Watching The World Go By

Perched on a bench in the park, in passive observation, to quote Pete Hamill, like I’m watching a parade pass by.

Everyone seems to be out, enjoying the warmer climes.

Couples, young and old, hold hands while fathers push strollers as their wives take five.

Women are in sun hats, men Yankee caps, kids in shortie coveralls while dogs pant alongside.

Rented bicycles glide by like an ad for tourism, an occasional rider stopping to take a selfie beside a breathtaking tree.

There’s a girl of 20 texting to my right, a man next to her, maybe 70, reading the Times. It’s Sunday, so there’s a commingling of ease almost as though we were all sitting for Seurat or Claude Monet.   

A couple of birds bathe in a puddle while squirrels sprint by, halting like gray-haired panhandlers.

Spare nuts…spare nuts. Can ya help a guy out?

 I hear music coming from blankets where bodies sprawl, basking in the sunshine. A  woman in a pink bikini with the straps peeled down brushes her long, blonde hair.

Bells of a Mr. Softie truck chime in the distance.

A man of color sells bottles of Poland Spring for a buck a pop.

The hotdog vendor is busy feeding tourists while locals, knowing better, opt for the deli.

A Latino family enjoys a picnic at one of the many redwood tables strewed with paper plates and cups, festive napkins, bright colored bowls I’m guessing, filled with beans and potato salad. A little boy is eating a chicken wing with a napkin tucked under his chin. I smile, remembering my grandfather who too would shield his white Fruit of the Loom from the perils of oil olive and mayonnaise.

A Beagle is about to pass, but stops to sniff my pockets. “Oh I’m sorry,” says his mistress, “he’s such a little beggar.”

“More an optimist, I’d say, since you just never know who may have a cookie on hand.”

She grins, loping off to answer her flashing phone.

Note to self: biscuits, bread for the birds and nuts for impoverished squirrels.

Check.

Next time.  

SB

 

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The Jewess and the Shiksa

There’s a young girl I see running most mornings, 30ish, curly-haired, long and lean.

She always runs along the various paths that parallel the road, like a deer loping by.

Occasionally we stretch together on one of the Park’s many bridges discussing a panoply of things like yoga and make-up…girlie topics that unite all females, no matter what age.

But not this morning. Today I found her in tears, her corkscrew curls wet, wrapped around her face.

Her family, Jews with a point of view it seems, are pressuring her into marriage, says she’s going to be an old maid soon if she doesn’t find a husband. Apparently her two sisters are both married with kids, so she’s turning into the black sheep embarrassing her parents.

My heart broke for her wanting to kill them for killing the spirit of such a lovely creature, who would love to meet Mr. Right even though they’d be happy with Mr. Wrong so they’ll look good at Temple.

“I date all the time,” she said, “It’s not that I don’t try, I just don’t like anyone enough to tie any knots.” She’s now weeping on my shoulder.

“You know Sherry, I’ll call her, it’s okay to wait for someone who feels right, and you’re so young still, believe me, there’s time.”

“Not according to my mother who says my insides are shriveling. I need to start a family…now.”

Did I want to yell at this pushy, insensitive woman who should just be happy to have such a sweet, lovely daughter with an innocence you don’t often see, making perfect sense she’s not a player, meaning, she wants the real thing, not just some male that looks good on paper.

“I’ve been on JDate, and it’s awful,” she said, the Jewish version of eHarmony. “Everything is about money, and where you went to school, and what your father does. I always feel as if I’m being interviewed for a job rather than for who I am.”

Her nose that her mother wants her to fix, is now red as a beet. She’s so pretty just the way she is. I try keeping silent, but finally burst at the seams.

“Sherry, I think it’s time you say to your parents, they’re hurting you and if they don’t stop, you’ll not see them.”

She looked at me, shocked. “How could I do that? They’d be so crushed.”

“What about you. You’re not a baby, you live on your own, you support yourself, am I right?”

She nods her curly head.

“You have rights, and for the record, I admire you for your independence and willingness to wait for what feels right. To thine own self be true, I believe you have that on one of your T-shirts.”

We both laughed.  “I forgot about that. I need to wear it more.”

“Yes, to remind yourself, your feelings matter, even if those nearest you can’t understand.”

I watch as her long legs take flight thinking, one day she’ll find someone she’ll love, worthy of her.

A hunch.         

SB

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Opium, No Extra Charge

An explosion of mini massage parlors have sprung up like daisies all over the Upper Eastside. It feels like a syndicate, just with hot oil and towels.

I decide to go to one to check prices. It’s very Azuma decorated with Buddhas and ceramic cats everywhere waving like drunks, and not cheap. When the guy said feet were the eyes of the soul, I knew the place wasn’t for me. Now if Capezio said it, or Chuck Taylor, then I’d give it a whirl, but moving on.

There’s a sign that looks as if it’s paint-by-number, red flag number 1, leading into an old basement. Undeterred, I pad down a grilled stairwell, open a pink door to find 3 Asian women in racy kimonos all standing in a row as if they were expecting me. Did Azuma call and say, we think she’s headed your way?

  

Now, when I see no lights, no uniforms and no customers, this is when I should have said, no thanks, but they were so happy to see me, Pollyanna decides to stay.

Did I mention they barely speak English?

After accepting tea I’m afraid to drink, I agree to a 30 minute foot massage for 30 bucks even after Madam Tang says, “fa you, fifty special…one ow’a.”

No thanks, say me and my feet, but the next thing I know I’m on a table, rather than in a comfy chair afraid to shut my eyes for fear they’ll toss me in a gunny sack and ship me to Shanghai.

Suddenly another woman with a body like Miss July but the face of my Korean laundress, pops in to see if I want a pedi as well. No, no, I say, really anxious to leave since it’s anything but relaxing. She smiles and winks. Hmm, is pedi code for something besides pedicure? Is this a brothel or possibly an opium den?

Finally it’s over, a buzzer going off like I’m a turkey in the oven.

I then get hit with sales tax, along with an entertaiment tax when Miss July presents my bill.

Entertainment tax?

She winks again.

This is when my mother shows up. “Hey, 30 bucks, cash and tip and no more. Take it or leave it.”

I make sure to say this with my hand on the doorknob in case they rush me like in a Godzilla movie.

She shrugs, her cleavage unhappily heaving, grabbing my cash like a seasoned croupier with five inch nails.

I run out dashing into The Gap to regain myself.

As for my feet, next time, Epsom Salt in a hot bath, a little Sinatra crooning, who for the record, no pun intended, charges no entertainment tax.

SB

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Best Story of the Week

It’s early, I’m walking, too tired from working a long day to run, the crisp air smacking me awake, when up ahead I see, what to my strained eyes, looks like a midget (yeah I know that’s politically incorrect but don’t care at the moment, but not to worry, will don that hair shirt shortly). 

When my vision clears, Tom Thumb turns into a boy of 7 with two small dogs, crouching, picking up poop like a pro.

The distributors are a Toy Chow that could fit in your pocket, and a Boston Bulldog not much bigger. They pop over with interest as I approach.

The kid, in white camp shorts and a striped navy jersey, a Beatle/Kennedyesque haircut gracing a mini, noble head, looks up when I say, ‘Hi, really love your two doggies,” who are now sniffing me like a hamburger patty.

He looks at me, the…don’t talk to strangers, mantra no doubt, passing through his mind, deciding I was about as threatening as that bag of poop he’s holding, irritating at best, and says, ‘Hi.”

I marvel at his parents sending him out to walk their dogs seeming quite fine and capable, I of course thinking, Wasps sleeping off another cocktail hour, but then kinder thoughts prevail…why not give him a little responsibility, it’s good for him.

“What are their names?” I say, petting the Chow who looks better than I do at 6 in the morning, his fur combed in a Liberace pompadour.

He mulls the question over as he backpedals to the trashcan.

“Harry and Lucy.”

Are they yours, family dogs?” Now I’m Kathie Lee Gifford, interviewing, without a bra.

He doesn’t answer, more because he seems stumped rather than rude.

“Well, let me just say, you’re doin a great job.”

This kid, with eyes like walnuts bashfully blinking back at me, smiles and says,

“Thank you,” before turning the corner.

Why was this the best story of the week? Because his sweetness offset all the sadness I’ve been mired in…his youth, his innocence.

He gleamed of hope and better days to come when rather than grief, hearts will brim with only tender memories, the way God graced it to be.

Susannah

 

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Suicide Can’t Be An Option

I’m mourning the death of Anthony Bourdain as if he were a relative, though I never met the man, only in print.

My friend Ed after we both recently reread all of his books said, it’s because his writing was so personal, it’s like rooming with him.

He was candid about everything, fearless in his honesty, alas…except when it came to his own pain. Who ever would have thought a man with such swagger felt that hopeless.

Kitchen Confidential is one of my all time favorite books I tend to give away, once again ordering another copy. But this one arrived so damaged it had to be sent back. I look at it now as an omen, a sly whisper for what evil preyed in the wings.

I’ve suffered from depression on and off my whole life, and this is what I know.  When it hits like a tarp that’s been thrown over you, fight to hurl it off.  Go out into the world, walk, crawl if you have to. Find the nearest dog to pet or baby carriage to peek into. Buy a meal for the needy, or a gift for someone you love.

Grace will rush in like the cavalry if you give her a chance proving,…move a muscle, change a thought, is not just a catchphrase.

When I think, two such loved and respected, had everything on paper, blessed people, Anthony and designer Kate Spade, chose to exit the way they did, it brings me to my knees.

They leave behind young daughters who will miss them and parents who will cry.

Anthony had an 80 year-old mother, Kate her dad, who must be heartbroken since it’s unnatural to bury one of your children.

We have options. We do. I choose nature, who welcomes me with open arms, but there are other ways to combat that darkness, like therapy and medication.

But the best advice I can give is to call a good friend. I’d call Chris, or Ed, who’d both jump in their cars if I said, I was that close to putting out my lights.

Believe you’re worthy.

I weep for Anthony. I weep for Kate, two sensitive souls who couldn’t see their way out of the valley.

Let’s hope they’ve finally found peace.   

National Suicide Prevention 24 hour Lifeline…1-800-273-8255

SB

 

 

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Best Story of the Week…Say Cheese

It’s 7 a.m. as I walk from west to east after running two miles, cutting across the park to sprint the rest of the way home.

I see something very green up ahead moving at a steady pace.

Imagine a tree taking a walk.

As I get closer, it’s a massive man in lime green bike shorts with a matching tight top, featuring coco-brown muscles, preening in the morning air.

I smile as I sidle up. “What a great outfit, it’s so cheerful.”

He smiles in return, showing teeth the size of Chiclets with dimples to match,  accessorizing a very friendly face I find out, hails from Ghana.

He’s here on holiday and loves New York, taking in all the sights. Yesterday he saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, today Brooklyn Bridge and the 9/11 Museum. How great, I think, wanting to pay his respects, making me embrace him like a visiting cousin.

“I know,” I say, “why don’t I take your picture for the folks back home?”

“No, no,” he answers, shyly waving me off.

“Why not. You look so wonderful. You can email, or Instagram it, showing what a good time you’re having.”

He grins wider, Chiclets gleaming, before handing me his phone.

Acting like a sweaty Annie Leibowitz, I take a series that easily could be an ad for fitness or travel, since he’s a natural in front of the camera.

Hubert, after viewing them says, “I look veddy sed-e-us…pa-haps, take anotha’ if you please?”

“Ok,” I say, “but this time Hubert, say cheese.”    

🙂

SB

 

 

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Bobby Kennedy Remembered

I was just 14 when Robert Kennedy died, so my reverence for him came much later.

It began with journalist, Jack Newfield’s 1998 documentary film…Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir, taken from his book of the same name.

It begins with his funeral train reminiscent of Lincoln’s, mourners lining the tracks waving and weeping, the majority African Americans since, like Abe, Bobby was champion to people of color.

It saddens me when he’s only remembered for, what’s been coined, his ruthlessness as attorney general and head henchman for his brother John, during his short time as president.

They say a leopard doesn’t change its spots, but in RFK’s case, they certainly softened.

Bobby blamed himself for his brother’s death never really recovering from the loss. It’s poignantly realized in the speech he gave in April, 1968, on the back of a flatbed truck in Indianapolis, the day Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with — be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

His pain as he spoke splattered the crowd so moved, resulting in being the only major U.S. city free of rioting. It was the first time he ever publicly spoke of his brother’s assassination.

When he ran for president for a brief, heartfelt 82 days in 1968, he was looked upon as our last great hope by many.

After he was shot, hooked up to machines showing no signs of life, his heart kept furiously beating right to the end. Makes one think of Joan of Arc where lore has it, her heart refused to burn, confirming those tried and true, can never be silenced.

There’s not a time entering Saint Patrick’s Cathedral that I don’t think of his funeral mass, his young brother Ted not yet sullied by Chappaquidick, speaking of his older brother with such love, longing and respect.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Robert Frances Kennedy died fifty years ago today, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

He was 42 years-old.       

                                November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968  

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A Cocker Off Its Rocker

This morning I watched a woman having a fight with her dog, a cocoa brown Cocker Spaniel who looked fresh from the Westminster Dog Show, but acted as if he was just paroled.

The woman was beautifully dressed in a long Ralph Laureny skirt and boots, a plush deep green corduroy jacket fitted as if she were about to go riding in a Jane Austen novel.

She wanted the dog to sit, who wouldn’t, howling his shaggy head off. I wanted to say, why is it so important since you’re only waiting for the light to change, but then remembered when walking Carmela the Basset Hound, she more or less walked me.

They were arguing, one-sidedly, but in the pooch’s way, he was standing up in his unwillingness to sit down.

I stood across the street, the little sweaty, running voyeur I am, giggling at the absurdity.

Suddenly she looked up as if she felt a presence.

OOPS

I tried looking away, but alas, was caught.

She hollered, “He just won’t listen to me. He’s such a stubborn, bad dog.”

Pollyanna, Spot’s on-the spot-lawyer yells back, “He’s a good dog, who’s anxious to get to the park. If someone asked me to sit on my way, I wouldn’t either.”

After a good long stare I’m sure, thinking I was nuts, she proceeded across Fifth, but the best part was when, halfway across, her doggie decided all on his own, to take 5.

🙂      

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A Word for the Heartbroken

Elegy is a word I only seem to hear when I’m in despair.  It’s a tribute, a eulogy, a mournful testament written or given for someone you loved.

Webster calls it a poem or serious reflection…typically a lament for the dead..lament, Latin for wail or weep.

I’ve been surrounded by loss keeping my heart in a sling hoping it will soon pass.

First Mimi, then a friend’s dear husband who was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known, slipping over the horizon while the rest of us are elegiac, elegy’s cousin dressed in her adjective best.

It’s a requiem for the departed, a woeful wail for the lost with sister words like sorrowful, melancholy, plaintive and grieved.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was an elegy.

It’s meant to comfort and soothe the heartbroken and forlorn left behind.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be in words either. Think of a bagpiper mewling, expressing what one’s mourners cannot.

The word elegy can only be applied to the very poignant and painful, desolate and sad, which I guess is why we don’t encounter her too often since, she only shows up for very special occasions.     

SB

 

 

 

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Mary and Jack

Mary McGrory (1918-2004) and John Kennedy (1917-1963) were friends.  They actually dated when they were just cubs making their way in Washington.

He became the president, and she, the top woman journalist in D.C. manning a daily column for the Washington Star that in its day was as important as the Washington Post and New York Times.

When he was killed on November 23, 1963, she was heartbroken like the rest of us.  But maybe for her, just a little more. She sat at her desk after the funeral unable to write. After hours of tearful contemplation she said to herself…

In the presence of great grief and emotion, write short sentences.  

This is what she wrote:

The Washington Star November 26, 1963

The Funeral Had That Special Kennedy Touch

 Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s funeral it can be said he would have liked it. It had the decorum and dash that was in his special style. It was both splendid and spontaneous. It was full of children and princes, gardeners and governors. 

  Everyone measured up to New Frontier standards. A million people lined every inch of his last journey. Enough heads of state filed into St. Matthew’s Cathedral to change the shape of the world.

  The weather was superb, as crisp and clear as one of his own instructions. His wife’s gallantry became a legend. His two children behaved like Kennedys. His three-year-old son saluted his coffin. His six-year-old daughter comforted her mother. Looking up and seeing tears, she reached over and gave her mother’s hand a consoling squeeze.  

  The procession from the White House would have delighted him. It was a marvelous eye-filling jumble of the mighty and the obscure, all walking behind his wife and two brothers. There was no cadence or order, but the presence of General de Gaulle alone in the ragged march was enough to give it grandeur. He stalked splendidly up Connecticut Avenue, more or less beside Queen Frederika of Greece and King Baudouin of Belgium. 

  The sounds of the day were smashingly appropriate. The tolling of the bells gave way to the skirling of the Black Watch Pipers whose lament blended with the organ music inside the cathedral….

  He would have seen every politician he ever knew, two ex-presidents, Truman and Eisenhower, and a foe or two…

His old friend Cardinal Cushing of Boston, who married him, baptized his children and prayed over him in the icy air of his inaugural, said a low mass. At the final prayers after the last blessing he suddenly said, “Dear Jack…”

The funeral cortege stretched for miles…Children sat on the curbstones. Old ladies wrapped their furs around them.

The site of the grave, at the top of one slope, commands all of Washington. Prince Philip used his sword as a walking stick to navigate the incline.

His brother, Robert, his face a study of desolation, stood beside the President’s widow. Jackie Kennedy received the flag from his coffin, bent over and with a torch lit a flame that is to burn forever on his grave, against the day anyone might forget that her husband had been a President and a martyr. 

It was a day of such endless finesse with so much pathos and panoply, so much grief nobly born that it may extinguish the unseemly hour in Dallas, where all that was alien to him-savagery, violence, irrationality-struck down the 35th President of the United States.  

Mary McGrory 

John F. Kennedy would have been 101 years-old today.   

SB

 

 

 

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