Monday, July 9, 2007

Washing, Cafe Membership, History Lesson


I trimmed the grass in the backyard and the front yard. The Asian neighbor slammed their door in disgust, maybe, due to the noise of trimming the front yard. I might go into the backyard and weed my meager garden and maybe look at the Chinese herb garden to see what is edible and what are weeds.

My ambition faltered today and I slept past sunrise. I am simply waiting today. Waiting for the heat to pass. Waiting for people to call me. Waiting for the Internet cafe to open. Waiting. I hate waiting.

I didn't take enough clean t-shirts so I may wash a load of laundry today. Tristan coached Jim last weekend that all clothes should be kept up off the floor because bugs could crawl into them and be carried unwittingly back to New Hampshire. I was dubious until I found a big dead bug on the floor in the living room corner.

So, my habits have to change, tighten again. Last night I flipped the kitchen light switch on and I found more bugs crawling to safety under the counter edge. I sprayed some of the aerosol bug spray into the edge and I might spray some boric acid between the wall and the edge of the counter.

Bugs normally don't bother me, but I like them less and less. And I'm tired of the allergies here, too. Before I left, my mom told me that as a toddler I would break out into heat rash when my family lived in Puerto Rico and she would dust my rashes with corn starch. I suspect that something about old buildings, dust mites maybe, is the cause. Or does something to do with bugs lead me to the rashes?

My symptoms were the worst when I worked in old mill buildings in Greenville, and now when I live here in the old apartment in the pollution of Brooklyn, the rashes are bad once again.

Luckily I have medication that works. However, heat, bugs, and rashes are turning my mood south.

Being out of work is the pits. I wonder if Yale Framing is going to call me? I should make some progress on finding medical writing work, also.


Before I left to do my laundry, I called home to ask my mom to check my voice messages at my house. We had a nice conversation and she recalled living in the basement apartment at 822 42nd Street nextdoor to where I am living.

Mom like cleanliness and she reflected on life with bugs. Apparently, for years after leaving Brooklyn and Puerto Rico (where she tells me the bugs, cockroaches, etc. are bigger) she had anxiety about lighting a dark room at night lest she see the buggers scurry for cover.

After talking to mom and doing my laundry, I signed up for a membership at the Internet cafe. I had e-mail dialog with Yale Framing, but that's about it for the time being. I'm not sure how I'll occupy the rest of my time on this sweltering day other than do research into AYSO, New York City, and simply while away time on the Internet.

Like many bad moods, something productive and hopeful sprung from it which reminds me of a phrase that I used at SeaChange when things were particularily chaotic and bleak. 'The prettiest flowers spring from the stinkiest manure.'

After I ate (which always helps) I walked to the Internet cafe and I researched photography and art galleries in Manhattan and in greater New York City. I found a place Nurture Art that is a non-profit group for helping Brooklyn-based artists establish themselves. I got their address, took an odd sequence of train transfers to get there, and walked to their front door. I saw only a security door, a doorbell, and no storefront (I hoped for a gallery to browse).

Rather than beep in, I decided to call them first but I couldn't find a cool, quiet place to call from so after a bit of comedy with trying to find a bathroom, I decided to go to Manhattan for the late afternoon and early evening.

I got off the subway in Manhattan at Union Square and I wandered around the square looking at the farmer's market and several artists who were pushing their wares. I didn't talk to anyone (and I quietly cursed my Finnish reserve), but I deduced quickly that my photography is vastly different than what other artists are peddling on the streets.

So I sat on a shaded park bench and I watched people. Across the path from me, a darkly tanned man with white hair sat, smoking a cigarette. Two women emerged from the children's play area with a young boy. One lady plopped the boy on the other woman's back, high up near her shoulders. The other lady took a long green and blue shawl and wrapped it around the boy and the first woman, then again, and again and finally tied the sling securing the boy to the woman's back.

They neatly placed their bags in the baby stroller and wandered off. While the woman was wrapping the baby, I glanced several times at the suntanned man and he watched, as I did, transfixed, smiling. When they left, I made eye contact with the man and we smiled and shrugged. Our wordless expression told the common refrain, 'Only in New York!'

I wandered around Union Square a few times and finally settled on spending some money at McDonald's on a large shake that I brought back to the same benches, a little farther down, to sit and eat. Across from me, two women sat and talked and one laughed loudly with a tinge of jealousy perhaps, because their conversation was loud and edgy. She commented that the other woman was getting lucky tonight and her words reminded me of the TV show 'Sex in the City'. The two could be actors on their set.

On my way back to the apartment, I was reluctant to write about the two women, but strangely, what I saw was a precursor to a later conversation.

I took another strange transfer sequence on the trains until I got off on the 9th Avenue station. I walked slowly up 41st to see if the Italians were on the street and in the mood to talk (when aren't they?). First I talked to Angie who asked me about my job, commenting on her distaste for hot, humid weather and fearful disgust of thunder storms.

Then I spoke with Vinnie and his daughter and we chewed the fat of John's health, the heat, optimism, health care and a few other world problems that we undoubtedly solve with our simple discussions. While we talked, Lilly slowly made her way down her stairs to walk the sidewalk before finally resting on her stairs. Vinnie saw this and encouraged me to chat with Lilly.

I talked to Lilly for a few moments and she offered social commentary, also. Saying simply, 'People aren't as sincere as they used to be.' Which led somehow to an invitation to try a nectarine that her son brought for her so I followed her inside her apartment to visit.

I'm eating the cherries (soon to be followed by the nectarine) that she gave me while I write and they are scrumptious.

We sat and during our conversation, tears welled in my eyes several times. She spoke candidly about the loss of her husband, her frustration with aging, her children, her grandchildren and her approach to child rearing. We touched on religion and compared our respective faiths and I finally felt compelled to offer my phone number so that I could help her with chores around her apartment complex.

She washed fruit for me, dried it in paper towel, secured it in a ziplock bag and let it rest easily in my grasp so I could eat it later. I feel strongly that elderly people need to live and solve problems to stay vibrant so I wasn't going to refuse this marvelous act of kindness. Lilly and I have a cardinal thing in common: we have plenty of free time, so I was not in a hurry.

This led to a story from the day before that ties into my experience at Union Square.

'Girls these days are worse than boys!' Lilly explained. 'I mean sexually. They are so I don't know the word for it. Forward. Just yesterday, a girl had a boy pinned on my fence and she was begging for sex. She was thirteen or fourteen and holding the boy against the fence making these hand motions. I thought to myself and wanted to yell, 'Go home to your mother!' But Tim, it's terrible out there. These kids learn all this from their parents who have boyfriends, girlfriends, live with each other. I believe in having one husband and one wife.'

'So I wasn't sure exactly what to do, so I went out there and pretended that I was sweeping the sidewalk. I went up to the two of them and asked, 'Are you looking for someone?' The boy looked at me and said, 'No.' And I said again, 'Are you sure that you're not looking for someone?' I wasn't going to be so forward as to tell the girl to go back to her mother!'

'Finally they moved to the church! And they carried on leaning against the fence of your church, Tim! It's awful.'

So Lilly's story compelled me to write and include what I heard the two women talking about in Union Square. In no way am I perfect in thought, action, or deed, but Lilly describes so well in the sunset of her life the effect of our changing social mores. Even in my little New Hampshire town, a mixed family of marriages, divorces, step children, and second, third marriages changes the very social fabric that we live in.

And we both sadly concluded that the children learn from we adults. To what end?

But gladly, she isn't one to wallow in melancholy because she immediately started complaining about someone and moved on to a few other topics before I said my goodbyes. I walked to the Internet cafe to check my e-mail and it looks like Yale Framing welcomes me to visit to discuss usability issues on their Art To Frames website application.

Derek called me and postponed our visit tomorrow so I'll walk to Art to Frames and see what develops there. Maybe I'll get a free lunch.

Time to make some phonecalls and then try to sleep.

I started thinking about how to take photos in the City and I have to work on that. Maybe tomorrow morning I can walk to Sunset park at sunrise (how ironic!) and test some of my ideas.

oh yeah, another tidbit from Union Square. I smiled at myself while I unveiled the two photographs that I hauled with me. I took them out of my bag while I sat on the bench at Union Square and I looked at them, self-critically. I compared my work to the work of the Union Square artists and I was humbled or more like a fish out of water. Their stuff is crazily weird compared to my fine art nature photos.

I suspect that dentists and doctors might hang my work in their offices to soothe their patients. In fact, I might make a walking tour of various medical offices in the area and hawk my work door to door. I'm not looking to get rich, but I would love to recoup the money that I invested in framing.

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