Monday, December 30
I walked by the Bolivar Arellano Gallery
I’ve written about this place before, as some of you may recall. This is the mom and pop gallery on East 9th Street in Manhattan owned by photographer Bolivar and his adorable wife who’s name, god help me, I can never remember. I call her “Mrs. Arellano with the perpetually twinkling eyes.”
The Arellano’s have dedicated their lives since “911” to caring for this unusual haven; a gallery filled with September 11th photographs taken predominantly by NYC daily newspaper photographers as well as the work of one New York fireman turned amateur photographer.
Bolivar himself, a “New York Post” photographer was at the WTC on September 11th and was injured in the collapse. His work is amongst the most haunting on exhibit. He has captured the jumpers, in mid-air. They look like reluctant angels.
Because of the graphic photos in the exhibit there is a warning sign at the door.
It is necessary.
There are two photos on the show, that can not be copied for sale. One is a severed hand sitting amongst the rubble.The other is the remnant of a body. One of the fireman has said, “That’s all we saw when we first got there. After awhile you just didn’t see it anymore. It didn’t connect.”
Digital copies of each photo are offered for sale. All of the profit goes to “The Uniformed Firefighters NYPD Widows and Children Fund, The EMS Command Memorial Foundation” and “The Father Mychal Judge Fund.”
But what is perhaps most special about this exhibit is not what is hanging from the walls, but what has happened inside this tiny cramped space.
Relatives have come to see the last known photograph of their loved one, now gone.
There is the NYPD officer who has shown up in five different shots saving lives. He is gone, but his family has now been able to see for themselves the images of his heroism.
There is the photo of the group of fireman walking towards the towers. In the photograph one of the men has dropped something and bends over to pick it up.
His wife was brought to tears by this.
“He was always dropping things.” she said crying. None of the men survived.
There are small exhibits in the gallery; a red haired child’s doll, one of the few remnants to survive from Dutchess Sarah Ferguson’s children’s charity. There is a uniform of a fireman now lost. In one case is the dust covered clothing worn by Bolivar that terrible day.
While most of us have moved on…even it seems myself…the Arellano’s have stayed behind, holding the torch, tending over this labor of love. It has become a clubhouse of sorts for firemen and a place for many to cry.
I have visited the space often. I think of it as a candle perpetually burning for those lost lives.
The Arellanos raised 50,000 for charity and have managed to keep their doors open even beyond the one year anniversary that was their initial goal. Now with a farewell party for the photographers, they too will move on.
They can no longer afford to keep the exhibit open. They must return to this thing called making money.
“Bolivar is going to ask the photographers for permission to put the show up every September for the month.” Mrs. Arellano says.
They will also keep selling copies of the photos for charity via their web site.
Some of the work will be taken in by The Library of Congress. They hope some will be taken by a Museum.
Mrs. Arellano with the twinkling eyes, almost breaks down in tears as I talk to her. She has a personal connection to every photograph, which she lovingly dusts.
She has met royalty, celebrities, politicians and sports heroes in this tiny place but it is clearly the uniformed heroes of “911” that she holds her highest esteem for.
“Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s time for us to move on,” she says bravely.
“Would you stay if you could afford to?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says softly.
I have the sense that she would stay forever.
Wednesday, December 25
I like to think of being Jewish as a marathon sport. I can dole out a soul crunching guilt complex from a hundred yards, spot two people that just have to meet each other from a crowd of thousands and be counted on for any occasion to have enough left-overs in my refrigerator to feed Pittsburgh.
Now then...does anyone know how to make a Christmas tree out of knockwurst?
Maybe if I tie the strings together..hmmmm.
Saturday, December 21
So will all the crappy stuff going on the world; war, racism, anti-Semitism, terrorism, Trent Lottism, it was downright shocking when one truly decent thing managed to occur.
I’m not sure if you folks noticed amidst all the photos of Trent Lott looking constipated and Saddam Hussein looking, well somewhat the opposite, but it looks like the long awaited gay rights bill will finally get voted into effect in New York State.
Didn’t take long, only oh 31 years but it seems like good ol New York will finally add sexual orientation to it’s discrimination laws on housing, employment, public accommodation, education and credit.
Not sure what the credit part means, but I’m guessing that American Express will not be able to turn me down on the basis of my having a pink triangle tattooed on my forehead.
Only kidding about the tattoo…… for now.
With a 34-26 vote in the state Senate this past Tuesday, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (better known as SONDA) seems to be a shoe in. Although I think I best not say it as I don’t want to jinx things. So I’ll say it’s looking good. Even our oh so Republican Governor George Pataki, lent his support to the cause.
Wow! First Guiliani turns into a nice guy now this! What’s the world coming to??
Of course we in the know, know that New York City has had a nondiscrimination rule in place for hmm 16 years!
Hello! New York State! What took ya so long?~!
But what the heck..better late than never.
Hell, the fact that Republicans were out there fighting for this to pass is cause uno for thinking not only is hell freezing over, but shit..I’m gonna go buy a lottery ticket tomorrow. Anything can happen.
So just when I was thinking nothing else great can happen after this, Trent Lott steps down.
To tell you the truth I kinda wanted him to stick around cause he was doing more for the Democrats than any dem I know but his stepping down did send out a loud message to one and all.
“You can be a racist &^%$#*jerk, but you better keep your damn mouth shut or we will shut it for you.”
Until there is peace, harmony and equality for all in this world that’ll have to do.
Meanwhile....how much does a pink triangle tattooed on your forehead hurt?
Monday, December 16
Like most of you, September 11th hit me hard..in my heart, in my soul, in the part of me that’s usually protected by a thousand feet of steel.
Now it’s a year and 3 months later and September 11th is starting to hit me again, only this time it’s in my wallet.
I readjusted my allowable taxi budget when my liability insurance went up 2,600 bucks annually. I figured a few less days ordering in Chinese food when my heath insurance went up 100 bucks a month. I congratulated myself on having a great fall when my Christmas season croaked due to a lowering of many corporate budgets. The first thing to get the ax is always the holiday cocktail party.
I was undaunted.
Then I refinanced my mortgage to save myself a little over 1 percent and before I had a chance to celebrate I got hit with the 18 and a half percent homeowner’s tax increase, (the biggest one in NYC history) thanks to Mayor Bloomberg who thinks pissing off New Yorkers is a great way to heal.
This is the same lovely mayor who has decided that just cause he doesn’t inhale, he should ban smoking in bars in NYC. Bars FYI, are the last horizon for smokers. They’ve already been pushed out into the cold everywhere else.
I don't smoke anymore but for crying out loud...DON"T TURN US INTO L.A!!
But don't get me started.
On Friday the 13th I hired Peter, the guy who delivers my fish to drive me out to New Jersey for my sister’s 40th birthday.
In the torrential rain, we went. Our one-hour trip turned into 3 hours between the rain and the Friday night rush hour traffic. We plodded along in the wholesale fish van. I tried not to breathe thru my nose.
I got to know Peter a bit during the ride. He told me how he pays 80 bucks a week to sleep in the bottom bunk in a bedroom that he shares, in an apartment that belongs to someone else. He gets to work at 6 AM and spends the day delivering fish and meat. He makes very little money, but enough to get by on. Once a week he has a few beers in the Village.
He’s 44 years old and to some extent he’s homeless. Half a room in a three bedroom apt in Spanish Harlem, at which he is not permitted to bring guests or liquor doesn’t seem to quality as a home.
He says that he’s saving up to get his own place. He can afford 700 dollars a month. I’m not sure where he can go these days for that amount of cash, maybe the Bronx, maybe New Jersey.
But he’s happy.
He loves working. He doesn’t sleep much so the lack of his own bed doesn’t seem to faze him and he’s glad just to stay warm, make honest money and keep on going.
We survived my sister’s birthday bash. One of her drunken guests smeared cake icing in my face, a small child stared at me and picked her nose all night, a bird tried to shit on me, a dog attempted to steal my food and several boys with skin head hair-dos tried to pop balloons in my ear.
Peter had a blast.
He loved my sister.
“She’s so down to earth!”
He loved the kids, the dog, the cats, the bird, the drunks, the knish and cold cut platter, the many, many, many cakes.
On the way home the rain picked up again. The drive was treacherous.
But Peter was smiling.
He was thrilled to get out of the city and to be earning some extra cash.
I thought about my little gripes, the higher bills, the lower income and felt like such a jerk I wanted to kick myself. I tried but I’m not that limber.
I thought about the families of those lost on September 11th and how they must be feeling this holiday season.
I thought about the fireman in fire-houses filled with new faces hired to replace their fallen brothers.
I thought about Peter waking up at 4:00 AM. five days a week in Spanish Harlem so he can be dressed and at work in downtown Manhattan by 6. He picks up his paycheck once a week and hopes enough will be left over so he can have his own place next year, or at least his own room. He carries a hundred pounds of salmon and never asks for help.
I’m sitting here now in my own chair, typing this on my own computer, which sits on my own desk, in my own living room,under my own ceiling. I am the owner of my own business, a business that took a hit but pulled through, is still pulling through and I’m thinking.
I need to shut the fuck up.
Friday, December 13
Tuesday, December 10
Has the whole world gone kaplooey?
I just found out that “Big Foot” is dead..or rather the 84-year-old koot who just croaked thus allowing his family to finally fess up that he made the whole thing up by stomping around with clay feet on. Seems he even filmed his family running around in monkey suits. ..always a leisure ware option.
He was like the all American mascot; stinky, hairy, lousy posture.. hell he was like every guy I ever met in Brooklyn!
Sheesh..we coulda used a Big Foot right about now too.
We’ve got that sleazoid Saddam smiling and playing nice..whilst he waits for a better opportunity to send us small pox grams.
We’ve got terrorists aiming shoulder held missiles at passenger planes.
Cause…get this…its HOLY!
The only thing holy about shooting at passenger planes is the amount of holes in your head.
But you can’t tell a psycho martyr anything these days.
We’ve got Trent Lott longing for the good old days ya know before integration..when a guy could just go out for a nice stroll in his white robe and hood and hang with the fellers.
That guy scares me.
I just don’t trust a dude who looks like he made his hair out of “play-do” feel the same way about Ted Koppel.
I wish Big Foot were real.
I’d summon him up from his stinky cave and send him out stomping.
He’d stomp on those damn Jihaders who are fouling everything up for the Israelis and for the Palestinians.
He’d stomp on Arafat, that two-timing slimy little ugly fart. I’ll bet he’s got Trent Lott hair under that head wrap!
He’d stomp on Martha Stewart..just because I hate her.
Ya know if there is such a thing as mercy in this world, those 72 virgins all those cowardly murderers are blowing themselves up for will all turn out to be Martha.
Can you imagine that…72 Marthas??!
No…dear…you can’t just make coffee with coffee, you’ve got to season it with Jamaican nutmeg.
No..you can’t just have a steak..it has to be home-smoked. Come lets turn this old refrigerator into a smoke-house.
What’s that..you want to lie down..wait we’ve got to put Martha Stewart linens on the bed and now its time to knit covers for our skies, you don’t ski well Martha number 35 will show you how, while Martha 52 makes sure you’re wearing your personalized Santa hat.
Martha 24 is busy melting the wax for your make your own scented candle soiree'.
Friday, December 6
So it snowed yesterday and aside from the fact that I had an LA induced flu, chock full of fever and snotty nose, it actually was all quite beautiful.
I lit the fire, (quite a big deal if you know moi and my fear of pulling a Richard Pryor) pulled out a book one of my editors recommended to me and watched the Duraflame log do its thing while the gorgeous white blanket outside grew thicker and thicker.
The cats were thrilled to have me home sick or not. Actually my being sick is extra wonderful for them because I lie down a lot, thus allowing them the opportunity to sit on me and leave little specks of cat litter on my t-shirt.
So the fire was going, the book was good, the cats were purring, the snow was falling, Peter Gabriel was being all weird and brilliant on the CD player and for this one moment everything seemed sad, and lonely and content and full all at the same time.
Not sure how that happened or why, but I just decided to sit with it and let it be.
I’m not the kind of person who takes to sitting with my thoughts and letting things be.
I tend to keep moving…A LOT.
There’s always been a part of me, that thinks if I sit still long enough I’ll become my mother.
The first hour I’m just a rock&roll couch potato, but after that I will quickly morph into my 270-pound Yiddisha mama…rest her dear soul.
But my point is, oh what the hell was my point…yeah, yeah, my point is I was being in the moment.
I took some time to dissect the fact that I had actually gotten on a plane and flew to LA to visit my family and for the first time since I was a teenager spent Chanukah and Thanksgiving with my dad and brother.
Yeah, yeah, there was guilt, (why don’t we see you more often?) and lots of strange Sephardim pals of my sister-in-law asking me things like “why aren't you married? when will you have kids? why do you dress in leather..?” but over-all it was all good and a few moments were great.
Granted I’m still digesting…(I’m talking 4 entrée’s and 3 kinds of starch per meal), but I left LA feeling different than I have about the holidays for the last oh 2 decades. I’ve always felt like an orphan who made my own family from what I found (or picked up) along my travels.
As a matter of fact, for years I was famous for my orphan holiday meals. All walks of life and a few crawls were welcome. I was comfortable in my role as lone mama.
I knew there was a family out there, but this strange clan consisting of GI Joe dad, ultra Orthodox brother and sister-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown, had nada to do with moi.
But now, well now I’m thinking heck…how long do we all really have so why not do the family thing while we can.
Anyway, this was what you might call a long and meandering rant about nothing, kinda like Seinfeld…. with breasts.
So take what you will and eat the rest.
I’m gonna throw another fake log in the fire.
And vacuum my t-shirts yet again.
Wednesday, December 4
On the first night of Chanukah my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeeeee
Intestinal gas from eating to much hummus.
On the second night of Chanukah my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeeeee
Guilt from the fact that this was the first Chanukah I’d spent with my family since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to meeeeeeeeee
The flu from not understanding that just because it’s hot in LA in the mornings doesn’t mean it won’t be freezing once the sun goes down and when you mix that with getting splashed by water on the Universal Studios tour and the fact that one of your nieces is sick and keeps kissing you it’s a one way ticket to Kleenex land. Aaaachhoooooo.
On the fourth night of Chanukah my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeee
An entire night and morning spent with American Airlines, when my 10Pm red-eye flight turned into midnight madness, after the plane we boarded was declared unfit due to the radio not working and we had to re-board another plane after sitting on the floor in the airport for an hour and wound up being so delayed that we landed at JFK just in time for rush hour, which then meant that after a night mare flight I sat in the worst traffic of the day for the hour and half ride home.
On the fifth night of Chanukah my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeeee
Hey Josh Whedon, you’re losing your damn Buffy fans here. Stop with the %$#@^& re-runs, put Zander on a diet, give Anya some botox and for crying out loud, let Buffy laugh every once in a blue moon.
I’m gonna change the name of the show to Sylvia Plath the Vampire Slayer.
On the sixth night of Chanukah my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeeeee
Well…um …actually that’s tonight, but at this point I’m fully expecting a night of tea, vitamin C, bad TV and lots and lots of sneezes. I may not be in the Christmas spirit (well I am Jewish duhhh) but I do look like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.
Anyway, hope you had a happy turkey day…I as it turned out did not eat any turkey but I did have an enormous amount of glatt kosher meatballs, goulash, roast chicken and gefilte fish. Which has prompted me to declare “Metamucil” as the official holiday treat.
And a (kosher) partridge in a pear treeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
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