City Life

Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

A few photos from 23rd Street, just a bit east of where the explosion took place Saturday night.

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I had never heard of the Chicks on the Right before, and I’m pretty much the left leaning filthy hippy they rail against, perhaps even the “landbeast” or “moon bat” so charmingly defined in their chicktionary.  But hey, I don’t live in an echo chamber and don’t want to, and these are apparently two middle aged women putting themselves and their beliefs out there in the blogosphere.  I want to support that, wanted to find out more about them, being another middle aged woman who puts herself and her beliefs out there.  Imagine my surprise when I actually read the post I had seen linked in my Facebook feed this morning.  Now I’m sure they don’t know or care who Mrs Fringe is, I’m barely a spit bubble compared to the success of their big pink bubblegum blowing blog, but I’m a New Yorker, after all, and if you’ve got questions/thoughts/incorrect assumptions about life in the Big Apple, I’m your gal.

So let this cliched middle aged broad clarify a couple of things for you.  I have a passionate love/hate relationship with this city, but when you’re born and raised here, you’re a New Yorker for life, even if you’ve long since moved to Timbuktu.  I have never been to Indianapolis (the area these “chicks” appear to be from), so I don’t know what it’s like there.  The only tv show I can think of that was set there is One Day at a Time, pretty sure that isn’t an accurate reflection.  I, and all eight million of my neighbors, are indeed tough and resilient.  What we aren’t is a hive mind.  That’s the beauty of New York.  Diversity.  Is that a dirty word for your blog? Sorry, it’s the one that fits.

Not just diversity in faith, skin color, gender/gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, but diversity in thoughts and beliefs, including political.  Yeah, we’re a blue city in a blue state, but there are enough right leaning people here–and even more independent thinkers– that we’ve had a Republican mayor or two.

This isn’t my main issue or yours, not what spurred me to respond.  The emergency text blasted out to all NY cell phones, identifying the name of the suspect wanted for the explosion that had taken place in Chelsea a few days earlier.  For the record, I’m not a big Twitter user (though I think I will send you gals a tweet so you see this post), I hadn’t seen any of the ones you posted, let alone tweeted about it myself.  That said, yeah, receiving that text falls under what I like to call icky-squicky-this-can’t-be-right.  Not because I didn’t want the person responsible captured and prosecuted, but because it feels more than a bit Big Brother-ish.  I’m a little confused, aren’t conservatives the group that complains about government overreach?  I know you disagree, and I’m sorry for being dense, perhaps you can explain it to me.  Simply, seeing as I’m a slow-witted New Yorker who doesn’t understand what’s in my best interests.

I was also taken aback by your expanding and clarifying statement, “Not only that, but these delicate snowflakes cried that something like this could lead to the Supreme Evil of racial profiling.”  Sorry for causing more eye rolls, but my experience as someone who lives in this great diverse city means that yup, I’m also against racial profiling.  Why?  Because my neighbors, friends, children’s friends/classmates, family members, are a diverse (oops, there’s that naughty word again) bunch.  Getting up and living their lives each day, I imagine much the way you do, and being profiled, stopped, too often falsely accused and arrested just doesn’t seem to represent the land of the free to me.  Profiling isn’t “suddenly” bad.  Perhaps you weren’t aware of it as an issue until recently.  That’s ok, you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know the nice part of being older?  I’ve learned to stop and think; listen to the other side of issues, take the time and put in the effort to learn the subtleties.  America is a big place, encompassing many different people, beliefs, and lifestyles.  What works in a small town in Montana wouldn’t make sense in New York–and that’s okay.  Damn I hope I don’t melt, being a snowflake and all, it’s hot in the city today.

But what really got my fingers itching to respond?  “New Yorkers have traded in their traditional toughness for a safe space of politically correct social justice.”  Here’s a bit of New York reality for you, our world has changed.  We’ve made trade-offs, some I agree with, some I don’t, but yeah, I’ve changed.  I assume you weren’t here in New York on 9/11/01.  I was.  I haven’t forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten the fear of trying to figure out what was going on.  I haven’t forgotten running to get my son from school, finding a stream of parents flowing in and out of the school trying to get their children, the hushed panic of whispers about parents who worked in which towers.  I haven’t forgotten my gratitude for the incredible calm and order the school staff had going.  I haven’t forgotten the horrible, unnatural quiet in the streets.  I haven’t forgotten trying to reach people I loved with no answer for hours that felt like decades.  I haven’t forgotten watching the towers burn and the smell of smoke and the ash settling over EVERYTHING.  I haven’t forgotten the first aid stations that were set up so efficiently that looked like not quite perfect movie sets–where are the extras?– because they were so empty.  I haven’t forgotten the thousands of people staggering up Broadway like zombies, covered in layers of white gray ash made up of things we didn’t want to think about.  Wondering if we were breathing in people.  I haven’t forgotten the many, many people who didn’t get to go home.  I haven’t forgotten being trapped on this island of Manhattan, no one other than emergency/official vehicles in or out. I haven’t forgotten the nausea and heart stopping this-will-never-be-the-same first time I saw clusters of armed guards in the subway, on the streets and by the bridges and tunnels.  Not something to watch on a tv screen, not theoretical, but my city, my friends, my neighbors.   Perhaps you think I should be embarrassed to admit this day changed my life and my city forever?  That there is fear that didn’t used to live in my gut?  Nope, not embarrassed at all.

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Chicks on the Right, you have every right to disagree with my political opinions.  You have every right to voice those opinions, vote for the candidates who agree with you, protest the decisions that go against your belief systems and values.  You can join the millions of non-New Yorkers who are quick to lay claim to our city but have no clue what it is to live here, live side by side with all kinds of people, no idea how to make peace and have respect for those who live differently.  But unless you were sitting next to me on the train yesterday, on my way to pick my daughter up from school, underground when the train stopped, vague announcements about a problem ahead, then listening to the announcement that all service had been suspended and thereby wondering if someone had fallen onto the tracks, or jumped, or if there had been another attack, trying to send a text to the school and your child not to leave the school because you were going to be late and you didn’t know how late, feeling the gratitude and relief when the car doors opened so you could run off the train, up and out of the subway and wait behind 342 other people trying to grab cabs on the same corner, knowing you were still on the wrong side of the UN and the President was here to speak there, enough of a New Yorker to then argue with the cab driver about the best route to take so you could get to your child, establish they and your city are safe, knowing you’ve got to get back on those trains to get home, do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, you don’t get to tell me how tough and resilient I and my fellow New Yorkers are not.

Picture This

Exhibition at the Met Breuer

Exhibition at the Met Breuer

Museum Day, brought to you by Mrs Fringe and Art Child.  A great thing about living here in the city is that there’s no pressure when it comes to museums, not a big deal to plan, and no feeling of obligation to see it all in one day.  I’ve been intending to get to this exhibit for three months.  Now that it ends in a week and a half, I finally made it over there, and want to go again before it’s gone.  There is The Met Breuer, a new annex? outpost? of The Met, in the building that used to house the Whitney.  Anyway, I loved the idea of this exhibit, unfinished works of art, both intentional and unintentional, and there was a section of works intended to be interactive with the viewer.  I’m not sure if this exhibit will be traveling, but if so, go see it!

Yes, for someone who is not a visual artist, I love art, but this whole show spoke to me.  Maybe it’s that as both a reader and writer of words, I prefer when stories and characters leave some room for me to think, inject my own imagination.  Not in a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way, but in terms of not needing to know every physical detail of characters, not needing (or wanting) every ending to be neatly wrapped in a perfect, glossy ribbon.

Many wonderful quotes scattered throughout, this was one of my favorites.

Many wonderful quotes scattered throughout, this was one of my favorites.

I, of course, took way too many photos, so even paring down will likely make two posts out of this excursion, so as not to crash everyone’s computers or put my readers into a pixellated stupor.  Some of the works gave me a creative charge, exciting, while others had me tearing up.

I loved this idea, and the variety of ways artists captured it.

I loved this idea, and the variety of ways artists captured it.

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I cut off her name, oops.  Janine Antoni.

I cut off her name, oops. Janine Antoni.

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This next one, on the surface, is the type of painting that might often have me squint and hurry past, because it’s so “in your face” there seems no room to think.  But something in this held me for quite a while, really spoke to me, if you want to be frou-frou about it.  Actually, my immediate thought was, “oh God, it’s Mrs Fringe!” If, yanno, I was blond, blue eyed, and possessed the ability to pick up a gun.

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Next we came to this series, which is where Art Child wanted to sit and sketch.

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I had no idea why, but honestly, I was ready to sit down and continue thinking about the Lassnig painting. I took a few shorts of the panels, and Art Child asked if I had gotten the face.  Again, no clue what she was referring to, it all looked like drips to me, so I handed her the camera.

I'll be damned. This is why she's the artist.

I’ll be damned. This is why she’s the artist. See the eyes?

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While it was very interesting to be able to “see” the process of some of the works and artists, there’s also something…uncomfortably intimate about seeing some of these works in progress, from some of the greatest and most enduring artists.  But that is art, no? To make you uncomfortable enough to think and feel.

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Afterword

This full moon wasn't last night, but it felt like it should have been.

This full moon wasn’t last night, but it felt like it should have been.

What is stage fright, anyway?

So last night was that thing.  The reading.  I spent the day with my brain in the overdrive of heightened anxiety, changed my clothes three times, my shoes four, and slopped half a gallon of product in my hair, in a futile battle with the humidity.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have to worry about how my words would be received, or how I’d sound, because surely I was going to have a stroke before it was my turn.

Husband offered to meet me down there.  Down, because the bar couldn’t be further from my apartment and still be in Manhattan.  No, thanks.  I’m one of those people.  When I’m nervous about something, I’m better off alone, because your moral support will likely be met by me biting your head off.  Cranky.  Bitchy, even.  That and the fact that I figured the reason I was doing this was to maybe, hopefully, connect with other writers.  I know myself.  If Husband was with me, it would be the perfect excuse to not speak to anyone, revert to my teenaged self, sit in back and make jokes about myself.  Man Child offered to go down with me.  No thanks.  Then he offered to just travel down with me.  Umm, maybe.  No, no, I’m a grown up, I don’t need an escort, I’m fine.  Are you sure?  Yes, thank you.  Are you really sure, because I’m going to start laundry otherwise?  Yes yes I’m sure.

Ten minutes before I left, I’m going to call Husband and have him meet me.  Oops, look at the time, he’s already on his way home, that wouldn’t be nice.  I’m good, I can do this.

Five minutes before I left, ummm, Man Child?  I changed my mind.  But you can’t stay.  He traveled downtown with me, and then encouraged me when I spent ten minutes standing outside, bemoaning the fact that I had remembered my camera but not the battery that would allow it to work.

I really have great kids.


I’ll be honest, this sign in the window is probably what got me through the door.  That and Man Child’s gentle shove.

At the entrance to the back room, where the event was being held, the producer was checking tickets.  I was nervous about the whole e-ticket thing. My name was already on his list, great. I’m scoping the room behind him, happy to see empty seats in back when he says, “Oh.  You’re reading.”  Was I supposed to mention that?  “Umm, yeah, I guess so.”  Damn, I’m smooth.

It’s a funny thing.  Once I was in, I felt acutely aware that I have never done this before, but not nervous.  Basically I was certain I was going to fuck up, drop my pages, lose my voice, have that stroke, yanno.  It wasn’t crowded, there were two featured writers and several open mic-ers.  The open mic folks were mostly poets.  Excellent, this way I was certain to not fit in.  I liked the way it was organized, open mic readings scattered throughout the evening with the featured writers in between.  (Featured meaning authors with books recently published/about to be published) I’m not sure what I expected, but it was a lively mix of “straight” poetry, spoken word, an excerpt from a graphic novel, excerpts from a flash essay collection, part of a short.  The crowd was mixed in age, sex, and ethnicity, also nice.

There was a microphone! Eek.  And others were introduced by the MC with a bit about them.  Crap, was I supposed to tell them something other than my name and here’s-my-eight-dollars?  Ah well.  I considered plugging Mrs Fringe before or after I read, but therewasamicrophone.  I just did it.  I read the opening few pages to Astonishing (probably about half the first chapter, it’s the one up on the blog here).  Everyone was quiet while I read, so either I held their attention, or they were taking the opportunity for a cat nap. Maybe they just couldn’t hear me, I didn’t get too close to that mic.  I’m from south Brooklyn ferChristssake, I can be plenty loud.

I met a few people who seemed quite nice. Many of those in the audience and those who went up are apparently regulars, but everyone was welcoming.  Not one pointed and snickered, or muttered, “poseur” as I went past.  If they did I didn’t hear them.  Success.

In any case, I felt like it went well.  I was surprised I couldn’t see the audience once I was up there, all I saw was lights, and that made it much easier.  More surprising, I didn’t feel intimidated while I was reading, I just…read.  Scenarios like this always surprise me, no one talking about the angst and futility of trying to get published, trade or otherwise.  It’s as if there’s an assumption that you and everyone else is doing it, you belong there.

I might even say I had fun.

 

Aahhh, These Summer Mornings

Just me, my flowers, the occasional spider to watch the sunrise.

Just me, my flowers, the occasional spider to watch the sunrise.

Seems peaceful, doesn’t it?  Especially before I boot the laptop, read about the day’s atrocities and most current buffoonery of Trump.

Not this morning.  Yesterday was long and busy.  We’ve reached the portion of the summer where my anxiety begins to rise, knowing before I can weep Nerd Child will be waving goodbye, headed North to school, and I’ll be back to twelve trains a day shuffling Art Child back and forth.  Ridiculous, we still have weeks, but there you have it.  With Facebook friends all over the country and world, I’m already seeing the obligatory first day of school pics.  There should be a way to block those until Labor Day, don’t you think?

With so many guests this summer, I’ve gotten behind on keeping the apartment neat and organized.  Small space, lots of people in and out, packing, unpacking, beach bags galore and the general sloth of long hot days. Time to start getting it together, so I’m not in a complete panic in another two weeks.

Too late!

Man Child’s girlfriend, Miss Music, was here last week, came for a week after her band finished its tour.  Fun.  Except one morning, she was sitting on the couch with Art Child, turned to me and said, “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

A mouse.

In my apartment.

IN my apartment.

In MY apartment.

Sweet mother of fuck, nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In my many, many years of NY living, I’ve never had a mouse in my apartment.  There was evidence of them in our last apartment before we moved in, so we filled every crack and hole we could find, and then put down glue traps just in case.  Big Senile Dog promptly got a glue trap stuck to his nose and each paw.  Good times.

I grew up near the water in Brooklyn, huge wharf rats could be seen regularly on the streets.  Yucky, but outside.  There was also a large population of feral cats, so mice weren’t such a thing, between the cats and the rats I’m guessing mice didn’t have a chance. I see rats all the time on the subway tracks.  Again, meh.  Part of NY life.

Back to the other morning.  We didn’t see anything, but we bought a few traps and put them down, Little Incredibly Dumb Dog only got 3 of them stuck to her, and they were much easier to remove than they had been for the big dog, because she’s used to being held to be groomed, and she’s got long hair.  Plus, not as dumb as I’d expect, she steered clear of them afterwards. Zero interest in the mouse itself.

No further mouse sightings, until a couple of nights ago, eating dinner and holy shit!  I saw a shadow fly over the living room floor.  That was no migraine floater.  The plan was to go shopping yesterday to restock on cleaning supplies and toiletries, both for the apartment and for Nerd Child to take to school.  Needless to say I picked up more mouse traps.

Got home, tore apart the living room, dining area, and kitchen, filled every hole around every pipe we could find, and laid 16 mouse traps.  When I say we, I mean Husband and Nerd Child, while Art Child and I steered clear and washed our hands every time those guys touched another trap.  I am not taking any chances.  I know, they’re a fact of life in NY, in most places, I guess, hence the city mouse/country mouse stories, but they’ve never been a fact in my personal space and I am not ok with sharing.  This apartment is crowded enough, thankyouverymuch. Nerd Child reminded me I’m against the death penalty.  Nope, only for two legged creatures.  Twitchy four legged ones need to be erased. Period.

You know how high my anxiety levels are now, right?  In case I needed a bit more, tonight is that open mic night reading.

So I got up, made coffee, went on the terrace, sat for a bit, and then prepared to sit at my desk.  One of the glue traps under the radiator worked.  But the critter was still alive, and had gotten two of my electrical cords stuck with it.  I woke Husband, went back to hiding on the terrace.  I was heroic enough to dispose of the whole thing, after it was bagged.

Yes, I took a pic of the mouse actually stuck to the trap, but I just can't bear looking at it again.

Yes, I took a pic of the mouse actually stuck to the trap, but I just can’t bear looking at it again.

The day has to go up from here, right?

Sunset, Manhattan Style

I needed a little break from all the ugliness  these days.  “Manhattanhenge” is something that occurs about twice a year, I think, when the sunset lines up just so with the grid that makes up our city streets.  I didn’t make it down to the streets that have the best views, just walked south with Art Child and my Mother-In-Law until we were able to have a decent vantage point.  This amounted to me standing in the middle of the intersection every time the light was red, Mother-In-Law calling out the seconds I had left, and Art Child looking at us both like we had lost our minds.

Mrs Fringe:  “Just this one next light, and then I think that will be it.”

Mother-In-Law:  “Yes.”

Art Child:  “Didn’t you say that last time?”

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What Time Is It?

Bottle without a message

Bottle without a message

Time for Mrs Fringe to have the first beach day of the season to herself.  I feel pretty lucky to have kiddos that recognize my particular brand of lunacy requires both beach time and occasional time by myself.  So the other day–the day before the girl’s last day of school– I checked the weather (iffy, which made it perfect to not bring Art Child), packed my bottle of frozen water, bleach-stained oversized towel, my trusty black and white composition notebook (just in case I should be inspired to write, hah!) and got on the train.

At first it seemed like the iffy weather prediction was completely wrong.  A bit of wind, but blue skies and sun all the way.  A bit more wind.  Eh, the sand scraping across my skin is free exfoliation.  I can be freckled and have a youthful glow!  Before two hours had passed, I found myself wondering how long I could lie there with sand blowing straight up my nose before I suffocated.  I gave up.  Took my towel and headed back toward the train.  While I stood on the boardwalk shaking out my towel, I thought of the many times I had gone to the beach in my angsty teen years, shivering in out-of-season winds while sitting on the rocks writing horribly overwrought poetry.  For some reason I also remembered going with my mother to the “big girl’s” shop on Coney Island Avenue, to buy housedresses for a relative in California, while my father sat in the car outside, grumbling about muumuus.  Shh, it’s a secret, don’t tell anyone.  For my mother, the secret was that this glamorous, beautiful cousin was a “big girl.”  For me, the secret was she wore house dresses in her home that seemed like a mansion compared to our semi-detached brick two family house.  For the love of God, she had gotten three thousand miles away from there, didn’t she know there was a reason they didn’t sell those polyester monstrosities in Southern California?

It’s a funny thing.  When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to “escape” South Brooklyn.  Seriously, it was like living the script of Saturday Night Fever, those bridges and tunnels represented everything.  I’m a cynical gal and always was, but I can and do certainly look back and realize my rose-colored glasses were firmly in place, like most other young people.  If I lived in the city (people who live in the outer boroughs refer to Manhattan as “the city,” regardless of the fact that it’s all five boroughs that make up NYC), life would be different.  I would be free, not trapped, living the life I always wanted.  You know, in a cold dark garret, chain smoking clove cigarettes while scribbling the great American novel.  Manhattan/Paris, Nineteenth Century/Twenty-First Century–it’s all the same thing, right? I’d be living the dream.  Regardless, I certainly wouldn’t spend twenty years dodging PTA meetings and worrying about doctor’s appointments.  Whatever happened, I would never find myself back in Brooklyn.  Most of all, I would never, ever wear a housedress.

So what do I do now with every opportunity on beautiful (or iffy) summer days?  Hop on the train and go over the bridge back to the Brooklyn, of course.  Just the beach, but.  No matter how many times I’ve gone back, no matter that it’s been a firm part of my summer routine for eons, I have to laugh at myself.  The first couple of times I went back, I wondered if I would run into anyone I knew.  Never have.  Who knows, maybe I’ve been towel to towel with someone who graduated from high school with me and neither of us recognized the other.  I quickly stopped thinking about it.  The realities of living in a city so densely populated is that I have people who live on the same floor of my building that I don’t see for months, sometimes years, at a time.

This winter I reconnected with an old high school friend, through Facebook.  She left Brooklyn before I did, and it turns out she too, is back in NY, living in a different borough.  We briefly talked about meeting up, but it hasn’t happened.  What would I say, without judiciously chosen and edited photos to represent my life?  Badge of honor, I’ve never worn a housedress!  Still, I found myself on Brighton Beach Avenue before I got on the train, looking at my favorite (cheapest) variety store running a going-out-of-business sale, and wondered if I had $5 on me.

A dollar short, story of my life.

A dollar short, story of my life.

Deeply Saddened

Because the heart of America is broken and bleeding.

Because the heart of America is broken and bleeding.

I remember clearly the first time the phrase “deeply saddened” came to my mind in response to an atrocity.  It was 1999, and in Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, two students slaughtered 12 classmates, 1 teacher, injured 24 people, and then killed themselves.  At the time it was so shocking, so hideous, I couldn’t stand to watch the news or stay in the apartment; I took (then a baby) Nerd Child and went up the street to the preschool Man Child had attended.  I stood there with the director and teachers, all of us crying silently while we watched the little ones playing on the rooftop.  (NY, you make play spaces where you can.)

Deeply saddened.  When the loss is so huge, so shocking, nonsensical yet calculated, it feels deeper than a personal tragedy; a public loss we all share and mourn, yet feeling we’re powerless in the face of it, and what we feel doesn’t scratch the surface of those whose loss is personal, those who lost children and family members, spouses, friends and teachers.

In the 17 years that have passed since then, it feels like there have been many occasions when I have found myself deeply saddened by a no-longer-extraordinary mass shooting here in America:  Virginia Tech, Virginia, Binghamton, New York, Fort Hood, Texas, Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Washington Navy Yard, Washington DC, Charleston, South Carolina, San Bernardino, California, and now Orlando, Florida.  This is by no means a complete and comprehensive list of mass shootings here in the US, nor does it include any slaughters that came before Columbine: Edmond, Oklahoma, Killeen, Texas, San Ysidro, California–to name a few “big” ones.  Hell, I think the largest mass killing of this type was back in 1857 in Mountain Meadows, Utah.

By the time Sandy Hook occurred, maybe the “shock” of the targets being children so young, I was tilting from deeply saddened to furious.  And now, with this most recent mass shooting in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 50 dead and 53 injured, I’m still sad, I’m still angry, but I’m sure as shit not shocked.  That this occurred in an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month?  Not shocked.  How can anyone pretend to be?  Look at my (incomplete) lists above.  Children, teens, young adults, adults, black, white, asian, latino, gay, straight, rural, suburban, urban, elementary schools, high schools, colleges, churches, post offices, immigration centers, motherfucking military bases.  If the list of victims, perpetrators and locations is so scattered, the only answer is to find the common theme.

Yeah, I’m going there.  I know, many will see this and roll their eyes, “it’s too soon!” “Mrs Fringe is politicizing a tragedy!”  It cannot be too soon when we know the next mass shooting is only a matter of time.  And this is a political tragedy.  A tragedy of policy, when we live in a country that refuses to enact stricter gun control laws, a country that has in place a congressional ban on gun violence research (renewed, by the way, immediately after 9 people were killed inside a Charleston church), when we know most of these slaughters occurred with legally obtained weapons by people who should never have been able to obtain guns if we had any collective common sense.  Obviously, at this point we, as a nation, have accepted that next time it could be us personally, our children, our loved ones, and we’ve decided we’re ok with that.  Oh sure, we’ll hold vigils and wail, offer prayers and tweets and gnash our teeth–if it’s really a big number killed we’ll even apply an appropriately colored, somber overlay onto our Facebook profile pictures.

Many of us have had personal tragedies, upheaval or illnesses in our lives that have caused us to accept a new normal.  Well, mass shootings are our not-so-new normal here in the US.  The NRA–hell, friends of mine–will be defensive, certain of their right to mourn alongside the rest of us and those who lost loved ones this weekend.  They’ll mean it.  Most of those I know who are against sensible gun control will genuinely be saddened by this most recent tragedy–maybe even deeply.  They’ll hold up the shooter’s history of hate, insanity and domestic violence as “proof” that we need more guns.  Above all they’ll point to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms as sacred, not to be contained, controlled, or god forbid tampered with above all else.  Above all else.  Above:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.   ~~Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776

1776 was a long time ago.  As a country, as a world we have grown, changed, and advanced so much it makes no sense at all to apply the guidelines written then as a document to be followed to the letter now.  We know it, but it’s inconvenient.  So much easier to be reactionary and defensive, luxuriate in the righteousness of our greed and mourning, to cry, Patriotism! while accepting our new normal.  It is greed when our elected officials put the contributions of gun lobbyists and their interests over those of their constituents.  When we continue to elect and support those officials, we, as a people, are validating that greed.

Even in Fringeland, we’ve been down this road and I’ve written about this subject too many times before.  Some will read this or other pieces better written with more facts than mine, and they’ll point to other nations.  Hold up as proof of America’s greatness charts of violent death rates by country, point to how far down the list we are, how many more are killed by violence in Columbia, Honduras, Somalia, etc.  Is that the type of comparison that makes sense, that we want?  These are nations shredded by internal strife, wars civil and otherwise, ruled by poverty and desperation.  They’ll point to statistics on crime and shout that criminals have guns, so we all should.  No, the answer to gun violence is not more guns.  They’ll then say we will not be able to eradicate all guns, so we shouldn’t eliminate any.  I can’t even follow the intended logic on that one.  We continue to fund disease research and treatments, even as we know we cannot eradicate all disease.  They’ll say the CDC cannot conduct studies on gun violence because guns are not a disease.  I call bullshit.

I won’t begin quoting statistics, they’re everywhere this morning.  I will say that yesterday, while we were watching the antics of blustering politicians on Twitter, and crying as we watched the horrific scene outside of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, I saw another “small” story come up.  This one local, not too many stops away on the train.  A young mother of three was shot to death on a playground, protecting her children. 

Gun violence is a disease in America, and mass shootings are the weeping of our bleeding hearts.

Hey Hey Mama!

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Of the million annoyances I encounter daily through life in the city, I’m old enough and defeated enough to realize 999, 997 have nothing to do with me personally, don’t effect me in any way, and are none of my business.  Sure, the number changes if you consider what I bitch about in my head, or to Husband, or even here on the blog, but to cause me to speak up and interact with strangers?  Not so much.

New York is always under construction.  Buildings going up, coming down, being renovated or refaced, streets being dug up or patched.  Interesting if you’re young or new to the city, hours of free entertainment if you’re 3, good news if you’re in contracting/construction.    I’ve heard people complain about “how much” construction workers earn.  I don’t complain.  First of all, the salaries vary widely–union/non-union, public or private project, white/”minority” worker–wrong as it is, last I read white guys earned an average of 20% more (I put minority in quotes because whites are not the majority in nyc), etc.  Second, these guys* work incredibly hard, back-breaking work in freezing cold, rain, heat and humidity that has most of us hiding inside, sometimes questionable working conditions, and often breathing in shit that I don’t want to think about.  Third, the majority of these jobs/workers are highly skilled, and their work is important.  Fourth, the risk of serious injury is high.  A few of the assignments on the sites aren’t labor intensive, they’re incredibly boring.  Like being assigned to open/close the gates and plastic bumpers for pedestrians to pass through in between cartloads of crap being hauled from the fenced in site to the dumpster in the gutter.  Boring, but they can’t blow it off or let their minds wander, because that would be a disaster, a law suit, and an unemployment line waiting to happen.  Often while working this mind-numbing task, they’re being berated and cursed by veryimportantpeople on their way to veryimportantmeetings who can’t contain their annoyance at being detained for 7 seconds so they don’t get a steel beam through their skull.

 

See? Look up or look down--construction.

See? Look up or look down–construction.

I pass several construction sites daily, multiple times per day, as I take Art Child back and forth to school.  The nice part of being a woman of a certain age who’s allowed herself to go gray?  I don’t deal with much catcalling anymore.  I’ve heard there are a few who find it complimentary.  There are also women who like to call their husbands/boyfriends Daddy and greet them at the door with a martini and a smile–but of course that all falls under the annoyances-I-keep-to-myself category, because it’s none of my business.  At best catcalling is a background annoyance, often it’s rude and dehumanizing, and at worst it can be frightening.  I see a lot of the same guys every day, they smile and say good morning, I respond in kind, and that’s the extent of it.

But the other day I was walking with Art Child and her friend, and one of the workers (who I didn’t recognize, not one of the ones usually on the gate) made a comment to/about my daughter’s friend.  Well, of course not so much about her as about her body.  My daughter looks younger than her age, her friend does not.  Young teenaged girls.  Of course she’s attractive.  I shook my head, said “no,” and we kept walking.  This man–was he drunk?–kept on, calling after us and followed.  For the record, he was not a young man.  Definitely old enough to know better than to make these types of comments to a girl who could easily have been his daughter.  I understand, putting to the side the misogyny of catcalling, when it comes to girls this age, it’s easy to think they’re older, especially if you aren’t looking at their faces. I turned back and said very clearly, “she’s underaged, back off.”  Would you believe he kept going, commenting and following a bit more?  Of course you believe it, if you’re a female between the ages of oh, say, 10 and 100.  Was he delusional?  I offered him a couple more words and we kept going.  Why did I keep going? Because the girls were creeped out and frightened, and I wasn’t sure if this girl’s mother would be okay hearing about a confrontation afterwards.  If I stopped, I was going to get loud.  It’s a balance and a judgement call. Sometimes it’s good for young people to see adults doing the right thing, standing up for them and themselves.  Other times (when the option is there) it’s better to cool off a bit and deal with situations without young people present.

So I don’t know if this guy was drunk, delusional, or bitter about sweating his balls off in 90° heat.  What I do know is that he was confused if he thought this would pass without incident.  This morning I had a nice chat with the site manager/foreman, who was responsive, respectful, and took me quite seriously.

a)The word “underaged” holds more than a bit of power. Those 9 letters contain many implications; ethical, moral, and legal.

b) Site workers and managers pay very close attention when you stop and speak.  If you’re blocking the pass through, several workers have to stop what they’re doing.  Time is money after all.

Women, we don’t have to tolerate predatory behavior, and we shouldn’t.

Moral of the day:  Most annoyances can and should be ignored, some should be addressed head on.  Oh yeah, and don’t fuck with Mrs Fringe.

*I reference “guys” because while I do/have occasionally seen women working on construction sites, it’s still a field dominated by men–and I’ve yet to hear a female construction worker catcalling.

Those Moments

Quintessential Guggenheim

Quintessential Guggenheim

The NYC public schools were closed this past week for the February break.  I’m cursing this break when school is still in session at the end of June, but in the moment?  Yeeees, so necessary.  For the most part, the girl and I spent the week resting and ate half-priced-post-Valentine’s Day chocolate.  But yesterday morning Husband needed to get new glasses, so Art Child and I went with him to help pick frames.  Since we were going to be on the east side anyway, I figured it was a good day to hit a museum.

The Upper East side has been (marginally) more resistant to change than most other residential neighborhoods in Manhattan, so there are still a few old gems left to wrap me in the nostalgia of remember when.  Like this one.

Almost makes me wish I liked egg creams.

Almost makes me wish I liked egg creams.

Art Child and I said goodbye to Husband, I grabbed my camera, she grabbed her sketchbook, and off we went.  The Guggenheim isn’t one of the museums we visit regularly, it is not one of the suggested donation institutions.  Those types of museums can quickly blow a week’s budget.  Eat before we go.  No, we aren’t buying anything in the gift shop!  No, we can’t go again before the installation leaves. The saving grace is that flat admission price doesn’t exclude any of the temporary exhibitions.  If you’ve never been, the building itself is well worth a visit.  All curves, you spiral your way up a continuing ramp to see what’s on display.  Certain floors branch off to more permanent exhibits and/or smaller installments.

Every time I go I think of being there with Man Child when he was a little guy, an installation of motorcycles.  Very cool, even if I still don’t understand why they were there.  Mostly I think of it because Nerd Child was an infant.  They didn’t allow strollers/carriages along the ramps, and Nerd Child was a champion puker–one of those babies where every spit up looked like an audition for The Exorcist– so Husband and I took turns carrying him while zig-zagging around the bikes.

The current primary exhibition is a retrospective, a collaborative effort from Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss that spans over thirty years, “How to Work Better.”  Huge, the sheer number of sculptures, photographs, videos, and instillations left me overwhelmed at times.  Art Child tells me I’m supposed to be.  Some of it I really liked, some not so much.  The first thing you see is the costumes the artists wore while making their films THE POINT OF LEAST RESISTANCE and THE RIGHT WAY.  umm, ok.  I didn’t take a ton of photos, I was busy trying to understand what I was seeing, but I’m glad we went.

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Here's where I love the tourists, they remember the views over the park are part of the intended experience.

Here’s where I love the tourists, they remember the views over the park are part of the intended experience.

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In the Thannhauser Gallery there are an assortment of paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cèzanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others.  Regardless of what else is on exhibit, whether it’s something I enjoy, understand or not, I’m moved and satisfied sitting in that gallery.  I love Picasso, his paintings, his etchings, his sculptures.  Not all of his work, he starts to lose me with swaths of his Cubist period.  Does that mean I’m déclassé?  Maybe just a peasant.  That’s ok, I don’t mind.

One of my favorite paintings is there now.  Sorry, I must have knocked the dial on the camera right before I took this photo, it’s way too yellow.

 

Woman Ironing, by Pablo Picasso.  Can I say it again? I love this painting.  From his Blue Period, there’s something about it that has always drawn me in.  I don’t remember the where (pretty sure it wasn’t the Guggenheim) or when (I was a child, for certain) I first saw it, but I will never be tired of this woman.  When I hear people refer to a work of art speaking to them, this is one of the paintings that comes to the forefront of my mind.  Maybe I always knew I was destined for drudgery.  And scoliosis.  And shadows.  Take a closer look with me, the shadow along her neck is delicious, makes me shiver.

Everything you can't see in her eyes, but see in her curves and angles.

Everything you can’t see in her eyes, but see in her curves and angles.

This was the first piece of the day that Art Child chose to sit and sketch.  I can’t say what I enjoyed most, being able to sit down and enjoy the Ironing Woman, the girl sitting at the end of the bench and sketching her, or the museum visitors stopping to watch her sketch for longer than they looked at the painting in question.  Perfect moment.

After we had moved on, and were back to Fischli and Weiss, I felt my phone buzz.  A text from Nerd Child, frustrated and disappointed about a lost opportunity.  No fault of his own, one of those life-happens things. Still, I’m a mom, which means through the life experience that enables me to understand the whys, hows, and frequencies of disappointments, my heart aches for each of my kiddos, every time they’re faced with one.  In the middle of the gazillion clay sculptures I happened to be standing in front of a representation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot.  I walked past the donkey to the inner wall of the museum and looked down.

Something had clicked for me, and the artists’  spent Rat and Bear costumes lying on the lobby platform made sense. Trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t, philosophical questions that don’t have a right answer–or any answer at all, dreaming about success.  Yeah, these are the things we need to do, to experience, the questions we need to ask.  These are the moments we need, perfect or otherwise.

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Nesting

This pair has been hanging out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

This pair hung out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

The crows seem to enjoy today’s fine flurries.  They stuck around, cawing and calling and circling until the flurries stopped.

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It’s that time.  That time of year, when I start thinking about how nice it would be to get away by myself.  Still haven’t done it (not since I had children, anyway), but I think about it.  A little while ago I even looked up writer’s retreats for 2016.  They lose their appeal after about 3 minutes of web surfing.  Wooded settings, steep price tags, set meal times, and evening conversations with strangers.  Feel me shuddering through the keyboard?  Creating my own retreat, though, that would be lovely.  Just a few days.  Coffee, tea, salad, and Cheetos should cover all the necessary meals/food groups.  Maybe some salt and vinegar chips.  On a beach, because if I were to be overcome by the glory of uninterrupted alone-time and therefore not get any writing done, I’d still be happy.

It’s also that time when I’m thinking about writing.  A lot.  I know myself, what it means when I can’t stop thinking about a poem, a photograph, a song…and I know what’s next; obsession with the next manuscript.  You know when you hear women talk about nesting in the later stages of pregnancy? I never did that.  I do it before getting serious about a manuscript.  Why? I dunno.  It isn’t like baking or being caught up on laundry and grocery shopping beforehand makes a damned bit of difference by the time I’m a month in, but I do it anyway.  Feels like dropping down to a low gear in order to drive up a steep hill without stalling or getting caught at the red light at the top.  Not that it works, life provides red lights with regularity, and god knows I stall out all. the. time. while I’m writing, but that’s what it feels like for the moment.

So I’ve been thinking about Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody.”  I always loved this one, no matter how many times I’ve heard and read it.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? 
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one’s name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
 
I’ve never been Somebody, from my vantage it seems like there’s power in it.  But there’s freedom in being Nobody, do you think?  Maybe not, maybe it’s just one of the not-so-little lies we tell ourselves, along the lines of poor-but-happy.
A few weeks ago I took this photo on one of the (thankfully) few bitter cold days we’ve had this winter.
Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

The flowers, this photo, a complete story by itself.  But which one?  My first thought for a caption was something like, “Screw you and your cheap-ass bodega flowers!” Such a frigid morning though, maybe they dropped from fingers so numb the person carrying them didn’t realize they lost them until they were fumbling for their Metrocard two blocks later.  The neighborhood where I took this shot is a busy one, home to a large social security office, a few social service agencies, and several thrift stores. Maybe they fell from the cart of someone’s wheelchair, or the little basket that sits across the top of a walker.  Maybe they were dropped as someone late for a date grabbed the first available cab they’d seen in twenty minutes, or maybe, maybe, maybe.  So many possibilities, and those are just a few of the more mundane ones.
I stopped halfway through putting this post together to go pick up the girl.  In Grand Central, when you walk through the tunnel connecting the tracks for the shuttle and the 4/5/6, there are several abandoned “windows.”  I can’t remember if there used to be stores behind them, or what they were originally for, but now they’re lit empty boxes, good for backlighting the various street performers and religious groups that stop in front of them. Today I was walking past and saw this.
MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

Clandestine spy code?  Pre-arranged tableau signaling the all clear for a passionate liaison between an engineer and a station inspector?  I think, if I were writing this into a manuscript, I’d have to add a crow.