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.