Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Woodsman

This is the story of Mark, a drug addicted street hustler who goes from shop to shop trying to sell the stuff he's just stolen from another nearby shop.  The man is a walking disaster with a dyed blond head shaved at the sides and covered with tattoos.  His face has that weather worn, weary look to it, like a sea captain who spent years sailing the Baltic or some other northernmost body of water.  The shopkeepers disdain him, says he's no good and yet many of them buy from him.  I don't let him in the store because I don't want to do business with the street.  It's a disaster waiting to happen when you buy from the street.  Pretty soon you find items missing and what you've just acquired doesn't make up for the losses. 

The other day I watched Mark grab some old tree branches and drag them down the street and then proceed to strip off their dead leaves and whittle them with a jack knife into a sculpture that was placed inside a seatless chair.  It sits in front of a shop across the street, storefront decor. I am pleased when I see it, despite the bitching I hear from others about how awful it is and how it's a nuisance and a hazard to pedestrians. 

I saw him in another store today attempting to sell some hot jewelry, and I watched him walk away wearing a red and black wool lumberjack coat, urgency in his step.  I have dubbed him the woodsman.  And I secretly like him more than most of the other people I have encountered on this street.  Originally written 1/12

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let Hope Live

Originally written 10/09: If any event can be termed "thought provoking," yesterday's Arts Festival for "Let Hope Live," a foundation for the care of children with cancer might get such a fitting title.  The setting was pastoral, a family owned produce farm set on a ridge overlooking New England hills donned in fall apparel and fields of pumpkins in all directions.

I arrived before 10 a.m. with one jewelry case and one crate of nothing great, but more than anything, I just wanted a chance to hand out cards, promote my business and make a few bucks.

The women who were running the festival were beautiful Vikings.  Their long blonde hair flowed around faces hardened with the work of running a small business and they were stocky and strong from physical labor.  They ran large tractors as well as any male with the swiftness and surety that comes with growing up in the business.  And one of them had lost a child to cancer, which is why they had established the foundation.

At 11, nobody had driven up the hill to attend the festival.  There were about fifteen vendors besides me, set up and waiting patiently.  After 12:00, the wind grew more bitter as the dark clouds whipped by.  The tent behind me was picked up and stuffed animals flew everywhere.  Thankfully, having such a small set up allowed me to fly from the scene as quickly as the wind had kicked up.  I was extremely grateful for my gas guzzling beast when I was able to kick it in to four wheel drive and high tail it out of the mushy cornfield the organizers had asked me to park in after unloading.

I left the beautiful Viking women behind and considered the thirty dollars I spent a worthy cause for an all too real tragedy in many families that occurs all too commonly.  Let hope live.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pink Tea Roses

Sometimes, the most beautiful gifts are not readily apparent. The first spring in this house, I found a slip of a rose bush growing in the backyard. It had no blooms and was choked by weeds and tall grass. After careful weeding and some rose food, the little slip began to grow. I waited patiently for two years, nursing it diligently as the slip became a bush, but still no roses. Finally, on the third year, the bush began to bloom. It is now in its twenty-third year and has gone through several prunings, been cut in half by a mean neighbor on the other side of the fence and has survived severe freezes and droughts. Today, as I look out my bedroom window, I can see the roses opening again and I think of how lucky I was to have found it and how grateful I am for a gift that returns each year.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Type of Misunderstandings That Cause Wars

Yesterday, when I went for my morning run, it had just begun snowing and there was about an inch on the ground, so I decided to run the bike path because the snow cushions my feet and they don’t hurt as much.  As I was coming back from the halfway mark, a young man approached with his ipod.  He swung his arm out towards me and I could barely hear a woman’s voice singing some popular tune.  He looked at me and said “this one’s for you.”  My immediate reaction was to laugh because I thought he was making fun of me, but apparently that wasn’t his intent.  As I passed him he got angry and shouted “what’s so funny?”  He was obviously in an altered state either through drugs or a serious chemical imbalance.  It really frightened me and I ran a little faster, hoping he didn’t turn around, tackle and beat the shit out of me from behind.  Ah me, a creepy confrontation on the bike path.  Unfortunately, I laugh easily in the face of uncomfortable situations and I immediately think I’m the brunt of some joke when approached the way I was by the man.  I thought he was laughing at me, he thought I was laughing at him.  Misunderstandings like these have caused serious wars. Originally written sometime in the winter of 2011. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Follow Me, Follow Me

The refrain "follow me, follow me" has dragged through my head today and I spent time trying to remember where it came from.  I used to sing for an ensemble in college that played medieval music.  It's the beginning to one of those Old English ballads.  Anyway, follow me as I type this entry.  I went to a grand opening for an Italian restaurant last night.  Trish went through the same program I did to get the small business loan and launch her own venture.  It's a spin off from her mother's and she named the place after her grandmother.  I think I've watched too many movies about Italian lifestyles!  As I sat at the bar I suddenly felt I was in a scene from Goodfellas or A Bronx Tale.  I live on Goose Hill, which was built by Italians at the turn of the century.  They were the ones who helped develop the railroad and the Alco plant.

There were still a few left when I first moved into my neighborhood, but they have since died,  Mrs, Aldi, Mrs. Greno, and Tony (never knew his last name), were all wonderful neighbors.  Tony would trade me the peaches off his little tree in his front yard for some Romano tomatoes I had growing in the back yard. But I loved Mrs. Aldi the most.  She had a little garden next to mine and we used to exchange what we grew.  I'll never forget the time she came outside and tripped and fell down her front steps.  Her wig fell off and she lost a shoe.  I tried to help her but she said she was all right and ran back into her house tugging the wig over her sparse hairs, very embarrassed,  After that, the kids called her Mrs. Baldy and we laughed at her expense, poor thing.  Just before she was sent to a nursing home by her grand niece, I came to help her because she phoned to tell me she had fallen off a chair and couldn't get up (Yup, "I've fallen and I can't get up!")  I peered into her eyes as I lifted her and I saw death as clearly as I see the lines I am typing at this moment.  She smiled and said "you've been a good neighbor."  Soon after I visited her in her hospital room and brought her some flowers, which she loved and we said good-bye.  That was the last I saw of her.  I still miss her. 

Anyway, back to the party at the restaurant.  I thought there were few Italians left in the neighborhood, but they came out of the woodwork for this event.  Men with Romanesque noses and women with hardened, painted faces lined the bar.  And they were all throwing mounds of cash out on the bar to impress.  I was reminded of the scene in A Bronx Tale where "C" is trying to make his way through a crowd to get to Sonny, who is standing at the bar just before he gets shot.  I became a casual on-looker to the scenes playing out as I drank wine and enjoyed the Italian buffet.  Trish's cousin asked me if I wanted to get really bad and "go out in the car and kiss."  He was old and fat and I was so taken aback that I withdrew and then realizing the ridiculousness of the situation, told an old acquaintance and laughed.  She told him he was crazy, Trish's cousin or not.  There was a big shot who was buying drinks for everyone at the bar and unlike the mafia movies, a few black men stood in the crowd.  One was Trish's boyfriend, a tall man who sported dreadlocks and  another was a fantastic singer of Motown, who crooned at the karaoke stand.  I drank and ate too much and ended up going home and throwing it all up.  Still, it was worth it, if just for an offer to "kiss in the car." Originally written 2/12

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life

One thing I can honestly say about my life is that it's not boring and when it's on the verge of becoming mundane, something happens to spice it up whether I like it or not. I got a phone call from a woman a couple of days ago who is a secretary at my former employer and she is just finishing up the clean-out of her deceased parents' home. I agreed to see what was left, though the majority of it had already been sold or removed. She didn't want any money, just wanted me to take anything to relieve her of the burden of dumping it. Honestly, there wasn't much left, but I love Debbie and appreciate the fact that she thought of me. I taught her son English years earlier and the entire family was just a group of really nice, hard-working people.

Eventually, after listening to her tell me about her father's job as a cameraman for the local WRGB Channel 6 and her mother's love for making crafts, I walked away with a few lamps, a wonderful resin electric clock that had never been used from the 60s and a few other knick-knacks. I also found a very large piece of art in the cellar that had water damage on one end. It was dirty and despite the damage, a beautiful Mid-Century rendition of a Ming Tree. I have since cleaned it and minimized the damage. It hangs in the shop where people can gaze at and admire it.

These are the types of things I live for: rediscovering the beauty of lost art and rediscovering folks who smack of goodness and decency. It's a wonderful life!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Story of How the Partner Resurrected the Frog

We live close to a bike path and there is some wetland that surrounds the area as it is slightly less elevated than "Goose Hill."  When my son was young, he would pull on his black rubber wading boots and search for minnows, tadpoles, lizards, ribbon snakes and whatever else inhabited the marshy area on the other side of the asphalt path.  During the summer months our front porch became a menagerie of terrariums and aquariums where the boy housed these small creatures.  Eventually, after days of observation, he would set them free again.  One Sunday morning, he managed to capture a few adult frogs.  He carried them around and played with them, then put them on the front porch in an empty aquarium.

The partner was watering his front yard and I was nearby conversing with him when suddenly we heard the amphibian hunter howling and running up the walkway, his rubber boots sloshing from side to side and his face stricken with a look of pure anguish.  In his hand was a frog that was completely limp and seemingly expired.  "My frog!  My frog is dead!"  He sobbed as if his heart were broken.  My partner and I looked at the poor thing with its tongue hanging outside of its mouth and its immobile limbs and figured that he had dehydrated from being out of the water too long.  After consoling its caretaker, the partner took the frog and began drizzling water over its body and opening its mouth and drizzling water over its tongue.  Still, there was no movement and we walked away.  But to our surprise, a little while later when we returned, the frog began to move a little, so the partner again drizzled water over it in the cool shade.  Eventually, the little guy came back to life and my ecstatic son raced down to the swamp lands and released it into the wild. 

The boy continued his love for amphibian hunting, but he never kept the frogs for long after the near death experience, preferring to release them after only a few minutes of observation and play.