Friday, March 18, 2011

The Things That Make Home

His name was Bill.

He didn't go by Bill, though, he liked people to call him Billy.  I'd sat down across from him during my trek from Cassidy's in Brooklyn back to my new place in Manhattan, by way of the 2 train to Fulton, then, a long way down stairs, along the platform, up stairs and finally to the 4/5 train...from there, one stop to Brooklyn Bridge, walk straight over to the 6 and head uptown to my stop.

I was doing this lugging a small piece of luggage (hurrah for wheels!), my purse, a shopping bag...oh, and Sophie in her carry-case.  Having just been shaved and having been forced back into the carry-case and having been made to leave her holiday home with Cassidy and Sophie's new best fried, Daisy...well, she wasn't very happy to say the least.  So, I dashed onto the 6, plopped myself down, sighed and re-arranged all by bags, trying not to look like one of the Crazy Sisters of the MTA.

He was sitting across from me, and he smiled when I looked up, saying, "That your cat? It looks pretty."  He was missing his top front teeth, but, he was clean and neat and spoke softly.

"Yeah, I had a cat.  His name was Coco...I mean, he was so beautiful! He was like white?  Only, if you looked real close, he had reeeeeeeeaaaaly light brown tips on those hairs so, I called him Coco cause he looked like you know, cocoa powder.  Oh, and his eyes, man, those eyes! They were either blue or green and he'd come when I called him.  I found him outside, in an alley, his mom was dead or something, he was this little guy....and I fed him and man, I'd just had him fixed, over at the Animal Shelter?  They were the ones who fixed him up when he was in the fire....I slept outside the shelter so I could be there all day with him.  They let me sit by his cage.  And, I was up on Grand Concourse, you know, in the Bronx?"

I nodded, said I knew the place... before I could say more, he was back on his tale.

"So, yeah, I've got Coco, and like, I have a shopping bag with his food and stuff, and he's in his little case...I stepped into this store, where I sweep sometimes, and I, man, I just turned my back, like two seconds...two seconds! When I looked back, Coco and the case were gone! Gone.  Man, I went crazy.  I ran up and down and yelled for him, because he comes to his name and all, and I was crying and stuff...because, Coco? He's all I have.  I'm supposed to be getting housing soon since the place we were living in, me and Coco, it burned--that's when he got sick and was at the vet place.  He wasn't breathing when the firemen carried him out and they gave him oxygen cause I was crying and yelling his name and then he went to the vets.  He was all better, and I was taking him with me here on the train, every day, we'd ride the train so I could sleep.  I'd put my hand inside his case, and he'd sleep on it..just lie there, and lick it and go to sleep."

Sophie pushed her face into the mesh window, meowed.  He reached over and stroked it with the side of his finger.  "Where did you get her?", he asked, crooning to her.

"WalMart, in Utah. In a parking lot.  Proves you can get anything at WalMart."  He didn't stop his whispered words to her...looking up at me, sad, so very sad.

"It's been a month, and, like, I'm still so full of grief.  Everyone in the neighborhood..they know me, they know Coco, and I know they'll grab him if they see him.  I just hope who ever took him really liked his looks, you know? Not grabbed him to be mean, but, because he was such a great looking cat.  Oh, I do miss him so much, especially when I'm sleeping on the train."

I asked him if he worked...where did he eat?  He told me he had a few businesses that paid him $20 each for a week of sweeping their was enough to buy him a train ticket for a week and some food.  He'd often buy Coco food before he bought his own.  He is on a list for housing, should be soon, he tells me--a friend got him on the HIV housing list, and even though he doesn't have HIV, he is going to take the place.

He's been off crack for five years family.  People need family, he tells me--Coco was his.  I offer him $5, he refuses.

"I work. I don't take handouts, and I really appreciate you offering.  I go to the shelter, shower and shave every two days.  I mean, I'm on the train, but, I don't want people to think I'm a bum or a begger.  I had bad times, I'm out of them.  Thank you, but, no."

Sophie meows, fully irritated there are people on this train, that she is naked now, and she is not happy.  He laughs.

"She's going to ignore you tonight! Man, you're going to really have to work hard to get her to like you again."

I open the zipper a bit, she pokes out her head...looks around, ignores everyone there and focuses on his face.  He reaches over, strokes her head.  She turns, licks his finger, ducks back in and settles down.

His eyes fill.  "Man. I miss Coco.  He was all I had."

I suggest he go to the shelters, get another cat.  He says they don't allow homeless people to have a cat or dog.

"What they don't understand is, sometimes, that's all we have, those pets and we take better care of them than someone who has a dog or some pet because it's cool and stuff.  When you have a pet, you can't go to the shelters.  They wont' let you.  When I win the lottery, if God lets me win it, I tell Him, "God, if I win this, I'll spend it all on building shelters for homeless people and their pets." I say that every night."

It's my stop.  I stand, gather the stuff, swing Sophie's case onto my shoulder.  I reach out, shake his hand... tuck the five into his palm.  "It's from Sophie."  And, I move quickly so he can't give it back...he's almost out of his seat when I go out the door, turning to wave and smile.

"Thank you, Sophie!", he calls.  "Coco would have liked you!"  He waves, settles against the wall, closes his eyes as the door closes between us.

I hope he does win the lottery.  I know he'll keep that promise, and build places where homeless people can have those animals that are so important, that are family, that represent home.

I prayed that night that Billy finds Coco...I hope God listens to that request, too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Moves, Trains and Beggers

A few more days left, then, another change.

I'm not sure Sophie is up to it...she's settled in nicely here at Cassidy's place.  After a month here, she may not want to leave her new best friend, Daisy, even if Cassidy did re-name her 'Peaches'.  Sophie, not Daisy.  In retaliation, I've taken to calling Daisy 'Marmalade'....and, like Peac--I mean, Sophie...she ignores both names if it suits her.

I'm mostly packed...a few more things to sort into boxes and bins and to decide what to keep out for my last months here.  My new place is in an amazing part of town--I can't wait to explore it to the fullest.  The summer looms ahead, another choice to be made...and a new chapter, once again.

I want to see as many shows as I can afford while I'm still here.  I am going to the MCC Theater next week to catch one, a play with a great plot and good actors.  There are a few more that call me, including 'Wicked', which I've yearned to see for years and have never managed to catch--even with 'Defying Gravity' as my ringtone on my phone.

I need to make it to see SortaMom before I go, to catch lunch with Mark, to make sure Peggy has another weekend here in where we can feel free to laugh and joke and not worry about another person's glowering to put a cap on our fun.

I'll have Nathan back in town for a few days next week, a small film role I've been cast in and the joy of Spring in New York.  Flip-flops, tshirts and, for me, a baseball cap to shield my bald head.  I look forward to those days.

I can do this.  I'm nothing if not resilient (my landlady pointed out she admired my resiliency, and thanked me for being so flexible and kind in the current situation, considering I was forced into a place I didn't want to be by an immovable will...we are parting on good terms), and, after I take a deep breath and absorb it all, I'll be fine.

I will miss the '2' train for one reason--the perpetual begger.  She's been on that line for years, I first saw/heard her three years ago, and she still had the same spiel when I saw her recently going downtown... the italics are my inner monologue;

"Hello everyone.  I hate to disturb you no, you don't, but the word but negates all that is said before it  I am a poor widow with two children who need food and clothing.  Won't you help?"

Two men opened their wallets, as a young black man raised his voice to announce she was a scam, he'd seen her before.  The men ignored his words, and, as the begger walked past him, she smirked and said, "God bless you!"

On the way back uptown, there she was again! Same words, same sad look...and again, men opened their wallets.  So, I stood up in the aisle of the half full car.

"Um, you were just doing this same stuff a few hours ago, AND, I've heard you doing this for years, you just changed your train line."

She stopped, stared....and tried to get her audience back, " children need medicine, food, and we have to rely on oth..."

"Hold on. You have small children?"


"So, who is watching them while you are out here?"

"Um, a friend."

"Do you pay her?"

"She is kind enough to do it for fre..."

"Why haven't you gone to a food bank?  There is a great one on (and I listed a few addresses), plus, they'll help you with child care, clothing and a place to live."

"Well, I can't leave my kids alon..."

"Bring them with you!  And, Macy's is hiring--with benefits!" (cheery smile)


"If I may interject, don't give her a dime.  She's a pro."  Men put their wallets away, she was glaring by that time.

"Look, sweetie, if you want to beg instead of work...beg.  But, don't use kids to get more money.  That's just beyond wrong.  I'll bet you make far more than the bulk of us on this train by peddling your lies.  If you really want to work the trains, entertain me.  Sing, play a comb and tissue paper, do SOMEthing....I'll hand over a hard earned dollar then.  Otherwise, you need to STFU."

She left among a spattering of applause.  I'm not sure if I was listened to because I was a middle aged white woman instead of a young black man, but, I was listened to...and that is what counts.

Yep, I'll miss the begger on the 2 train...

....I don't think she'll miss me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SS Quin

I am having a difficult time resigning myself to my life right now.

Yes, I am still in New York, a city I love and love being part of...yes, I found a place to live for the next couple of months--more than I expected to spend, but, with a budget, I can afford to live there....yes, I still have Sophie, and she is answering to her name again.

I feel adrift.

There is nothing to really hold me down in one place or another--don't get me wrong, I miss my children and the little ones very much, and I look forward to seeing them again.  It is a sense of not belonging anywhere, a sense of not feeling connected to any person, a sense of longing for something--and I don't know what that something is or could be or if it will show up.

I do not feel a failure--I do feel I've failed in some things in life.  I could have been a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, a better child...I wasn't.  There are times I feel I'm dancing as fast as I can, and there is no one to watch no one to care.  

I yearn for the knowledge someone holds me as beloved.  A knowledge that person doesn't exist, and I can do nothing to change that fact.

There are times I feel I could close my eyes and not wake up and be okay with that event.  No, I've no desire to make that happen--it is simply the understanding I feel adrift.

And there isn't a dock in sight.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New York State of Mind

I totally believe you are either a New Yorker or you aren't.

It doesn't matter if you were born here...what matters is (to quote Billy Joel) The New York State of Mind.  It's something that occurs the moment you set foot here, whether visiting or starting university or driving through--you have it or you don't.

The first time I came here long ago, I knew.  Sure, I was on a holiday of sorts--the ex and I were to be guests on Phil Donahue--and we'd been flown out.  I knew.  I knew I'd end up here, I just wasn't sure how or when.  My ex worried his pocket would be picked when we rode the train the first time...I worried I'd not see enough people to marvel at when we did.  I still recall the woman who chatted away with me until her she left, she turned and said, "Twenty years on this train and you are the first time I've spoken to anyone."  I hope she continued chatting from then on when she traveled back and forth.

Forward to a few years ago, and the move was made.  I've never regretted a moment of any of my time in New York, in spite of low times and odd people and worries about everything from money to health.  It makes me feel whole.  I feed on the energy and occasionally still cry when I see the skyline at dusk, brilliant against a darkening sky.

Being a New Yorker isn't just knowing the train lines--hearing a tourist say they need to go somewhere, and automatically knowing where they have to transfer, which train goes where.  It's not even working here or having an apartment.  It's this thing inside, it's a pulse...a knowledge you are part of a place that is unique in it's sameness of every big city.  It's knowing how to live on a shoestring budget--of living in a walk up or a sublet or a studio apartment...and, if you are a well versed New Yorker, you've done all three--often at the same time.  It is working hard at one or two jobs at's living off cheap food, not dining out every night.  It's the appreciation of the streets and the dialects and the rivers and the bums and the people who merge with you on the train and the sidewalks.  It is the cacophony of cars and music and sirens that lull you to sleep at night.  It is the almost overwhelming brilliance of neon in Times Square when you walk out of the train station.  It is knowing that two sugars in a coffee will be heaping spoonfuls.  That the best coffee is found in a cart early in the morning, when you dash balancing the cup, your bag and an umbrella into the station, your metrocard held in your teeth.  It is telling a tourist the best way to see Lady Liberty is by riding the Staten Island Ferry.  It is knowing each neighborhood by it's scent--Chinatown with the sharp smell of spices, SoHo and 5th Ave by the smell of money. Being a New Yorker is one of two groups, really--those who live plush and those who scurry and dash and live in a whirl of life.

I'd love to have some great job where I have benefits and not have to worry about rent or if I'll eat by the end of the month.  I'd love to have a doorman apartment with an elevator and be terribly smug.  I'd love to eat what I want, not what I can afford.  With that said, I'm happier with my jobs that allow me to meet people I'd never meet otherwise.  I don't pretend I'm setting trends or that my coolness factor must be announced to all.  I'm content with my small apartments and my subletting and my occasional walk-up.  Sure, I'll miss an elevator, but, not enough to sell out for another one.

I like stopping by food carts and chatting and having the vendor put extra salad on my plate because he likes my smile.  I enjoy every train trip, every walk on the street, every person I see or talk to on those trains or those sidewalks.  I wear my rain boots bought in a shop where I bargained the price down.  I enjoy my pieces of furniture snagged from the curb or in a moving sale.  I participate in events in my city, visit museums, welcome friends and family with open arms to enjoy all of this with me.  I take pride in the fact very few people I interact with here don't believe it when I say I wasn't born here, because my vibe is New York.

I am, indeed, a New Yorker.  My body wasn't born here, my spirit was.  I suspect I'll be back and forth here for the rest of my life, relishing every second I am in the city limits.  Be it Brooklyn or Harlem or the Bronx or Manhattan or even Staten Island--I dwell in a New York State of Mind.

Come see me here--you'll love it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sometimes, the Universe Reminds You

The last six weeks have been pretty horrific.

Suddenly, I found myself in a war of which I wanted no part.  I am the first to say I am difficult at times, my various quirks and such can make me edgy or emotional.  I do my best to control it all, take my meds, and believe I will work my way through those rough spots.

After almost three months of two jobs, a cold that developed into bronchitis and laryngitis and then full fledged pneumonia (no insurance. yay!), leaving me sick and weak and in tears at times,  I finally, finally started feeling myself for the first time since I'd moved back to NYC.  I had my friends, people I enjoyed, the upcoming visit to my family in Silverstone--all of that kept my days light, in spite of a fairly rough job.  I wasn't always cheery after 16 hours of work and long commutes and being kept awake by my constant coughing, the pain in my chest.

Suddenly, there came accusations and unkind words and complete defamation of character--I was told I was untrustworthy, stupid, unemployable, a "...sitcom with no laugh track", an emotional fuckup.  And, those where the nicer things said.  This was presented to me by someone who revels in the fact they create their own chaos--I guess creating your own chaos negates you from having to accept responsibility for the lives you fuck up in that creation.

I've dealt with someone who isn't a nice person--not an asshole as they claim to be proud of being--an asshole is interesting, this person?  Not so much.  The vast daily consumption of hard alcohol  contributes to the version of the world they live in, where they are never wrong, never have to make amends, never have to say "Sorry" when an accusation is proved unfounded and incorrect. It's not something I can continue with in my life, the narcissism, the conversations held that were monologues of their life--laughing admittance of how a certain 'friend'  had been written about in a 'fictional piece''--in spite of direct quotes from that friend's blog--because they were a tease and a cunt.  When confronted by the written about friend, the entire story bragged about as being based on the 'friend' was put down to 'coincidence', and the 'friend' was just paranoid.  There were the many times of insisted upon sharing of details on visits to masseuse who offered more than a back-rub... and how they allowed a grope and squeeze for a bigger tip.  Wait. What?  How is this something you brag about?  That you take advantage of women who, more than likely, are in debt to the person who brought them to this country.  Whom, I am sure, don't exactly find their work a place that they are proud of in any way, shape or form.  I cringed when details on a 'sexting' session were given out...even though this woman, too, was given the cunt label.  Misogynist comments to say the least.   I was told my 'energy' was stopping their 'mojo'--mojo?  Huh???   I'm stopping you from dating?  Good grief.  I was suddenly in my own personal 'Gaslight' film.  My wrong in all of this was not saying, "You need to be quiet, and not tell me any of that."  I didn't.  Decision made, consequence given.  I accept my part in this.

I've had things said about me in print and in person that are so very, very incorrect....that are pure lies.  I guess it comes to the throw enough mud, and with luck, some will stick.  I don't understand this mindset, this behaviour.

Being in Silverstone with Loo and MB and EH and the delightful group of family ad friends there helped me a great deal in recovering my sense of self.  Being surrounded by love and friendship and truthfulness gave me strength.  Friends contacting me offering things that I worried about being able to provide--all of this has shored my self esteem.  It allows me to regret how I dealt with some of my decisions, it allows me to know I'm not the low lying fucktard I was being told I was... I gained my perspective back.  Conversations with a dear friend who is also a specialist in rehabs allowed me to face the sad fact I was, indeed, dealing with an alcoholic (self admitted one) and their not so clear version of the world.  People who are abusive, find glee in creating problems, avoid every shitpile they create, and who are generally unhappy individuals with emotional gaps in their lives.

The last piece of my wall of love came from Amanda Barnes.    She was interviewed and featured in Women Today.  I read her interview with great pleasure--she is one of the most interesting people I know, and, like Loo--a sister of my heart.

When asked who she was inspired by in life, she said it was....

She said I was her personal cheer-leader and her description of me as loyal and honest and that everyone needs a me in their life... that I was someone who would push you to be all you could be, and have your back every step of the way.

Added to the comment by HRH that people like me put the 'humane' into 'humanity' and that she is proud of me... me!  These women make me who I am... they are the reason I can shut the door on a friendship that bore not a single resemblance to the definition of friend, to accept my part in this and realise regardless of what I did, the outcome would not have changed because of the immovable object I am dealing with currently.

I always say that friends are family of your heart, and both heart and blood family keep you honest, keep you sane, keep you remembering you are worth love and friendship and that you can carry on.

I love you all forever.