Monthly Archives: November 2008

>Humanity: The Anti-Loneliness Cure

>I waited in line at the famous Ottomanelli butcher today for my fresh Thanksgiving turkey. One waits in a long line, and while you wait, you scan the butcher paper to find your name. I found mine just as I was called up to the counter; # 225. I know the butcher, Pete, and his brothers, Mike and Joe. They have fed me on a regular basis since I lived in the Village when I first moved to NYC after college, and I have continued to find my familial feast food from them for nearly four decades. I am sure they believe they are partially responsible for my healthy children as they plied me with chicken livers, or tiny roasts and pork shops ready for stuffing.

While Pete was asking me if I had the bike and needed him to carry the 29 pound bird or to heft it into my bike basket, the man next to me, a rather nice looking regular grown up with a slight “other” accent realized he had left his wallet and had only 28 bucks in his pocket.

“Oh I can loan you the money,” I piped up, “and you can mail me a check.”

Pete said, “Do you know him?”

“Well no, but if you can’t loan neighbors money at this time of year, we are all lost, right?”

I gave the guy 30 bucks, he took my business card and told me his name was Alex and that he worked in some real estate office on Hudson Street, did I want to follow him to his office to get the loan?

I didn’t.

I wanted to go and get the rest of the stuff on my list and then hunker and read or write and polish silver and see if I might even craft an introduction to the book I am writing about finances for artists. Lots on my list, even more extra-imagined things I could do as no one is home. It is just me until tomorrow, when my husband comes trundling in with our son, back from college.

After I enlisted the help of some random man on my block to hoist my bike with turkey and sausage and sundries, too heavy for me to struggle onto the loading dock, (see one good turn deserves another) well, once finally inside and my old bike unburdened, I made a sandwich and sat down to read the seemingly depressing New York Magazine article on “Loneliness.” Instead my own interaction seems to be the norm in my City. People do reach out, they make puttering and helping and bumping into an art form. It seems in general people are less lonely in cities because of all the random interactions. I was my own little test case. And while I do hope Alex sends me my three tens, I also hope that whoever overheard us, will be emboldened to give the next loan or whatever other kindness they care to share.

A tiny gesture to begin a season of more simple pleasures in this time of recession.

>33 Years: November 18, 1976 – November 18, 2008

>I met the father of my children 33 years ago today; it was the best and worst day of my life. I adore my children and yet the man who fathered them has been an intermittent source of incredible pain.

We met; maybe I can unfold all the intricacies later, but for now suffice it to say we met when I traveled from the city to the Adirondack Mountains to do some consulting on an arts project where he worked. He, whom we will call Richard, as it provides the perfect nickname, met me at the airport and we began an affair that very night, November 18, 1976. We continued from affair, to relationship, although never monogamous, to living together, to talking about marriage, to having two children, (girl and boy) and splitting up sixteen years later, having never married.

Today is thirty three years to the day since I laid eyes on him and after a decade and a half of fighting about work, ethics, child support, haggling over nickels for medical costs and losing a family court battle which ruled that Dick had no legal necessity to provide for his children’s college education, today I receive an email from Richard saying,
“My mother has come into some money and is willing to loan me the funds to pay off my child support debt in return for a document saying there will never be any contact between us, and all debts are paid in full.”

I nearly had to tie my fingers together so I wouldn’t email back,
“How weird, are you aware that this is our anniversary?”

But this man never remembered my birthday let alone the day we met; he recalls everything about himself and I believe this offer came because he needed to be free of the liens on his accounts and the stigma that comes from being a deadbeat dad. That moniker can’t be expeditious in securing employment and his mom must be sick of paying his bills.

But still I pondered the sense of humor and balance the universe seems to possess. I had at one time wanted to write a treatise entitled, Coincidence is my Religion, I know there would be some followers as I hear again and again from politicians, writers, TV characters, mechanics and chefs, meaning random folks, that the universe has a plan. But I love that it also has a seemingly raucous sense of irony.

>Yes We Did!

>Yes we can.

Yes we did.

And yes, we will keep on.

So is it now President-elect Back Obama, and in our multiracial house the phone never stopped ringing well into the early morning.

Our son calling from his college apartment where he was hosting a party with wine and cheese and feeling very classy for a 20 year old.

Friends calling from Times Square and London and the South of France and Milwaukee, and Minneapolis and Los Angeles and Mexico City. Everyone seemed overwhelmed in some way by both what happened and the hope that what will pass from the country will be in equal force and quick apace.

No one is delusional; we all know there will be tough times ahead to get us to a place where we can be a society that talks about race, and health care, and full employment and a culture of gluttony. It will take time and work, but today it was joyful on the streets of Manhattan.

I rode to the gym up Sixth Avenue and a pack of bike messengers were all whooping and giving high fives and loudly proclaiming all of us “brothers.”

If you bumped into a person of color they were radiant and so full of joy it was Christmas come early. My husband’s family was calling all day saying, “Wouldn’t Grandma have been so shocked that wish could happen in our lifetimes?”

The Pakistani clerk in the bakery–I had to get a little celebration cake–said that she felt now she would no longer be looked at as a terrorist but as a real American. She had tears in her eyes as she wrapped up my package. The Puerto Rican concierge at the gym was gleeful and celebrating with a bunch of the trainers and many of the clients. Everywhere you heard. WE DID IT !!!!

And we took the message from Obama’s speech last night to truly mean that this was an army of those full of hope, and tiny donations and leg work from dawn to dusk. We know the work has to continue, but for now it is a joy to behold.

>Orgasms, Ice Cream, Coffee and Doughnuts: The joy of voting

>My daughter, who is 23 and terminally cool, informed me this morning that with an “I Voted” sticker, you can get treats at Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s and Toys in Babeland. Thus the title and impetus for this entry.

I have never heard of incentives like this before as a way to reward or inveigle voters to hustle to the polls. But I love it. It is what I hope may be the start of the ‘incentivization’ of the younger generation. I see my daughter running out to vote with her good eye makeup highlighting her blue eyes and she is sporting her lapiz ring from Morocco and her Brazilian blue stone necklace as a way to “Pump up the Blue State Vote.” This morning, over coffee, she told me that in Brazil, it is a National Holiday and the bars are closed until the polls closed; then it is one big party. I think we have forgotten what a good time and celebration voting should and can be.

Downtown, there are long lines and lots of gab as neighbors talk about the glorious weather and the potential for change. I know that many of us have put our lives on hold in the overblown expectation that if Obama wins this election:
-Our lives will change
-The stock market will turn around
-The world will no longer see us as morons
-I will personally find a job
-My family and many others will get health care

That coupled with the treat enumerated above make this Election Day an enormous potential party. I know that all of this can not, and certainly won’t come to fruition is any kind of quick step, but after eight years of such stunning disregard for:
-The world
-The environment
-The middle class and the poor
-Education

I just need to believe that we are not witnessing the end of days.

And if hope is evinced in treats, then I am heartened by the free offers which abound. I write this with bated breath and fingers crossed, which by the way is a tough way to type.

>Who’s the jumper and who’s the pusher?

>I learned long ago how to jump-start cars. It was a byproduct of owning classic British cars that were touchy in rain, sunshine, cold or any other meteorological contrivance. Or at least that was the excuse to which we ascribed their fragility; after all, a racy British car with a snarl for a grill and sleek fins could not be badly made, there had to be a reason.

So faulty Lucas electrics, or ancient wiring, or damp garages, whatever the cause, these cars were mercurial and I got good at popping the clutch and starting the car when the battery was dead or the starter was moist. It was almost like a party trick. I could start a car with a millimeter of hill, or push it myself while running alongside and then jumping in, ease into second gear. I put the key in the “on” position and the clutch to the floor, gas down, then pop the clutch. The engine then, roars, or sputters into ignition and drives away to the amazement of all. Especially men.

It was a nearly flawless way to pick up gents, way better than blond hair or a push up bra. And yet alas, as most cars have morphed from standard (actual shift cars) to automatics, this trick has been less possible to flaunt. Until today.

I purchased a 1976 MGB, a red roadster, for my husband as a 50th birthday gift. I knew his brother, who had passed away, taught him to drive on such a car and I knew that my lovely Zac lusted after cars, snappier than our Subaru as we drove on the highways.

This man is the stepfather to my children, but really their only daddy. He taught them to ride bikes, to dance, to laugh uproariously, to appreciate the Four Tops and other back in the day groups, and he told them that it was “a parent’s privilege to pay for college” when their birth father hired a fancy lawyer who got the courts to rule he was not responsible for a nickel for their Ivy League education, Zachary stepped in to foot the bill. I bought him the car as a tiny thank you for all he does for us.

He is our rock and we all adore him. So today when his baby wouldn’t start after a week of crisp fall days I talked to him about “jump starting” the car. I had done it before without him, but he wanted to try it this time. I pushed it down the hill with him at the wheel and he tried a few times but no POP. I got into the Subaru and pushed him up and down the street in front of our house. NO POP.

Finally I said, “Hey, let me try, okay?”

I got in the seat, which no longer slides up and he is over six feet while I hover at a proud five-five. I got in, held myself up by grabbing onto the wheel and depressed the clutch, found second gear, got the creaky key into position and he started the push and I popped it out right away. Zoom it coughed and sputtered into drive. I gunned the gas and took off up the hill, made a u –turn and stopped the car on the downward slope of the hill, just in case, and got out to switch.

I was a puffy peacock, all pride. “I don’t think you are doing it right,” I crowed.

“Well, I gave you a very fast push,” he retorted. He got in the car and roared off.

Why did I have to be the one to save the day? Why can I be so edgy?

I was not going to solve that half-century conundrum, but I could call and leave a message on his phone.

“I’m sorry I was bad-tempered. What I see is that we need both the jumper and the pusher; life is all about seeing which position suits us best.”

I do feel this way. I recognize he maybe better at getting the car to go fast with a big push, but I am great at leaping in at the right moment and popping that car to life. So once again, not only did we get the car to start, but also we remembered that we are a great team because of our differences.