Saturday, May 28, 2011

Torture by Hip Hop

I was planning to get up early anyway, but at 7 a.m., a loud boombox started pounding out hip hop in waves as if someone was circling the block. The sound was unrelenting: torture by hip hop. I imagined a lowrider from East L.A. driving back and forth, preening his feathers for lower Manhattan. Turns out it was three white guys making a movie in the alley below my window, the same alley, I'm almost certain, that I shot in for the end of my short film (the film that brought me to CA) more than 25 years ago. 

Last day, tying up loose ends. Did I do what I wanted to do here? Going back to that same alley, here's a photo I took, on one of my early walks:

The Excuses, in Cortland Alley

"I ran yesterday," this wall post begins, but then the writer gives excuses why s/he can't run today, but will run tomorrow: it's raining, s/he's sick, traveling, has the wrong shoes, etc. I thought about this a lot while I was here, the excuses for not writing, how there's always an excuse not to write: raining, sick, traveling, wrong shoes. So I tried to stick to my plan of writing everyday, but still, it didn't happen, and at one point I felt discouraged, that I'll never finish a project, i.e., a story, a book, a script. 

There were people to see, lovely friends from long ago that I still consider my closest friends, and places to go: Philli, Providence and Canajoharie. There were my kids. One of the main reasons I come to this loft is to make a little, funky home in the middle of NYC for awhile. Not having my kids around in LA is sort of like torture by hip hop, an annoyance that builds and builds. But for them when I'm around, it's also torture; I can see their annoyance with me, the parental figure still telling them what to do. 

As they get increasingly more independent and stay away from home longer, being in their life like this might not make sense anymore. What is it, exactly, they need from me? Sometimes I have to admit, past a certain age, not much. I remember that same feeling with my parents, annoyed when they called, or antsy sitting at dinner with them wishing they'd leave already. Maybe this is karma coming back to haunt me, but maybe this is how it should be, or rather, just how it is.

I didn't write everyday and I had lots of excuses but I'm trying not to, in the parlance of therapy, beat myself up about it. I took off from the point I had imagined, and although I didn't quite get there, I made a good start. 

Taking off on White Street

Goodbye good friends; goodbye NYC; goodbye, especially, goodbye loft; you won't be the same when I get back, but please take me in again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Down Under

Completed in 1883. At the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world

When Alice came to the city she had a hankering to go over the bridge into Brooklyn, which got her talking about the time in the 70s, when her artist husband, Chris, had a studio in a backwater neighborhood located between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Later, one of their friends came up with the name DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), to discourage developers from moving into the area.

Lot of good that did! DUMBO is now one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Brooklyn. So yesterday I went to see for myself, setting off across the Brooklyn Bridge with about a thousand other people—mostly French tourists.

Halfway over, I met a young poet sitting on a Benjamin Moore paint can, with "poems" written on a cardboard placard, attached to his sweater; his name was Robert. He looked like he'd just stepped out of Bloomsbury London, circa 1927, or perhaps a Steinbeck novel about the Great Depression, but actually he was a student at Brown, getting a Masters Degree in Literary Arts.

The Poet with his Royal 

Robert had the coolest little Royal typewriter from the 50s, which conjured up images of the Joseph Mitchell/New Yorker era, when writers and poets would poke at those extended, stiff keys to tell stories of the sea, or ports of call, or cantankerous stubby characters—or in Mitchell's case—all of the above, as embodied in the South Street Seaport. Fishmongers, river captains, and legions of rats populate his stories, which recorded life around Fulton Street. Good thing Mitchell can't see the old neighborhood now, with its Disney like setting and Bath and Body Works and Gap stores.

For an unspecified donation, Robert said he'd write me a poem. It seemed like a good idea. I stood patiently by, while he attacked one key after another, resting between each stroke. Finally, the poem was finished. Here it is, to be shared by poetry lovers everywhere:

                                                  Die Woge (The Wave)

The borrower would spend

nights with her own arms


national surveys


lost bodies;

wall crosser;

green fog;

your first 




The poem is profound I think. Or if not, then, at least, is the poet sitting on the bridge, and I slipped him a nicely sum under his papers. 

Once over the bridge I walked down the cobblestone streets of DUMBO, passing boutiques and storefronts that had homey names, like, "The General Store," which in this case turned out to be a white table clothed eatery. At Front and Washington, I found a great used bookstore, where I bought three books, had a double macchiato at a little French bakery around the corner, and then caught the subway home— sweet funky Canal and Broadway home. May the old and the smelly, the historic and the dilapidated, of Canal and Broadway never change!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sitting down with friends....

We were talking about men—don't know how we got on that subject—but there we were, four women having dinner at a place called Turks and Frogs in Tribeca, some of us meeting for the first time. We found we had much in common, and even before dinner was over, we realized this was one of those rare and wondrous occasions where everything clicked.

One of us, okay, well, me, started talking about a boyfriend I once had when I lived in Canada. One week, E. and I decided to go camping in Algonquin Provincial Park, a vast wilderness area four-hours north of Toronto. I'm not sure why the two of us—Jews, who had no experience in the wild—thought this would be a good idea, but we did. E. seemed confident he could handle any problem that came along. 

The first night, after we had set up our tent, eaten dinner and gone to bed, we heard a bear. How did we know it was a bear? Well, for one, we could smell it. And for two, it was moving around outside without much delicacy, making it's way through the woods with grunts and shuffles.

Nice bear, nice....

Suddenly, E starts pushing me towards the opening flap to be a protective barrier between him and the bear. "What are you doing?" I hissed, hoping the bear wouldn't hear. E. was shaking in his boots, scared to death, but I felt calm, thinking: What makes you think the bear will come through the front door and eat me? If the bear attacks, he won't care what entrance he uses! Later, too late, I left E. and Toronto: that camping trip in the wilds of Canada had revealed his true nature.

Stop it!

One of the other women at dinner told a similar story: J. and her college boyfriend were active in the Vietnam protests of the mid-sixties, marching at Univ. of Wisconsin, a political hotbed. At one march, things got out of hand: police threw tear gas, as student protestors threw whatever they could get their hands on, and violence escalated on both sides. J. turned to her boyfriend to say, "Maybe we should get out of here...." when she saw he'd already taken off, flapping his legs in record speed down the block.

Moral of the story? I'm not sure, but sitting with friends telling stories about past debacles sure is fun. We laughed so hard that night because we'd survived and were there to tell about it.

Here are a few other friends and family I've been sitting down with while visiting NY:

 Katrina and Mekko at the loft

 Lunch with Lynn at Studio Bouley

 Connie on the High Line

 Outwalkingthedog, out walking her dog in Riverside Park

Molly from LA at Grandaisy Bakery

dear Uncle Cecil

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hands and Feet

(with apologies to Mekko, who did legz)

Monday, May 9, 2011

OBL in Panama!

Ground Zero

I'm back in New York, and well, naturally, I had to go down to ground zero to see the President, or rather, not see him but the hoopla around him. So on Thursday morning, I walked out of my loft and joined the crowd flowing down Broadway, past Chambers and over to Church—the area of so much gigantic construction—where I bumped into a media circus of unusual proportion. 

Caged media

ABC Channel 7

Church and Vesey St.

Hard Hat first responder

Along with the cameras, there were lots of well-wishers, observers, believers.
Headline "Bitter Sweet"

Bedford-Styvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

One woman was declaiming loudly, "Lies, Lies, All Lies," as she stormed around waving papers clutched in her hand for anyone to see. I stopped and asked her, What lies? and she said she knew for a fact that Osama Bin Laden was in Panama. She had received the information in her email, and provided proof by showing me pages and pages of un-readable computer code. I left her on the corner, still screaming, but later, I saw her being recorded by a sympathetic student.
But many people were there hoping to get a glimpse of the President— young and old, New Yorkers and Europeans, laborers and secretaries, and many friendly NYPD. 

At St. Paul's Chapel, at Broadway and Trinity, the place of refuge for so many firefighters and volunteers after the Trade Towers fell, a guard was standing on the portico of the church welcoming scores of school children through the door to look at the exhibits compiled inside. 

On the portico

Here is where the real heart of post-9/11 goodwill was found—people gathering inside the church walls to give support and aid during the days following the unbearable tragedy that had befallen the city. Dorrell, the guard, had been there that day, and following days: "Every time you heard a siren, that meant they found another body," he said. He welcomed the President, but when asked about OBL you could tell he was struggling. "Lot of doubt, lot of doubt," is all he'd say.

St. Paul Chapel, in front of the rising towers