New York City Aubade

New York City has been overtaken by multi-million dollar high-rise apartments dotting once downtrodden areas like the Lower East Side.

You have to be rich to live here today. Like Patti Smith–one of my favorite artists–told newbies: Forget coming here.

I’m proud that I wasn’t ever guilty of gentrifying a neighborhood by moving into it. Mostly because the neighborhoods I’ve moved into no one else wanted to live in.

What’s the appeal then of living here? Listen to the song “New York Cares” to understand why those of us who fell in love with Manhattan when we were young are committed to staying.

For a mere $10 dollar cover you can attend a poetry reading.

The host of one event told me: “You look good. You have a tan.”

Actually, I wore Lancome Teint Idole foundation in 260 Bisque N. I have ghost skin and don’t understand the appeal of getting a tan. I have ivory skin with a pink undertone. It’s the foundation I bought after getting the latest Sephora makeover.

You have a 5-minute time limit during the open reading. The clapping is thunderous before and after you read.

The featured readers at the poetry events always want you to buy their books.

I showed up in one of my mod skate park outfits: a cotton black-and-white stripe tee shirt dress, black leggings, and hot pink Converse. I wore a pink bandanna as a head wrap.

As I walked down the street before the event a guy who was a stranger who saw me coming said: “I like your head wrap.”

“Thanks.” I smiled at him and walked on by.

This time of year in New York City is magical and unforgettable. Street vendors sell their wares at tables in the West Village. With a little time before ducking in to read I struck up a conversation with a guy selling jewelry.

“Sterling silver. Not nickel. Don’t take it off when you wash your hands.” He referred to a ring I tried on.

That was good to know as I’ve lost too many rings taking them off in public restrooms and forgetting them. Keep your ring on your finger when you’re washing up. Simply avoid the area where the ring is if it’s a stone like turquoise.

Life is too precious and material things are just temporary joys. They won’t last forever, so wash up with your ring on your finger and be okay with this.

“Are you Italian?” The vendor asked after I paid him.

“Si.” I nodded “Have a great weekend.”

After the event I exited into the cool night. My Levi jacket draped across my shoulders as I hailed a cab.

The chapter titles of my memoir Left of the Dial are actually song titles from the early era in my life when the city was a wonderland.

One chapter “Cotton Crown” was misspelled because the actually song title I believe is “Kotton Krown.” The song is by Sonic Youth and it’s the 1980s anthem to New York City.

The song lyrics talk about mystery and chemistry. As a person who takes medication I was always entranced with the idea of taking control of the chemistry.

New York City will forever hold an allure for us rebels, beautiful dreamers, and creative folk drawn to the undiluted pockets of energy on side streets teeming with cafes and restaurants.

Here and there you can still find vestiges of the Vanished New York. They’re harder to find as For Rent signs dot the landscape where mom-and-pop stores used to be.

Yet walking down the street and being cheered on for wearing a head wrap reminds me that it’s true:

Your dreams aren’t ever too crazy here, they’re beautiful and so are you.

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Wearing a Cross on Halloween

cross halloween

It’s time to fight the hate.

I urge you:

Act with love.

Speak with kindness.

Wear your hijab.

Confirm your sexual identity.

Walk down any street in America.

Wear your cross.

The first time I ever wore this featured cross in the photo out in public was yesterday. It was Halloween in America. Wearing a cross was a brave act considering that a guy driving a truck killed 8 people in my hometown of New York City.

He has been indicted on charges as a terrorist fueled by ISIS propaganda.

Thus it seems strangely bold and daring that I wore a cross out in public yesterday.

As a Christian wearing a cross, I could’ve been targeted.

It feels like a perverse synchronicity (unbeknownst to me on waking in the morning). I had no idea that later in the day a terrorist act would happen.

I had no idea that wearing the cross would have any significance beyond making a fashion statement.

I pray that haters–in society, in the world, wherever they are–come to their senses and choose love instead of bombs and compassion instead of killing.

Right now wearing a cross could’ve gotten me killed. I had no idea that wearing a cross would turn out to be an unwitting political statement.

People come here from other countries to have rights.

Women come here from the Middle East so they can drive a car. Can you imagine not being allowed to drive a car because you’re a woman? In 2017?

This is why good people come here to raise their sons and daughters.

They’re American now and don’t want to be subjected to “guilt-by-association” any more than I do.

New York City is famously touted as “The Greatest City in the World.”

In all my time here (I was born here and still live here and won’t ever leave) I must have interacted personally one-on-one with thousands of Muslim Americans. I’m confident when I say thousands not just hundreds.

We must stand together now in solidarity to tell the haters:

We will not tolerate your crimes against fellow human beings.

We will not condone your hate. We will not live in fear.

We will live together as one human family on earth.

We will uphold the rights of everyone living in America–and I do mean everyone–regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, mental health diagnosis, and any other thing that has historically marked us as different from each other.

Now you see: why I dare to live my life Left of the Dial.

Why I dare to identify with other people who have mental health challenges.

There can be no shame in being who you are. There can be no shame in living and acting true to yourself. There can be no shame for any of us.

New York City is my hometown. Everyone is welcome here.

It particularly saddens me that 5 tourists–college buddies–from South America were killed.

Reminiscence

bracelet purse

This quote sums up to me the 1980s and that era in music and fashion:

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T. S. Eliot

The other day I ducked into an Urban Outfitters store.

This was a cheaper bracelet purse I found. What’s not to love about cheaper?

Are they solely a New York City thing? Or throughout America?

Browsing Urban Outfitters reminded me of shopping in Unique Clothing Warehouse in the 1980s.

Remember Zoot? Antique Boutique? Trash and Vaudeville?

All were clothing stores in New York City in the 1980s.

They vanished like Manhattan over the years.

Now there’s a Starbucks on every corner.

What’s sad is that Tom Petty died. There was a tribute to his music on a WAYO show.

For a burst of music reminiscent of the 1980s you can go on WAYO FM.

The Sunday afternoon show streamed live via their Internet website features songs like the B-52s “Give Me Back My Man.”

Kate and Michael host the show. They’re two great disc jockeys.

The radio station broadcasts from Rochester, NY.

As of today, I’m writing a second memoir. I’m keeping its contents under wraps like a pashmina. I hope to publish this second memoir later in my fifties.

Just to say here it will be a version of Left of the Dial in overdrive.

With music, clothes, and boys.

Winter in New York

The tourists are now out clogging the streets of our fair city. I’ve always loved the tourists even though others joke about them.

Whenever you go there Times Square is as crowded as if it’s noon. With the fluorescent lights it’s like an eternal noontime on 42nd Street. Even at nine o’clock in the evening it’s bustling and bright with people and lights.

I dipped into Sephora and bought Fresh Sugar lip scrub. This beauty emporium played alternative holiday music. You’ve got to love Sephora.

Ten of us took our seats in the theater. The words quickly popped out of my mouth as I eyed the women in the seats in back of us.

“We’re the opening act.” I laughed as my family coordinated where to sit. You need to have a sense of humor about things.

We saw Circ du Soleil perform Paramour and the play was exceptional. It featured the amazing acrobatics and a great story.

I recommend seeing Paramour if you’re a tourist in New York City. Even if the cost of the tickets will set you back a pretty penny.

Winter in New York IS a magical time.

Here’s to you, Verna from South Bend, Indiana!

All-American Social Club

July 9, 2016

All-American Social Club

This was my America inside the club:

A dreadlocked Adonis in Nike trainers chatted up a chica.

An Asian woman in Breton striped danced with a lightning-haired guy.

An African American woman in a purple shirt danced magnificent with a white woman to the cover band.

This is the America I know: free souls at the social club choosing to buck the system that divides us.

We keep on rockin’ in the real world.

 

A Tale of Two Citizens

The events I talk about below are as different as night and day.

They point to the reality that stereotyping people isn’t the way to go.

Late One Summer:

I’m standing on a street corner in an Orthodox neighborhood talking on my cell phone. A guy in his black suit walks by and turns to look at me:

“Have a Great Day Miss–it’s a beautiful morning–a Great Day to you!” He smiled.

“Have a great day too!” I smiled back and marveled at the guy’s sunny good humor to want to welcome an outsider like me.

This stands in contrast to 15 years ago. In an Orthodox neighborhood I’m closing a building and the last guy is leaving. It’s another summer and he’s wearing his black suit too.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked me. “No.” “So you’re Italian.” He figured it out. “Yes.”

“Well you don’t hate us yet you don’t like us,” he continued.

I hadn’t ever met this guy before in my life and within five minutes he was accusing me of being anti-Semitic. I always remembered this.

It reminded me of the Depeche Mode song “People Are People” from the 1980s. Their lead singer crooned that he didn’t understand what could make a man hate another man.

To stereotype another person is not something I want to do. It would be like changing my eyes from brown to blue–impossible.

As an author I’m entranced with difference–with the passions and peculiarities of human beings that make good characters in a book as well as in real life.

Days later “It’s a beautiful morning” kept ringing out in my head. I can see that cheerful man even now telling me: “Have a great day miss!”

I urge readers to understand that hate is not the way to go–violence is not the way to go–killing is not the way to go. Not even in response to hate racism or any other stigma.

Does it really feel good to simmer in a stew of anger? Is that how we should live our lives–hating and attacking each other?

As a writer if I were going to write an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times I know what I’d write about: compassionate people making a difference.

In this life I know who impresses me more: the guy with a heart as big as the Montana sky.

Urban Tribes

Years ago I read the book Urban Tribes.

I remembered from the book only the author’s takeaway that single people in America are forming tribes that are their own version of a chosen family not a birth family. It wasn’t that great a book except for his premise about creating a tribe of kindred spirits to stand in as a family.

A friend and I went to hear live music. I started to fall asleep on the banquette we sat on in the back of the club. Then I got a cup of water from the bar. We went outside for fresh air.

I perked up when the featured act started to perform–a fake-jet-black-haired guitarist who’d been touring for 30 years–not all at once that is over the years.

We ate in a fabulous diner at midnight. To get home we has to cross “The Boulevard of Death”–the term for a street where numerous people get run over trying to cross it every day. As I started to cross no kidding a car was speeding down the road.

My friend’s friend had run across the street to flag down a cab to take us home. We followed him like blind chickens crossing the road because we had to get to the other side.

When I was in Rome the tour guide remarked about crossing Rome’s streets: “The drivers are speedy–they’re not going to stop. Just run across the street and don’t look–just run across the street.”

I doubt that outside of New York City people jaywalk and cross the street when the light is green. People who were born in and live in New York City like I was and have do not wait for a red light to cross the street.

Only I cross the street when no car is coming my way. The drivers here are dangerous. They don’t stop at stop signs. They don’t stop for red lights and keep going through the intersection when the light is red.

I take my life in my hands crossing the street every day. No kidding.

I’ll end here with a photo of our divine lemon meringue from the diner:

 

nevada diner