A little of something for everyone – this ends on a positive note but there is no ending in sight.
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
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.
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.”
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.
In a little over 4 weeks I will be turning 50 years of age.
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)
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 todays New York Times. He sits in that spot each morning and watches as the ladies run or walk on by. While finishing the puzzle 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. Judith wears her shorts short while Elvira wears hers a bit longer. They speak english with no accent and when the business is slow they sing songs together from behind the counter. Both favoring the top forty songs sung by women.
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. Its all happening here at 7 o’clock in the morning.
The street is black without the urban feeling of the melting tar on your shoes. 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 heals 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 across the grass towards the apartment complex across the way. Her dress is down to her feet and is a mahogany brown with a revealing cleavage of its own which reveals a stunning view showcasing God’s good work.
Two women walk on by, arms swinging, dressed in Orthodox Jewish modesty, speaking quietly – their words in rhythm with their speed.
A shirtless man, in his 70’s it seems, 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 shorts and 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.”
Seagulls are flying around in dizzying motions, an 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 and find their own treasures.
In the distance, Pier Village is waking and the sun shines its orange glow; spreading all around like a broken yoke; into the darker spots where the weepers weep, the holes where the users hide, the million dollar homes and the shanty towns, the summer folk and the year rounders.
The early morning coffee worshiping addicts assemble in the hotel lobby hoping to taste the coffee and the myriad of flavors which pumps blood into their sleepy hearts providing the lift needed to make it through another day.
The sun, rising still, is bringing on the heat quickly – the adobe flavored boardwalk is neutral to the heat as is the big breasted woman bounces on by while the old lady and the walker pass the younger man with the beard.
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.
Just a typical summer morning on the Long Branch Boardwalk.
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…
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.
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.
Thank you for being a fan!
She looked at him and bit her lip. He saw her lip, with her front teeth nibbling it in, what was she thinking?
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.
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
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.
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.
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!”
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 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!
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!
MAY 18TH FREE COPIES OF MY SHORT STORY BASED ON HARRY CHAPIN’S SONG, “COREYS COMING.” MY IMAGINING OF THE BEFORE AND AFTER OF THIS SONG. WHO WAS COREY? WAS SHE IMAGINARY? WHO WAS OLD JOHN JOSEPH AND WHO IS THE NARRATOR OF THIS SONG?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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?”
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.
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.
The Hamilton cast at the Thursday evening performance – honoring Prince who had died earlier that day. #prince #hamilton #gocrazy
Bob Dylan to release 36 Studio Album, “Fallen Angels” May 20. Here is the first single.
Boycott 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.
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
When Playboy was Playboy and Cindy was (still is!) the perfect model
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.
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?
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.
Written by Freddy S. Zalta
Illustrations by Sylia Aboudi
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.”
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.
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.
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 Freedom Myth
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.
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.
“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.”
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?
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.
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.”
“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.”
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?”
“Come on little Frankie there is the train.”
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.
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.
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?”
“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.
“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.
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.”
There is a distant almost ethereal feeling that overwhelms me. Midnight moons, street corner lamposts and stray dogs searching for food, searching for a best friend.
An older man sits in his kitchen, staring into his coffee and occassionally 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.
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. Barefeet 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 its running low – the spoon is out of the cup now, at rest. The clock is back on the wall and its a panging reminder that its late – out of time, out of coffee…time to move on…
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.”
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.
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.
On 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
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.
Anthony and Lydia
Chapter 1 – Lydia, Groucho, Anthony and a Dog Named Ike
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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?
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?”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
“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;
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…
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…
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.
“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?”
“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.”
“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.
“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.
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.Dusk 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.
“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.Anthony 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.
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.
Here I am again; Met’s hat on my head, hands in my old blue jacket, jeans and sneakers. Walking in the rain on a Friday afternoon. I walk past a store front and guess what? I see my reflection and I am not the kid who I picture in my head.
I see an old girlfriend from another lifetime – another place and time.
“Take my hand, Freddy.” I take her hand, no words spoken.
She leads me towards the subway station and tugs me up the stairs – swipes and we walk up the second flight and watch as a train rolls in. We walk in and, still holding my hand we sit in an empty car.
“What’s happening, Freddy?” She is looking me in my eyes and I see why I had fallen in love with her and so hard.
“You are asking me? Where are we going?”
“Coney Island, remember we used to go on the go-karts?”
“Yeah, but its raining and its Friday afternoon.”
“OK don’t worry we will be back in time.”
“Actually, I dont really care at this point. I am, wait a minute. What about you? What are you doing here? I thought you live in Sherman Oaks or something?”
“Don’t worry about that, that was another time, another place.”
I fall back into the hard seat, my head bangs against the wall slightly. I am so confused and lost in time between two lifetimes. But it feels so right to be here with her.
I put my head in my hands and she plays with the hair in the back of my head. I feel oddly comforted and somehow renewed.
“Where, when, how?” I ask.
“I don’t know, but here we are. I was watching you walk, babe, and you don’t look like the Freddy I remember.”
“I am not the Freddy you remember. People have all turned out to be false gods prayed to by the lost. Pretense and self promotion is all the rage these days.”
“I know I see your posts.”
“Thats all done in jest – but its a platform for me to express myself.”
“I like most of them. I love your blog and I feel like some of the stories are reflections of us. The dancing in the street, the running into the hills together to hide…that was home. Being with you was home.”
“You know I am married now?”
“Yes I do. Beautiful lady, with a lot of myself in her soul.”
“She is home to me – she is what we were only the pressures of this life and time are getting to me and I feel sad.”
“Remember that time we took that canoe out in, what was the name of that place.” She looks up with her soft smile.
“Uncertain, Texas.” I say, somehow another new memory is born, or reawakened.
“We were so lost in the wetlands you were so brave and made me feel so confident that all would be OK.”
“Well I was scared shitless but I didn’t want you to see it.”
“Its OK to be scared buddy, you know?” Buddy, ha. No one has called me that in a lifetime.
“Can I give you a hug?” She asked me.
“Sure.” I responded, it felt so natural.
She hugged me and I felt a feeling of coming back home, out of the cold and into the warmth.
“I have to leave now and this is your stop. So keep me in mind and remember that everything will be ok. Its ok to be scared but be strong and keep the faith!”
The train came to a quick stop and I opened my eyes to find myself embracing the bag I had with my book, some papers and my phone charger. I jumped up and out of the train. The rain was falling and I put on my Met’s hat. The temperature had dropped and I was doing a slow jog, OK a fast walk home. I was drenched by the time I made it home, I am kind of a slow fast walker.
I was shivering when I opened the door and the aroma from the kitchen and the warmth of the house soothed me. The sight of my wife walking towards me reminded me of Uncertain, Texas. I needed to be strong; I needed to remember my trust in God that everything will work out.
“Why are you smiling?” She asked me.
“I saw an old friend on the train.” I responded, “someone who reminded me who I was.”
“Okay; I need to finish up its late.”
I stood there smiling at her and she responded with a smile of her own.
“You are freaking me out.”
For Throwback Thursday…
The Story of Brenda and Eddie
Written by Freddy S. Zalta
1981 Brenda and Eddie
The diner opened in the 1950’s and was owned and run by a family from Greece. The father was an honest man who wanted to open a restaurant so his family would always have something to eat. The diner had a name, “Patras” named after the city where the Drakos family came.
The jukebox was in the back left corner of the room – right next to the Men’s and Ladies bathrooms and adjacent to the two payphones. On the wall surrounding this area were black and whites of James Dean, The Marx Brothers, Elvis and Humphrey Bogart. In these pictures they were all young and in control, or so it seemed. Facing this wall was another wall with some more black and whites of Marilyn, Garbo, Kathrine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. The Beatles were peeking out of a bus and Bob Dylan was wearing wayfarers and holding a cigarette.
There was a smoking section in that area, in the back of the long diner. There were always people by the phone booths, talking and looking through the songs on the jukebox as if the choices of songs would magically change before their eyes. The songs hadn’t been changed nor updated since the mid-seventies.
Eddie saw what he was looking for, dug into his pocket and pulled a quarter out and rolled it into the coin slot. Pressed “B52″ and stood aside.
He walked towards Brenda and put out his hand. She took it and smiled. The piano began and then the voice, “Wise man say, only fools rush in…” He twirled her and then got on one knee, opened up a small box and proposed to his girlfriend with a emerald shaped 2 carat ring. Somebody unplugged the jukebox and the lights went dim.
“Brenda, you are the -“
“No!” She ran into the girls bathroom followed by her friends, Karen, Daisy and Fran.
“What happened out there?” Daisy asked her.
“I do not want to get married. I …”
The door burst open.
“What happened? I thought that…girls please go out and leave us alone.”
“No its OK they can stay. Eddie I do not want to get married. I really like you a lot and I have fun hanging out but I am not ready to settle down. I don’t even know how to respond to this – why didn’t we speak about this before?”
“Well, I thought you loved me, not ‘liked’ me and we have spoken about living together and raising a family.”
“We have but not in a realistic right-away, way. It was just talk, right? We are both 19 years old, I am planning on going back to school this fall and I am not ready or I do not want to just end my life right now.”
“I didn’t know marrying me and starting a family is ending a life.”
“It is – its ending my first chapter of my life and I am not ready to close that out yet, Eddie. Maybe I do love you, I know I care about you and love being with you. But I need to see the world, to learn about the world and the history…to see history and to witness my ‘here, now and future.’ I am sorry, but I am leaving now…please don’t call me. I am sorry…”
“What was Eddie thinking?” She asked Daisy.
“Maybe that he loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you?”
“But we never even spoke seriously about that. He knows I am going to college in the fall and that I want to travel the world before…”
“Brenda and Eddie – we always thought you guys would last forever, like the song.”
“In the song they got divorced.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t. Daisy would you mind clearing everyone out I want to be alone for a couple of minutes.”
“Everyone out – I just saw a mouse.” Daisy smiled. “It works all the time.”
Brenda was embarrassed to have to walk through everyone to get out of the diner. She was crying and realizing that possibly the first chapter of her life had just ended and that frightened her. She sat alone in the bathroom and she felt a strange sensation within – a sense of loss but combined with a sense of freedom. She looked around and noticed the window, pulled it open, climbed out and left the diner. Leaving her friends and Eddie behind her along with her chapter “one.”
She knew where she wanted to go first.
Brenda had been living in New Haven since she went to Yale back in 1981, the fall after Eddie proposed to her. Her family had moved to Long Island in 1984 so she had not been back to Brooklyn since then. She had married in 1988 to a Pediatric Surgeon and they settled into a large home in Greenwich. They had four children within a four year period which almost drove her mad. The first two were planned – but when the twins came along it was anything but expected.
“Do you have twins in your family?” Her obstetrician asked as he examined her.
“Yes, but I don’t see them often, they live in New York.” She answered.
“Um, well, look a little closer at this sonogram and tell me how many heart beats you see.”
“Do you mean?” She fainted on the spot. When the twins came into the world in August of 1992 she thought she had it all figured out. The two elder ones would be in Kindergarten and Pre-School and she would be with the twins. What she didn’t anticipate was having a major case of “Post Postpartum Depression.” But like everything in life time marches on and in the words of her mother, “Don’t worry dear, be patient, remember, this too shall pass.” It did pass – the good times and the hard times and before she knew it she was caught up in the moving hands of the clock.
The years passed by and the kids grew up too quickly. She found herself questioning what was left for her once the kids all left the house. She was at home one Saturday morning when she began to go through the mail from the past week. As she went through the pile of bills and magazines she came upon a letter from her High School. She opened it and saw it was an invitation to her 25th High School reunion. She sat down and remembered who she had left behind and wondered how she had let it all slip from her mind somehow. She had spoken with Daisy for a couple of years after she left but lost touch since then, not really feeling a void there. She had heard from her mother and her sisters some gossip here and there but they had left Brooklyn and not looked back as well. Besides for some older relatives there was nothing to draw them back there and they rarely ventured there besides for the occasional funeral or wedding.
Brenda was still as beautiful if not more so than she was back when she was 19. Despite the few pounds put on by the pregnancies she retained a two piece bikini figure. She lay in bed that night thinking about the past and the people she had left behind. It was when she was driving the next morning and Elvis came on the radio sing, “Cant help falling in love” that she knew she would be going to the reunion.
David was OK with her going to Brooklyn for the reunion, unfortunately he would not be able to attend with her since he was scheduled to give a seminar in Palm Springs that same weekend.
“Its OK David, I am used to it. Its either an emergency at three in the morning, an emergency surgery before our long weekend away, missed parties and missed dinners with friends.”
“You have been complaining about this for the past year, you never said a word prior to Samantha heading off to Berkeley. You are simply transferring your feelings from having an empty nest towards me. I can take it, I understand, but there are some things I cannot avoid. You didn’t seem to mind my job while living in this home, driving the BMW’s and wearing the jewelry you buy yourself.”
“I buy it for myself, David, doesn’t that sound kind of sad?”
“I have bought you gifts and I have provided for you and the children a life that has been without lacking anything.”
She caught herself, “I am sorry, you are right. I just need to do something for myself. Maybe find a better job, something more fulfilling. I love you and you have provided a life that has been without wanting and always having.”
“Come here,” He hugged her, “I love you and just another couple of years and I will be retiring and we can have all the time in the world. No more emergencies, last minute cancellations…just you and I, I promise.”
Some promises in life are made with the best intentions, some are made as a way to instill a sense of hope and faith about the future and some are made insincerely. This promise was made with only the best of intentions but like most promises about the future they are never fulfilled due to occurrences out of our control. Within six months Dr. David Salerno would be diagnosed with cancer that would take his life and render his promise unfulfilled.
Brooklyn May 12, 2006
She drove from her home in Connecticut straight to her Aunts house in Brooklyn. Her Aunt Frieda lived alone for the past year. She was relatively young, 62 years old, and had recently kicked her husband out of the house.
“He is a lazy good for nothing drunk.” She would say, with her own words slurring courtesy of her early evening Jack Daniels.
“You have been married for 30 years, now you decide you dont want to be married?”
“I do want to be married. I’ll let him back in a day or two. Then we will have the best sex. Its a game we play.”
“Oh! Ok, too much info Aunty. Where is the bathroom I need to spit out the throw up from my mouth.”
“Oh stop it. As if we dont have sex anymore. You should see these pictures we took with-“
“Thats ok – I need to get ready to leave.” She kissed her Aunt on the head and said, “Don’t ever change, I love you.”
The first party of the weekend was Friday evening – a dinner for the alumni and their families in the lunchroom of Kennedy High School. She walked the same route she used to walk when she would go to school. Some houses had changed and the people in the neighborhood as well.
As she passed by some familiar homes where she spent her childhood and teenage years scenes from her past raced in front of her.
Tommy the Italian boy who her father warned her against being friends with. He was her first kiss and that’s the porch where they sat that evening so many years ago that it seems like an old movie she once watched. All the details were fresh now – the rain had stopped and the streets were smoking. It had been over 100 degrees earlier that day and now the temperature had dropped to around eighty. The sounds of Brooklyn in the summer echoed throughout. Air Conditioners humming, sirens screaming, the voices of arguments and the old man who lived upstairs from Tommy, sitting by the window and listening to a baseball game on a transistor radio.
We sat on the stoop of his house and talked and talked for hours. Laughing and flirting…and then he kissed me and I felt his tongue swimming against my lips and then in my mouth. The taste of ashes and spearmint gum and a sense of excitement and fear all at once.
The sound of the Good Humor man coming around on his bicycle and the freezer connected. His white suit, hat, smile and bell sounding across the streets.
The building across the street with the opened windows and the ladies leaning out and conversing from one window to the next. Italian, Arabic and Irish accents and language. Looking at the windows now the lower floors have bars over them and the upper levels are pulled down.
The school loomed large with the steel-barred gates surrounding it as if a fortress. She wondered how many times these gates had been painted, how many generations of teenagers had passed through the doorway, up the stairs and into the school. The school was built in 1929 so it had been 85 years or so…yet it still seemed so new.
She passed through the open gates, walked up the stairs, saw visions of the groups who would hang outside. The druggies, the Goths, the geeks and the rest of the assortment of teenagers all in their own version of angst. The ghosts of Mary Bettelli, who died in 1986 in a car crash. She could see her standing there with a cigarette blowing smoke in the face of the school principle when he ordered her to stop smoking.
She thought about the faculty and wondered who was still alive, what had become of them and if they would be there.
Mr. Goldberg, the principle, he was around one hundred years old when she was in school and was an Orthodox Jew – one of the few in the school and the only one among the faculty.
There was the Guidance Councilor who was known to smoke weed with a select group of seniors until she was busted for selling to an undercover cop. She wondered if she would be there – Ms. Young was her name and she had the bohemian sort of look down pat back in 1977 when Brenda was a freshman.
Dr. Grubman and his white lab coat he wore all the time with a Hershey bar sticking out of this top pocket like a handkerchief. He was an innocent flirt who was not married at the age of 37 or something.
Her favorite, her English teacher Mrs. Ackerman. She had taught her the excitement that can jump from the old faded pages within crumbling books. About Scout Finch, Holden Caulfield, the Great Gatsby and the Old man Santiago. She told her to read Ayn Rand and whether she or anyone agreed with her philosophy was not important – the importance was to read each character and the descriptive emotional pulls which forced them to choose between right and wrong, right and left and yes or no.
She pulled the ten foot door opened and walked into a time machine and she was back in 1979…the place looked exactly how it did back then. Then she heard her crush, Andy Gibb, singing “Shadow Dancing.” She felt a sort of heavy feeling…
“Brenda?” A soft tap on her shoulder.
She turned to see Daisy. They hugged and tears formed in their eyes and they hugged again.
“How is Ted and the kids?” Brenda asked her.
“Ted is Ted – we are actually seperated right now.”
“Oh I am sorry…”
“No its ok, it was my decision. Whatever, the kids are amazing and guess what? I am a Grandma!” She took out her phone and showed her pictures.
“They are so beautiful. Your daughter looks just like you.”
“How about you Bren, how is David doing?”
“He is David – he is doing very good. The kids are all out of the house now and, well, lets speak tomorrow about all of this. What do you say we get a drink and just have fun?”
“Sounds good to me. You come to my house tomorrow morning and we’ll have some coffee.”
“OK, sounds great!”
Brenda and Daisy spoke as if they had not missed a day of seeing each other rather than the two friends who had not seen each other in 20 years. They walked into the gym arm in arm and walked right into Principal Goldberg.
As Brenda walked alone towards the restroom she recognized several faces, they seemed to have aged a lot. When she washed her hands and caught a glimpse of her image in the mirror above the sink. She half-expected to see herself at the age of 17 or so – when she saw her 43 year old face looking right back at her.
She had noticed the aging on Daisy and the other graduates – she saw the weight gain, the varicose veins, the over made-up faces caked with what they hoped would be reverse aging powder. She still saw herself as 18 years old, still looked at the world the same way only with a lot more knowledge. When she actually thought to herself that she is really 43 years old – it hit her for the first time.
As she walked out she, of course, walked literally right into Eddie. Of course she would, fate has a way of peeking itself in and out of peoples lives at the peek of their vulnerability.
“Excuse me.” He smiled, looked at her and then did a double take.
“I cannot believe it, you look, amazing. You haven’t aged at all.”
Brenda took it all in quickly; he had gained a little weight and his hair had receded a bit but he still had that youthful look to him and those dimples.
They actually had not seen or spoken to each other since that night in the diner. He had tried to contact her but she knew that once she heard from him she would be in trouble.
“Brenda, I would like to speak with you and get some closure on some things. Can we meet for lunch tomorrow? Don’t worry, I am not looking for anything from you – I just have some questions I believe I deserve answers for.”
“After all these years you need ‘closure’?”
“Ok…are you here with anyone?”
“No, I am here alone.”
“Lets get a drink.”
“You lead the way…”
“I have a better idea…go wait by the classroom over there – I will be right there.”
Brenda walked slowly into the classroom and was transported back to 1979. She could swear she saw Mrs. Ackerman standing by the desk with a smile and a knowing nod. The classroom was decorated with English Literature signs – pictures of authors, “Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Harper Lee and Arthur Miller.” Signs stating, “Readers wanted” and “After School Book Club.” The walls were painted with what seemed like 100 coats of paint. The floor were tiles of black and white and the desks had connecting chairs. The teacher’s desk was placed in the front of the room with a green chalkboard as the backdrop. She could see her teacher standing there.
She turned and saw Eddie with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
Eddie had gone into a big funk after she climbed out of his life that night at the diner. He had turned to stone for a while – literally closing himself up in his room for weeks until one day he felt OK. He wasn’t sure what it was but it was as if a cloud had lifted and he was able to feel again.
“The thing that hurt more than anything was this feeling of being rejected, like a groom left waiting at the altar, you know? Besides that I missed you and being without you took some getting used to.”
“I am sorry, I just knew that-“
“I am not looking for an apology – I just wanted to express my feelings to you.”
“I don’t know what to say other than ‘I am sorry.’ I knew that if I gave in to my emotions I would have married you and I would have regretted it no matter how happy you might have made me. I needed to go to Yale without any attachments – I needed to break free from Brooklyn, I needed to forge my own identity. I wasn’t ready to forever be ‘Brenda and Eddie.’ I needed to be Brenda.”
“Yeah, well, I can understand that now – I guess sometimes in life the only way selfless act is the selfish one.”
“How did it all turn out for you?” She asked him with soft tears in each eye.
“What do you mean by ‘all’? Do you mean my life? My life has been good. I graduated from Brooklyn College, got a job with an investment firm, made a shit load of money and then lost it all just as quick. I got married at 26, had three kids and got divorced at 34.”
“Sorry about that…”
“Its OK – I just got tired of pretending to want to be married out of loyalty or responsibility. I love her but I need more than she is able to give me emotionally and physically. I just didn’t want to be the ‘Great Pretender.’”
“Yeah, well, I guess we all end up being Pretenders in order to just get through the day sometimes.”
“Or the years…”
She had been pretending for the past several years. Pretending to herself, convincing herself that she loved David and the life they had built. She pretended she was happy for the kids leaving the house – when in fact she was miserable about it. She was frozen from the emotionally and physically detached husband – he was a great man and did his best to make her happy. Sometimes, some people just are unaware how starved their loved ones are for the things they are either unable or choose not to share.
“We should get back to the dinner – I am glad we had this chance to speak.” Brenda said to him. She put her arms around him and whispered. “I am sorry…”
As they walked out of the classroom they were met by Daisy and some other classmates who embraced each other and exchanged updates on their lives. The dinner passed with toasts and reflections. Principle Goldberg spoke and made the first toast. He looked as he did 25 years ago – if that is possible.
“When I was your principle I was around your age now. I must have seemed ancient to you back then and now I stand before you, once again, 68 years old this time and welcoming you back home.”
Mrs. Ackerman walked into the room un-noticed and sat down alongside the Principal. When one student recognized her and then another – a wave of applause began and she stood up to acknowledge her students. Brenda thought to herself that she wasn’t only her favorite teacher – she obviously had a big effect on each of her students.
Brenda walked over to her and introduced herself to her.
“Hello Mrs. Ackerman, do you remember me, Brenda-“
“Of course I remember you. You haven’t changed, if anything you are even prettier than you were back then. How are you?”
“You look amazing and I am great. I am so happy to see you.” Brenda embraced her and began to cry.
She cried because she was given this opportunity to see the person who had the greatest influence in her life other than her mother. Her mother had died several years earlier and for some reason she had not allowed herself to grieve for her. But now it came out. “Sorry, I need to go now – I will see you tomorrow night, right?”
Brenda walked out the front doors and began to walk back to her Aunt’s house. She heard her name being called and turned around to see Eddie running towards her.
There were sneakers tied together and hanging on a wire that crossed the street above her. The echoes of sirens, a dog barking and airplanes flying overhead filled the cavernous streets. On each side of the road there were homes connected and crowded together as if to fit as many as possible on the small lots. The sidewalks were broken up by the roots of trees that seemed to have been around since the Jurassic era. Horns honking and bass beat pulsing along with the occasional “Cat in heat” moaning.
Eddie was running because he wanted more from the girl he had once decided to spend the rest of his life with. The years since that evening in the diner had found him scarred and crazy glued to the past. The songs he listened to were from that time period in the late 70’s and the romanticized past was waxed free of any pain or indignity.
Eddie saw Brenda leave and he knew he needed to spend some more time with her and this time he wouldn’t let her get away so easily.
“Brenda.” He called out, she turned and stopped.
“Eddie…” She said it with a smile and it was 1978 all over again.
“Bren…lets go for a walk, ok?”
She wanted to say no, she wanted to tell him to let go of what they once had because it was only a pitstop to where they each needed to go. She wanted to tell him that she was married and found it inappropriate to walk and be with another man.
“Lets walk to the diner, Eddie. Is it still there?”
“Believe it or not it still is. Some things just don’t ever go away.”
2006 Brenda and Eddie
The diner opened up in 1956. Alexander Drakos was a 25 year old son of Greek farmers who had been serving food at their home for their whole life. Alexander decided he wanted to move to New York when he was 15 years old. At the age of 19 he took a plane from Athens to New York City. His Uncle Stavros had a small diner in Queens and that is where Alex got his start. He worked with Stavros and lived in his apartment along with his Aunt and their seven children. After working and living with his Uncle he met Agape. She was a 17 year old second cousin of the Drakos family. She was dark skinned, slender, almost 5 feet tall and had the bluest eyes – “even bluer than the sky over Patras.” They married after 2 weeks of getting to know each other. It was a month after that Agape’s father gave him a briefcase full of One Dollar bills, actually 99 thousand and 23 of them, and told him to go start his own business.
With Agape by his side they set upon Brooklyn and opened up a “Greek Diner” where an old clothing store once stood. On March 14th 1956 they opened the doors and served their first cup of coffee at 502am to his Uncle. The dollar bill still is posted on the wall behind the register. Agape first saw the jukebox at a dance club in Manhattan. She thought about how it could be such a great way to bring in some extra money while also being able to hear the latest songs. She loved the new guy Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and the Comets. She decided one morning as she worked in the Diner that they would invest in a jukebox.
One evening as they were closing shop – Alex put on a slow song called, “Love me Tender.” With the door locked they danced and then made love on table 9 as Elvis sang the words, “Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled. For my darlin’ I love you, and I always will.” The love between the two of them would resonate through the years. The diners sensed it and came to feel it more than to taste the Baklava. When their children began working there it became a sense of responsibility. That is when love became work and Alex found his way to different tables at closing time with different waitresses. Agape knew about this but looked aside – she knew he would always come back to her and she would be there to receive him.
In 1976 they celebrated the US Independence Bi-centennial and Patras celebrate 20 years in business. Agape looked on as the sailboats and ships from around world descended on New York Harbor on the 4th of July. From a distance she saw an old acquaintance and she smiled and he smiled back. A year later she left Alex and she ran off with the acquaintance to Greece and didn’t come back for six months. She moved back in with Alex and they stayed together, exclusively, until he passed away in 2004.
Brenda and Eddie walked towards “The Pat” as they called it back in high school. Eddie had not been in there for several years and Brenda had not set foot inside since the night she climbed out the bathroom window. They saw the sign up ahead as they walked slowly up Kings Highway.
“How many times did we walk this walk to the Diner?” Eddie asked her.
“I could not even tell you – is Alex still there?” She asked.
“I heard he passed away a couple of years ago, some sort of cancer. Fucking cancer. My mom and my Aunt both died on the same day in 1999 – which in a sense was good for them since my brother and my cousin both were in the towers on 9/11. Both worked for the same investment firm and both stayed behind thinking it would all be ok.”
“I remember reading about him in the Times. I was going to call you but I didn’t think it would be appropriate.”
“Yeah and my cousin Kevin. Both engaged to be married- both lost their mothers on the same day and died together. They called them heroes at their funeral. They weren’t heroes, they were hard working guys who were trying to make a living. Trying to make a future for themselves and their families.”
“What I have come to learn in this fucked up world is the heroes are the ones who get up each day, look at their responsibilities and do whatever it takes to fulfill them. Not by screwing others but by living an honest life and somehow making the world a little better.” “Yeah…well.”
“How is your Pop?”
“My Pop is a hard ass Irish old man who looks life in the eyes and dares it to knock him down. That is after he finishes his Hennessy”
“Oh yeah, I remember Edward well. He never really liked me.”
“Oh yes he – well no he didn’t. ” They laughed.
“He used to look at me and then walk to your mom and Irene and him would give me this nasty stare.”
“It wasn’t you they disliked, they disliked all Jews.”
“Hmm…and all this time I thought I was special.”
“Nah – but you should have heard them consoling me…the words they used to describe you would make a truck driver blush.”
“I guess I deserved that.”
“Yeah, well you did. There she is! The ‘Pat’, the scene of the crime.”
“Wow…it hasn’t changed at all.”
“Well I think they nailed down the bathroom windows shut since then, though.”
They opened the door and were taken aback by the man behind the register. “Welcome…Eddie! How are you? Do you remember me?”
“Junior, Alex Junior. I know; I constantly get this look as if people are seeing a ghost. Its a blessing to be able to say I look like my father”
“I am so sorry about your father, I used to come here all the time when we were growing up.” Brenda said.
“This is the one that got away.” Eddie said pointing to Brenda.
“The one – Brenda? Of Brenda and Eddie?” Eddie nodded and Brenda looked down. “You are a legend here!”
“Thanks…I don’t know how to take that.”
“My father told me you were the most beautiful girl who ever came in here. I can see he wasn’t lying and you don’t look at day over 30.”
A middle aged lady slapped him playfully across the back of his head. “Stop creeping out the customers Al.”
“This is my wife, Eileen. Eileen these are the celebrated ‘Brenda and Eddie’.”
“From the Billy Joel song?”
They sat down at a booth near the same jukebox that Agape had bought back in 1956. There were some songs that remained the same despite the years passing – and when Eddie stood up to put on a song, the song that he pressed was B52.
“What song did you put on?” Brenda asked.
“You’ll see.” They ordered two coffees, a slice of chocolate cake and a slice of Cheesecake. The song playing from the jukebox was Elton John singing about Daniel.
There was one waitress sitting down on a bar stool, wearing reading glasses and working on a crossword. From time to time another man would come out of the kitchen and try to answer a clue, give her a kiss on the head and go back to work. The tables were empty save for Brenda and Eddies and several others which were occupied by a middle aged couple, a table of around 6 boys and 2 girls in their late teens and a lone man sitting and reading a book. It was the Diner at 1145 PM on a Friday evening.
The song winded down and the record was changed automatically, the look on Brenda’s face as B52 began to play was one of panic. “Come on, lets have that dance that we should have had that night.”
She hesitated. “You owe me at least a dance to the song I proposed to you to.” Eddie said as he extended his hand. She lifted her hand towards him and they stood by the jukebox – surrounded by the faces of bygone celebrities covered in dust from the years past – and he held her against him as they swayed to Elvis’ voice.
“Wise man say…”
They sat down after the song and some wise guy followed that selection with another Elton John song, “The Bitch is Back.” They laughed at it and then noticed it was Eddies friend David that chose the song.
“David!” I didn’t see you at the dinner tonight.
“I just landed around an hour ago – I needed to come straight here – the scene of so many teenage crimes. Brenda you look amazing.”
“Amazing for a bitch, you mean?” She said with a chuckle of false resentment.
They kissed and exchanged a hug. David introduced his wife to Brenda – Eddie already knew her as they had stayed friends since the “Old days.” They all sat together and spoke about their lives since, how fast time goes and how their children were now their age and older when they would hang out together. They spoke about some old times, but stayed mostly on topic of current events. Brenda spoke about her husband and her children and they exchanged pictures. By the time they walked out time had reversed itself and it was as if it was just another night at the diner circa 1979. Only now there we some grays, wrinkles and extra pounds added to the mix.
Eddie walked Brenda home and they said goodbye at the door.
“I am glad we had this chance to say hello again.” She said.
“I am as well – if only just to say goodbye on equal terms.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow night?”
“Yep, I’ll be the one with the light blue 80’s tuxedo.”
“Hmm I’ll be the one with the ozone killing hairdo and a face with way too much makeup.” “Two clowns in the same circus from the same ancient era.”
She leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. Sad-smiled him, turned and went inside.
Eddie walked along the streets – with the sounds of sirens, barking dogs and squealing cats. Car alarms and car tires screeching. Brooklyn, the place where he was born and moved away from. After college he moved to Great Neck and commuted to New York 5 days a week. He missed the Brooklyn he grew up in and was thankful for the Brooklyn that never left him. Great Neck was beautiful but its identity could be somewhere in New Jersey or any other state in the country. Brooklyn was “Fucking Brooklyn.” The place where the Irish, Italians, Jews and every other immigrant always ended up. It was an International Pot-Luck mixture of persona’s and cultures. He laughed.
A door to a home slammed closed and a squirrel jumped from a tree. A strong breeze blew some leaves around and a plastic bag was airborne. He was staying in the city and was walking towards the El on Avenue P. It was getting cooler now and as he ascended the stairs to the platform he could swear that time had stood still. But when he was on the train and heading towards Manhattan he looked across the graveyard and noticed the twin towers were gone. He closed his eyes, said a prayer and shed some tears.
Eddie woke up on 34th Street and jumped. He stood and walked out the parting doors and found his way upstairs through the ramps, the beggars, soloists, dancing bands with Michael Jackson as a backdrop and a barbershop quartet. A young girl danced next to her mother who was sitting and breast feeding her other child while begging for change. Preferably cash change – if not a reality change.
He felt the shaking of an arriving subway – but the characters were unmoved. He thought about his kids and he wanted to speak to them now to tell them how much he missed them.
He thought about his wife and felt an inner disgust at himself. Laughed when he remembered what he told his Psychologist.
“I married her for her looks and her psychosis – ironically I divorced her for the same attributes.”
He thought about Brenda. What was he doing? Brenda and Eddie is a memory that he worked hard to come to peace with. Her rejection of him and her subsequent climb through the window and out of his life – was a very traumatic and hurtful period for him. Now he is contemplating the soft kiss on his lips..
He decided to walk through the streets past his apartment 57th Street and up towards Central Park. He bought a vanilla ice cream on a sugar cone, sat down on a bench and people watched.
He thought about the past 20 years and the lies he told Brenda about his life. His divorce wasn’t amicable as he made it out to be, are any divorces? Can anyone who fails ever feel “OK” with it? He thought about his children, he had four of them. Two boys and two girls and how he loved them and missed them right now. They gave him a sense of being that nothing and no one had ever inspired in him.
He retired from his job because he had more money then he would ever know what to do with. He had around 25 million in the banks and another 15 million in investments across the globe. He lived an unflashy life to avoid losing his mind as he almost did several years earlier when his wife threatened to sue him for half of his everything.
Although he had incriminating evidence of his wife’s infidelities – he decided to burn them for the sake of his children. He gave her half of his holdings – some 5 million dollars in one shot. Put up trust funds for each child and then decided to make some money once she was not in the picture any more.
He made over 25 million dollars in the next 5 years – but only he, his accountant and a handful of investors had knowledge of it. He was an anonymous philanthropist and a silent depositor in the bank accounts of the people he cared about. He had enough and all he really wanted to do was – what? He had yet to figure it out.
Now as he sat in front of the Plaza Hotel he pondered his future and shook about his bringing back to life the pain and darkness that once threatened to destroy him. “Hurricane Brenda” as his father once called her, had come to town and had already caused some collateral damages.
But that soft kiss on the lips – like a spring breeze and the scents of bursting fragrances of flowers and life. It made him weak when he felt, once again, the softness of her lips…
He stood up. Around him were the sights and sounds of New York City in the late Spring. Horse carriages, the tourists posing in front of the Plaza and the statues and fountains. There were trickling of an assortment of noises, honking horns, brakes from buses and cars, the occasional “Fuck you” from the occasional New Yorker wannabe. There were the neighs from the horses as they slowly made there way into gear. With the young couple already kissing as they were being taken somewhere on some mystery ride.
He knew what he needed to do and how he needed to approach it. He stood up, threw the wrapper from the cone in a garbage can and headed back home.
Brenda walked up the stairs and tried to keep quiet. She could hear her Aunt and Uncle giggling in the other room and she was kind of grossed out. Although there was something kind of romantic about their relationship. So many years and they still played cat and mouse. She opened the door to her room and the door made a slight squeaking noise. Thankfully it was not heard by anyone. She sat down on her bed and lay there all clothed. Her mind was in a tornado as her thoughts and feelings where in a whirl.
“Strange how he still gets me…” Her mind raced to Palm Springs and her husband…Daisy, Mrs. Ackerman and Principle Goldberg…were they all happy? Did they ever think or fantasize about, well, climbing out the bathroom window and leaving their world behind for a fresh start?
She looked at the walls and noticed the Wham poster alongside Duran Duran. How she had such a crush on them. First George Michael and then Duran Duran especially Simon…Her phone began to vibrate.
“Hi honey, how’ it going over there?”
“Going well, I spoke a little today and tomorrow is the big day. I wish you were here, you know?” He sounded sad.
“I wish you were here…” She meant it – he wouldve been her excuse to steer away from Eddie.
“How about we go away together and bring along all the kids?”
“That sounds great!” It did – especially right now when the void within needed some love, some warmth and some new memories.
They spoke for a while describing each others evenings; each one holding back to downplay the rush and excitement they each felt. They said goodbye with a kiss and I love you.
She walked down the stairs to get a glass of water and felt her phone vibrating in her hand. She walked into the kitchen and answered.
“Did I wake you?” It was Eddie.
“No, not at all I was just getting a glass of water.”
“I just wanted to apologize if I seemed a bit distant but it was the way you kissed me that shook me up Bren. How many years later and I am back to feeling like a stupid schoolboy. Its as if nothing has happened in the past 20 years. “
“Eddie I am married now.”
“I know – thats why I am calling to apologize…as much as you still have a hold on me I feel I need to somehow run away from you. I dont think we should see each other tomorrow…”
“I understand…but that second when I kissed you impulsively…it stirred something inside of me. A million scenes of ‘what might have beens’ swirled in my mind…I am sorry…”
“AHHHHH!” She thought to herself. This is a crazy stupid spot I put myself in! Damn it I climbed out the bathroom window for a reason!!!!”
She shook her head and knew right then and there what she needed to do.The next morning mercifully came and she sat in the kitchen drinking percolated coffee.
“You guys were kind of having fun last night.”
“Its not proper to-Oh what the hell. Yes we did – I told you – break up to make up.”
Daisy pulled up outside and honked as she had hundreds of times before. Brenda jumped in and Daisy had the GoGo’s playing on her radio.
“You sure you want to do this?”
Brenda smiled and nodded, “Yes.”
Brenda and Daisy spoke at length about what they would be doing that afternoon as they picked at breakfast and drank their coffee. The diner was full that morning but they were able to secure two spots in a booth right by a window and a small jukebox.
“Strange Daisy…I am sorry I lost all touch with you. I feel we picked up exactly where we left off. As if in mid-conversation.”
“I was hurt when you stopped returning my calls but I was busy with life, the kids – time kept on marching on and on.”
“Its my loss, I have never met anyone who could fill the void. I stopped having friends or even caring. I concentrated on being a mother and working, Before I knew it the kids are out of the house and I am there drinking my coffee in leisure as opposed to running from one place to another.”
“Its hard when they leave…but it all changed when I became a grandmother. I never thought I could love anyone so much…” She dabbed her eyes as tears welled up.
“What’s wrong, Daisy?” Brenda took her hand.
“I get so lonely, Bren. I miss Ted but he seems to have forgotten all about me – even more than he did while we were married. I caught him Bren, I caught him with the housekeeper right in our own bed. She wasn’t even pretty. He said she came on to him but who cares? If he did it in our bed how can I believe he never did it when he was on his ‘business trips?’”
“Fuck him, Dais, move on and move ahead. You are still beautiful-“
“Stop it I am a cow.”
“You are not – you really are still beautiful and you are young. A young grandmother for Gods sake. You need to get out more often – come stay with me in Connecticut i can introduce you to all the rich dudes over there.” She laughed. “Dudes, could you believe I just said that?”
“I bring out the teenager in you.”
They both laughed and then Daisy looked up and smiled. It was David and his wife, along with Eddie and a younger girl, who Eddie introduced as Jennifer.
The time flew on by as the memories came flowing towards them like a river of dreams, scenes and slow dances. Music was played from the jukebox – old songs chosen by Eddie and David. They spoke about the night before – the teachers, their fellow students.
“I kept looking around and saying to myself, ‘Robert got old’ or ‘Paul lost his hair and got fat.’ Then I caught a glimpse of myself and realized, I got fat and my hairline is receding. Was I as old as they were? and well, of course the answer is yes.”
“I felt the same way…I am still trying to figure out where the time went…” Brenda said looking away and then looking at her watch. It was time.
Daisy looked at her as she stood up and Brenda looked back and smiled, a sad smile of recognition that some scenes can never be replayed again – once the lines are recited and the curtain falls there is no going back. There are some plays, plots and stories – no matter how much one rehearses the gestures, lines and the steps that should be taken – nothing can adequately prepare one. We still find ourselves standing on the stage, spotlight on and an audience waiting in anticipation for the next line, the next scene…a cold sweat beneath the lights and the curtain begins to close but there is always another line to be recited, another word to be spoken…no amount of anticipation or rehearsal can prepare one for the adlibbed lines thrust upon them or the wrong performer reciting the lines.
Brenda walked across the floor and put a quarter in the jukebox. Picked B17, smiled and turned away.
She stood alone in the bathroom with the window locked shut – no escaping this time but this time she was not going to even try.
She washed her hands, adjusted her hair, walked out into the diner and sat down next to Daisy.
They all smiled as the song ended – the song was the same song and possibly the same vinyl record from all those years ago.
But the ending this time would not be an ending or an escape it would be a sort of homecoming or a continuation to what once was.
“Dad do you mind if I leave, I am meeting Charlie for dinner and I want to go home and get cleaned up.”
“Of course darling – we are on for Wednesday, right?”
“Yes I’ll remind the gang, love you.” She gave him a kiss.
“It was so nice meeting you all and putting a face to the mythical names I have heard about all these years. You are all even more beautiful than I ever imagined.” With that she left.
“That was your daughter? She is beautiful! Why didn’t you introduce me to her?”
“She doesn’t like you too much.” He laughed. They all joined in.
“I guess I can understand…”
They finished breakfast which had turned into lunch and made plans to meet up that night at the reunion. Brenda had already made up her mind.
“I am going home in the morning Daisy. But please now that we both tasted what its like to be friends again please lets not lose touch.”
Daisy gave her a hug and they both jumped into the car.
“Turn up the music loud!” There was a commercial. Brenda changed the channel, another commercial. “What a buzz kill.”
“Here listen to this CD.” Daisy pushed it in the slot and a familiar piano began to play.
They both laughed and then Brenda looked out the window as they passed the old familiar spots. The spot where a Carvel ice cream parlor once stood, a now vacant lot where there was once an arcade and they would order Egg Creams and play Asteroids and Space Invaders for hours. Actually the boys would play and the girls would sit and talk. Oh those talks, those friendships, those innocent times when life was in front of us and within our grasp.
“A bottle of red…”
They drove past the school where the banner welcoming them back for their reunion was hanging on one end. The clouds were forming above and a wind was blowing.
“A bottle of white…”
There was a crack of thunder and then a blustery wind and they were in front of Daisy’s old house. It did not look like it once did – it was totally redone.
“They gutted it a couple of years ago – I watched it slowly taken apart. I swear I could hear the voices from my past calling out.”
“Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the king and the queen of the prom…”
“Now I try and remember what it was like back then and there doesnt seem to be any proof that we had a childhood and that it was as special as my mind makes it out to be.”
“It was though. At least that’s what I choose to believe – to remember. Memories are just replications of themselves – they become figments of each other shaped in the form we choose.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of deep for me.” Daisy laughed.
“You know what I mean though?”
“Yes of course – that’s why each person will remember the same event in their own way.”
“I am glad I left Eddie back then; I made a decision and you know it was on my mind from before that. But I knew the only way to truly breakaway was to just…breakaway.”
“And climb through the bathroom window.”
“And climb through the bathroom window.” They both laughed.
“I guess sometimes that’s the only way out.”
Brenda and Eddie had had it
Already by the summer of ’75
From the high to the low to
The end of the show
For the rest of their lives
They couldn’t go back to
The best they could do was
Pick up the pieces
We always knew they would both
Find a way to get by
That’s all I heard about
Brenda and Eddie
Can’t tell you more than I
Told you already
And here we are wavin’ Brenda
And Eddie goodbye.
The night went well – there were dances and there were toasts. Mostly toasts to things past, people past. When the last song was played Eddie walked Brenda home and they said goodbye at the door. She closed the door behind her and he walked away.
The memories were past and the moments were now enshrined once again in the hall’s within our hearts and minds – we are given moments. We are given these moments and try to not forget to make the most of each second. We capture pictures, remember aromas and sing the songs – remember each word, each kiss and each hand held. When the time comes to think back or when the night falls too soon and the darkness overwhelms us – we remember as we choose to remember.
A bottle of red, a bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant.
I always wanted to be a rock star. I wasnt blessed with the ability to play an instrument – although I tried more than several times with guitar, piano and harmonica. I just couldn’t do it. I am sure if I had the time now as a physical adult I would find that (very) hidden (very)inner talent – and could play a decent musical piece.
I am an artistic person which comes with it the ability to be even more screwed up mentally than someone who is, lets say, an accountant. An accountant sees numbers – an artistic person sees love and time in an assortment of colors – with a tinge of creation and death within each. An artistic person feels emotions with just a glance – can sense the temperature without a touch and can see the same sunrise over and over again and each time feel a sense of wonder of the artist.
Back to my musical dreams of eternal existence on vinyl, on polyester or on the clouds. Videos of celluloid heroes forever young and forever carrying a melody with memories.
So in my life I have written countless tunes with lyrics – but I have recorded two of them.
Just recently my son found a cassette, yes a cassette; with the first song I recorded back in 1988. Its called, “Whenever I’m Alone.” I am proud of the fact that I wrote it, sang it and produced it without even knowing how to play a note of music.
So, alas…here is the Lost Tape of Freddy Zalta’s…first single.
Copyright 1988, 2015 Ftrain Publications
Originally written in September-October 2013.
Re-posted as part of throwback Thursday.
There was this old man who used to stop by the Diner where I worked. Each morning at exactly ten-thirty on the dot he would come in; he would look me in the eyes and nod. I would then give him a cup of coffee with 1 sugar and milk. He wouldn’t say a word until he would be ready to speak. He would sit there in his usual booth, drink his coffee, look out the window and then, as if an internal alarm clock went off, he would call me over and we would speak until the lunch crowd came in. He would tell me his story and offer advice and always made me smile.
His name was Eugene, he called himself Gene but preferred Mr. Thomas. His actual name was David Cantor and on Friday evenings and all day Saturday, he would stay out of the Diner and away from Kings Highway, where the diner was, as well.
He was a man with a slight accent – a slight limp and gray hair. He wore a soft beard at times and other times he was clean shaved. At 5’9 he was average height, always wore a hat and had a lightning smile.
Mr. Thomas, as I will refer to him out of respect, was a professional clown and a cantor of his synagogue. The synagogue was located in a part of town where all the Jews used to live but have since moved away. Mr. Thomas had been presiding over there since 1940something when he arrived from Europe.
Mr. Thomas was a Concentration Camp survivor. In 1940 he was twenty three years old and married to a beautiful young lady who was nineteen years old. She had been pregnant when she was told to step into the shower at the Birkenau extermination camp. Only he and she had known about her pregnancy, no excitement about whether it would be a boy or girl – only a question of whether the baby would be tortured, killed or spared the curse of being born into a world so cruel.
“Miriam swore that she would not allow them to touch our child…and no one ever did.”
Before the Holocaust began, Mr. Thomas was an apprentice for his cousin, who was a plumber. His cousin had told him at a family function that there were a lot of bathrooms to be installed all throughout Europe. Going and soon to be gone were the outhouses; already arrived and multiplying faster then babies being born were the bathrooms which were located inside the house where everyone ate, slept and lived.
He was working for his cousin for a year, when the Nazis forbade them from continuing to do business.
“Even if you do belong with the shit.” One of the officers stated too loud and way too jovial for his cousin’s taste. His cousin went to throw a punch and was immediately hit with a club and then put into the street and shot in broad daylight. His body lay there as a “Reminder” for all the Jews to know “what happens when you talk back to an officer.”
Mr. Thomas, wearing his gold star on his sleeve – walked home to find his neighborhood strewn with dead bodies, broken glass and forever broken lives. He was quickly beat up and forced to walk alone among thousands towards…what? Death? The smoke rose up high in the distance and somehow his inner sense told him that worlds were ending.
The years passed as the ashes gathered in from a Holocaust which deprived the world of the beautiful minds of Six Million Jews and their infinite offspring.
“Imagine the loss in terms of the impact they could have had on this world. Base it on the historical contributions of the Jewish people – imagine the symphonies written which would then be performed, the medicinal breakthroughs which might have saved billions of people from suffering, the scientific discoveries which could have enhanced our world, saved our world…its impossible to calculate the impact six million souls might have made on this world, or the generations that would have followed had they not have been extinguished by the Holocaust.”
“It was sometime in the winter when we were told that the Germans were gone and that we would be taken to other camps in the area. We were free, they said. Free to do what? We had no homes, no family, no friends…our past was destroyed and as far as any proof of our lives before…there was none as I would soon find out.”
“They use the term, ‘liberated’ – I wasn’t ‘liberated’, I was told I could leave. But go where? I tried to go back to where my family lived before. But there were other people living there and when I told them it was my home they threatened me. They knew who I was, I went to school with them…they told me that I was the reason for the war and that they didn’t want dirty Jews in their town. Well they were correct on the two points, I was a Jew and I was filthy. So I ended up on a ship to America. When I arrived on Ellis Island a stranger vouched for me and said I was his cousin.”
When I was on the ship to America there were children who were alone, orphans. For some reason they seemed to want to be around me as if they knew me and felt comforted by my presence. So, I watched over them as if I were their guardian and I also began to do whatever it took to make them smile.”
Mr. Thomas took on the role as their guardian, when the ship disembarked he made sure that each of the six children would wind up in the right hands He worked with the Jewish Agencies to ensure they all went to a good family and insisted that all siblings be kept together. It took a long time and a lot of help from his “relative” to make sure that this would be the case. With the determination and “with God’s help – a family took them in.”
The “relative” who signed Mr. Thomas into the country was the manager of a synagogue on the Lower East Side. His name was Abraham and he had come from Poland before the war he found out soon enough that he lost almost everyone he had known from his old town.
Mr. Thomas had told Abraham that he was a cantor and a plumber back in Poland – turned out that the synagogue where Abraham worked was in need of a cantor and could always use a plumber.
Mr. Thomas began to co-cantor at the synagogue and to maintain the plumbing in exchange for a room in Rabbi’s apartment which was left vacant when the Rabbi’s daughter married and moved to Israel.
He quickly began to learn the language and to integrate into the “American” way. He would also clown around for the children in the synagogue on the Sabbath and holidays, as well as the children he would encounter on his long walks around the city.
“I was walking on 42nd street one day and I saw a line outside of a theater. I had never been inside a theater before – all I knew was there was a stage and people would sing or act out scenes. My Rabbi back in Poland said it was against the Torah to watch the shows. So, here I am walking on 42nd street, a million miles away from my past life and I walk in with just a sense of the words from my Rebbe. What was I expecting to see the devil himself? What I see is magical and although I could not understand the all the dialog, I was laughing whole show. It wasn’t actual people on stage; this was a movie and I fell in love with the whole idea right then and there.”
Mr. Thomas had sat through three showings of “Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops” and would have sat through another showing if not for the theater closing for the night.
In that year of 1955 he was able to get a job in a theater as a stagehand. He would help setup the stages throughout Broadway and became kind of a specialist in the lighting and the handling of the curtains. Whenever a curtain would get stuck and would not open or close – they called David. When the toilets backed up, they called David. He became the go to guy wearing multiple hats while getting paid for it. When he advised his boss that he could not work on Friday evenings or Saturdays until sundown – his boss at first told him to “Hit the street.” David said, “OK.” Dropped his toolbelt and put on his derby hat and walked out.
Two nights later, his boss, Mr. Alvin Robinson, literally went to David’s room in the Lower East Side and begged him to come back on his own terms. Plus he would get a raise and be able to set his schedule provided he alerted them in advance of any holidays.
One night, in October of 1955, right after the Jewish holiday season; he found himself sitting in the audience and watching a new play. As the show began he felt a sense of foreboding. There were two people on stage, a man and a woman and the man was reading from a book. Suddenly the mans voice trailed off and a young girls voice took over. When he heard these words – he stood up and walked out, shaking and in tears.
“My name is Anne Frank. I am thirteen years old. I was born in Germany the twelfth of June, nineteen twenty-nine. As my family is Jewish, we emigrated to Holland when Hitler came to power.”
He could not sit still and ended up running out of the theater. He was shaking and scenes from a life that had been stolen from him were being played in his head like a movie. He remembered his father and his mother, his brothers and sisters…and of course he remembered his Miriam and their unborn child.
Once his feelings were awakened and the reminders of the great destruction and all he had lost – he lost control of himself. He felt alone despite his friends and his community. He felt insecure about the world and whenever he heard a shout on the street he would turn towards the source of that shout expecting it to be an officer pointing a gun at him. Each man in uniform frightened him – he couldn’t even ride the subway for a while because it brought back the memory of traveling to the death camp. He had nightmares and cold sweat fear episodes during the day and in the middle of the night. He would wake up sweating and shivering – he would be working and begin to feel the sweat form on on his body…
He went to his Rabbi for some advice and the Rabbi told him he needed to mourn the losses he had sustained.
“How do I mourn the loss of everything – my past? Rabbi, whoever I was before the camps is dead now. My memory has been stolen in addition to any proof of an existence – lives, educations, friends, good times, bad times…its only when I see my reflection that some memories of who I once was evolves slowly and then quickly dissolves. Sometimes a memory will seem like I am looking at a photograph of someone or something and sometimes a memory will be so very painful that it will knock me down. Sometimes, Rabbi, I wonder why God couldn’t …”
“I wonder the same thing and I have voiced my anger towards him. But the same answer comes back to me whenever I am more collected and at ease…”
“You voiced your anger against God?” He asked.
The Rabbi responded, “I think that the omnipotent God can handle a bad excuse for a Rabbi’s rants and raves.”
“So what is the answer?”
“There is no answer that we can comprehend. How can we understand why you had to go through that hell and lose what you lost? How can any God explain that in a way we could understand?”
“I think I understand – but I am not ready to accept that yet. I think I have some tears to cry.”
He tore his shirt and he sat Shiva for the required seven days. He didn’t shave or cut his hair for 30 days and he mourned.
He thought about the children he had watched over on the ship and in New York…they were settled. All six of them lived in Brooklyn and he went to visit them often. When they would see him their faces would light up and they would run to embrace him.
A couple of evenings before his meeting with the Rabbi, he had seen the play “Marty” and that brought out some emotions in him as well. The story was about a middle-aged man who had lived with his overbearing mother and had given up on ever finding love. The movie reminded him that he was now an orphan with no mother to watch over him. He was alone and had no love around him.
After the fist two days of sitting Shiva, he had a dream where he re-enacted part of a scene from the movie Marty.
Marty: I’m ugly, I’m ugly, I’m ugly!
Mrs. Pilletti: Marty –
Marty: (He rises, agitated) Ma, leave me alone. Ma, whaddaya want from me? Whaddaya want from me? I’m miserable enough as it is.
He woke up crying for his mother, his father – his wife and their unborn child. For the first time since he arrived he began to cry and cry.
On the day he had his hair cut and his face shaved – he was walking by the farmers market when he saw a sign “Yes! We have Bananas!” He bought one for a nickle, stood aside and took a bite. It was bitter and he could not chew it. He made a face and there were a class of school children watching him. They were all laughing. He looked at them and asked in his broken English, “I think this is bad fruit.”
One of the girls took the banana from him, pealed it and gave it back to him. He took a bite and had a big smile on his face. The kids were all laughing. He was hooked on making the children laugh that day. It was that moment when he decided he wanted to be a comedian.
“One day as I was tripping, falling and walking into walls, one of the mother’s said, ‘what a clown.’ it was then that I said, ‘yes, I am a clown. Call me Mr. Thomas, Mr. Eugene C. Thomas.”
One day as he was taking the train to Brooklyn to see the kids – he spotted a program cover for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Mexico City. “It was in Spanish – but that didn’t matter I knew it was a sign. A sign for me to put on the make-up, wig with a hat way too big for my head and the shoes way too big for my feet.”
He learned how to apply the facial makeup from one of his girlfriends in the theater and was given old worn out costumes to use as his own. He began by working in his synagogue on special days and moved on to working with children in different parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx. Before he knew it he started doing bar mitzvahs, birthday parties and became a party fixture.
There were block parties, street fairs and eventually he needed help. He contacted the kids he had accompanied to Ellis Island and they joined him. It was on Coney Island in 1960 when his heartbeat picked up the pace for the first time in this life.
Since he had come to New York there had been other women he had been with – mostly actresses and chorus girls…but he never looked into their eyes…never felt his heartbeat quicken as it did with Miriam…
But Rebecca…once he looked into her eyes and she looked into his; he knew that she would become the love of his life – born in Brooklyn and a Sephardic Jew, she was the clean slate that he needed. Her dark skin, long dark hair and deep brown eyes enchanted him. His smile and his easy way with the children she was watching made her blush and smile. She knew he was giving the children with her the most attention because he was trying to impress her.
“Where is your husband, Mrs?”
“Silly man – these are my nephews and nieces.” She said to him with a soft smile that bit through his heart.
“Tonight there will be a clear sky, full moon and a soft breeze – please come with me to the boardwalk to dance?”
She smiled her beautiful smile and said. “Yes…”
They danced that evening, him in his clown makeup and clothes – her in her beach dress. The radio played, “Forever” and he whispered the words as he held her close…
Hold me, kiss me
That you love me
Forever began soon after that magical evening. They married in Bensonhurst Brooklyn where they would live for, well, forever.
Rebecca and David spent their lives together – never sleeping apart. She helped build his business into the success that his children have taken over – working alongside their own children.
After fifty years, her beauty never faded but her memory began to fail her. Although there was a nurse, he insisted he bathe her, dress her and feed her. When she died he recited the prayers along with their sons, Abraham, Joseph and Solomon.
Each year on the anniversary of her “departure” as he calls it, he goes where his clowning around is needed. Instead of visiting her grave he visits Orphanages and Children’s Hospitals and makes sure for the time he is there, that the sound he hears is the laughter of the children.
It was soon after her death when he began to make his daily trips to the diner. He had his schedule and he kept to it. He would go pray at the synagogue and then go help feed the elderly in the assisted living center on Kings Highway a block from the Diner.
“You know Ralph, this life is strange. Just when you think you’ve lost it all you always are given something else to lose. But I learned to embrace what I have been given and I worked hard to keep it all. My faith in God is the ground beneath my feet.”
“How do you still keep faith? Keep praying to Him after all the…the…”
“Death and pain? What choice do I have? If I give up my faith in God what else do I have left? Faith in people? Faith in myself? Both are fallible…with God; listen although I have my issues with Him, my love and trust in Him is unshakable. But I know that when I do see Him, I have a lot of questions…I think that’s why I may live forever – He doesn’t want to hear me Kvetch!”
“You know Mr. Thomas – I have to say that you are one of the most special people I have met; you remind me of my Grandfather.” I said this to him and he looked at me as if trying to look through me, or to unmask a riddle that has evaded him.
“What is your last name, Ralph?”
“My last name is Singer, Ralph Singer. My Grandfather is a survivor of the camps as well.”
“Where is he from?”
“I forget how he pronounces the city, but it was part of Warsaw.”
“Yes that’s it. Is that where you are from?”
“Yes that is where I was born…” His voice trailed off and I could see it hurt him to remember.
“My Grandfather is around 88 or so; maybe you can meet each other? Would you like to meet him?”
*Performed by the Little Dippers “Forever”
The Professional Clown Part II
Mr. Thomas walked with his slight limp; he wore a black sports coat with a dark blue collared shirt. He was cleanly shaven and had decided against wearing a hat because it was kind of breezy and he didn’t want to go chasing his hat in the wind. The temperature was cool – “it was almost Thanksgiving, so what did you expect? An extended summer?”
As he walked through the fallen leaves on the sidewalks he moved to the sound of an old song he remembered from his days at the theater. It was from “My Fair Lady” and the beautiful Julie Andrews had sung the song, “I could have danced all Night”
I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night.
And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my wings,
And done a thousand things I’ve never done before.
I’ll never know What made it so exciting.
Why all at once my heart took flight. I only know when he
Began to dance with me I could have danced, danced, danced All night…
Not an hour would go by when he didn’t miss Rebecca. She would hold his hand whenever they would walk – often taking his arm and resting her head on his shoulder. When they would sit on a bench she would tilt her head and hum the songs that made up their life together. “I could have danced all night” was one of their favorites and often he would take her hand, stand her up and hold her close to him as they both swayed to their own silent rhythm.
Tonight, as he walked towards his home, he felt that too familiar pain of loss. He thought about her eyes, her lips…her neck and the way she would taste…
He took out the house key and walked up the stairs to the front door. Unlocked it and half-expected to smell the aroma of the Sabbath meal being warmed up and the sound of her in the kitchen. But tonight, there was no aroma, no sound and no Rebecca. All of his children were out in their homes or with their families. Tonight he was on his own. He kept his jacket on as he fell onto the recliner, lights still shut and the silence screaming out.
“The kid should be coming any minute now…” He said to aloud just to break the silence, or maybe as a reminder to himself.
He had begun to ease his observance of the Sabbath; he would turn on and off the lights and electronics. “Its too dark and lonely without them.” He would also answer the phone if the caller id was from someone he knew. “What if someone needs me?”
As he sat there he looked up at the pictures arranged so methodically on the walls. Their children’s wedding pictures; family celebrations throughout the years adorned the walls in Rebecca’s idea of chronological order. The last picture was the one that he put up after she had left. It was a picture of all of the children and grandchildren; with him and Rebecca seated in the middle of the circle. “What more could you ask for?” His wife asked him.
“Some more time with you, honey. Some more time with you.”
His eyes were closing when he heard a knock on the door and then a voice.
“Mr Thomas?” It was Ralph from the Diner and he was picking him up.
“I may not be the most religious but my family is orthodox in the house; so everything is Glatt kosher.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Together they walked the two blocks to Ralph’s parents home where the family had gathered for the Sabbath meal. When they walked in there was a beautiful table set for their family with him being the guest. Ralph will tell the story from here on.
When I walked in with Mr. Thomas I felt a feeling of pride that was laced with a lot of sadness. I felt sad for him and even worse when I introduced him to my Grandfather who was blessed to have survived the concentration camps and to even be reunited with his wife in a displaced persons camp.
“Mr. Thomas, um, sorry, Mr. David Cantor, this is my Grandfather Mr. Abraham Singer.” They looked at each other and for the first time I noticed there was a resemblance. Mr. Thomas stared at my Grandfather in silence and was met with the same look. They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity but in reality was maybe twenty or thirty seconds. My grandmother walked towards her husband and looked at Mr. Thomas as if seeing a ghost.
I will try and not be too dramatic here – I will leave that to the actual circumstances, no extra drama is needed here other than the actuality. My Grandfather and Mr. Thomas began to shake – quickly joined by my Grandmother.
They each fell into the couch and Mr. Thomas spoke, at first in english and then in what i believe to be Polish with some Yiddish mixed in.
“My God is that you Abe? Abe Chazan?”
It was then when my father walked in and was astonished and began to shake as well.
“Pop…is that your brother?”
“Cantor?” My Grandmother asked.
“Singer?” Mr. Thomas responded.
“Oh my God…have you lived here in Brooklyn all along?” My Grandfather asked.
“I came here in 1950something, lived in Manhattan I moved to Brooklyn when I married- Oh my…Abe…You…you are alive and you look…” He began to cry and lost all control right there in our living room. He was joined by every adult in the house with all the little kids totally confused or scared.
“Tzipora…you look just as beautiful as you did on your wedding day…” He hugged her in tears.
“Did, Miriam?” She trailed off.
“No, Miriam was murdered in Birkenau…I met a beautiful lady named Rebecca, but she departed two years ago; she is with God now. Rest her soul…but we had 5 children together and now we have 19 grandchildren! I named one of my sons Abraham, after you, my brother.”
“I named my son, David, after you, my brother. Did anyone else survive?” He asked my Uncle.
“Not that I am aware of – we missed out on spending our lives together…Singer?”
“When I came into Ellis Island they asked me to describe my name so I sang a song. So he put on my identification ‘Singer.'”
Mr. Thomas, I mean, Uncle David laughed and said, “I did the same thing, but the man who signed me into the country told the man my name in English was cantor.” He looked at me. “Chazan in Yiddish means Cantor.”
Dinner was not served for another hour – we left them to be alone since some of what they wanted to speak about were memories which needed to be discussed and then discarded. They did just that and dinner was served at 8 – the three survivors kept their plates clean.
Mr. Thomas, as I will refer to him to avoid any confusion, stood up from his chair and walked to a armoire that stood against the stair wall. I knew what had drawn him there but I had forgotten about it until just then.
“Who is this in this photograph? Ralphie, please, I am sorry to bother you – please who are these two people in this picture?” He asked me.
I stood and slowly walked towards him, my Grandfather put his hand against me, “Sit down boychick, I got this.” He stood up and walked towards the armoire, put his left arm around his brother, used his right arm to open the windowed cabinet, pushed aside the glass onion and pulled out the old photograph.
“After I was freed, I went to our old home and that bastard Emil pushed me down and locked the door. Called me a ‘brudny Żyd’ (Dirty Jew) and said that it was his home now. He threatened to come after me with a gun, the piece of shit. I walked away, came back later that night and broke in the back shed where I found a box full of old photographs, books, siddurs, shabbat candle holders…they were all damaged, but they were there! Some proof that the life we had before had actually occurred. I put some pictures in my pocket and carried the box out. But in the darkness I tripped and the box fell. Emil, came racing outside in his pajamas with a stick in his hand. He swung at me but missed. I stood and ran as fast as I could. When I came back later on that night – I saw embers burning in the spot where I had fallen. A big box full of smoldering memories – all destroyed, all proof of my, of our existence, in ashes. I wept for days after that – I wept on the train to the ‘Displaced Persons Camp’ as they called it. As I lay on the floor in my tent, wanting to die yet wanting so much to live for no reason other then to give testimony about what had happened. I remembered the pictures that I had in my pocket – this picture here of Momma and Poppa. Proof that they were not just a dream that is forgotten once you open your eyes – proof that they were alive – we were alive. We did live a beautiful life that was taken from us…beautiful people who were turned to ashes were once alive. The world says the Germans killed ‘Six Million’ as if by putting a number on the dead there is a finality to it.” Grandpa looked at Tzipora and put his arm around her.
Mr. Thomas nodded and then spoke; “I have always said the amount of lives, ideas, cures and answers to questions destroyed are infinite. The world will never find those ideas, cures and answers again. The worlds destroyed are infinite and this one world that congregates us is less than it should be because of this destruction.”
“I don’t understand, Grandpa. Six million Jews were killed, why do you say infinite?” My little sister, Miriam, asked.
“Think of one person. The ideas they posses in their minds, the dreams they have that can become reality and change the world. Each idea, each dream, each thought produces its offspring which in turn multiply, etc. etc.”
“Each person in this world touches another – it could be as simple as a soft push on a crowded street that veers you off course for several seconds impacting your walking experience – you will see other faces, other events then you would have without the soft push. Contact can be physical, emotional…” Grandpa said looking at Tzipora and then Mr. Thomas.
“With each contact a new world is created for that person. Think of the first time you hear a song – you listen and it tells you something, either in the music or even in the lyrics. That ‘something’ that it is telling you is a doorway into a new world full of new emotions…” With that he stopped, realized his audience and sat down.
“What your Grandpa is saying is each person is given unlimited amount of worlds within themselves, it is their responsibility to take these worlds and spread them – ‘Tikum Olam’ – make this world a better place to live in. When you do not express those ‘worlds’ when you do not ‘connect’ with this world…you begin to die inside.”
“Tell Mr. Thomas about your reunion with Grandma.” My sister again.
“One night as I walked around the camp I ran into an American soldier who spoke some Yiddish and had befriended me. He told me that a lady was looking for someone with our last name. It was Tzipora.”
“Everyone I knew…” My grandmother speaking now. “Gone…when I saw my Abraham…I fainted and was taken to the infirmary. I woke up to see my Abe standing over me…but everyone else was gone.”
“The soldier, Ben Hoffman, lived in the Bronx. His family was from Russia but they had left after the first war. He picked up the Yiddish from his mother who told him it was important to keep that language alive – it was her proof that there once was a village outside of Poland where a Jewish community lived together – she had left with her sister right after the first war. I guess we all need some proof of our memories. He died several years ago – we kept in touch all these years…”
I jumped into the conversation – I knew that it was time to speak about the present and what each of these people had achieved – had brought to this world.
“Grandpa – Uncle David is a professional clown. He was friends with Art Carney, Zero Mostel…He even met Groucho Marx.” I said.
“Groucho gave me a cigar and told me to not tell him our home address because he would come over and take Rebecca away. She blushed…and then she asked for a cigar!” We all laughed.
“You are not Mr. Eugene C. Thomas, are you?” My father asked him.
“Yes, well, I was. I put the makeup and the outfit away. Only on the yartzeit of my wife I take them out and I make sure to make people laugh in her memory.”
“I do a lot of business with Abe Cantor, we call him ‘ABC’, I sell him merchandise for his stores. My God, that’s my first cousin!” My father was amazed at how small this world was.
“Uncle David, my grandfather went to night school when he first came to New York. He also worked during the days, even on Shabbas, to make sure that he and Grandma had a place to live and food on the table. He got his GED and was promoted from salesman to head salesman in the store he worked at on 57th Street in Manhattan.”
“It was a clip joint, I worked as many hours as I could – seven days a week, unless it was a holiday…but there was something gnawing inside of me. I knew what I needed to do.”
“Share your world.” Mr. Thomas said.
“Yes. I needed to write an account of what had happened during the war, our expulsion from our lives and then our expulsion from humanity. I began to write a journal. When I showed it to the Rabbi in my Shul, he showed it to another congregant who worked for a book publisher. He published it thinking that he would concentrate on selling it to schools to make sure the children are aware of what had happened. It began in one school and later became required reading in order to be given a regents degree in New York. In it – I write about you, our brothers and sisters, poppa and mamma – they are all there…”
“Grandpa then began visiting schools to talk to the students. After a while he became so confident about speaking in English that he took up on a university’s offer for him to give lectures on the Holocaust.”
“Obviously he needed to go through the process of remembering again.” My Grandmother added. “There was a part of me that didn’t want him to revisit all of that hell, excuse me, again. He began to shake again, cry at random times…”
“That was the hardest part,” my father said, “He would wake up screaming every night…We didn’t know what to do.”
“After a while I began to realize that the talking about it, the lecturing about it, at first the pain was intense – after a while as I began to visit different cities, different universities, congregations, churches; it had a positive effect on me. Although it was akin to to walking on burning coals it was also soothing that gnawing feeling inside of me. This was the reason I wanted to survive. I could have stayed working at that clip joint, I could have opened my own place – but there was an aching feeling inside of me that I was not living up to my end of the bargain. God had spared me and I had promised to tell the world what had happened – I was going to. I ended up reaching over thousands of people over the years and made a living out of it.” He laughed.
“We have come a long way, brother.” Mr. Thomas said; his eyes welled up but a look of pride on his face. “We have made this world a better world by simply surviving.”
Mr. Thomas was emotionally and physically exhausted – he felt a cocktail of emotions – he felt a strange sense of revitalization, sadness, madness – the world was spinning out of control – but this time it was spinning because of life. Somehow death had reverted to life; his brother and his sister in law were alive! Sure he could focus on the lost time – but who had the time to focus on the negative side?
“I am 84 years old…I don’t have the time or the energy to cry anymore.” He told me as we walked him home, my father and myself.
“We need to get together as soon as possible Uncle David…we need to get our children and grandchildren together…” My father was crying.
I put my arm around him and whispered that it would all be O.K.
“Of course it will be – do you realize what has happened? We have gained an Uncle and his offspring. We are a larger family now – we have been given the gift of life and love.”
We said goodbye to Mr. Thomas – we each embraced and cried. I cried because this man whom I had always admired, whom I brought into my parents home had miraculously turned out to be my Grandfather’s brother. How can that happen? How could they have not ever met or have known anyone who knew them both? Especially living in the same city and with each of them kind of a celebrity in their on ways.
My mother was waiting for us by the front window when we came back home. She was overwhelmed and you could tell she had been crying. She hugged me when I walked in.
“By you bringing that man, a complete stranger to all of us, into our home…you have changed all of our worlds.”
“I knew him from the diner – he had been my friend for a while.” I said.
“Do not underestimate the good deed you have done – that good deed has led us to have an extended family – another 25 people! Can you imagine? I am overwhelmed.”
I am not sure if anyone slept that night – I know I didn’t. I kept thinking about my Uncle; Mr. Thomas. I kept thinking about my Grandfather and my uncle David – how they had mourned for each other and had lived a lifetime criminally apart – time stolen can never be repaid or forgiven. But acceptance of the crime committed against them was the only way they could move forward and hold on to the time they had left.
I lay awake with anticipation for the next day – I would not go to work – I would go to temple and I would pray. A miracle had occurred within my world. I had been touched and my world would never be the same again. Just to think it all began with my meeting a professional clown at a diner in Brooklyn.
There was a storm and the power went out one evening in my building. Liz went to stay by a friend and I was not going to be home until late that night. It was an early morning when I was thrust into a conversation with a man named, “Doc.” We were discussing life and the ability to stand tall time and again after being knocked down.
“But there is no currency in resilience, backbone or heart. Resilience does not pay the bills. But resilient I am and resilient I must be.” I told him sounding kind of pompous but not feeling so.
“Of course there is currency in resilience. You could have just rolled over and quit so many times – but you kept at it. You re-invented yourself, changed careers, marketed yourself and then changed careers again and again, why?”
“Because I have no choice.” I put my head in my right hand and tried to force tears that didn’t exist.
“What do you mean you had no choice?”
“I am by nature not a quitter. Plus there are bills to pay.”
“Hence my statement that there is currency in resilience.”
“Its getting me lately, Doc, its causing me to flinch where I never did before. Its causing ‘tearless’ crying which makes me feel as if I have never shed a tear.”
“Crying is not defined by specific terms. Crying means to shed tears because of an overwhelming emotion. But the tears can be the feelings or the words expressed. Not everyone can understand that. We all mourn in our own way, we laugh to heal the inner hurt, we cry to open up the wounds to help them heal. You cannot heal unless you feel – you cannot scar unless the wound has been allowed to bleed.”
“I don’t either understand or agree with what you are saying.”
“Bottom line? Don’t worry so much about expressing your feelings – just feel them and don’t fear them.”
I walked away from the discussion still feeling like there was a grenade about to go off inside of me – any misstep would cause it to explode – so I walk softly and try not to jump, slip or fall. Walking on this trampoline its not as simple or as fun as it sounds.
The old lady Elizabeth died last night. I couldn’t give her the time she wanted back. Time is not something we can refund – once its spent its gone forever. He funeral was this morning and only myself and the Reverend for hire were there.
“In life some walk alone and then in death alone again.” He took a sip from a plastic cup. “We are given finite time in life – in death we are thrust into infinity.” He said a prayer, picked up his cup and walked away.
I wanted to say something – but there was no one in the room but her and I. I walked towards the casket and whispered to her – “Well, time is reset and its a do-over for you. Live in this death as you were not allowed to in your life.”
I turned to leave and noticed a clock on the wall, the arms spinning into the future.
Who am I? Why am I here?
I walked towards the train station and walked down the stairs to the platform. I stood there waiting and in a daze until I noticed a lady staring at me. I wasn’t in the mood to be “God” right now and I wasn’t in the mood to be social. She walked towards me, she looked familiar.
“Hello.” She smiled.
“Hello.” I responded, disarmed by her smile.
“Thank you, Freddy.”
Something was awakened within me – an emotion or a dead part of my psyche. For the first time in a long time I felt stirrings within. As the train lunged forward I turned to see the girl but she had gone.
The train slowed to a stop between stations – I looked outside the window and all I could see was an infinity sign on the walls in the darkness. In my memory it looked like this.
I went home that night to a dark entrance and I found a note written by someone I love.
“Can you handle this night without me? See you in the morning – Love you…Liz.”
If love is indeed infinite in one sense or another; is it possible that time and love are constant? That love surrounds us from a time and place that is no longer tangible in our minds – but in our hearts we reach out our hand to be held, we long for the embrace and we thirst for the kiss. So we keep on filling in the void in our hearts with literature, art and rock n roll, until the day will come when time and love are in tandem. When we will reach out our hand be held, when we will open our arms to embrace and we will thirst no more for the kiss…
Love and time both wasted and so often taken for granted.
Love and time both needed to sustain a sense of a life, a sense of a meaning in a world filled with tornadoes of falsehoods.
So we live our lives towards the goal of an infinite time and an infinite love.
As the sun rises, I can hear my front door opening and the sound of keys on the table by the door. Soft footsteps and the door to my room opens slowly. Time and love…
We drank the bottle of wine and we went to sit on the couch.
“I will clean up let it stay.” I whispered.
She put her fingers through my hair and began to twirl it, I looked at her and our eyes were locked.
“I love, I am falling in love with you.”
“Me too…I was scared I would blurt it out and feel…” She kissed me and I felt her soft lips part and her tongue, soft with the flavor of the red wine. My heart was pounding and I felt hers – chest to chest – heart to heart.
We lay in my bed, white sheets, one leg covered the other revealed. Her head on my chest and asleep. I felt her breath on me as she slept and thought about the night and smiled.
My phone rang, it was the lobby calling.
“You have a visitor Mr. Freddy, a lady named Elizabeth?”
“An older lady?”
“Please send her up.” I jumped out of bed, put on my clothes from last night, kissed her on the forehead and closed the door behind me. Went into the bathroom and stepped out into the living room to open the door.
Soft knock on the door.
“Is everything OK?”
“I couldn’t sleep all night and I needed to see you.”
“Whats going on? Well, come here, I will make you a coffee? Give me two minutes.” I came back with two cups of coffee and a corn muffin cut into four.
“After my father died my mother brought home a ‘friend’ of hers. Apparently they had been together for a couple of years and she had left her family to be with her.” She sipped the coffee and smiled. “That is good coffee.”
“Thank you, enjoy it.”
“Her name was Karen and she was a tough woman. She acted as if she were my father and would tell me to find a job, get married or to mop the floors across the house. The younger kids she would treat like they were her own – to her I was Cinderella. To my mother I was just the housekeeper and the nanny. For several years it went on like this until one night my mother came back from the Doctor with Karen.
‘I just came from the Doctor, my days are numbered, Daughter.’ I didn’t know what she was talking about. When I asked her what she meant she slapped me and told me she was dying.”
“The next morning I heard a car pull away from the side of our house – I looked outside to see the dirt rising up like flames from the ground – like our own personal dust bowl. I went downstairs and found a note by the door. ”
Dearest Daughter, Alas my time is running out and rather than fade away as a sunset I prefer to leave like a tornado. I entrust the care of the children to you and Karen. Mother.
“As I sat on the floor crying I heard the stairs behind me creaking. The sound of two sets of footsteps – and then time began to fly by in triple speed.”
“Did you ever hear from your mother again?” I asked.
She began to laugh and cry at the same time. Her eyes blue as a robin’s egg.
“Would you believe twenty years later I went to answer my front door and there she was.”
“I thought she was dying.”
“Well I wish she had. She came back into my life – by that time the two kids had moved away, Ricky to Santa Fe and Jenny to Cranford New Jersey or something like that. They would send me Christmas cards and once in a while a photograph. So, the old lady, looking better than myself I might add – decided to have me evicted and took over the house since it was in her name still. I didn’t care, if anything i felt like a prisoner being released from a life sentence. The only problem was a lack of funds. When I told her that all I had in my savings was eleven hundred dollars, she promptly wrote a check for ten thousand and told me that she had some visitor coming and it would be best if I left by the morning.”
“Did she have any blood running through her veins?”
She laughed, “You know she didn’t even ask about Karen?”
“What happened to Karen?”
“When my mother left that morning, Karen and I sat on the couch after the kids had left and consoled each other. She wasn’t much older than I was and we found comfort in each other. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer I took care of her and nursed her over a three-year period. During those years the kids left only to come back to bury her. Karen was still the tough bitch but there was a change in her once my mother left. There was a soft side that was endearing to me and I believe I helped bring it out.”
“How many years are we talking now?”
“Well when Karen died I was, hmm, around 30 years old or so? I stopped counting at 15 years old. So I was left alone in the house until my mother came knocking – some 15 years after Karen had passed.”
“Did you work? Socialize? Did you have any friends at all? You are a very beautiful woman, I am not just saying that.”
“I did work, of course I worked. I was a clerk at the pharmacy in town. I started by being a cash register gal and within a couple of years I was filling out prescriptions and running the place.”
“What about friends?”
“I had friends, the customers who would come in – we would sit for hours talking and there were several occasions I would close the store for an hour or two.” She laughed.
“But then the owner of the place, Dr. Richardson, became ill and I was working crazy hours to keep the business afloat. Business was picking up and when he passed away I was hoping for the chance to buy the business from the family. But once again the floor was pulled out from under me.”
“This man I was seeing decided to leave his wife for me. I didn’t want no part in breaking up a family and after I allowed him to share my apartment with me a week later his wife came screaming outside of my window, two floors down, that her husband, Irwin, should ‘come home and come home now.’ He kissed me on my forehead, took all of his stuff and said, ‘I am going home, but thank you.'”
“When word came out about my ‘abhorrent behavior’ I was told that I was fired and any chance I had of buying the store was out of the question. So I packed up my stuff and moved to Cranford New Jersey to visit Jenny for a spell.” She took a long sip from her coffee, cut the muffin into small pieces, offered me a plate and then continued.
“Cranford was not for me. Plus Jenny was not pleased to have me. He kids were adorable and we became close, but her husband wanted his den back and so I left after a couple of days. Headed to nowhere really because I had nowhere to go.”
“I found myself on a greyhound bus heading for Chicago seated next to an older lady who was heading back to her home outside of the city. It’s a long ride that bus – some 20 hours to get there; so we talked and talked. I listened more than I spoke and I ended up living with her as an assistant. She lived alone and was frightened. He husband had passed and her children had moved to New York and left her to fend for herself. She had money and her home was a mansion way too big for her to live alone, so she hired me. I lived with her for fifteen years and when she didn’t get out of bed one morning I could smell that she had gone. I called her daughter who I had met on Christmas and Easter each year; she told me thank you and asked for the keys. It was my last evening sleeping at the house when her lawyer came to me and handed me a check for a half a million dollars. Apparently the old lady cared for me more than my mother ever had.”
“At this time the year was 1972 or so and I was 50 years old with a half a million dollars in my bank account but nothing and no one to spend it on. So I took a bus to Las Vegas.”
The door to my room opened, “Hey Freddy, good morning.”
“Hey Liz, this is Elizabeth a friend of mine. Elizabeth this is Liz my, my girlfriend?” We looked at each other and smiled.
“I need to leave now anyhow – remember what I asked for the other day and I will see you soon.”
“I don’t know what you want from me I am just…”
“Time, Freddy, Time.”
The door closed behind her and I looked into Liz’s eyes, a blue as a robins egg.
Throughout the remainder of the month of August I continued to be greeted and needed by strangers who thought I was their friend. There was Elizabeth, who was a lady who had just turned 87 years old the week before and was hoping to turn back time.
“I was so busy my whole life taking care of this one and the other. I dropped out of high school to take care of my younger siblings after my mother decided she couldn’t handle the pressures and left home. I spent the next six years changing diapers, feeding and dressing them. I went from being a typical 14-year-old teenager to feeling like i was middle-aged at 20. The friends with whom I was once inseparable from, slowly drifted away. They lived their lives as teenagers as teenagers should. They moved on – some went away to college, some stayed and others took life one day at a time.”
“What about your father, where was he doing all this time?”
“He kept on doing what he was doing before my mom left, heading to the bar after work with his friends, coming home drunk, falling asleep and starting all over again the next day.”
“I don’t think its your fault. When I turned 20 a beautiful lady came to the front door. She looked vaguely familiar to me and it took me several seconds to see that it was my mother.”
“When she left home her hair was flat and her skin was colored uneven. She was chubby around the waist and her eyes never were always dim and sad. The lady that walked into the house that day was radiant. Her dark hair was alive, her white skin shone and her eyes were glistening.”
“As the realization that she was my mother began to hit me I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror by the entrance. I was wan and looked double my age. My hair was in knots and my clothes were my brother’s undershirt and an old pair of jeans.”
“What did you tell her when she came in?”
“At first I felt a sense of relief, but as the days went by and I became a second thought to my siblings and a maid to my mother – a tsunami of resentment overtook me.”
She stood up and said, “I need to leave now, is it ok if I come back tomorrow?”
As she stood up to go I tried to understand just what it was she needed from me.
Elizabeth was a beautiful Irish lady. She wore a long summer dress with a soft Angora sweater. She wore her gray hair long and had a pair of reading glasses necklace around her neck. Her eyes were a translucent green and her lips were in a creased into a sad shape. Her voice was hoarse and when she spoke the words would come out in a deliberate way. Each word expressed slowly and used methodically.
The next day she showed up exactly at the appointed time and continued with her story.
“After my mother came back she promptly threw out my father and took out a restraining order. He was, as was his normal state, drunk and didn’t understand what was happening until he woke up on the sidewalk at 5 O’clock in the morning. The door was locked when he tried to get and he began to scream.”
“‘Lizzy, Elizabeth open the door its your father.’ My mother ran down the stairs, gave him a bag of all his belongings and told him to leave and to not come back. He didn’t know who she was and for a couple of minutes he thought he was at the wrong house until she addressed him. ‘John James Douglas, you are no longer a resident of this home – you drove me away one time but you will not do that again. Now leave and never come back again.'” A tear trickled down her face as she spoke, took a sip of her coffee and then paused.
“As he went to cross the street a garbage truck him and he was thrown into the air. He landed squarely in front of the bar he would frequent, dying in the spot he lived his life away.”
She paused and then looked at me. “I need my time back. I am running out of it – I was given all these years and I wasted them..” She stood up to leave, “I need to go…”
I sat there and watched her slowly walk away and I wondered what had happened between that day and the ensuing 60 years or so. Why was she speaking to me and what did she think I could offer her? Time? A rewind button? We all had our regrets but there was no way back and I sure as hell didn’t have any power to do so.
Or so I thought.
In the beginning…I was sitting in Starbucks when I an old friend came over to me. She was also a former girlfriend who had morphed into the platonic friend category when she married one of my closest friends. She stood above me and smiled.
“Hey Freddy is this seat taken?” That smile, still slays me after so many years.
“Ha, once you sit there it will be.” I stood up to give her a kiss on the cheek and a short embrace. “How are you?” I asked innocently, not really interested but what else do you ask?
“Dont ask!” She said.
“But…” I was cut off. She spent the next 20 minutes telling me her problems in too graphic detail and then ended it by standing up.
“Thank you for listening, Freddy, it means so much to me that you care.” She kissed me too close to my lips and turned to leave.
“Anytime you need anything, ya know, call me.”
She turned and smiled that smile.
I sat down and began to check my emails when a lady stood above me and asked me, “Is anyone sitting here?” I nodded, no and she sat down.
“I couldn’t help but notice the way you helped your friend just now. I am also going through…” She went on and on for 20 minutes, stood up, gave me a short embrace, turned and left.
“That was strange.” I thought to myself. I clicked on my outlook button when I was greeted, once again, by a lady asking if the seat was taken. It was then I noticed a line of people staring and apparently waiting to speak to me.
That was the morning I became, well, a spiritual leader to the disenchanted customers of Starbucks.
The next morning I showed up and the table I had sat in was occupied by a lady. She turned and saw me and gestured me over.
“I bought you a cup of coffee – large Pike place with one sugar and 1% milk, right?”
“Yeah, thank you and, I am sorry whats your name?”
“My name is Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and Mary. I wanted to speak to you about…” It continued. She stood up to leave, gave me a kiss close to the mouth and a long embrace. Mouthed a, “Thank you.” Which was accompanied by a soft whisper and left. Before I could sit down a low fat blueberry muffin was thrust at me along with a smile and a “Good morning.” A red head this time and now the question of whether the seat was taken was not even expressed.
This went on and on – one woman after another – until the manager of the store asked me to leave.
“But before you leave, can I ask you a question?” He began to speak for 20 minutes and finished with a firm handshake and free cup of coffee.
“You can stay, but if you don’t mind, can you sit over there in the corner?”
The coffee, the muffins, egg salad on whole grain, a large water bottle, another cup of coffee and a late afternoon large chocolate chunk cookie; they continued to be presented to me along with emotional confessions of fears, guilt, lust, loneliness, frustrations, disillusions about the promises of what life should be and so many other feelings that I could not name them all here. I am sure I left out a lot of stuff that was told to me but have no fear – the number of people have grown and each morning, afternoon and evening I am approached, kvetched to, cursed at and thanked for things that I have absolutely no idea about.
At least I had a job now.
I was even being paid $50, $100 even $500 for each 20 minutes. By the end of the month I had collected $16,210 in cash! For what? I have absolutely no idea but if my listening to these people helped them a little – then bring it on people and remember I like that raw sugar in my coffee.