipes.

“These two days are going to be about all three of us, OK?” Abby said.

“What spurred this on?” Lydia asked.

“We both have realized the void in our lives has to do with our being too busy with life but having nothing to do with living.”

The words were spoken, discussed and the memories were dissected. The who, what, why and wheres were not important any longer. There was the now which needed to be grasped.

They spent the evening sleeping, all three of them in the same bed – each taking turns staring at the ceiling, the window aglow with the street lamps and the darkness. Swatting away the ingredients to the tears that were cried earlier.

By the time they drove back to Lydia’s home they had each decided that Lydia would be joining them each weekend. One Sunday by Abby, Daniella and then, at Lydia’s insistence, by Lydia. “Husbands, grandchildren and all.”  Lydia stressed.

The evening when she returned there was a note left under her door handwritten;

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She smiled even though she had to read it several times to decipher it. “Please let me know when you get back. Your Pal, Anthony.”

It was only 7pm so she rode the elevator to his apartment and knocked on the door.


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 7 – Anthony and Lydia Ride the Conveyor Belt

Anthony heard the knock and could not understand what was happening. He was sitting in his recliner and was lost in a parallel world. As Ike barked and jumped at the door Anthony just stared at him lost in a fog.

“They are coming after me.” Ghosts swam throughout the apartment – from a coffee stained  spot on his carpet at his feet to the corner of the ceiling to the far left of the door. He sat there, soiled in his seat and sweating. Screaming but not making a sound; running but not moving an inch. He could not move – chains were tied around his arms, his legs…

Lydia kept knocking at the door, heard Ike barking and was hoping that Anthony had gone for a walk on his own.

Ike was barking, howling and jumping.

Anthony was jumping, twisting and turning – chains at his waste now – almost free, almost free…

“Knocking, banging, pounding, from where, from whom?”

Ghosts swimming, river is running across the carpeted room – a river running wild, heading somewhere.

An old song played out loud as rain began to fall, “If it keep on raining the levee gonna break…” The river like a conveyer belt – bringing, taking, pulling, pushing – take me home, take me home…

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The knocking on the door stopped as Lydia stepped away in deep thought. Ike continued to leap against the door and suddenly the good General, President and leader jumped onto Anthony and began to squirm and howl in a sad wale…

Anthony jumped.

Ike jumped.

Back in reality Anthony saw the room for what it was…a lowlit, messy one bedroom apartment with stained carpet and cheap paint job walls.

Lydia waited for the elevator to come – it showed the car was on the 7th floor.

She felt a nagging pull towards Anthony – she turned and knocked again.


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 8 -The Tarot Card Reading Gypsy Woman

The knocks on the door continued, he went to see who it was only to find himself in a pool of piss and shit.

“Anthony, are you in there? Are you ok?” It was Lydia.

“I am fine, I fell asleep – can I call on you later on?”

“Yes, of course. I will be in my apartment – come by I will make us some tea.”

He smiled – this old Italian still had it and he would find out soon enough if this Lydia was the queen of Tattoos.

“OK I will be up there at,” He looked at his watch, surprised it was already seven, “around seven thirty, is that ok?”

“Yes of course, see you then.”

This wasn’t the first episode he had experienced. This was happening way too frequently lately and although he was nervous about what its cause was – the last thing he wanted to do was to go to the Doctor and have them run tests on him. Poke, prod, put to sleep, poke, wake up, ask questions…he had seen it done to Marie and he was not about to let them do it to himself.

The elevator came and Lydia walked in.

The lady in the red and black suit stood there with a knowing smile. Gold tooth, gap in between the two front teeth and the knit cap was in her right hand.

“Oh my…” Lydia said.

“Hello Lady.” The gypsy spoke in her gravelly voice which made one want to clear her throat for her.

“Do you live here?”

“I live. I live here, I live.” She smiled a creepy smile.

“What apartment are you in?” Lydia asked her.

“Oh no, I don’t live here – but I do live,” She spread her arms, “Here.”

The Tarot Card reading Gypsy Woman pulled out an amulet.

“I want you to wear this on your chest tonight.” She pulled out a second one. “Give this one to Anthony and tell him to do the same. You are both suffering from an illness that will eventually take away your thoughts, your memories and your soul.”

“What are you speaking about?” Lydia was scared.

“I know about your ‘episodes’ where you are in a dreamlike state and the world is all…helter skelter. You are not alone, Anthony shares this with you and the Gods have brought you together to form a bond. I have been sent to perform, hmm how should I phrase this? To help facilitate an age regression and heal the infected lobes of – to make you younger and healthy again.”

“How do you know about my…episodes? and how do you even know Anthony’s name – we didn’t introduce ourselves to you?

“You are not alone, Lydia. No one is, really. Oh you may feel lonely and you may feel a sense of a cold wind blowing. But you are not alone.”

The elevator moved. Lydia hadn’t noticed the elevator had not moved throughout the conversation. The elevator stopped at her floor. She hadn’t even pressed the buttons…the lady was gone.

Anthony finished cleaning up, showering and splashed on some Old Spice. Took out a comb and pushed his hair back, pulled on a buttoned down shirt and looked in the mirror.

“God I am old…then why am I mentally so young?” He said out loud as if expecting an answer. The phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey Pop, its Nicky. How you feeling?”

“Hey, hey Nicky. I am fine, fine.” He didnt want to let on about Lydia – he felt that Nicky would be upset if he knew that he was interested in another woman.”

“I want to come up with Bella and the girls on Saturday, will you be around?”

“Yes of course I will be. I will take you all out for lunch, we can go to L & B like the old days.”

“Oh man – I can smell it and taste it pop.”

“I am meeting a friend of mine for tea. Lets speak on Friday so we can confirm the time, ok?”

“OK, good night dad. Oh and dad?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Anthony smiled, “Thank you, good night.”


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 9 – Everyone Says “I love you”

Anthony couldn’t muster those words while the line was engaged – when he pressed the “End” button he let out a deep breath and whispered, “I love you.”

What was it about those three words? Why was it so important to everyone to hear them? He was brought up to believe that respect was tantamount to love. His father drilled it into him. His mother had her German mother’s strictness and never uttered those three words in her life. She did hear them from his sister and his brothers – but Anthony refused to ever say them to her. When she lay in her casket he placed a white rose and whispered it in her ear. By then his father was long gone – but he still felt the chills of fear race through him as he walked away.

To his wife he was romantic and expressed his love through flowers, song and obligatory acts of a husband. He loved her and would play music and slow dance with her – but when she would say it to him he would smile. She understood.

So why this need to say, “I love you”? Why this pull to call each of his children and grandchildren to express his love with three words? Through a lifetime of service he had provided shelter, food, clothing and served as a role model. He had left behind and never looked back his dreams of being a painter. He had no regrets but felt that if three words, eight letters in all – were not voiced – why the bitterness from his children?

He looked at the clock and realized he was late. Seven Thirty Eight.

“Well its about time I was going to go check on you but…” She kept silent.

“You can come by any time you’d like – its always a breath of fresh air. You have no idea.” He smiled she looked troubled.

“Whats wrong Lydia?”

“I dont know – maybe – at first I thought I had imagined it but then I saw the two amulets on the table.”

“Amulets?”

“Yes…do you remember that gypsy lady the other day? The one with the Tarot cards?”

“Yes of course – she was kind of scary.”

“Well, when I left your apartment I went in the elevator and she was in there.”

“The gypsy lady? Maybe she was visiting someone.”

“No she wasn’t, well, she wasn’t visiting just anyone. Apparently she came to see me, or more exact, us.”

“Why, how would she know we lived here and why would she? She was probably putting you on.”

“Anthony – I have these episodes sometimes. Its as if I am in a dream or nightmare and crazy things are happening. The clock on my wall – the arms begin to race round and round; pictures in frames begin to speak to me as if the person in the picture is alive and having a conversation with me.”

“I have those same crazy scenes also – where I am floating above my bed – there is a river running through my room and I am shaking…”

“I know you do – the Gypsy Lady told me…”

“Anthony – she actually was in the elevator, the elevator did not seem to be moving and she spoke to me for several minutes. When she was done the door opened at my floor. She gave me these two amulets,” She walked across to pick them up and show it to him, “she said that one was for me and the other for you. She said we should put them on and go to sleep. She said we should be sleeping in the same bed in order for it to work.” The last part she made up because she did not want to sleep alone that night. She was scared – what if the old hag came back?

“Well if you are using this as an excuse to get me in bed, let me tell you something – it worked.” He said laughing.

“Anthony, I am scared.” She put her arms around him and her head on his chest. At first his instinct was to pull away but then he let her melt into him. He thought to himself, “What if there is some truth to what the Gypsy had said?” Then he said aloud.

“I say we wear them to bed and see what happens. What is the worst thing that can happen? Lord knows whats been going on in my head I haven’t revealed to anyone – so if she knows about it maybe there is something, um, something magical? Maybe she is a Shaman – my mother used to say that all women are by nature a shaman – able to heal with their motherly powers.”

“In my religion that’s called witchcraft.”

“Well in my condition I will take anything or do anything to reverse whatever death is coming to my brain.”

“I agree – it is frightening…”

“Don’t be frightened – I will be here for you.” His lips touched hers – instantly he felt a feeling of awakening. Instantly he knew that he was once again, alive.” Groucho, sensing this barked. Their lips parted and Lydia bent down to calm Groucho down.

“Oh come on Groucho – you know you are my favorite.” They laughed and Groucho walked back to his corner.

“That was nice…Lydia…” He kissed her and suddenly her mouth opened to let him in – she tasted like Cinnamon Apple tea – she thought he tasted like peppermint candy. They found their way into her room and she closed the door.


Anthony and Lydia – Chapter 10 – Don’t Fall out that Window!

Anthony woke to find Lydia sitting by an open window. He looked at her from behind and her silhouette whispered and he responded. The weather had turned and it must have been in the 70’s already – “what a strange weather we have” he thought to himself. He walked behind her, put his hands on her shoulders and whispered in her ear, “If you fall out the window and break both of your legs, don’t come running to me.” She laughed. “I believe it was your dog that said that.”

Anthony felt strange – there was a lightness and an easiness about him this morning. “I guess love can make us old folk feel alive again.” He said to Lydia, who sat with her back against the window pane and her legs on the sill. She looked radiant.

“I was just thinking the same thing – I feel so invigorated.” She stood, “I will put up a pot of coffee.” She stood up slowly expecting to feel the usual soreness, aches and pains only to feel…what? “What was this light feeling as if floating on my feet?”

She heard a glass break in the bathroom where Anthony was. She ran towards him as if floating.

“What happened?”

“Um…I don’t know…I must be having one of my ep-I need to lay down. Please don’t mind me.” He walked out of the bathroom, his face out of her sight feeling out of his mind. “Not now, please. Be strong – don’t have a meltdown now in front of her…” He screamed at the top of his lungs in his mind and he lay down, covered his face with the blanket and mercifully fell into a deep sleep. Breathing loudly which put Lydia at ease knowing he was, breathing.

She went back to put a pot of coffee up and then went into the shower to wash up. It had been a while since she had, well, slept with someone and now she wanted to look good for him. Her clothes fell slowly to the ground, she pulled the amulet over her head and placed it on the basin. Turned the hot water on and stepped into the shower.

Under the water she felt a memory tingling through her body and she let her head fall back under the water. Her hands were softer than they had been and wondered if the manicure she had in Atlantic City was the cure for her curling fingers and brittle nails. Her breasts were upright as if standing at attention as the soap caressed her she was smiling.

The mirror in the bathroom was fogged over from the heat of the shower. She threw a robe around her, tied a towel over her hair and opened the door.

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Anthony heard Lydia turn on the shower. He jumped up, pulled on his clothes, carried his shoes and walked out of her apartment. As he stood waiting for the elevator he decided to walk the stairs instead; then thought better of it. If he was in the midst of an episode the last thing he needed was to fall down the stairs and not be found until someone else decided to take the stairs. In a building predominantly occupied by older folk, well, it could be hours if not days.

The elevator came and he stepped inside.

“So, Anthony, does Lydia have any tattoos?” It was the gypsy lady.

“What is going on and why are you here?” He asked her, more in fear than anger.

“Why Tony, can I call you Tony? Why Am I hear? Well a ‘thank you’ would be nice. I did give you that charm around your neck and if you didn’t notice you are feeling better this morning aren’t you?”

“I am not feeling better – I am having-”

“Having what Tony? Have you seen your reflection in the mirror yet? Have you seen Lydia?”

“Of course I was just with Lydia.”

“But have you looked into her eyes this morning? If you look through the windows of her eyes you will fall in yourself but if you do not and its too late…don’t come running to me…” The elevator door opened and he stepped out – he turned but she was gone.

He walked towards his apartment, push in his key and opened the door to find Ike waiting patiently for release.

As he walked Ike through the usual streets and Ike mercifully let it go – he noticed that the usually people he would see in the morning were acting as if he was a stranger or someone they barely knew. He walked back into the building, feeling as if walking on air and headed up to Lydia.


Anthony and Lydia -Chapter 11- Look in the Mirror!

Lydia answered the door without asking who it was. She had taken Groucho for his walk in the yard behind the building, had come back to her apartment, lay down and had fallen asleep.

Anthony knocked three times before she opened the door without even asking who was there. Dwight D jumped at Groucho and they played like toddlers on a play date. Anthony walked into the apartment and lay down on the bed next to Lydia. They didn’t even glance at each other – they just lay there and both slept the day away.duskDusk fell on the streets and the darkness seemed to cause a stir in the apartment. Groucho and Dwight D. were jumping on the bed and clamoring for attention. Lydia woke up nudged by the darkness and Groucho’s urgency. She saw Anthony’s silhouette to the left of her with Dwight D. nudging him awake.

“Anthony – are you awake?”

“I was hoping this was you licking my face.” He answered.

“No such luck – maybe later. Lets take the President and the Marx Brother for a walk and pick up some coffee.”

Feeling as if drugged Anthony and Lydia both stood in the dark room and embraced. Despite the sluggishness there was a feeling of lightness in their steps. Lydia locked the door as Anthony called the elevator. The elevator came and Anthony walked inside to hold the door for Lydia. As she walked into the car they saw each other for the first time. Lydia dropped the leash and Anthony stared at her – awestruck.

“Lydia?”

“Anthony? What is happening?” She was frightened and instantly teary eyed.

“I don’t know…the amulets?”

“Do you think?”

“What else is there to think?” Groucho and Ike both started barking for freedom – the elevator took them to the lobby. They ran ahead and did their business by the tree out front. Lydia sat down on the bench by the entrance, Anthony beside her. They were in a traumatic state and had no idea what to do, where to go or what to say. Anthony stood up and walked towards the mirror which stood as a wall opposite the entrance. He stood there and stared at himself. Ran his hand though his full head of brown hair, touched his face and pinched his cheeks as if checking if he was in a dream.He made some quick movements as if trying to fool the reflection of himself in the glass.

Behind him came Lydia – smiled as she recognized herself as the friend she had not seen in some time.

“You are even more beautiful…”

“You are so…”

“Handsome, right? I was a good looking guy.”

They sat down and held hands.

“I need to go to my apartment and lay down alone for a while – this is freaking me out.” Lydia said.

“OK – Yes, I agree – I don’t even comprehend what is -”

“Lets meet for dinner – we can go to the Diner, ok?”

“Yes I will pick you up at 7?”

“Sounds good – call me if you need me before or ever.”

Anthony threw his keys on the table by his door, pulled off his jacket and sat down on his chair. He closed his eyes and he heard a song from the apartment next door?

“Crying, over you, Crying over you – Yes now you’re gone and from this moment on…” He thought to himself that it was odd to be hearing Roy Orbison – especially a song that was one that he had sang many times, coming from the apartment next door.

He closed his eyes again…

“Hey pop – you remember that song? You used to sing it in the shower all the time?” Anthony jumped up – just a dream – just a dream.

In the apartment next door “Yesterday” was playing now – not so unusual. What was unusual is the fact that he could hear music coming from there. Especially since his neighbor was an old man from Puerto Rico who spoke only fragmented english and never spoke or showed any signs of life.

“Grandpa – the Doctor said you might be able to hear me. I just wanted to tell you that – well, we never did get to be close or anything. But – I hear you have a nice nest egg from the sale of the house and all – so I was hoping if, despite the fact that we barely speak or spoke – I can get some cash in your will?”

Anthony opened his eyes and went to see Lydia. Looking at the clock he noticed the time was 11:02 pm – he had missed their date.  He closed his door behind him, walked to the elevator and went to see Lydia. He knocked lightly on the door to see if she was awake.

Lydia had gone back to her apartment and fallen in a deep sleep. She had felt wonderful and loved the way she looked. She was beautiful and young again. She was at peace. As she slept she had some funky dreams about her grandchildren singing her a song from “The Sound of Music” and each one telling her that they loved her. She heard her children each telling her how much they missed her and that they were hoping she would make the Passover dinner with them. She heard tapping and tapping – she jump startled and realized that someone was at the door. She said, “One minute, coming.” As she put on her robe and looked at the clock that said 11:14 pm. “Who is it?”

“Anthony.” He walked into her embrace – picked her up and took her to her room. His mouth on hers, her lips against his – he could feel her heart against his as he lay her down. Then with the vigor and need of a young man who has been alone too long – he made love to every inch of her. Lydia for her part was equal to the task and they went on for hours before they were spent and the sun began to shine onto their naked bodies – she looked at him and smiled. He looked back and smiled, laughed and kissed her.

“Dad – if you can hear me…I could be speaking to myself here – but whatever its worth the shot. I just want to apologize to you…I should have came to visit more often…”

“Did you hear that, Lydia?”

“Hear what? My heart beat?” She smiled.

“No…yes your heart beat. Its mine now, I won’t let you go.”

“I don’t want you to…but there is a light shining and it might be calling us home.”

“I am not ready…Lydia;  I am not ready.”

“I know – neither am I but, together. Let’s stay together.” She lay her head on his chest and he embraced her in a protective way. But sometimes despite our most gallant attempts there is no way to stop the world from dictating its own plan and changing destiny. Sometimes the more we resist the more we are forced into a solitary confinement with no parole, no way to open the door. The warden is silent despite our screams, cries and banging for salvation.  Silence. All we can do it bide our time, do what we can to keep our faith that this will all end one day and the our watching and waiting for salvation will arrive.Vargas_Martin_Untitled1Anthony looked up at the ceiling and smiled – if this was heaven he was OK with it. He was tired of waiting, tired of being alone. He looked away from the ceiling and felt the warmth from the sun and from Lydia as she lay sleeping in his arms.wpid-wp-1402256632177.jpeg


EPILOGUE Lydia, Groucho, Anthony and a Dog Named Ike Chapter 12 – When the Dust Settles

There is a fading sense that comes upon us suddenly. Sort of like a song ending, a sunset over a lake after a long day outside or a storm that ends and leaves us with a cooler air and rays of sunlight to dry the dirt roads and the trees, bushes and grass. Decorations hanging by a thread with a sense of after glow.

The songs leaves us slowly but the words and music still echo.
The sun sets but the warmth of the day envelops us within its memory.
The storm once fueled by humidity and expressed with thunder and lightning has come and gone but the scents of the precipitation still hang in the air.

Death is something that will come traumatically to those who surround the dead. But the vanished still linger in spirit, in deeds, in the gentle or maybe not so gentle touches.

Lydia had watched the “Marx Brothers” her whole life. Groucho was the keeper though. She followed him on his TV shows and other appearances throughout his life.

She quoted him in jest, “I woke up and saw an elephant in my pajamas, how he fit into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

She named her dog Groucho when she brought him home from the her neighbor’s apartment – originally named “Patches” she changed his name to “Groucho” and the Yorkie took to it quickly.

Anthony had admired General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower when he was the supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe during World War II. Marie had surprised him with the Yorkie and he quickly dubbed him the “Supreme commander of the house.”

There two beds in the hospice in New York City – two people who were both considered terminal and were in comas. Each day children and grandchildren would visit each of the dying patients. They had become friendly the two families – friendly enough that over the month they were there, the Granddaughter and Grandson of each of the patients had fallen in love.

There was construction going on the same floor in the hospice. The knocking and banging though brief, could be irritating to the patients. In one bed the old man would squirm and had to be restrained. His son would play songs softly and talk to him.

“Crying, over you, Crying over you – Yes now your gone and from this moment on…” Roy Orbison
“Hey pop – you remember that song? You used to sing it in the shower all the time?”

Across from them an elderly lady was accompanied by her daughter singing to her, “Everyone says I love you…But just what they say it for I never knew. It’s just inviting trouble for the poor sucker who says I love you.”

The sun came up the next morning as the two were taken away and prepared for burial. They had each opened their eyes at the same moment let out what sounded like sighs of relief and were gone.

Somewhere there was a song ending, a storm clearing up and fading sunset while on another side of the world the opening beats to a song began, lightning was seen and thunder was heard with a golden sun rising right behind the rain.

sunrise