Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I feel like we’re sort of back. Our fire didn’t make me a better person although I look like I’m more organized because I have a lot less stuff. The stuff I have is the stuff I use, am going to use, am going to lose weight so that it'll fit, etc.

I’m writing about two pair of wool pants that I bought. I’m too fat for them, but, since they’re winter pants, it’s all about what’s possible. I believe that I will eventually fit into these pants in a way that I don’t believe that’ll I’ll ever be organized, won’t ever want a cigarette, will be good at follow-up, and will be able to measure things accurately, all of the time, in every circumstance.

I lost my measuring confidence because I pretty much stopped doing it and also because I recently hemmed some curtains for French Doors and the bottom hems are not the right lengths for the bottom rods. Also, they’re only sort of hemmed because I bought that fusion stuff that you iron on to fuse fabric and it is harder to work with than I thought it would be. It’s probably because I didn’t use any straight pins. If you’ve never used this stuff, I highly recommend it. It really does fuse things together by melting them that way.

I’ve been using it to fuse all kinds of things. I can tell you that it won’t work on a zipper or at least one of those nylon ones. That’s because to fuse stuff you have to have a really hot iron to melt the fuse membrane. And it has to be between two pieces of fabric otherwise it turns into this hard stuff that you knew for sure was once sticky. If you’re not careful, and you get it on an ironing board you can pick it off with your nail. But if you get it into the tracks of a zipper, it looks like that zipper is toast, although you could probably pick it out with a needle but it would take a long time.

I think I’m all caught up in fusing things and fixing things because I have my summer clothes back and a lot of them have little stapled tags on them attesting to my slovenliness. When fire helper guys took our clothes they cleaned them, mostly de-smoked them and analyzed them. That’s maybe not the right word but they really did go over them. If there’s a teeny, tiny stain, or an itty bitty pulled button hole, there’s an arrow affixed and it says that it was damaged prior to treatment. I’m not going into specifics here but good advice is to toss any underwear that you own that may have a pulled or separating waist band elastic. (I know this sounds like some mother who once told you to always wear clean underwear in case you got hit by a car, but that and this advice is probably good anyway.)

Because I only recently discovered fusing things I don’t know if it would have worked when I could have had a need for it. Girl Scout badges on sashes comes to mind, although if every single scout mother simply used safety pins this wouldn’t be an issue, but I can tell you for sure, having lived in NY’s burbs for more than 20 years that’s there’s always going to be at least one mother who’s going to sew them on anyway and there’s not anything you can do about that.

Come to think of it, there’s not much you can do about most things. That’s okay and probably for the best. You just have to make sure that you’re fused to the place where you live. That’s what happened to me after our fire. I’m fused here. It’s good, I hope it gets better and if it doesn’t, that’s fine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Renovations, giving things away and fixing people up,

I have a friend who’s renovating her apartment. It’s adorable. She gets excited about tile and wood and just about everything. She’s surprised about how strong her likes and dislikes are. She asks me for advice which I give freely. I always know what she likes the best because she giggles. Sometimes she e-mails me a photo of a faucet or something and I can hear her giggling even though she’s uptown at her office. I just know it.

She chooses great stuff. It looks like her, even though she doesn’t look anything like a faucet. You know what I mean.

The advice I give tends to revolve around durability and I will most likely know how something will hold up if it’s never, ever cleaned. I also have significant knowledge about glitter and advise against surfaces that I know it can’t be removed from. I also happen to know which kinds of baseboards are best and easiest to repair if someone you know happens to collide their little metal trucks into them.

She asks advice like what size door would like best. How much should she budget for a linear foot of this and a square foot of that. And I say things about that.

The thing is that she’s super-duper organized. That is not, shall we say my forte. I paid a lot of attention to some things when the whole place was destroyed. I got a couple of bids and chose the one that the insurance company recommended and that crew did great work. I didn’t check anybody’s credentials or anything as I went with the guy who had a full crew and said it would take six to eight weeks. And it did. And I really didn’t expect it to because I’ve had previous construction projects.

It turns out that I like a lot of the things the construction crew did and I especially like the doors. When I told the head guy how much I liked them he said he was surprised because he said that I told him that I didn’t like doors.

I vaguely remember saying that so I admitted that that was odd and I asked him if I said anything else odd. He said that when the rooms were painted I asked him if I had chosen the colors. I’ll give him that too.

This is a real droll guy. He asked me if I was going to get rid of some kitchen granite and I said that I was going to re-use it. That turned into a real problem because my new kitchen is four inches bigger than my old one. I see where this happened because the stove is two inches smaller than the one that burned up and the cabinets extend two inches further than they did before the fire.

I was so determined to re-use this granite that I never measured it. I didn’t even measure it when I met with the kitchen designer who asked me that. I figured that you take something out, you put it back in, and if it’s inert, it will be the same size.

I mean, you never walk into your kitchen and say to the counter, “my, how you’ve grown”;you say that to little kids and you say it to teenagers who are suddenly taller than you, which by the way, you shouldn’t because most of them are really good at rolling their eyes.

The whole time they were doing construction the crew moved the granite to places where it wasn’t in the way. Even after I found out that the thing was the wrong size, was damaged along the edge, would cost oodles of money to fix that and it wouldn’t fit, they had to move it a few more times. You might think that when the crew offered to take it away, I would say fine.

Well, I didn’t do that. First I had to convince myself that I couldn’t use it. Then, I figured, surely someone could so I posted it on an on-line bulletin board.

A lot of people called. Most of them didn’t show up when they said they would but a couple of people did and I got rid of 3 pieces and thank you notes to boot. Since I don’t know how to post a photo on a list serve, and I had to confess that on-line, people couldn’t see what I was talking about, so, that probably diminished the pool of people who might have been interested.

This took longer to get rid of than I thought it would and since I became convinced that it was a great thing, I called a gravestone seller on Rivington Street to see if he wanted it. We had a back and forth about why black granite that got damaged up in a fire wouldn’t make a good grave marker. He must have not been busy because he told me all this interesting stuff about cutting and polishing stone and about how you had to set it for an unveiling.

Giving away something on a local private list serve is a very interesting way to meet people. Because it was so nice for me, I convinced my friend to post the things she’s replacing.

So someone responded to her post about an IKEA cabinet and needed to know the measurements. I said that it was probably a straight guy because there was a photo posted and if the measurements weren’t there, a woman would go to the IKEA catalogue but a straight guy probably wouldn’t. I said he probably was youngish because that’s who buys IKEA stuff. We talked about how it wasn't any of the old crazy people who live on the Lower East Side because they don’t use computers and we talked about how she should contact him.

Then I said that when she met him she should see if he’s attached because we know all kinds of people who would be happier with a partner. And, this isn’t as odd as you think because we know every kind of person from older Chinese immigrants to professional women and men, Hispanics of all ages, the GLBT crowd, etc. That’s what’s so great about the LES.

I wonder who answered that classified?


Friday, April 29, 2011

Everyone is celebrating. Part 4.

It’s getting to the end of the day and it’s still nice out. I’m sitting in a room that has a nice view of the East River and it’s blue. Lots of times it’s gray so I think this is better. There was talk about a late day thunderstorm but that isn’t going to happen. Storm clouds have dissipated and there are these fluffy white balls drifting in the sky and it’s pretty.

A bunch of little kids are playing in the playground and there’s a bus festooned with yellow balloons next to it. If I hadn’t watched out my window so many other times this would worry me, but I’m pretty sure the bus belongs to a church group who volunteer at the playground most days. They play games and sing songs (they actually blare them over a loudspeaker) and if this is annoying, I close my window. Usually, it’s nice.

Most of the kids are dressed in shorts. I guess they had them ready to go when it got nice out and today it did. Two of the little kids are carrying what look like Easter baskets and a different little girl is wearing a bonnet. This is good to see as since I live on the Lower East Side it is sometimes surprising when people have it together.

Because I smoke cigarettes on the street and because I share them with anyone who bums one, people talk to me. We chat about how expensive cigarettes are and about how soon smoking outside is going to be illegal. We chat about who has loosies (individual cigarettes) for sale at $3.00 each and various schemes about how to “get over”. A lot of this stuff is bravado and you know it even though you also believe that some of it is true.

On the Lower East Side there are pervasive pockets of poverty that are multi-generational and for the people in the pocket, exhausting. Even if they’re “getting over” the energy and commitment to this is astounding.

There’s a school here that has the highest percentage of children who qualify for a free lunches in the city. Sometimes you’re exposed to a wearying level of need and it’s in your face. It’s in some of my neighbors faces too. You see it at our 24-hour pharmacy where some young woman with a couple of little ones is waiting for a prescription that she got from the Emergency Room and it’s 11 o’clock at night. You see it when someone puts groceries back after the bill is too high at the market’s checkout line and you see it when you see all of the people who make living collecting returnable bottles for the deposit change. Poverty is debilitating.

Every holiday, the 24-hour Rite Aide has a sale on holiday items the night before the holiday. They do this with Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. Everything is 50%, except for greeting cards, and people line up to buy things. They buy candy and costumes for Halloween. Toys, small electric things and candy for Christmas and for Easter they buy stuffed animals, chocolate rabbits and peeps. The array of goods celebrating motherhood is truly astounding and ranges from all manner of very large candy boxes with Mother written across them to individual foil-wrapped chocolate roses and large bottles of Jean Nate bath bubbles, perfume and oils in a special, signature, Mother’s Day wrapping. This stuff is usually 25% off on Mother’s Day, and that is confounding.

People wait until the very last minute to buy things because they have to. Sometimes, people wait for the actual day when things are 90% off, especially if they’re going someplace late in the day. I think people count on this. I think Rite Aide probably knows this and that is why they do it. I like them a lot for this, except when I’ve run out of toilet paper and find myself in line with all those holiday shoppers.

Even if you’re all annoyed because you really do need toilet paper and the lines are moving really slowly, the lines are usually pretty happy affairs. The store is really over-stocked for whatever holiday is going on so people don’t have to settle for things that will almost do. There’s plenty of stuff and everyone’s chit chatting about how they’re going to celebrate and there are magazines that no one buys, but everyone paws through, so in addition to holiday spirit you also get caught up on what’s with Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen and a couple of other celebrities that you might not know the name of because you haven’t watched the Housewives of somewhere.

I like the attitude of people who live here. I like that they get it together for a celebration. There’s something wondrous about an exhausted person’s determination and grit. I like that most holidays center on little kids. I just don’t like running out of toilet paper. And, I really don’t get the puny price reduction for Mother’s Day things.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Everyone is celebrating. Part 3.

If today weren’t so nice, people would be bitching about our Sabbath elevators. On certain days, observant Jewish people aren’t allowed to push an elevator button and they can’t ask any Jewish person to push it for them either. I’ve been told various reasons for this and the one that makes sense to me is that work is prohibited on the Sabbath so people aren’t allowed to make a fire and since electricity is fire, it can’t be used, other than candles at Sabbath meals or if someone turned on lights before Sabbath begins or if they have a timer. And you can’t ask a Jewish person, even one who’s not observant, to push any button or switch on any switch. This because you’re not supposed to ask a Jew to break the Sabbath.

Our building, which has an Orthodox presence, has an automatic elevator that goes up and down during whatever time is needed and it stops on floors automatically where people have requested that service. This seems to me an excellent solution. I think that in 2011 it would be unseemly to question everyone who waits for the elevator to see if they’re Jewish or not. It’s not such a big deal and only adds a minute or two to a ride but since this is the Lower East Side, some complain, not so much on a day like today, but if it were rainy or snowy it would most likely be a different story. Since most people here don’t have a car, they are not attuned to the suspension of alternate side parking rules so they don’t get that benefit.

It seems to me that Jewish people have a lot of holidays. They probably don’t celebrate any more than any other group does, but since many of them are new to me, and since they usually last a couple of days that’s how it seems. By my calendar, the holidays begin in the spring when people celebrate Purim, but for sure, the Jewish calendar starts differently. At Purim, the little kids dress in costumes. The girls, I think, are always Princess Esther, and the boys dress up like biblical bad guys and there’s an occasional Power Ranger or super hero. It’s like a reverse Halloween because people drop gifts instead of threatening tricks if you don’t have a treat. It’s a very nice holiday.

If you have a Mezuzah (a little container that has a prayer scroll in it) on your door’s frame, there’s this group called Chabad that comes around and leaves you goodies. No Mezuzah, no treat. For years and years, we were gifted with treats and then we weren’t. I found this out after I pried the Mezuzah from our door’s frame and mailed it to a synagogue when I found out that it wasn’t supposed to be on my door because I’m not Jewish. That ended those Purim treats.

The end of Purim treats for us is pretty fair. This is because someone told me that the reason Jewish people put the scroll on their door’s frame in the first place was so that if there was a need to punish non-Jews it made it easier for the Angel of Death to identify who needed killing. I found out that this is completely wrong, but at the time I took off the Mezuzah, it made sense to me. Even though the decision to remove it was because of respect, there was this sidebar thought that since the Angel only took first-born, and my husband was that, well, let’s not go there. I confess that I was not in the best mood and if you think things like that, you’ve probably been with your partner for more than 30 years. And if you have thoughts like that you really don’t deserve treats and why it’s fair that you don’t get them.

At Purim, our building’s bulletin board always has announcements inviting everyone to Purim Parties and there are notices that tell of Megillah readings. The Megillah is Esther’s story, she’s the heroine and everything turns out good, so, it’s a pretty happy story and celebration.
After Purim comes Passover although there might be important dates between the two. There’s a lot of preparation.

In the weeks preceding Passover, Jewish homes have to get rid of all of their leavened products. Some people make a game of this. They put their products in a shopping basket and ask you to buy what's prohibited in their home.

When we moved here, I didn’t know that custom so I didn’t understand it was a game when a woman I knew asked me if I would buy her things, I thought that she was desperate for cash and also thought that she might be a little bit off.

This is not to disparage her; I had already been involved in a couple of other cash for goods exchanges. I wondered if this was something that I was going to have to budget for, if there was a better way to handle this, or if it was just one of those things. Then, I didn’t blend into this neighborhood too well but I think that’s changed as recently, a couple of times, I’ve been asked for directions where in the past I was only asked if I was lost.

I bought my neighbor’s things and tossed them. What you’re supposed to do is offer an extravagant amount of money for the goods. There’s supposed to be a tacit understanding that your friend might need money to flee and you’re supposed to help. You’re also holding on to the products in hope that your neighbor returns and then she buys them back from you. Also, she gives you a six pack of beer as a thank you but maybe that happened because she had the idea that we’re Irish and like beer. I simply don’t know. I do know that I’m glad she gave me two other chances to do this even though I didn’t do the right stuff the first time.

Before my friend passed she used to ask me to come into her home to look for a piece of bread that she had wrapped up in foil and put under her table. While I was searching, she would dust her home with a feather and sing a song, I think, in Yiddish. She said that the song was a prayer and that she was singing to god to tell him that she had gotten rid of all of the stuff she was supposed to and had brought in someone to find the rest and if there was any left, it wasn’t hers.

My finding the bread always coincided with an event called the burning of the Chametz. (A friend corrected me about this too because I wrote Chumash and that’s the noun for the first five books of the Torah, the books of Jewish Law) so even if there are errors here that one’s gone.

Our building sets up a fire in one of our yards when Chametz needs burning. People burn up scraps of bread. After the song was sung, the bread was found and the feather had collected crumbs, my friend would phone a neighbor who had boys and she would ask if they would take her things for burning. The boys, would scoot right over, delighted at the chance to burn something up. They were pretty gleeful about going to the burning where I heard that in addition to that there’s singing and dancing.

I’m really glad that I got to hunt for bread. I found out that only little kids do this and I found that out when I told a friend that I missed that part of the holiday. The hunt is analogous to an Easter egg hunt and is only for little kids so it is peculiar, but really nice that I got to do this.

So, that's the idea that this goy has about Passover and the holiday's preparations. I tell this story with affection for a passed neighbor and I hope that comes across. Corrections about the holiday are very welcome. This essay is not a treatise on Jewish Law or customs, only about how a non-Jewish person experiences them on the Lower East Side.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today, everyone is celebrating. Part 2

It is an unbelievably beautiful day here on the Lower East Side. We’ve had a cold winter and a rainy spring so a day like this is really something. Everyone’s talking about it.

I went to my across the street Bodega and one of the Yemeni guys who works there and I were talking about it. We said the same things we usually do: “How are you?” answered with, “Same old, same old.”
But then we started talking about how the same is really good because lots of times when things aren’t the same they’re less good than they were.

We talked about what a beautiful day it is and about how his family lives in the Yemen mountains so they’re not in war danger unless someone gets airplanes and bombs and he showed me a photo of his new baby girl and told me that he prays five times every day to thank god.

He said something next that startled me because it was in such colloquial English. I couldn’t believe it and told him how great his English was and did he know how much more fluent he was than last year? He said he did and then he got all shy and we talked a little before I asked him if he had a holiday and he said that he didn’t and then I remembered what Passover and Easter commemorate.

My forgetting this is not as stupid as it seems, as here, many depend on alternate side of the street parking (which means that every other day or so you have to move your car or risk a hefty fine and also a sticker that’s really hard to get off that says that the street wasn’t cleaned because the driver of the car is a douche, or something very like that). Anyway, because they suspend alternate side parking for everyone’s holidays and because everyone has their special days in weeks of each other, the bother of moving a car is greatly diminished and you get to know the names of lots of people’s holidays. Also, since it’s pretty easy to find a parking space during alternate side suspension you think very kindly about your neighbors and say things like: “thank you Jews”, “thank you Muslims”, “thank you Diwali celebrants,” when you do get a space. So, that’s a true benefit.

Across the street from my building there are a number of little synagogues. Some people call them Shuls and I think it’s the same thing. Families were all dressed up and it seemed like everyone except the little kids were all in black and everyone had on really pretty shoes. Lots of the girls had on silver ballet style flats and that looked so pretty that I think I’m going to have to get myself a pair unless they only make them for little feet. Since I’m not exactly up on trends it is possibly a little kid thing but I don’t think anyone I know would know that and I hope I don’t face the same dilemma I did when I was determined to get a flashing light in my sneakers, but that’s a different story.

The same story, for everyone, is how pretty the girls looked and how disheveled the boys do. Some Observant Jewish boys wear a prayer shawl and the strings are prominent below their middles and I thought they were called Tzitzis (which is only used in a synagogue) but a friend corrected me as what I’m writing about is called a tallit. They’re both used for praying; the tallit is worn every day. Older boys and men wear these with dignity; young boys don’t and when they run the strings of the talit fly around them. That looks happy and when this happens everyone smiles except for the parent who is telling the kid not to run and telling him that he’s going to knock some old lady down or get killed by a car ….the kind of stuff that you heard yourself when you were a little kid.

After that I stopped to chat with a neighbor who was sitting in front of our building. We wished each other a good holiday and talked about the Seder her daughter put on and also how much work Passover is for religious people.

She told me that the last day of Passover is for remembering the dead and about how she said her prayers in her home and didn’t go to Schul. I asked her if that was why almost all of the men and boys were wearing black yarmulkes because usually you see really clever ones that someone crocheted that might even have a Yankee logo on it and she said she didn’t know but she thought that that wouldn’t matter.

Then we talked about what a nice day it is. Everyone is talking about that.

I know, this is really long…but I want you to know about holidays here and I haven’t finished with everyone yet. Corrections are very welcome.


Part 1 of 4 parts.

I love other people’s holidays almost as much as I like my own. In some ways, I actually like them more (with the exception of Thanksgiving which is my favorite) because I don’t have that thing that tells me I should be doing something that I’m not doing.

I am a cultural Christian which means that when everyone is too big to dye Easter Eggs and refuses to wear an astounding hat I don’t know what to do other than make a dinner reservation or prepare a meal. But there’s this nagging thing that tells me that I should be in a church doing my Easter duty or celebrating Christ’s resurrection or something a little bit somber instead of arranging flowers and giving my family beach towels, which is my own personal tradition that no one recalls even though I do it every single year.

I am especially surprised that my daughter doesn’t remember that I do this as I spent a long time looking for very specific towels for her (My Pretty Pony, Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, etc.) and for years she seemed delighted to have them. My son was always easier and if you couldn’t find an Optimus Prime towel he was content with any old dinosaur which was always easy to find.

The reason my son was not especially concerned about his “special towel” was because he never staked it out as his own, didn’t care who used it and was very content to dry his body with anybody else’s towel especially, it seems, the aforementioned towels that my daughter coveted so I don’t have to tell you how the whole summer went about this. Thing is though, Easter, to me, is the hope of summer and the thing you do in summer is swim. Of course, you need a towel, preferably one that you treasure. This is so stupid that it makes sense that no one remembers this.

Stupid or not, I celebrate holidays. For the last four or five years, I hosted an Easter party for my Chinese friend’s children. This year, because it wasn’t possible to do it in our home because of the fire, we had the holiday in her apartment. We were worried that because the children are approaching 10, dying eggs wouldn’t be enough for them to do. We chit chatted about how they were older, mature and excellent with crafts so we really should think of something to do other than dip eggs in pretty colors (over and over again until they resembled hand grenades rather than eggs). So, I had to think about that.

What I thought was that it would be wonderful to do complicated eggs that you could keep for years and years. I had seen eggs whose insides were blown out from holes that you almost couldn’t see and I knew people kept them. There is, of course, a great advantage to doing this with people who never celebrated the holiday before as you get to be the expert about the holiday and its meaning and no one can dispute that. And so you know, I’ve been told a lot of traditions since I’ve lived on the Lower East Side so I know, for sure, that lots of other groups make it up as they go along too. That’s pretty okay.

I tend to be a 2000 kind of gal so I know about germs and the high caloric content of candy that no one is supposed to have. That is why, of course, you have to have something to blow out the eggs, so you don’t have to use your mouth which everyone knows is germy; humans are even more germy than dogs who get to slobber on you and when they do that no one so much as proffers a bottle of hand sanitizer. So, you can see how you’d have to use that aerosol can of air that you buy to blow away the dust from your keyboard.

Once you get the knack down about this it’s quite a bit of fun. What you do is peel a little hole in the top and bottom of an egg, and break the membrane. Then you have to find a long skinny thing with a point to put in the hole to break up the yoke. A yoke is a lot stronger than you think it would be so you have to poke it a lot. If the yoke isn’t liquid, when you apply the air (one long squirt is best) the egg explodes in your hand. If the yoke is broken, the egg whooshes out in a satisfying stream so it is best to do this over a bathtub and, in my opinion, is not the best project to do with anyone with a xy chromosome under the age of 50.

I spent a long time learning to do this and because I ultimately decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea to introduce this project in someone else’s house, and because we don’t yet have a kitchen, I nixed this idea.

I had a hard time letting go of that and could only put it aside after I wrote to the manufacturer so that their customers could know how to do this but I never got a reply. I was somewhat surprised about that and guessed that the project could raise liability issues or the directions were so un pc (I put in a warning about doing this with boys) so I understood even though I think they should have sent me a form letter thanking me and telling me that the e-mail had been forwarded to the appropriate person.

So, we just dyed eggs the regular way and baked them in little bread things that never actually browned. It is true that the children are indeed and becoming mature. The eggs turned out the colors that you think of when you think about spring. I don’t know how they tasted because I left when the eggs were still hot, but that’s not the point is it?

I wonder if everyone will be mature enough next year to blow out the eggs. Whatchathink?

Note this is in a couple of parts because I didn’t tell you how everyone else is celebrating and maybe you’d like to know about that too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Me and James Thurber

A long time ago, James Thurber wrote a humor column for the New Yorker. Lots of times they were accompanied by little drawings he did and lots of them are part of anthologies that are still available.

One of his columns was about the amount of submissions he received and he told about how many women find their day-to-day tasks hilarious even though they weren’t and he advised them not to write about them.

I question whether I do that. Candidly, I try to keep some perspective about our home’s destruction and it sort of mystifies me that I’m so caught up in this. I’m caught up in a way that I didn’t expect to be. First of all, I’m amazed about the amount of money I spend and the things that I should have bought but didn’t because I forget that I don’t own them anymore.

I’m not talking about construction stuff. I’m talking about other stuff. You know a drawer full of pens. Me, I’m not so good with pens and I find that whenever I need to write something down, I can’t find one. I don’t know whether this is new or not. Okay, it’s not brand new, as I used to be able to rummage around for one but now there’s no rummaging. It comes down to the fact that I bought a pen and I lost it and I don’t have another one and it’s iffy if I’ll remember to buy a couple next time I’m out or at least very soon. This leads me to borrow my husband’s pen which, I’ll have to tell, he didn’t forget to buy. After I borrow his, I put it someplace where neither of us would look for it so we spend some time pen-less. This does not endear me to my spouse and we’ve been married for such a long time that there’s no question about who lost the pen, the scissors, the tweezers, the dental floss, etc. Lots of times I deny responsibility for things like this but I really don’t have any credibility, even with myself. I deny anyway.

This happens to be a recent issue. The reason for this is the aforementioned piles of stuff and also because when we lived at our neighbor’s house they nicely had piles of pens in places where you would look for them. I’m only recently living with single items and that’s going about as well as I should have known it would but I didn’t think about stuff like that but now I do.

A really big part of me thinks it’s an excellent idea to live smaller, be more organized, and not buy into that consumerism thing. Also, at the moment, I like our home empty. We have a couple of lamps, a pretty good collection of wine, a desk that we brought from a neighbor, 2 camp umbrella chairs, 2 folding chairs a card table and a bed. We have sheer curtains on our bedroom window and all of the other windows are unadorned.
We have a stove, a microwave and a refrigerator. By the end of the week we’ll have counters and a sink and next week we can hook up the water. I fouled this up because we were supposed to get the counters (whose glue takes a couple of days to dry) this week but when the granite people called to confirm the Wednesday delivery I told them that it had to be Thursday because Monday thru Wednesday was Passover and that our building didn’t allow large deliveries during that holiday and they can’t come until Friday so it has to be then. I didn’t double check and it turns out that Passover ends on Tuesday so a Wednesday delivery would have been fine.

I don’t mind this as much as I should and this is partly because we’ve a bunch of kitchen stuff in storage that has to be cleaned and I am a little bit lazy about getting the stuff (which is a couple of blocks away), which has to be toted and unpacked, washed and put away. So, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to plan to devote next week to that. My better half is not going to understand this. I will be chagrined, he will be annoyed but will exhibit resolve and I will promise to do all the things.

I’m pretty sure that the majority of the kitchen things will be fine. With the exception of the silverware, which fused in a pile because our home was so hot, most stuff, I think, will be okay.

I have oodles of stuff and will be glad to see it. I can winnow stuff down and function with many less things than are stored and this will help me with my anti-consumer campaign; also, when I find out what I have, I can buy some pens and also a pineapple corer/slicer that I didn’t buy when I was at Williams Sonoma because that just seemed silly and I didn’t have a place to put it and also the anti-consumer thing.

I am preparing to clean everything in a green sort of way. I tested a ceramic dish in a dishwasher and the soot didn't come off. Then I tried a bunch of different kinds of soap and only Dawn worked and I only tried that because I remembered an advertisement that used it to clean gulf pelicans after the oil spill so that would seem to cover the green requirement.

So, this isn’t about hilarity and if James T. was alive and he read this he probably wouldn’t object on the non-hilarious grounds. Because he’s passed, he can’t object on any grounds at all and that’s good. What I write probably wouldn’t annoy a lot of dead people, so there’s that. Also, when I get a pen, I might start including little drawings as I already confessed that I can’t do the photo thing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kindly Supervision

I have come to the conclusion that I am the type of person who needs supervision. I am regularly supervised and because I am old enough to know that occasionally I have very bad ideas and also know that I am sloppy, I don’t usually mind. A lot of the time I’m not huffy at all when people give me advice. This is with the exception of my husband who happens to be past advising me and mostly issues edicts so he isn’t included in the “kindly supervision” category. Although, I am not as likely to consider his ideas suggestions like I mostly do with other people.

Sometimes I follow advice people give me, sometimes I mean to and sometimes I just ignore it even if I say I’m going to follow it. Since our fire I am more attentive to what people tell me than I usually am. I think this is about the supervision thing and also because people want to supervise me in a way that I haven’t been supervised before. This is probably a combination of the fact that a fire is such a dramatic thing that friends want to see how you’re coping. There also might be a possibility that you’re not acting quite right and even though you hope that’s not true, it may be a little bit.

I have this unbelievably good friend who writes the best e-mails. He always responds to something that you said or implied that is not the main thing but something you should probably think about and he writes in a funny clever way. I rant at him somewhat regularly and he says he doesn’t mind so I keep doing it.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote him an e-mail about how I was tired of wearing clothes from Rite Aide and about how I didn’t want to give my friend Carol back her shoes because they were so comfortable and because I really owe her a new pair. So he wrote back about how I had to get to a mall, how I really shouldn’t be dressing from RA (although he didn’t put it that way) and about how he had a friend who I know who was a personal shopper and how he would ask her to help me and all kinds of nice things.

My note to him told about how I got dressed up to go to City Center with my daughter and about how when they turned up the heat (it was a very cold night, but not so cold that the orchestra section needed to be 110-degrees) my outfit stunk. My outfit smelled like the fire. That smell permeated the whole section and was so pervasive that everyone was wondering where the smell was coming from. I would have left but I was sitting next to my daughter who kept telling me that the odor wasn’t me and I believed her until we went outside and she said that she knew it was me all of the time but that she didn’t want to make me self-conscious but I really did smell terrible. I guess it was good that she did that even though I really didn’t get into the performance because I was pretty sure that I was stinking up the place. And, it took me a while to find this funny.

I guess I’m glad this happened because right after that I got on the 14A bus, which was over-heated. I was wearing a coat that I had just pulled from a dry cleaning bag and the same thing happened. That time I got off the bus which wasn’t that good an idea because it was really cold out and a really long walk home. Plus, since I got off the bus because of the stinky thing, it didn’t seem like a good idea to get on a subway or take a cab so I made a plan.

My plan was to throw away my coat as soon as the next bus came along. The plan would work if I could toss the coat in a garbage can but there wasn’t one nearby and I think you’re not allowed to move them and I’ll bet they’re really heavy anyway. Also, I once got a ticket for disposing of household trash in a trash can even though it was car debris. So I decided that split second timing wasn’t going to work because obviously I had to be on the lookout for a policeman when I tossed the coat, and also tossing a winter coat on a freezing cold day would make it seem like you were planting a bomb. This is the kind of situation that New Yorkers who are inundated with the slogan: “if you see something, say something” should respond to.

I’m not saying that anyone pays attention to that direction anyway, but we should and someone who keeps looking west on 14th street then navigates snow drift obstacles to garbage cans then tosses a coat looks suspicious. There’s just no way around that.

That’s when I decided that I really had to go shopping. I don’t know if this would have occurred to me had my friend not told me that. Also, I realized that I didn’t have to wait for a personal shopper or anything. I could buy a coat right on 14th Street, which by the way, you can’t, but it seems like you could if you needed to but maybe those stores are west and I was pretty far east.

Because I got old, I tend to think things through. If I were younger I wouldn’t have ended up walking all the way home in the snow and the wet. That entire walk, I kept telling myself that it was good to be old because if I were young, I might, at that very moment, be being questioned by some terrorism task force. But, I think that that probably wouldn’t have happened and that I should have paid attention to the advice in my friend’s e-mail when I got it and it still wasn’t too late.

I’m acting more sensible now and I hope I don’t need too much more supervision, but I might, and I’ve decided not to be huffy at all about it if it comes my way.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Little bottles and little tubes of things.

I have to replenish my rather copious former supply of little bottles and little tubes. That isn’t as easy as it would seem and this is because I’m not mailed samples. I don’t even know if manufacturers mail little packets of things anymore. When I moved to the Lower East Side which is apparently, not a chic zip code, all of the little things that I got while residing in a chic zip stopped. I didn’t miss that right away, but now I do.

What I miss is the possibility. I miss the possibility of re-hydrating something that needs to be re-hydrated. ( I think it's skin they're talking about, but who knows?)

For the last ten years no one has sent me a little tubey packet thing of rehydrating cream. Since I don’t actually know what to do with the product anyway it's not much of a loss. I also have not received that stuff comes with quenching possibilities, which greatly appeals to me as I’ve the idea that if I didn’t drink so much water, I wouldn’t have to get up at night. But I’m pretty sure cream doesn’t address that.

I'm relegated to taking hotel samples of stuff which is less satisfying than free mail samples. That's because there's no advertising and no promise. When you're in a hotel, the promise is that you'll help save the earth if you don't use the towels and there's an implication that you're a slob if you put them on the floor. Their little soaps and conditioner and lotion say only lotion, shampoo, conditioner. Where's the appeal in that?

Since I live in the Jewish section of Chinatown, there’s a dearth of things that I know what to do with. The Jewish stores sell dry goods and the Chinese stores sell herbal cures for whatever ails you. That, of course, is happy-making but you’re pretty much relegated to drug store chains with cosmetic bin displays if you're looking for that sort of thing.

Bunches of spas want to sell you things for $39.95 and they tell you that you need lots of these things but they don’t actually tell you what they’re for. They’re only good for chastising you about your over-grown eyebrows which you really should be plucking every single week and hot waxing minimally twice a month and this is something you already knew. I personally think spas on the les are a bit harsh about that but then you remember where you are so you have to expect to be tsk tsked. Also, a tsk or two makes me an excellent tipper so maybe that's why they do that.

I am confused about the benefits of rehydration, moisturizers, curative creams and also replenishing things. I get anti-cavity toothpaste, as I am opposed to cavities, who isn’t?

When we got all burned up, my friend Leah gave me a little suitcase chock full of little tubes of things. Everything is a brand that you and I have heard of. She gave me a pretty little jar of Absolue Premium Fix that is a “Crème Reconstituante Profonde” and a bigger jar of the same stuff and also High Resolution Refill, which is a triple action cream. I also have tubes of Collaser 5X which is soin anti-redes. I have things that regenerate, including a tube of regenerating body lotion that is, and I’m not making this up, “specially designed for the body.” I have a tube of something called “undectable” and it’s sort of a darkish skin color so I think it’s makeup, and bunches of other kinds of lotions that are differently spf rated including a sport face one that has an spf of 70. I love all these things. But since I didn’t accumulate them
myself, I don’t actually know where they should be put on my body.

Not knowing where these things go has not dissuaded me from using them. I think that I would actually be lovely if they were going on the right place and maybe they are and that I am well past the lovely possibility. I hope not.

I’m doubling down here and augmenting these things. So far I bought a bunch of Chinese Herbs that I have to boil then I think drink or maybe I’m supposed to rub them somewhere, I’ll figure it out. I also bought Vino de Carne & Hierro from a Hispanic drug store which the clerk told me about. She told me that this was a very good thing and I got that but not the rest of the pantomime. The label has a cow on it and I like cows so, of course, that has possibilities too.

I had expected living here that I would know Spanish and a little bit of Chinese. I expected to learn by osmosis but that didn't turn out. I am stuck with my verbless French and can only say thank you and happy New Year in languages that are prominent here.

Maybe someone will mail me something. Almost anything would be good. Going downstairs now to see if there's a Spanish language or Chinese language learning CD or a moisturizing thing. It’s all about possibilities, right?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Buying and returning things.

I don’t usually have buyer’s remorse and I almost never return anything and that includes things that aren’t quite right. Because I’m a big sale rounder purchaser it never surprises me when the thing isn’t quite right because usually it is or someone can use it or I’ll decide that it’s just fine.

When I need something, I’m generally good at measuring if that’s needed or eyeballing if it doesn’t have to be exact. So it is sort of amazing to me that currently I’m involved in returning things I bought on line that don’t fit the places that I bought them for.

This pretty much has to do with replacing light fixtures. After our fire, we needed bunches and I was told that we needed them right away so I went to Canal Street and that didn’t work. When I would tell a clerk what I wanted and how much stuff I needed I got really hard sells. When I said that I was just browsing, I was ignored, so I shopped on-line.

Thing is, I didn’t measure anything. I didn’t click that thing that tells you all about the thing you’re buying which I don’t generally read except when there are before and after photos of someone who lost a gazillion pounds by rubbing on a cream or eating a berry with some super-duper brand of fish oil. Tops, for those kinds of things, I’ll pay $19.95 and it has to include shipping and handling and have a good return policy. This is just in case I really believed it was going to work, saved the tube, didn’t lose the tube’s top, found a box to mail it back in and was willing to accept a coupon for something else, that until this very moment was a secret, in lieu of cash. But, since I really didn’t expect it to work, didn’t faithfully follow the directions anyway, and lost the cap, I get to tell myself that it might have worked and accept that I’m an idiot. That’s okay.

Returning lighting fixtures is a whole other story because first you have to click a box that tells why you don’t want it, then you have to wait for an authorized return label that comes with very specific instructions about how to ship the thing back and then you have to wait for credit.
The instructions tell you that the fixture can’t be shipped in its original box and that the company’s authorized return number must be marked on the outside of the package. So, you have to go somewhere, buy a box, $7.99, thank you very much, and then argue with the FedEx guy about whether you can sharpie a number on the box’s outside, which they advise you not to do but let you do it anyway.

I think that FedEx doesn’t like extra numbers on their packages because they have all these codes and your numbers might match theirs and your package might go to some place that is wrong. I don’t know this for sure, and when they lost my package I didn’t tell them that I had insisted on writing numbers on the box, but I would have if they asked me.

Normally, in a situation like this, I’m pretty ready to fess up. But since I was already apologizing for losing the airway bill, didn’t remember the date that I sent it, had no idea if it was sent air or ground, it seemed like I was giving them enough trouble. I sorta liked that they weren’t accusing me of anything and being incredibly helpful. They couldn’t find my package right away, but said that they would call me back the next day with information and they did. They found it; I wrote down a bunch of numbers, e-mailed the company who just confirmed that they received the package and were waiting for authorization to credit me. Sounds like progress, no?

At the moment, I have three more things to return and I plan for it to go smoother. I bought a roll of contractor paper, lots of tape and some twine. I have a return label. I just have to decide if these fixtures would make awesome presents. It’s that thing. Maybe somebody can use these.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When you owe

If you’re very lucky you will owe gratitude. I’m that person. I have been the beneficiary of things I can never repay and I don’t even want to repay those things, I want to owe.

Such a funny way to look at it. Here it is April, spring, rebirth, and I’m beginning the season with a deficit and I like that a lot. Our fire is done and we’re home.

We’re digesting all of the things that people told us and unless you’ve been pregnant in NY where complete strangers tell you the most astonishing things (particularly if you frequent deli counters) you’ll have to have your own fire to get this. Since I don’t want that to happen to you and because you might be interested, I’ll tell you what to expect.

First, you’re going to deal with the wonderful people. The fire guys who came to save you, the ambulance guy whose job it is to stick things into you so that you’re ready for the next step if the doctor guys want to do more things to you. Also, the doctor guys answer questions and tell you astounding things. Also neighbor people who give you cell phones, call your family and give you shoes and clothes and very good brands of personal toiletries which you realize are above what you buy and you get resolve about that. You resolve to buy better brands so that if you need to give them to someone they’re nice.

The fire guys are real professional. While the young guys run up the stairs, the older guys make you focus so that you can tell where the fire is, if there’s an open window, if you closed a door and things like that. The ambulance guys are good too although they’re busy with you and I have the idea that they’re trained not to answer any questions unless it’s about where you’re going. I think they’re not allowed to give you any water and if you ask for some they will tell you that and if you persist they’ll tell you they don’t have any.

When you meet the doctors and ask for water they will tell you that you can’t have any because your throat might swell up and then you’ll cough the water into your lungs and then you’ll drown. That’s what I mean about astounding things. You have to question a statement like this. You have to say, “how about I just swish it around in my mouth and promise to spit it out, then can I have some water?” And they tell you no. They say you might just swallow some.

Even when you say you wouldn’t swallow even a tiny bit and explain how you have gargling down and what they say really is astounding, especially the part about drowning, they have to think it over.

You have to let them know that you know that they’re really smart and it’s good that they’re in charge and you believe in them and everything and you don’t want to be a pain. Also, you happen to know that they’re not going to let you drown and then I think they realize that that’s true. After all of that, they’ll give you some water and you’re grateful.

I heard some other astounding things. One of the most amazing began with, “psssssst…your apartment burned up, right?” And when you nod agreement the next sentence is: “I got a Faberge Egg and a mink coat; it’s all documented. If you want to put in for it, something for you, something for me.” That cracked me up. I like to think that she is the lost princess Anastasia who wasn’t slaughtered in the Russian revolution.

I can’t recall all of the astounding things I’ve been told, but I’m going to start a list. I’ll need a list too about all the things I’m grateful for. Mostly it boils down to being alive, in a great place with good people and hopefully an ex-Princess. That would be best.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Terrible Towels and Wonderful People

I’ve never been on any kind of sports team so the things I think and the kinds of emotions that players and real fans have are things I imagine. I’ve never been the “thrill of victory the agony of defeat” kind of person and am not any team’s avid fan although I like championship contests. I always choose a side to root for. Generally, I root for New York teams and if they’re not in some playoff thing that you can’t avoid knowing about, I root for what appeals to me which are different things at different times. Also, I’m not a loyal fan and can change loyalties in the middle of any match.

I rooted for Pittsburgh during the Superbowl because I read a story about a nurse who was such an avid Steelers fan she was” tying terrible towels” on IV poles in the hospital she worked in to make everyone feel good. Before that I had never heard about heard about a “terrible towel”. When I heard about terrible towels I really liked the idea. Then, I found out that the opposing team’s thing was to wear a hat shaped like a wedge of cheese and be known as a cheesehead and since I could see myself waving a towel and could never ever see me wearing a wedge on my head, my choice was made for me.

My daughter is surprised about this because she knows that I frequent stores that sell over the top stupid things which I tend to buy for each season and holiday. A frequent purchase is some kind of hat and the ones that need batteries and light up and play a tune tend to appeal to me. But I don’t wear them. I have lots of things that make me happy that I don’t wear and at some point I will replenish them. But, I digress.
Since we got all burned up, I’ve sorta started thinking about my neighbors as “terrible towel” people. This isn’t supposed to be derogatory or anything it’s just a way to categorize people and everything I once believed about this being an awful thing to do isn’t so much and this has come in very handy on the Lower East Side.

This sounds awful but it’s kind of nice. Here, there’s an edge, The “Terrible Towel” people are strong and kind and funny and generous.
My next door neighbors gave me their apartment while they vacation. This is unbelievable. They are “terrible towel” people. I think they are fierce in their goodness. I’ve lived next door to them for almost nine years. I always liked them but now I love them.

One of the best things about living in their home is to meet them in a way that’s different than it used to be. They have pictures of all of the people they love all over the place and they’re a nice looking brood. I can figure out who lots of them are because I’ve heard of visits, have a couple of times seen them here to visit or seen my neighbors laden down with things and they tell me where they’re going.

They say, “we’re bringing this to my daughter’s for Pesche” and they talk about what a great baker she is and how she baked a gazillion things for the holiday. They say, “We’re going to a birthday party,” and sometimes tell things that are worrisome, like, “we’re going to visit our grandson in the hospital” then you hope everything’s really okay .You have an idea of who everyone is in all of the pictures, but there are old ones from a long time ago. Living here, in a community with a significant Jewish presence makes you hope there’s not some sad story to go with their photo even though you know there is.

There’s bunches of stuff like that. I knew my friend was crafty. She’s always knitting beautiful infant hats that she donates somewhere. But in her home, anywhere you go, anywhere you look, there’s something that she did. Lots of stained glass pieces (and I have come to really like the one with yellow lilies in the living room window) and some very good oil paintings that she did. I did not know my neighbor was a talented artist.

My friend’s husband is a really nice guy. If you live in his home you see hundreds of sterling silver thank yous. They’re from every philanthropic organization there is and I feel great reading the inscriptions on these trophies because they should be read even though it’s probably nosey.

There’s a framed picture here of, I think, my neighbor’s father, in front of an ambulance parked in a desert and the cab’s door it says: “Presented to the People of Israel in memory of the Victims of Neustadt.”

I’m telling these things because I want people to know about wonderful people. It’s wonderful to live in the shadow of greatness.
I don’t know how to be great. I don’t know how to be generous in a way that puts little cardboard cylinders designated for housing, clothing and shelter everywhere you’d empty your pockets of change.
I’m learning. I’m telling. I hope that the three months I’ve lived here make me a better person and barring that, a more thoughtful, generous one.

Every day, when I wake up I say hello to my neighbor's kin. I hope they’re all Steelers fans and if they aren’t I will change sides.
I live in a place where there’s a quiet goodness. That’s the thrill of victory.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Here's a video of our fire

It took me a long time to figure out how to do this and it's not even a hard thing to do. But, here it is. I have photos of what our home looked liked after this happened and if I can figure out how to show them, I'll post them too. Soon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A fire is very, very annoying

I’m trying to discipline myself to write every single day and that is one of the reasons I started this blog.  I hope it’s not annoying you because it doesn’t annoy me.  That’s not saying much because it’s pretty hard to annoy me.   Most things really don’t bother me except for the fact that I’m fat and I wish I weren’t and my son’s wedding is coming up and I really don’t want to be fat for that. But I’m not doing anything about it after, around noon.  (Before  noon and sometimes up to around 8 o’clock I’m doing something about that and then I’m not).
That’s partly why this fire thing is so annoying. It would seem you have to be disciplined about it and you have to be disciplined in a very annoying way because you have to do  everything 5 times.  Annoying  seems a funny way to describe a fire but it’s more annoying than most things you could imagine. 
 There are things that are sad, there are things that are debilitating, there’s loss, sorrow, lots of things.  Most things that are annoying are short-lived. A fire and its aftermath go on, and on and on.  Every single day there’s some new  thing, or the thing that was annoying yesterday that will undoubtedly consume time today.
 It's not like some thing you did to yourself.  You know, the kinds of thing you notice over and over again.  And, I’m the one here that does things over and over again. ( That is why, for example, I try to buy toothpaste with the little hinged top although sometimes I forget that it is 100% sure that if the toothpaste tube’s top isn’t hinged, the cap will be gone before the bottom’s rolled up and also I will squeeze it in the middle.)  
A fire annoys in a different all-consuming way.  There are all kinds of things you’re going to have to do that involve pushing buttons on the phone and holding on.  I once had so much time holding on the phone that I googled: "customer service bypass buttons" or some term like that.  There are all these free and pay for  secret customer service phone codes available for virtually every company.  The ads say that you can have three  secret codes for free and for only $4.99, plus shipping and handling, they'll sell you a book with everybody's secret codes and you will never ever have to hold on any phone anywhere ever again and you will always get through to a through to a human being. For an extra $19.95 you can buy the bypass codes for all radio call in shows and they will upgrade your subscription free, for one full year, when the codes are changed.  Three things about this: (a) the free codes don't work, (b)human beings aren’t actually any more helpful than machines and also they’ll disconnect you if they feel like it and (c) I think it explains why I once heard my mother on the Lynn Samuels show and also the radio call in demographic.
Everybody’s been through phone holding on, but usually only once a month or so.  With a fire it’s an all-day/every day and I keep taking breaks and going for walks. This would be a good thing to do if I could actually motivate myself to stay on task, at least in our time zone, when I'm finished walking. I know that it's no use doing anything before 9 or after 5:30.   Those places that say they’ve 24 hour customer service…that’s an absolute lie. They only service if you’ve memorized every single digit in an account you may or may not use.  Also, the account’s password -protected and it’s some goofy password that’s really long that they gave you, and it’s your own damn fault that you didn’t change it when they said you could.  Also, your answer to the secret question that you answered in case you needed it (presumably for something like a fire) doesn’t match and then, well, you know; see (b) paragraph above. 
Anyway, today I was going to write about the burn unit, but then I decided that I would post the you tube video and also some pictures.  But, I couldn’t do that. I can’t figure it out.  I keep being told to “refresh” which sounds like some feminine hygiene commerciaL and is vaguely insulting.  Not as omnious though as the little box that pops up and tells me I’m infected or the other little box that tells me that I committed a fatal error.
And I say, “ha”…I survived a fire.  I’m going to write about you in  a blog and tomorrow, first thing, after I begin my daily diet, I’m getting on the phone with customer service and I'm telling on you, and I’ll annoy them, at least until they hang up on me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Riding in an ambulance is not as much fun as one would think

Before we got caught in a fire in our home, I had never been in an ambulance.  I don’t know if I ever thought about what it’d be like to be in one but I must have sometime because everything about being in one wasn’t like I thought it’d be.
I was asked a couple of questions and the EMT introduced himself.  He was very cordial and when he asked, I gave my name and address, age, contact numbers and some other things. I wasn’t asked for my social security number so that was good.  I was asked my weight and I said, “oh, come on” and the EMT guy said it was okay if I didn’t give it and chatted a little bit about how he was going to put a blood pressure cuff on me and I explained that I was naked under my coat and he gave me a blanket and he did stuff.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear an ambulance, mostly I think that someone’s fooling around with the siren so that they don’t have to be in traffic and I think I might do that sometimes too if I had a siren and an ambulance.  But I make sure that I’m out of the way and I do that on the chance that there’s someone who needs help and I always hope everyone’s okay.    Also, I always think that the person’s lying down on a stretcher gasping for breath and waiting to exit.  But, it wasn’t like that at all.
First of all, it wasn’t luxurious.  And it’s not like one expects luxury but it was a stripped down van decked out with an impressive array of scary looking equipment in easy reach.  It was a pretty bumpy ride and disappointedly I couldn’t hear the siren and I wasn’t aware that we were going through red lights and I would have liked to have been. I did think though that better shock absorbers were needed but that’s probably because I tend to take care of the cars in the family and I’ve been sold them many times.
Then the guy and I talked.  He told me he was going to give me an iv and that was okay.  Then he asked me what I did and I said that I was a dilettante and also I had found out that I was highly unskilled.  He told me that he had been unemployed for a long time and that he was really glad to get this gig and we talked a bit about how hard it was to find a job and I told him I was glad that he found one and he said he was too.
Then he told me that we were going to Weil Cornell and he asked me if I had ever been there before. An I told him that I had my son there and was sort of holding a grudge against them because when that happened the nurses were going on strike and the Shah of Iran was there for cancer treatments and there were all these armed guys all over the place and there were all these demonstrators.  I said that I knew that I wasn’t being fair about that and also my son is 30 so it was a really long grudge for a really long time.  But it probably didn’t matter as I haven’t had much hospital business to pass to them anyway.
Then he said that he knew for sure that there weren’t any demonstrations or armed guards at the hospital and I said that I was happy to know that even though I already did.
I told him that my husband wouldn't be able to hear questions if people were asking him things so he took down information about Terry too.  First he didn't want to but when I told him that I was married to the guy for more than 35 years he was good about it.
I really wanted a drink of water but the EMT guy said he didn’t have any and also he wasn’t allowed to give me any and I asked him why and he said that he didn’t know.  And when I found out why they don’t let you have any water I pretty much figured that he lied to me and that turned out to be a good thing which I’ll tell you about when I post again.

The night we didn't die and also the night someone I don't know gave me underpants

A lot of stuff happened the night our home caught fire.  I don’t want to call a fire an adventure but it is a little bit that. What happened was,  late at night when Terry and I were asleep I woke him up because I heard bottles breaking.  I thought someone was in the apartment.  He jumped up, investigated, shook me, said, “Fire, get down, follow me.”  But I didn’t.
I wrapped a sheet around me and walked out.  I lost that sheet and grabbed a fur coat from our closet, although I would have grabbed anything because I wasn’t so scared that I wanted to be bolicky bare-assed in my hallway. And I’m making this sound like there are many fur coats in our closet, which is not the case at all.  There was one which I tend to think of as “the” fur coat but that doesn’t sound right, and “a” doesn’t sound right either, hence, this explanation.
 It was scary when Terry wasn’t in the hall.  And, it was really scary because the door locked behind me and I didn’t have keys to open it and Terry’s partially deaf and I had the idea that he was lost and he wouldn’t be able to hear noise that would direct him to the door that I was banging on.
It turned out okay because one of the maintenance guys was there and ran a credit card against the lock and the door opened and Terry tumbled out and I keep trying to find out who this was and everyone says it wasn’t them so I still don’t know even though I’m pretty sure it was the compactor guy who works here. 
It took a long time for me to understand why this hero didn’t come forward for credit but I understood when I told someone that this happened and she said that the guy was probably a burglar.   I said that it was more likely that he developed his door-opening skills because so many people here lock themselves out and she said that she liked the burglar explanation better and I said that she thought like that because she lived on the lower east side for a long time and longevity here tends to warp you.
When Terry tumbled out of the doorway, most of the men on our floor and the one below us were in the hallway.    Everyone was saying, “Is everyone all right?” and bunches of people were banging on doors and yelling, “Fire”.  Terry stood in front of the elevator banks and said, “No elevator”, everyone has to take the stairs; there’s help.   And, mostly everyone walked down 18flights…but, then, the firemen came up the elevator and said that it was okay to use it. But I think everyone was going down the stairwell by then.
I wasn’t too worried about this because there was a lot of help and Terry is the kind of guy who people tend to listen to because he has the kind of presence that demands this and he had it even with a sunburned face, singed hair and a sooty bathrobe.  So, that worked out and 18 floors later we met each other in the lobby with bunches of neighbors.
Bunches of official looking people talked to me and I said that the fire was in my home, that it was in the back bedroom and I could give information for Terry who didn’t have his hearing aids on but if they needed to talk to him they should face him and speak slowly and loudly.
I gave my and Terry’s dates of birth and full names to bunches of people and I also gave lots of people both mine and Terry’s social security numbers and it was later that I found out that official fire guys  don’t ask for that so if this ever happens to you, don’t do that.  I think that’s going to be okay though.
When we were in the lobby we were sort of the center of attention and I think people were listening to our responses to questions.  I really hope this is so because some EMT’s were trying to take my blood pressure and they couldn’t get an accurate reading for me because I had on a fur coat and I explained that I couldn’t remove my arm because I was naked and so, forget that.  And that is what I tell myself because soon after that a little old lady pressed a pair of laundered underpants in my hand and it is better to think that she heard this conversation and came to my rescue than to think that I had publicly flashed private parts.  I think the former happened because if I did the flashing thing probably I would have heard about this.  And it doesn’t count when Terry implies that this happened because he knows that I worry about that so he says things to crack himself up and, mostly, me too.
Then, we were off in separate ambulances.  I’ll tell you about that soon.  I’ll tell you how a cell phone was pressed into our hands, how friends met us in the emergency room with clothes and shoes and more underpants and about how generous and caring our community is.  And that is why we’re going to be fine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Fire on the Lower East Side

This is a story about a fire on the lower east side.  You may have seen the video about it.  It showed a fireball coming out of an 18th storey window along with smoke and an air conditioner.   Someone's screaming, “get the fuck out” and it is pretty scary.  I know all about this because that fire was my home.   My husband and I were home asleep when this fire started and we got out.  And we got out before the fireball thing so it wasn’t as scary as the video even though it was very scary.
Lots of people have seen the video and when they ask how we are I tell them that we are fine and they tell me that they saw the video and when I say, “ we got out” ,   they cry on me.  They say, “I’m glad you’re alive” and I say, “me too”  and I cry on them.
We live in Seward Park Cooperative which is a pretty big place and lots of us know each other by face.  We’re around 5,000 people (I think) so it’s not such a large place that you wouldn’t recognize lots of neighbors but it’s not such a small place that you would know their names.
It’s kind of a funny thing because lots of times when something happens around here you hear about it and lots of times you’re told who was involved.   Mostly, you probably don’t know the person's name so people describe who it is they’re talking about.  And then you know.
The kinds of things that happen here happen in most places and mostly it’s regular stuff.  A lot of it's nice stuff or stuff you’d like to know about, like who had a new baby, or a birthday, or who died, or whose dog died.  And everyone talks about all of the famous people or creative people who live here so you get to hear, “yeah, you know her,  she’s that really pretty woman with the little girls, the red-headed one and the little blonde,”  did you see her on television?  And you hear about who wrote a book, who’s dancing in a ballet, whose album made the charts and this stuff makes you feel good because you always hoped that you would know people like this and now you do.
People get described in other ways too.  People say, “it’s that guy with the big red dog who stands on Grand Street, right by the 14A stop.  People say lots of things and because it’s the Lower East Side sometimes people get right to the point and say, “you see her all of the time, she’s that lady with the really dirty coat who smells awful,” and then they tell about how they once got in an elevator with her and about how she’s a real sad case and about how you shouldn’t get in an elevator with her or anything because you’ll surely throw up.
So, when people who you sorta know come up to you, ask you if you’re who they think you are and you tell them yes and then they throw their arms around you and cry on you ,  well, you know for sure that someone described you and you have to wonder what they said.     And you could probably find out but it’s probably better if you don’t.
A couple of years ago, I broke my toes and the only thing I could wear on my foot was this water shoe that said: “ I heart Jamaica” on it and the heart was a big red graphic and no one ever said anything about it until I met a suburban friend and when she saw that, she said, “what the fuck do you have on your foot?” So I sort of know that that’s one way people might be telling other people who I am but  people are probably saying that I’m a little bit fat and probably other stuff that I don’t actually want to know.  At the moment,  I’m happy that I’m not crying anymore because I don’t want to be that person who’s described as that lady who cries on everyone and I hope that doesn’t happen.  Mostly, because it could.  And the randomness of what could happen here is what makes this place so very wonderful and so very awful.  Sometimes, there’s a brutal honesty here where you get to know things about yourself that you never thought about because people say things to you about you that are obvious to everyone but yourself.
All that is sorta okay.    I mean, it’s the Lower East Side after all, so, you have to expect people to have a shorthand about who you are…and if I found out what that shorthand was about me, I probably wouldn’t be too bothered about it but because I might be I haven’t checked out my own description.
I didn’t used to think about stuff like this.  It began a couple of years ago when I was walking west on Grand Street and I saw a woman whose name I knew.  I said, “hi Eleanor”, and she asked me how I knew her name and she seemed real angry that I knew her name and I had to tell her that I didn’t know how I knew her name.   And that was really uncomfortable and I rattled my brain until I remembered that I had gone to a “Meet the Candidates Night” for shareholders to meet and talk to those running for a director position.  And this woman gave a speech, introduced herself and solicited support for an upcoming election.  When I remembered that I turned around and told her how I knew and then it was comfortable.
People down here are touchy about things you wouldn’t think they’d be so you have to be a little bit careful about things.  It takes a while to know that stuff and sometimes they’re just going to be touchy in ways you’re never going to understand, so, it is what it is.
There’s a lot to tell about the fire and its aftermath and when I started writing this that was what this was going to be about but when I think about it it’s actually more about the lower east side.   And this blog is going to be about that or my take on it anyway.
I want people to know about wonderful neighbors, how hard it is to try to keep a kosher kitchen, how riding in an ambulance isn't as much fun as you might think it would be, about what $5,000 worth of dry cleaning looks like and this and that.    And, if I can figure out how to do it, I'll show pictures of destruction and construction but so far that part isn't looking too good.