Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grandma's Bed


The night my mom and my niece arrived in New York from Jamaica, my niece slept over with her grandmother. The next morning, my daughter was at their door bright and early. My mom was already up and having breakfast as my daughter climbed into bed with her cousin to begin an epic session of catching up. My mom and I sat at the dining table of her little studio, watching the girls happily. They are sisters, these two, sole citizens of a magical world known inside our family as Abbe and Notta land.


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Old Wall


This wall on Tiemann Place in New York City makes me think prehistoric cave paintings should adorn its surface. It feels so ancient and out of time. I'm uploading photographs from the past few weeks this morning, a nifty escape from the demands of work. I have a lot of catching up posts to do, but perhaps all I will be able to manage is to put up photographs and let them speak. Do you see the woman dancing, her skirts swirling flamenco-like, at the center of this wall? Do you see the hint of water flowing down in the faint splashes of light?


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How lucky can you get?


A restaurant in Rye, New York, after Hurricane Irene passed through.


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Monday, August 29, 2011

Hallelujahs

We were spared. No flooding. Just one spot near our dining table where water seeped under the floorboards, almost dry already. My mom's apartment was pristine, and the worst thing we faced when we opened the doors of our apartment was the smell of my daughter's soccer cleats, which she had just dumped in the center of her room, leaving them to bake in the damp humid hermetically sealed house all weekend. If you know soccer players, you know the odor that greeted us. Now the house reeks of Febreze, the fans are stirring up the air, and oh, it is good to be back safe and sound. Best of all, my girl is home from all her summer adventures. Gosh, we miss her silly self when she is gone!

I have so much work, people. And another tax audit coming up—once they find you, they freakin stalk you! But after our last audit in March, I'm calm as can be. No more terror of the unknown. I will be here, possibly blogging a little less than usual, surrounded by papers and receipts, trying to find financial equilibrium and keep the old folks accompanied and cared for. Unless I decide to upload pics from this weekend instead! Either way, please bear with me if I'm commenting a little less. I will still be visiting and reading and loving you madly. Oh yes, I will.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

After the Storm

Just a quick post from upstate, in between college shopping trips and unpacking storage units and carting boxes and plastic bins up stairs and setting up new rooms for one college junior and one college senior:

Well, my mom and my aunt weathered the storm with no leaks and no power outages, though my mom spent the night awake and terrified by banging, crashing sounds and howling winds and the blinds swinging from side to side so that she kept trying to find where the wind was coming in and disturbing them so. I told her it was the entire upper part of the building that was swaying in the wind; my aunt lives on the eighteenth floor.

Many apartments in our complex got flooded, but not my aunt's. We don't yet know the condition of our apartment and won't be any wiser until we return home tomorrow. The repointing of the brick facades that has been going on for the past two years didn't help matters. I also have no idea how my mom's apartment came through, as she hasn't yet been back to it. She's spent most of today dozing in the armchair next to my aunt's hospital bed, catching up on the sleep she didn't get last night.

Imagine: My mother spent the entire year until this month in the Caribbean, and a week after she gets to New York, she is having to contend with a full-fledged hurricane. The world feels upside down. At least Irene deflated to a tropical storm as soon as she came ashore at Coney Island and she speeded up, too, so that the storm had moved past the city by 10 a.m, even though it was supposed to sit over the city until 2 a.m. tonight. My husband says Irene got to New York and gave up the ghost. One headline screeched, "Irene Fails to Wow the City." Seriously? I am just so relieved things went as they did. And if there is no flooding to deal with in my mom's apartment or ours, I will sing hallelujahs.

And to my friends here, thank you for thinking of us as the storm approached, and sending the good thoughts. I think they helped! All those thoughts weaving a safety net over the city. Who was it who said, Thoughts are things?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene

This hurricane Irene is giving me major agita. We are supposed to drive our niece up to college tomorrow along with her stuff, and the rest of our son's stuff, which he packed in our car before he left this morning. He traveled up by bus as he has an appointment with his advisor. He's changing majors from to pre med, but the real truth of it is, his friends have been texting him all week asking when he'll be back to help get the party started. Sunday we are supposed to take both kids shopping for the household stuff they still need, since they are both be moving into apartments and will be cooking for themselves this year. Then we drive back Monday.

My daughter has been at her soccer preseason camp at a boarding school upstate all week. She was so torn. She loves playing soccer and being on the team, but she was really ready to just be home with everyone after her summer away at camp. The team was supposed to return tomorrow night. As we were supposed to be gone by then, the plan was that she would take the subway home, get my mom, bring her to our apartment, and look out for her until we return on Monday. When I asked her to bring her grandma over to stay with her for the weekend, she said, "Mom, I'm 17. Does Grandma really need to babysit me?" "No," I said. "You need to grannysit her." My mom enjoyed that one.

But then Irene whipped up her high wind souffle. Darn. How do I leave my 89-year-old mother and 17-year-old daughter alone in a hurricane? They say it's a fierce one, too, a Category 3 with the eye of the storm passing right up Fifth Avenue. They're giving warnings about projectiles hitting windows. They say if the windows start to shake, retreat at once to the public hallways. The supermarkets are jam packed this morning as people try to lay in supplies.

At just before noon, our daughter's soccer coach emailed to say they're trying to get buses to bring the girls home today. But the bus company is besieged with such requests, so the team may still not leave till tomorrow morning. Subways, buses and bridges will all be closed down at noon tomorrow. So I really hope the soccer girls manage to get buses home today. And now the other questions. Do we wait and drive upstate Monday, riding out the storm in the city and delivering our niece late to school? Do we take my daughter and mother with us, since the town we're heading to will be north and east of Irene's predicted path?

It's now 6 p.m. My girl and the rest of the team are on a bus heading home. The new plan is my mom is going to stay with Aunt Winnie during the storm and our daughter will travel upstate with us. My aunt's home attendant will be there to assist my mom with meals and baths, and my mom will be good company for her, as my aunt doesn't talk anymore; she is in a sort of waking coma, declining visibly every day. My mom says she does not feel up to a 5-hour road trip so I have spent today laying in supplies for her and my aunt, including non perishables in case power goes out. And my husband has taped up seams around the windows and put fresh batteries in the flashlights, placing one next to my mom's bed, one next to her chair, and one on the kitchen table.

I'm so weak-kneed grateful to my aunt's home attendant. I feel terribly guilty leaving my mom, but she insists they will be fine, that we should go ahead and get the kids set up for school before classes start next week. And of course I want to do that, I take comfort in getting them well settled in for the year, making sure they have what they need. They don't really need me to do all that. It's me who needs that transition, that incremental goodbye, see you later, have a good year.

So we are leaving early on Saturday morning as planned. And I am hoping that Irene will be but a whimper by the time she reaches the city, that all this frantic preparation will be met with a fizzzle of rain, nothing more. My mother says serenely, "God will be with us." As I secretly do when she says this, I wonder about all the people who might not come through okay, and I wonder if God is with them too. I have no answers. I'm just grateful she isn't afraid.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shenanigans

My son has been home since Sunday. He leaves again tomorrow, headed back to college. I had forgotten the simple pleasure of just seeing him around, even if he's too busy with his friends to sit and shoot the breeze much with his parents. It's just nice to see him coming and going, fully engaged in his life. Mostly, he seems happy. That's all we ever want for them, isn't it? Everything we desire for them is in service of happy, even the challenging times that help them appreciate what's good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Moses is the real deal


Who is he? He is the son of an artist, and that artist is the son of my friend, who is a wonderful artist in her own right, so Moses comes by his gifts naturally. I want to kiss his concentrating little face!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

25 Years


Twenty-five years ago, my love and I pledged to have and to hold, easily the best decision of my life. Precious and good things ensued, most especially our children. That was us in photographs taken at the passport office the week before we were married. Love of my life, here's to the next 25 with you! Amen.


The resolution isn't so great, but since I haven't yet had a moment to scan anything, I'm posting this image that my husband has on his iPhone and emailed to me.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Glow

We picked up my mom and my niece from the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning, and my mom walked into her treehouse studio when the dawn was just beginning to put the night on notice. I had put in flowers and left on soft lights, so the apartment would look glowing and welcoming. My mom went straight to her favorite chair and she sat there, looking around, noting everything as she left it. And she said, "Well isn't this something. I am here."



Friday, August 19, 2011

The Summer Before



I took these photographs of my family while we were visiting my mom in St. Lucia in August 2001. It was less than a month before 9/11 knocked us into a parallel reality, making these photographs seem especially poignant to me. My son was nine and my daughter was seven and their dad, who they liked to call Papa Bear, was a convenient pop prop as I snapped these pictures. He was in conversation across the table. I love the easy way my son is leaning into his dad but there is something solemn in my daughter's eyes. Truth is, she wore this expression a lot as a young child, which is such a counterpoint to her often laughing dancing countenance now. The year before I took this, she had drawn a picture of the Twin Towers being struck by lightening storms and she wrote an accompanying story about the towers falling over. She had a friend from whose roof she could see the towers clearly, and was always drawing pictures of them that year. Months after the planes hit, she told me she had dreamed the big fire, but she thought it would happen much later, when she was a teenager. I have the picture she drew. I plan to scan and post it in observance of the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, as a remembrance and a wish that my children, and all of us, will reshape the temper of our planet in the next ten years.




Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lisa and Zoe


"Having Zoe saved my life. 
It was my wake-up call. 
There were so many things 
I didn't want to pass on to her." 

—Lisa Bonet


Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lisa and Lenny, is the new Hollywood royalty. She's on the verge of breaking big. I'm pitching a story on her because I'm rooting for her. There is something about her that reminds me of my daughter. And what her mother, the beautiful Lisa Bonet, said, I get that. If you're lucky, your children force you to find the high road. What you can do for no one else, you do for them.

The Pledge

What follows is an excerpt of what my good soul guru the Grady Doctor (that's her in all her awesomeness in the picture) had to say yesterday on the subject of hateful self-talk. At least two other blogs have already reposted her pledge, which I think makes this a movement. It should be a movement. Read on and join in. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to intend. Because don't we tired of having to shore ourselves up after tearing ourselves down? So I'm going to take this pledge, and when the harsh self-talk creeps in (as it might, because after all, I've been honing that skill for some time now) I will just do like the yogis and show it the door. Sometimes I might need to write that thought right out of my head, and I reserve the right to do that. What I'm aiming for here is not perfection, but heightened consciousness and the chance to practice being kind—including to me. For the whole deal, go right to the source.

From the Grady Doc:

There are scores and scores of us who have targeted ourselves for our most consistent insults. Almost like we have this need to preemptively strike against ourselves before someone else can. And to that I say Eeeeeeeehhhhnnnnnn! (*buzzer sound*) So as of today, I declare the rest of this month "No Hating on Myself Month." Here's how it will work, quite simple actually. The rules are that you can't say anything negative about yourself for the next two weeks. In other words, for the rest of August, you make a pledge to leave all hating to the professionals. Remember, they're much better at it.

The Pledge 
Place your right hand over your hip 
and let your backbone slip

I do solemnly pledge to allow no insults directed toward or about myself to leave my lips for the rest of the month. This includes but is not limited to references about the following:

butt size
hair length
baby weight
belly circumference
skin surface
crows' feet
height
complexion
salary
material possessions
marital status
relationship status
grades of any sort
comparisons to someone else
achievements of your children
size of your house
make of your car
mistakes from your past
compliments to others with reflexive insults to yourself
in same breath

Play Jill Scott's "Hate on Me" anthem and
shake what your mama gave you if you commit.

Dear Grady Doc, 
I commit.

Camp is ending

This weekend, camp will end for another summer, and my kids have that melancholy aspect that always attends their return to the real world from their summer commune. Their camp friends have become to them like family and now they all scatter to different parts of the world. On the camp website, the photos posted today are mostly of the scenic variety, suggesting things are already winding down. 

There was also a photo of my son's best friend. They grew up together and call each other brother, although surely brothers argue more than these twin souls ever have. They go to the same college now. They move in different circles there, but each knows the other is a text, a phone call, a quick run up the hill away. 

I get a kick out of this photo of E. lifeguarding. I remember back in high school, he and my son went to try out to become lifeguards for the city one summer. But they were too slow on the timed swim test. It was one of those misadventures they came home laughing about, a comedy of errors and very odd people administering the test and the two of them swimming out of their lanes. They kept swimming into the lane divides and having to course correct, which made them dissolve into embarrassed giggles, much to the irritation of a glowering city official. I can't quite remember all the details, just that they regaled us with stories that night. And now here they are, both of them having achieved the thing. Granted they're each about a foot taller than they were then, a lot more cognizant of the skills required, more sober about the whole endeavor, too.

It is a comfort to me to know these two have each other. Earlier this summer when my son was upset and out of reach, unable or unwilling to hear his parents, I called E. "Don't worry, I'll talk to him," he said. And he did talk his friend back to reason. I knew he would be there for his friend, as I know my son will be there for him. I am so glad he is in our lives. I call him my other son.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thoughts this morning

My mom and my niece will arrive at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.  I will be thrilled to have my mom back in New York, but scared, too. Her heart will be heavy when she sees her sister, who at almost 93, can no longer move a single limb of her body, and has to be hoisted by a medical contraption. My aunt can no longer speak most of the time, and yet last night, when the home attendant found her wide awake at 4 a.m., and tried to coax her back to sleep, she said clearly, "I want to be awake when Gloria gets here."

My mom is several days away from getting here. My aunt has her time frames confused. But when I heard this, I was pierced once more by the devotion of the sisters to one another. I am glad my mom is coming to see her big sister. But she's 89, and is also declining. It's more clear now than it used to be. She too is starting to be confused by time, and to not remember things. She gets anxious easily, because she is so used to being able to control what happens for herself, and now she can't.

I don't think she can stay alone in her little studio, although she is insisting that she can. I think she needs to stay in our home, sleeping here at night, with family life flowing around her, and then she can eat dinner with us and I can help her bathe before bed and make her breakfast in the morning before work. I can then walk her back to her apartment, which is in the same building as my aunt, and they can visit together while we are at work and school. I hope the home attendant will agree to give my mother lunch along with my aunt, as my mom can't manage that on her own anymore. I really scared about how she will manage this time. It's all mixed in with the excitement at seeing her in just five days.

My son will be home for a hot minute this Thursday. One of his best friends is having an end of summer barbeque and many members of their high school track team will be there, all of them now scattered to different colleges, so he's taking the train to New York just for the day to attend. We'll see him when he stops home to shower. And then maybe again that night, before he catches the train back for the last two days of camp. Then he and his girlfriend will arrive home from camp on Sunday and will be with us for most of next week. Meanwhile my husband and I will make the drive up to pick up our girl on Saturday. My daughter loves her brother's girlfriend. Loves her. She says whenever they see each other at camp they jump into each other's arms and twirl around.

Okay, got to get to work. I've been getting home well into the evening since our new managing editor arrived. Even thought the spirit of the place is much lighter than it has been the last five years, we're too few people left on staff. We need more hands to execute our new editor-in chief's vision. These late evenings can't continue. Last night I got home at 11 p.m. and then stayed up till 3 a.m. just to feel as if I had some part of the day that was mine. We close the current issue tomorrow and after that, I'm going to have to be a little more judicious about my workload. Especially with my mom here and my daughter needing to visit colleges and figure out exactly where she plans to apply.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Fisher King


This man.

The one on the right.

He stars in the only film that ever comes to mind when someone asks me to name my favorite movie. It's Terry Gilliam's 1991 fable, The Fisher King. In it, he plays an emotionally distant radio shock jock, a self-absorbed jerk who ultimately finds redemption through the care shown to him by a homeless paranoid schizophrenic, played by Robin Williams, a sweet-natured soul whose circuits have been fried by tragedy, and whom the shock jock eventually feels compelled to protect, grasping that their fates are finally and eternally entwined.

The Fisher King is a love story. It's about being wounded in different ways and the power we have to heal one another. Every time I watch that movie, I am enthralled.

And last night, as Jeff Bridges was interviewed by the rather haughty Piers Morgan on CNN, I remembered why I can't turn away when he's onscreen, Bridges I mean, not the Brit. He's so authentic and humble, so aware of the graces that have eased his life, so devoid of false modesty. Even when asked that cliche of a question, "Was winning the Oscar the highlight of your life?" Bridges was pitch perfect. "Well, watching my children being born beat that," he said. Of course it did. And when Morgan pressed, asking, "Well, the highlight of your professional life," Bridges replied, "Not really, that would be the work. The highlight is doing the work." He said it gently, allowing his interviewer to save face, but he didn't get drawn in by the easy answer.

But what really, really slayed me was when he talked about his marriage of 36 years, to a townie he met while making a movie in Montana. He had been terrified of marriage. He shared that his wife hates when he says this, but he had thought of marriage as one step towards death, because now you were with the woman you would be with for the rest of your life, there would be no one else until death. Well. That sounds like a man who knew how to make a commitment. And then, when Morgan asked him the secret of his great marriage despite the Hollywood celebrity machine, Bridges got this goofy aw shucks look on his face and he mumbled shyly through his shaggy beard that that he was more in love with his wife now than ever. And then he said:

“It’s like that question, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. In marriage, what that means is when those tight times happen, when you feel, Oh, shit, this is terrible, I’m outta here, that's when you have to lean into it, you take it as an opportunity to learn more about each other, get closer, and enlarge your love. Then that precious feeling kind of pulls you together and encourages you in the next tough time.”

Lean into it, he said.

This man.




Sun Child


"I think laughter may be a form of courage. 
As humans we sometimes stand tall and look
 into the sun and laugh, and I think we are 
never more brave than when we do that."

—Linda Ellerbee


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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Duckie







  
  

What strikes me about this last photo of me on Bourbon Street is that I am really a funny looking little person with chubby nail-bitten child hands and feet that point outwards like Charlie Chaplin's and I say that today with a rush of affection for that duck-kneed middle aged woman whose husband took this photo with the kindest of sight, and even though I don't always stay in that consciousness I really do know in this moment that I am a lucky duck indeed.



Worth the Pilgrimage





I have, this morning, been going through the photos my husband took this summer. I found a lot I want to steal, um, share, including these photographs of my heart children grabbing a quick burger last May just before we drove our son to the airport so he could catch his flight to England, where he was scheduled to gallivant with friends for two weeks. Five Guys does a roaring business, situated as it is right next to Columbia and Barnard, inviting college students to stumble in at all hours for its burgers with their endless array of free toppings. Our college kids pictured here (that would be all of them except my daughter), who happen to go to the same school upstate, had long extolled this staple in their college town and so were quite happy to have one open in our neighborhood this spring. Gee, I sound like an ad, when all I wanted with this post was to was put my children's faces where I could see them. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coming Attractions

These beautiful women will be arriving back in New York soon. My mom and my niece will fly here from Jamaica the very same evening my two children and their friends arrive home from their long weeks at camp (well, it was long for me). After serene summer evenings of just my husband and me, who are just now mastering the art of being footloose and carefree, the house will be jam packed again. But just for a week. Then the college kids go off to school as we settle in for our daughter's final year of high school and college visits and applications this fall. My husband and I are going to enjoy the excessive liberty of this last week before the hordes arrive because very soon, we will be busy. Not complaining.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meanwhile back at camp



This was taken the night of the Mardi Gras Banquet, and these are all the junior counselors from my daughter's unit, hamming it up on the pier. I gather that floating 2011 dino sculpture behind them was from Jurassic Zombie Day and was set aflame once night fell. These young ladies look like they're having the time of their lives. Meanwhile I have one eye on the calendar and a quiet comfort in the knowledge that in less than two weeks, my son and daughter will be coming home. And I'm also wondering, why are there no grown-up versions of summer camp? The closest thing to it I've ever experienced was a month at an artist's colony. I think working stiffs should be forced to find their own versions of summer camp for one month each year. At the very least. Imagine how much more productive and civil our society would be.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shadowbox

On Saturday night in New Orleans, we went to see the play Hugging the Shoulder, which asks the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" as it follows a man's desperate effort to rescue his brother from the sinkhole of heroin addiction. The never published play, written by Jerrod Bogard, was masterfully directed by our own Glenn Meche, aka fellow blogger Bigezbear.

Glenn recognized my husband and me as soon he saw us. He was standing outside the theater as our cab pulled up, and as soon as we got out, he said, "I know you! You're from New York!" I so loved meeting him. You can just kind of tell he wears his heart on his sleeve and I can't resist that. I had this immediate urge to hug him but I didn't want to spook him. He was worried about what we'd think of the show. I hadn't meant to put him on the spot. I had thought to slip into the theater and tell him after, because I knew from his blog that he was nervous about the opening. On his blog, he wrote "I'm ransacked," and I certainly know that feeling. But how could I not go to his show, after reading his posts about directing it, and understanding that for him, this work was a labor of love.

Then when I saw the show was opening the very weekend we would be in New Orleans, I knew we would be in the audience. I just hadn't worked out how public we would be. But it was a small black box theater, an intimate place, there was nowhere to hide, and then I was glad of that, because afterward I got to hug Glenn and tell him how much I loved his play, how he need never have worried. I got to tell him how blown away we both were and he could see for himself that we were. His actors gave such heartrendingly nuanced performances my husband and I haven't stopped talking about them since. Glenn, my friend, this play is a brilliant piece of theater. It sticks to you, stays with you, climbs inside you and works all its angles raw inside you long after the theater goes dark.

The photographs here are by Glenn M. They show scenes from the play. The actors are Joe Siebert, Eli Grove and Liz Mills. Their talent is huge. The world should know their names.



The Big Easy

The afternoon we got there, the skies opened. That didn't stop us. We set down our bags and headed out right away, strolling the wet streets of the French Quarter, catching raindrops with our bare heads and brushing shoulders with throngs of out-of-towners who had the same idea. We stopped for a meal at a restaurant called Desire, where I snapped pictures through frosted panes of glass of life going by on Bourbon Street.





The next day dawned sunny and hot, and what seemed to draw my camera most were the buildings in the Quarter, the colors and the old world architecture, the wrought iron balconies and the greenery spilling from the air. 






We did and saw a lot that I didn't think to photograph, jazz musicians on outdoor stages, in bluesy clubs, the two of us eating beignets in Legends Park because the line was too long at Cafe du Monde, streetcar rides into the Garden district, mysterious bookstores and trinket shops, food adventures, the art around Jackson Square, the painted performance artists on streetcorners, chatting with the ticket booth lady who told us the real deal, brunch at the Ritz with a very loved friend who just happened to be in town for a conference, and the other highlight, a performance of Hugging the Shoulder, a play directed by my new friend Glenn Meche, who kindly offered to drive us back to our hotel after. We stayed in the Quarter, right on Bourbon Street, which many people had warned us could be a little sketchy. But we had no complaints. As Glenn pointed out, New Orleans is a theater town, everything is theater, and it's at full tilt day and night on Bourbon Street. And just steps from the mayhem, the hotel had a secret courtyard with a romantic fountain that I had been gazing at in photographs for weeks. I finally got to take my own pictures of it.




Our room didn't look down on the courtyard, much as I had hoped it would. Instead we looked out toward the Mississippi, as the front desk clerk told us when we checked in. I didn't ask if we could actually see the river, since the hotel was full and so the point was moot. It turned out our view was of the back of antique stores on Royal Street, and a corner of the Courthouse, which has been undergoing renovations for years, and appears in every John Grisham movie ever made. My husband and I were fascinated by a little house that had been completely surrounded on all sides by buildings, orphaned.


The room itself was perfectly lovely. It had everything we needed, including air conditioning and a dreamy bed. There is my love of 25 years, getting himself organized. And the last picture is of me and my little red Canon, hiding in a gilded mirror.



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