PRIVILEGE

Kenedy

I voted in a presidential election for the second time in my life yesterday. The guy at the door to the school across the street from my home smiled, and people I’d never seen in my life nodded and said good morning as we passed each other on the stairs.
I ended up standing in line behind one of my downstairs neighbors, a fifty-ish woman who lives alone with her two small dogs and sometimes plays music too loud. She had her two dogs, a white westy terrier and a pug with her. I heard so many people ask if they the dogs voting also that I lost count.
I felt privileged to be voting, I became a citizen in January 2009 and I missed voting for President Obama the first time. That’s whom I voted for in 2012. When I got my ballot yesterday and looked around at my neighbors, black, white, Hispanic and Asian, it made my eyes well up. I felt like a real American, despite the fact that I’ve lived in this country for the past 60 years. I hadn’t expected to feel so emotional about it, but I did.
I am a Mexican American, and when I heard Donald Trump’s first speech, the day he announced his candidacy I was revolted by his assertion that Mexicans are murderers and rapists.
It turned my stomach years ago when I would read about his public feuding with Rosie O’Donnell, I wondered just what kind of a grown-up man would resort to the kind of taunting you hear in a schoolyard when you are 11 or 12. Apparently men like Donald Trump. Thinking of him as president was a scary thing to me, and I did my part by voting for Hillary Clinton.

voted
I watched with dismay last night as the numbers started to flash on the screen, with the sinking realization that Mr. Trump was winning, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
He won by appealing to the base fear of the middle of the country, and it was plain to see by the map of blue and red by how the middle of the country was uniformly red, Colorado being notably the only blue state not on either coast.
I often wondered during the campaign how people could be so totally ignorant, so incredibly close-minded, but I had only to remember my days in the army when I was stationed in Ft. Bragg, N.C. and got to know soldiers from the Deep South and the middle of the country.
I was fascinated by their universal lack of education and general ignorance of the world around them. I was further fascinated by their concrete convictions about their view of the world; there was no room for dissent or new ideas. I have to say I was involved in a lot of arguments during my time on Ft. Bragg; sometimes we almost came to blows. That was scary enough and I was glad to be going home to New York when my time was up.
I watched in amusement this morning as the story about the Canadian Immigration website crashing because so many Americans were looking to see what it would take to do so.
During the 2000 election I was working as a doorman in a building on the Upper West Side, a place famous for being a bastion of New York liberal thought, a place that George Bush had little chance of winning.
There was a tenant, a really outspoken super-liberal who in actuality was a narcissist in the mold of Mr. trump, except form the other side of the political spectrum. I’ll call her Donna.
She boasted to anyone who would listen that if Bush won she was moving to France.
She did move out after the election, I didn’t know or care where to- I was just happy not to have to listen to her anymore. I was walking through Greenwich Village one day a few months later when I spotted Donna walking her beagle up Greenwich Street. I wanted to run up behind her and ask, “How do you like France, Donna?” I’m a wise guy at times. But I though the better of it, if I had belittled her I’d be just like her. She was of the opinion that all doormen were stupid.
I want to say to these people who are thinking of running away, what would that solve, except to sooth your own ego?
The work has to be done here. As a nation we must improve our education system, we have to show our citizens that we are all the same inside, with the same hopes, dreams, and aspirations, no mater what our skin color or country of origin is. Immigrants come here for a better life, they want to become Americans. They want to fit in, grow and help build a stronger democracy.
It will take time and work, and a lot of discomfort and dissatisfaction, but the only way to bring about change is to stay and work for that change, not run away from the bully. The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him, and the Americans that care have to start standing up. Let’s make sure Mr. Trump is a one-term president. We can do it. It’s our privilege.

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SAY HELLO (Gentrification)

 

nyt

I live in Hamilton Heights. That’s in Harlem, on 152nd Street. My wife and I have lived here for two years, we just signed our third lease, and our rent was bumped up another $75 a month. It could be worse; I’m reminded on occasion.
I do the laundry every Saturday in the laundry down the block, on the corner of Broadway and my block, across Broadway.
When we first moved in there was only one New York Times laying on a stoop down the block every Saturday. I notice things like that, because there was a time where I would have helped myself to a free paper, or at least the magazine, which has the crossword in it. After all, a Sunday Times is five bucks, and that’s a lot for just the crossword. It would be like buying an album for the only one good song on it in the old days. But I don’t do either anymore.
But I still notice the paper sitting in front of the building, and soon after moving in there were two papers.
Today there was a third. More New York Times deliveries mean more white people, which mean gentrification.

nyt & ads
When I first moved in I had to visit seven different bodegas until I found one that carries the New York Times. They only get five copies a day, compared with twenty or so Posts and News.
You might wonder why I don’t just subscribe, that’s something I’ve done before. But aside from getting my paper stolen I only do the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday crosswords, the other days are just too easy. And as I mentioned before, the price of the Sunday paper is just too dammed high.
But the point isn’t the price of the paper, or the paper itself, it’s young white professionals (or unprofessionals, whichever the case may be) moving in to a primarily Black and Dominican neighborhood.
In my building the mix is close to 50-50 right now. Old person of color resident dies or moves out, young white person moves in.
The thing about most of the new white tenants is that they don’t say hello. Or even acknowledge any of the other tenants, not even each other.
I know this is New York, the land of mind your own business, but the Black community in particular up here is pretty tight knit, and most people say hello and good morning. When people smile at me and say hello and good morning, or at least look me in the eye, I respond in kind.
Danusia is great at it; she has such an effervescent personality that she just exudes charm and kindness. She says hello to the trees. I swear.
I’ve learnt a lot of things from her, and being nice and acknowledging your neighbors is one of them. She actually knows peoples names.
I’m working on it.
A friend of mine, a white friend but one that is closer to my age was looking at an apartment for her twenty-something daughter over on Edgecombe Avenue last month, and she related this little story to me.
She passed an African American couple whom were sitting on the stoop on her way up to look at the apartment, they were just sitting there chatting. They were in their thirties.
After looking at the apartment, she came back down and said hi to the couple.
“Excuse me, do you live here? Can you tell me a little about the building? Do you like it?” She said the couple stared at her for a second before the man answered.
“You know, lady, white people that move in here don’t even talk to me. You’re the first white person to come in here to even look at me. New people move in, and they make believe we don’t exist. So when I see one of them getting mugged on the corner, I make believe they don’t exist.”
A sobering observation indeed.

bird tree

All the birds on my block seem to favor these two trees. Just about all of the noise is concentrated here. Sounds like hundreds of birds. They all seem to get along.

I know most young white people that move up here are afraid, and the fear makes them wary. But it can also make them a target. And believe me, the only way to become a part of a community, and to enjoy the benefits of being a part is to acknowledge your neighbors.
Resentment is a powerful thing, and you cannot control when someone choses to resent you for some unnamed reason, but you can at least give them less reason to do so if you say hello. If you look people in the eye and not just at the ground in front of you. And don’t forget to smile.

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HOMECOMING

Mike's

Last week I went back to the Pratt Institute campus for the first time in a few years. After losing the job I had there in 1977 I didn’t go back until a couple of years ago, in 2013 to get my transcripts. I had a vague idea of finally getting my degree. It’s still a little vague.
I went to Pratt, I started in 1972 and was supposed to graduate in ’76, but something in my head went awry and I couldn’t quite finesse it. I did however; work there for a little under two years, for a company called RBH Audio. They were a small company that had the contract to manage Pratt’s audio-visual equipment and the auditorium, Memorial Hall.
I signed out slide projectors, cassette recorders, and other A/V equipment to students. I made their ID cards at registration time. I opened Memorial Hall for events and projected movies on the weekends at the Hall.

memorial hall 2

And then we were swallowed up by the film department’s new chairman.
It was a turbulent time in my life, and losing the job at Pratt was the least of my worries.
Besides working there, the Pratt campus was the setting for my first real relationship with a girl, we met on campus as teenagers and used the grassy, bush secluded areas of the campus at night for furtive teenaged necking.
And last week I was back to look on the scene of so many memories, dating to the mid ‘60s, when my mother would take me and my siblings for walks through the grass, and as an adolescent I would climb the fence surrounding the Pratt ball field and play football on real grass until the guards came to chase us out. I could do all of this because I grew up in the Lafayette Gardens houses, catty-corner to the Pratt campus.
The ball field is covered over by what’s known as the ARC building now. It was actually built when I was there in 1974 and the basement became the new home of the Film Department. I was a Film major at the time.
Mike’s Coffee shop is still open on Hall Street, though I’m pretty sure Mike the Greek is no longer around. If you were a regular he would let you run a tab until it got too big, then he’d cut you off. That happened to me; and a friend actually paid my bill so we could have coffee together at Mike’s. I was afraid to go in lest he asked me for his money.
The campus was a pretty dreary place in the ‘70s, just like the rest of New York. The grass was brown and the macadam pathways needed work.
Now it’s a vibrant green space with sculptures all over the place, and that’s what brought me back to the campus.
I’ve been given the task of repairing a collection of copper and brass sculptures made my friend Joyce’s late father, Sal Romano.
There are six pieces in various states of disrepair, mostly failed solder joins. The pieces are basically boxes in various shapes and dimensions made up of many pieces of copper and brass sheet metal shapes bound together by solder and in some cases screws.
One of the pieces looks downright vandalized, weather and time couldn’t bend the metal the way it’s been bent.

Damage 2

It seemed a daunting task, with so many small pieces to be first cleaned of the old solders and then re-soldered, and pieces that need to be bent back into shape.
But once I got into the swing of it it’s not too bad, just tedious.
The biggest piece, a six by six foot square that must weigh 300 pounds is pretty intact, save for some kind of wild berry bushes growing inside of it. I’ve been instructed to remove the bushes by Jacques, my Pratt liaison. I think I’m going to need a little help with that.
If I had my druthers, I’d leave it, it’s quite beautiful to see nature’s attempt at spacial reclamation.

bush

Of course the first thing I have to do when I reach the campus is head to the bathroom, if you are a regular reader of this blog you know all about my recent surgery and my prostate problems. If not, I have BPH and need to pee often.
So when I get there I pass the cannon at the main entrance, walk up the path to the Main building on Willoughby Avenue where the bathroom is.
I pass by the flagpole where I would meet the teenaged girlfriend every evening those many years ago, and on entering the Main building I pass the door of our old RBH Audio office, just inside the front doors. There is some kind of music class in there now.

flagpole

I also pass Memorial Hall, a place I once had the keys to and considered my own personal fiefdom at the age of 23. I would actually hang out in the projection booth by myself and watch 16mm movies. Sometimes I would invite a girl.
And now all I can do is walk by and remember. It certainly is a Memorial Hall to me.

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ALMOST NORMAL (Not for the squeamish)

blood

The first time I bled was almost two months ago when we spent a weekend at my friend Ezra’s cottage in Rockaway Beach. I’d forgotten my Surgilube™, and inserted the catheter the doctor had told me to use dry. The next morning when I peed I bled. It was very disheartening.
The blood stopped the next day, and I forgot about it.
Later that week I had a Cystoscopy, where the good doctor inserted a camera through my penis to “Have a look around.” It’s always fascinating to look at the inside of my body. He showed me the two little holes in the bladder that lead to the kidneys.
“Here’s the left one, here’s the right one.” OK, doctor.
So I started bleeding A LOT a few days later, due to the damage done by the Cystoscopy.
“Sorry about that,” the doctor offered when I went to talk to him about the upcoming operation.
It’s called a TURP, where a little rotary type tool is inserted into the prostate to remove “material,” opening up the urethra more for a better flow, which was my problem. Poor flow, not emptying my bladder, etc., all the symptoms of BPH.
I had the operation on August 15th, just about a month ago.
It was a great success; I was surprised at the improvement of the flow.
There was blood; of course, my urine was a deep pink right after the operation.
I was advised to take it easy for a couple of weeks, no work, no sex, no heavy lifting.
I felt fine, I though I could lift whatever weight I usually lift. I felt stupid when we went to Maine and Danusia insisted on carrying our suitcases down the stairs, and when our host Charlene insisted on carrying them up the stairs at their home.
I did some work when we got back from Maine, after all I was let go from my job just days before my operation and I have bills to pay, so I did some free-lance handyman work. I didn’t think it was too strenuous, some sanding and painting. Re-plastering a big hole in a ceiling. Nothing extreme.
The blood would stop and the blood would start again the next day.
After having sex for the first time after waiting two weeks something changed, it was as if I hadn’t had the operation at all.
My flow was weak again, and my bladder wasn’t holding much. I had the urge to go almost constantly. Blood one day, gone the next.
That all changed last Wednesday.
I had painted a friend’s ceiling, and I don’t consider painting a big strain. But while I was there, I used the toilet before I left and bled real red blood. Not pink, but bright red almost pure blood. I hoped for the best and went to Fairway to pick up some groceries on my way home.
I was alone, Danusia had gone to a MOTH Mainstage and drinks after.
I made dinner, ate, and watched TV.
I went to the bathroom around 9 for the first time since I’d gone when I got home at 7, when the pee was pretty clear and I’d already forgotten about the earlier blood incident.
This time there was a tremendous flow, like a dam had burst, but it was thick, red blood, with a lot of solid clots coming out.
Now I was afraid. Nothing like the sight of blood leaving your body to scare you.
I cleaned up the toilet and drank a big glass of water. I figured I had to flush out.
All this time I was wondering what was happening inside, how does an inner injury heal? Would there be a scab? Swelling?
I kept imagining that I was bleeding to death inside.
Ten minutes later I got a really intense pain in my groin, and when I tried to pee I could only squeeze out a thick, solid blood clot and that was it. I was totally blocked.
I got dressed and called 911. I texted Danusia I was on my way to the hospital.
The EMTs got there in about 10 minutes, and by that time I was doubled up from the constant pain. I was sweating and shaking.
I was able to walk, and I figured we’d get down faster if I walked, so we got down to the ambulance.
It took a little while for the guy to check my ID and get the go ahead to take me to the VA Hospital emergency room.
“We’re good to go,” he announced to his partner who was driving.
It was a 20 –minute trip down to 23rd street, and I didn’t even get the siren.
When we got to the emergency room it didn’t seem very busy, but a nurse announced I should have a seat because they were busy.
“Where’s the bathroom!” I managed to croak out. The nurse pointed and I ran.
“Wait!” The EMT guy said. “They might want a specimen.”
They did and the nurse handed me a specimen bottle.
I went into the bathroom and managed to squeeze and ounce of pure blood into their specimen bottle.
“Where do I put this?” I asked approaching the nurse’s station. Her eyes got really wide when she saw it.
“OK, let’s get him inside,” she said. There’s nothing like blood to galvanize people into action.
She tried to insert a catheter, but the blood was so thick it clogged up.
The urologist on call showed up and took over.
He started to pump me out, shooting saline solution into the bladder and drawing it out through the catheter. After a half hour and 5000 MLs, he announced he was going to have to admit me.
By then Danusia had shown up.
He’d inserted a drain bag, and he’d gotten out enough of the clots that the pain was beginning to subside.
“The team will see you in the morning.”
I lay in the emergency room for another hour as the arrangements were made. I told Danusia she should go around 1 AM.
It was a rough night, every time the drain bag filled up it would back up and start the intense pain again. I slept for 5 intermittent hours.
The Team came in the morning and started an irrigation drip.
The team consisted of Dr. Katz, the guy who’d done the Cystoscopy, Dr. Syan, a woman I’d only spoken to on the phone before, and the redheaded hipster doctor who’d done the actual TURP. There was a young doctor I’d never seen before that just watched.
The irrigation did not work, and when they came back on afternoon rounds I was flushed out again, enduring almost unbearable pain. Dr. Katz got the honors as Dr. Syan filled the syringes with saline and emptied them.
“You’re doing great,” Dr. Katz would say every time I let out a strangled groan while writhing in pain, gripping the bed frame with all my might. That was what Dr. Mung had said the night before in the emergency room. I figured they were taught that, like I was taught in the army that you told a guy he was going to be OK when administering first aid even if you knew he was a goner.
After 15 minutes the blood stopped.
Lucky for me the flow remained clear until the next day, when the team arrived to announce that if stayed clear I could go home in the afternoon.
A couple of people came to see me, Ezra, Jenny, a woman named Karen I know that works at the hospital. Danusia, of course. As luck would have it I was alone, I didn’t have to deal with the guy I had after the operation who couldn’t make a sentence without using the word “fuck” at least twice.
The team arrived sometime around four.
“It looks good.” Dr. Syan announced. Dr. Syan is a very pretty Indian woman in her late 20s. They were all kids.
“You feel like going home?” Dr. Katz asked.
“You bet your ass I do,” I said.
“You can go, but you have to leave the catheter in.” Dr. Syan announced.
This had been an issue after the operation; they wanted me to wear an indwelling catheter and a collection bag for a few days. I wasn’t going up on stage in Maine wearing a collection bag. I had a wedding to go to on Saturday, but there’ll be other weddings.
“OK.” I said. Dr. Me in gown smiled a triumphant little smile.
“Come back Monday and we’ll take it out.”
I can’t wait for tomorrow, Monday.

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FAHR’N FAHR’N FAHR’N

kraftwerk-12-3-2013

One thing I didn’t mention in my Maine blog post was that I was able to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time as a licensed driver.
When we went out to Enterprise near LaGuardia airport I was really excited to take my wallet out, extract my DRIVER LICENSE and gently (and sort of ceremoniously) lay it down on the counter with a satisfying little snap in front of Tyrell, the young man who was handling our rental.
There were a bunch of people, mostly couples who had taken the Enterprise free shuttle from the terminals looking to rent cars, but Tyrell informed them that if they didn’t have a reservation they weren’t getting a car.
We of course had a reservation made from the comfort of our Harlem apartment.

maine

We got a car with Maine plates already! Sorry about the finger.

We left the next day, Friday. We picked up Danusia’s niece Kasia and her husband Charles, and stopped off at the enterprise on Thompson Street to add Charles as a driver. And then we were off.
Danusia took us out of the city and through most of Connecticut, where we stopped for lunch and then Charles took over. That made sense, since we were going to Charles’ childhood home and he certainly knew the way better than any of us. It was a ten-hour drive including lunch and a few rest stops.

horse

Horse with buttplug somewhere in New Hampshire.

I finally got to go behind the wheel the next morning with a trip to downtown Cornish for bagels and bananas. I can’t live without my morning banana. The bagel was in lieu of my regular oatmeal-almond-chia ginger superfood breakfast.
We got eggs and salmon too.

old car

Not our car. But nice, huh?

It was pretty easy, Charles had given us directions, and since there is only one main road the only question is where to turn on our way back.
The speed limit was low, 25 in town and 40 on the other roads, and traffic was not too bad. We found the shopping center with ease and I made my first across a lane turn. I parked in-between the painted lines in the lot. We got our groceries and I pulled out into traffic nicely and headed home.
“Just tell me when to turn,” I said to Danusia. I’m usually the navigator, now it was her turn. We missed the turn. I wanted to do a U-turn, or a three-point turn, but there was too much traffic. I found a motel and pulled in so I could turn around.
My signal was on, I was looking both ways, and when the time was right, I stepped on the gas. A little too hard, I guess; because the car suddenly shot forward and fishtailed a bit before I got it turned onto the proper lane and headed home. I was partially on dirt and partially on macadam; I think that was the problem.
“Oh my god! What are you doing?” Danusia shouted. I had scared the shit out of my wife for the first time.
“It’s ok, relax,” I said as I found the right turn and headed back to the house.
The next day I drove with Charles, who took my unconventional driving skills in stride.
I managed to scare Danusia again the next day when we went for cider apple doughnuts only to find out it was a sign telling you the cider apple doughnuts were 2 miles down the road.
The day we left I got to drive us to the apple cider doughnut place, and even got to swerve around some foreign object on the road I thought was an animal.
It’s a little disconcerting driving on winding roads where you’re not sure what’s around the next bend.

apple cider
After the doughnuts Charles took us out of Maine and through New Hampshire. Drove pretty much most of the way back to New York.
We had the car for a couple of more days, Danusia got a great deal for a week.
I suggested we drive out to my friend Ezra’s cottage in the Rockaways for the night, and go to the beach on Wednesday before returning the car. We could drive across the Van Wyck and take the bus to Manhattan from there.
But first, when we retrieved the car from the lot we’d left it in Monday night, I wanted to drive to Fairway on 133rd Street. I got down there ok, but when we got to the store a one-way sign confused me. I thought I could go around from the street I was on, but then Danusia asked, “Do you really want to get on the Henry Hudson?” And I was suddenly on the Henry Hudson. The dreaded highway. With Danusia’s guidance, and I’m grateful she didn’t start yelling when I made the mistake, I drove to the first exit, 158th street. Back to square one.
I got off the exit a little too fast, and driving up 158th Street I hit a really big pothole that shook the car and caused Danusia to yell again.
“That’s it! Get out of the car, I’m driving.” I pulled over and we switched seats.

beach

I wanted to take the car to the Riis park parking lot and tear around in it at night when it’s empty like I did with Ezra last year. But we got to the cottage too late and just ate and went to bed.
I was psyched to be driving to the beach the next day, and did pretty good until I almost ate a light on the Shore parkway.
“Red light! Red light! Red light!” I checked in the mirror to see if there was anyone close before giving the brake a steady push. I managed to stop before the second crosswalk line.
Then I was confronted with the Marine Park Bridge, but this time I made sure I didn’t get on by accident.
We didn’t want to pay the $10 to park at Riis, so we drove around till we found a spot on Beach 141st Street.
After the beach I drove us back to the cottage, and managed to park in the driveway without hitting anything.
I can’t wait till we rent another car.

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THE CALL OF THE CHEESE

cheese

A couple of months ago I noticed my Friends Jenny and Ezra had lost some weight. Not that they were over weight, but age tends to thicken us up and Jenny and Ezra are no exception, to those of us of a certain age.
I am no exception either, and even though I can still squeeze into my last remaining piece of army uniform, a fatigue shirt, the operative word is squeeze…
It’s a constant struggle for me, but as one who once topped the scales at 287 pounds on a 5’9” frame I’m grateful not to break 200 pounds any day.
I did get down to 170 about 16 years ago, but that was what I called “the divorce diet,” which meant I’d lost my appetite (at least for a while) and simply stopped eating.
But things got better and I worked at dealing with my emotions and gradually the weight has crept back up. About four years ago I went up to 207 pounds and started to panic. My pants did not fit and I was on the verge of going back up a size.
I cut out my favorite snack, peanut butter and raisins. I cut back on the second favorite, hummus and Xochil corn chips, which I had every day when I got home from work. I started exercising vigorously again, well as vigorous as a 58 year old can get, and I got to 189. My goal was 180, because 170 was just plain undoable unless I stopped eating altogether yet again.
So for the last four years I go from 190 to 195 and back, much to my frustration.
When I saw Jenny and Ezra and their probably 10 pound weight loss, I asked how they did it.
“We cut out the dairy. No cheese, no milk.”
I put half and half in my coffee every morning, but that’s like a few drops (I like my coffee dark) less than an ounce a day. I use 2% milk in my cereal that I have for breakfast every morning, so that’s not a big deal.
The big deal is CHEESE.

woodpecker

Even birds like fat.

I love cheese; I can just sit back and munch on an 8 oz. bar of sharp cheddar any minute of the day, especially in front of the TV.
Then of course there’s gouda, mozzarella with basil and tomatoes, pepper jack on a refried bean sandwich, (I make the best refries…) red Leicester on anything, cheeseburgers, you get the idea.
Speaking of cheeseburgers, after that weigh in four years ago and after a co-worker referred to me as “chubby,” I stopped having meat with every meal.
Sometimes I don’t have any meat at all. (Including fish.)
That helped, I noticed a difference right away.
But the cheese remained the same.
I also started this thing four years ago of drinking hot apple cider vinegar (diluted of course) every morning. Eating raw sauerkraut. Cutting out gluten.
The hot apple vinegar was too much of a pain in the ass, so I cut that out. But I love raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut. I eat it with a fork out of its container sometimes. The gluten is a tough one, bread comes into our lives in varying degrees from time to time.
Being in the hospital a couple of weeks ago was an interesting experience, I’m getting the guts up to write about that- I’m going to have to call it “Not For The Squeamish” or something like that, brought forth a few facts about the state of my health.
I was diabetic those many years ago when I topped the scales at 287; at one point my blood sugar was 600. The doctor said he had no idea how I was walking around.
Two Tuesdays ago, while I lay in the hospital bed waiting for the doctor to remove my catheter a nurse came in to measure my blood sugar. It was 87.
“87! That’s too low,” she declared. She left the room and came back with a small carton of orange juice.
“Drink this,” she said.
Once, during that summer of 2000 when I stopped eating I measured my blood sugar and it was 50. No wonder I felt dizzy.
My blood pressure was low as well. Normally my BP is 110/70, and that’s low for a 62-year-old man. A friend who is a nurse once took my BP for fun and said I had the blood pressure of a 19-year old. That was heartening.
So even though my prostate is enlarged and I weigh more than I’d like, I’m in pretty good health. So I’m grateful for that.
I told Danusia about Jenny and Ezra and the cheese, and I’ll have to say Danusia loves her cheese too. But she’s game to give it a try.
We went to Maine last week, and our Hosts, the Lovely Charlene and her husband John don’t eat meat, so that was taken care of. There was haddock and lobster though. And cheese, though not necessarily together.
The cheese was in the eggs we had for breakfast, so we cheated on the cheese restriction. It was wonderful.

bee and egg

And speaking of gluten, one cannot go to Maine and not enjoy an apple cider doughnut.

apple cider

It takes work not to let myself go, and sometimes I resent it.
I resent it when I feel the pain of doing crunches and push-ups in the morning. I resent it when a wonderful piece of cheese is on sale at Whole Foods.
I was in Whole Foods the other day when they put out free samples of their “in-house” pizza.
That was wonderful too.
I guess it’s all about moderation, and moderation is not an easy thing to stick to.
But I’ll keep trying, and I’ll stick to the occasional free sample to satisfy my cheese craving.

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FRIENDLY RIVER MUSIC

music store

It was in the planning stages for almost two years, our trip to Maine.
We were invited almost two years ago by Charles’ mother Charlene to come up and tell stories.
More specifically, she wanted Danusia to do her one woman show, Wonderbread, but Danusia said that Wonderbread has run it’s life and it’s time to move on.
Drawing from her MOTH experience Danusia re-wrote the whole thing, or rather wrote a whole new piece sans props, prompts, and acting. She boiled it down to raw storytelling.
Charles’ dad passed away last year, just days before we were to leave for Maine.
That event led to the postponement of the show. I was supposed to tell a story as well, the nominal opening act.
We had a year to work on it, and Danusia worked very hard at it. She had an hour to fill. I had ten, fifteen minutes at the most, so I didn’t really need a lot of rehearsal.
Charles Hall is Danusia’s niece Kasia’s husband, so he is sort of my nephew-in-law.
Our first night there, Charlene, the matriarch of the Hall clan declared us in-laws; more specifically Danusia is a sister-in law. I guess I’m in there somewhere, honorary Yankee for a day. Or two.

Charlene and Charles

The beautiful Charlene and son Charles, my faux-nephew.

The Friendly River Music Barn is normally a music venue, but Charlene wanted to try something new after hearing about what a wonderfully engaging performer Danusia is. She’d heard about me from Charles, who has seen me do the Moth and a reading at the KGB bar on East 4th Street some years ago.
To round out the evening and not jar the regular clientele too much, there was a fellow named Sean and his daughter Hannah Lee to play some actual music on guitars.
They were very nice, standard sort of Rockabilly from Sean and folk-pop from Hannah Lee. They left right after their set because an early commitment the next day.

sean

Sean

After a short intermission where the guests drank beer, wine, and ate pies we were on.
Charlene had opened the evening, introducing everybody who was performing, but she told me after intermission it was up to me to bring Danusia on. She had mentioned we were from New York, but I got up on stage and did a bit on being a Brooklyn boy despite being born in Mexico. It went over really well.

me on stage
I was able to ad-lib and riff on the Maine audience without forgetting any of the lines in my two stories.
Then I introduced the star of the show, my lovely wife Danusia. She was great as always, but because I had to run the slide show from behind the screen, I didn’t get to watch her. That was our only concession to theatrics; projecting some images Danusia had picked on a screen behind us. Mine was of an old mug shot like picture, which was apropos since I was telling a crime story.
It was a lot of fun, Danusia was wonderful as always and the crowd was pleased.

d screen

The next day we kayaked down the Osipee River with Charles at the helm, leading the Hall-Trevino expedition.
The river was low and we had to drag the kayaks over rocks for a good bit of time. I also capsized at one point when I hit a big rock that turned me sideways just in time for Danusia’s niece Kasia to slam into me (she was in an inner tube blissfully unaware she was fast approaching me because she was looking backwards) sending me into the water and filling my kayak with water. Charles came to the rescue and we were able to right the kayak and empty the water out of it. I don’t know what I’d have done it I’d been alone.
Charles also had to rescue Danusia, who was wiped out by a low hanging branch. I managed to catch the branch before I suffered the same fate.

In all Charles’ prediction of a 2 and a half hour trip was half shy of the mark, I emerged from the water behind the barn five hours after we started, and twenty minutes before anyone else. I was exhausted. It didn’t affect my surgery at all, despite all of the fuss.
Charlene and her husband John were wonderful hosts, feeding us and giving us a spare room for the three nights we were there, as well as providing some stimulating conversation.
We’re looking forward to our next trip up.

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