Tag Archives: New Yorker

“You Meet Me Down On: Heartattack and Vine”

This is an ode to you, my Holly:  

You’re looking quite glorious this morning — all decked out in sunlight so bright it appears hazy; with your birds going bonkers in trees, as if they’re still coked-out of their little heads since 2 a.m., once you closed your clubs and bolted shut your dive bars.  And if it weren’t for the frequent sirens (those fuckers woke me up today!), I could pretend I lived somewhere like paradise.  Or the Greek Isles.  But only until I step out — out and into — letting you hit me with your tales of humanity, my Holly, of which you have galore.  

You weren’t so easy to fall in love with, my Holly; and it doesn’t really make me cool to fess up to it. 

It is much cooler to dig New York.  Because New York always treats you like an arrogant lover to whose skills in the sack you find yourself quickly addicted; confusing all that lust, and all those hormones — and its reeking fluids — for love.  But when it doesn’t work out with New York, you are sure to find another brokenhearted with the same addiction.  Then, you can all hang your heads over your drinks at a random dive bar — in Holly — and share your scars.

With you, my Holly, it’s different.  You are much quicker to reveal your armpits and your glitz.  You’re such an exhibitionist!  But it took some serious hanging with you and more patience than I knew to possess to discover the pockets of those tribes and ‘hoods to which I didn’t mind belonging. 

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly!

To the jingling sound with which you tickled my ears yesterday, at one of your art spaces.  It was so dainty and arhythmic, I was sure it belonged to a lovely, fragile installation I just had to see.  But when I looked around for the source, I found it on the ankles of a tiny girl-child, in the arms of her Indian mother.  So intensely was my stare, the young mother got startled at first.

“She’s lovely,” I said; nodded and quickly walked on by.

The woman relaxed and smiled.  “It’s alright.  She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of us’,” she must’ve thought, of me.

Oh, Holly! 

It surely helped that you’ve found my skin color so perfectly democratic from the start:   Smoothly, I become “one of them,” “ethnically ambiguous,” or just “not from around here” — depending on whom you ask.  To my comrades visiting from Beverly Hills, I am “sort of white” — but mostly “spiritual”.  Next to a brown man, I am his “hot Brazilian girlfriend”.  But really, it’s the Chicanos and their gorgeous, curvy brown girls that dig me the most:  Somehow, they know I’m not above their strife, not too far off from their survival.  And the further in crawls your long summer — the darker I get — the more I become “one of them”.  And it is just my fucking luck it’s more fashionable to be “exotic” anyway, around here.  Around you, these days.  

A balding, sadly aging museum guard with a blubbery body absorbed me with his wet eyes, yesterday.  No way he could ever afford a girl like me; and if he happened to touch her, she could only tempt him from behind the screen of his computer.  Or from a stripper pole, at a safe distance.  When I looked at him, he freaked, turned away and adjusted his crotch.

“Don’t look now, mister,” I thought at the back of his clammy bald spot, “but you’re standing right in between DIVORCE and REAL HUMAN HAIR.”  (They were signs that some artist found ironic enough to replicate and hang onto the wall that the sadly aging man was guarding — but for not enough money to afford a girl like me.  The irony — worked.)

“She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of them’,” he must’ve thought; and when I granted him the last profile of my face, he turned away and adjusted his crotch — again.

Oh, Holly!

I am anonymous, like the hundreds of your graffiti artists that tag your skin with their marks.  My markings are not as well distributed yet (my publicist sucks!); but I too prefer to blend in, moving in between your demographics, collecting my stories when no one is looking, often in the dark. And once the mission is accomplished, I walk away with enough surrender to not have to sweat about what’s going to happen to my work.  Because, once I’ve found what I dig in life — humanity, of which you, my Holly, have galore! — patience comes as easily as breathing.

I am content with being your next Bukowski, hanging with you long enough to see your other layers (not necessarily pretty or dignified, but always relevant) and drooling at your girls:  Yesterday’s stunning Filipino creature in a tiny, ruffly skirt with strategically placed beauty marks all over her face.  The funky Harajuku girls who stormed past me with their fashions and smells and chatter, making me grin moronically and confusedly.  The African princess on your subway with a wide wrist band of faded gold who played with the ringlets of her hair for the three very short stops.  The young Mexican girl accompanying her awkward, unknowing boy who granted me a tiny nod:

“Aren’t you brown?  You must be ‘one of us’!”

This is an ode to you, my Holly; to your being so many things, depending on where I look, how long I hang, and whom I ask — sort of like me. 

You are sort of like me:  democratic, and anonymous, and not above the strife.  You’re “one of them” when I find you discomforting, “one of us” — when you reveal something I don’t mind poking.  Or jotting down, leaving my mark. 

Strangely, against all fashion, I’m into.  Into you.  I’m into your people.  And as I continue to walk your streets — so strange, worn-out, used-up, repaired; tagged and marked-up; not necessarily pretty or dignified but always poignant — I offer my ode to your humanity, of which, my Holly, you have galore.

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly…

“Rum, Bum-Bum-Bum: Man Down!”

She was beautiful as shit, and very well-endowed, in her humanity.  But the one thing that had made me fall for the creature — head first against the tiled floor of an empty pool (SMACK!) — was her ability to always say what she meant and to say it with the precision of a sniper:  (POW!)

There was a gap though — a space where she lingered while choosing her words carefully and squinting her dark African eyes at her speaking opponents.  Half a generation older than me and so many exotic heritages apart, she had patience — in spades.  So, while I would be stepping on toes of the speaker — some over-read academic whose fear of our female flesh would make him work overtime at spewing out big words with which he hoped to dominate and conquer — while I would be wedging in my objections and stuttering with my youthful wrath (and with having so much to prove!), my girl would just hold there.  She would hold her fucking ground, my brothers and sisters — like Joan of Arc before her tribunal — and she wouldn’t fucking move!

It was so bloody impressive — it gave me a hard-on!  It was like watching one of those big cats at their hunting game:  You know better than to intrude, because you suddenly become aware that that cat’s evolution has not been contaminated by a century of junk food, bad decisions and hedonistic behaviors utilized to shut out its guilty conscience.  The cat is on top of its game:  It’s perfectly equipped — on point! — and it never has to work hard at proving jack shit.  And you know, for certain, that when the time is right for that one outrageous pounce — meant to capture, never to just tease — the poor victim won’t have enough time to even utter a prayer.

Well, it was like that, with this girl.  She would watch the poor sucker who overcompensated his boner with words, words, words — BULLSHIT! — and she would seem so chill.  Her glorious brown body appeared perfectly relaxed.  There was no verbal jab in the world that could make her shiver with wrath; no words capable of making her lose her composure; or even shift your weight.  Okay, maybe — may-be! — occasionally she would raise one eyebrow; but even that was barely noticeable.  You had to be in dire love with her to notice that change.  Which I was.   So — I did.

And when she would pounce — OH, LORD JESUS! — it was so much fun to watch!  If the asexual academic had been presumptuous at all about his vocabulary and degrees, the moment my girl unleashed:  She destroyed the fucker.  Because you couldn’t tell by her youthful face, which she insisted on wearing without any make-up, but she’d had years of education and a lifetime of reading to back her up.  She studied language for a living, working as an editor at every publishing house with its focus on radical writers:  female and foreign and black!  (FUCK!)  And just for fun, on weekends, when others got busy shifting around their patio furniture for barbecues in Brooklyn — she wrote poetry.

Some shifted the mundane — she displaced the real.

And she would win.  Always!  Because she wasn’t too hung up on the meaning of words.  Language, to her, was meant to be played with.  Otherwise, it was all dead.  So, true to that same feline fashion of hers, she played a gentle tug o’ war with concepts — tapping them, scratching the surface, or sinking her fangs into their gist — like a bored cat amusing itself with a caught prey before feasting on it.

Don’t get me wrong:  She had her truths.  Better than that:  She WAS all truth!  Love, dignity, sex and ethics — those were non-negotiable.  Not a thing to play with!  But words themselves — those little rodents and birds — were way too much fun to not fuck with.

Back then, I had once confused a man for the love of my life and I worked so hard on earning him.  At first, I tried on my ultra-feminine version:  All high heels, and eye-liner, and ruffled skirts that carefully ended at my knees.  I thought:

“Maybe he would love me more that way!  Maybe if I’d waxed, tamed my eyebrows, painted my nails in pretty pink; if I spoke with Americanized inflections and curtsied when he picked me up at Grand Central.  MAYBE!”

But after a year of still not being enough — of all that uncertainty and self-doubt — I began forgetting that I always hated make-up, especially in pink; and that I treading daintily — just wasn’t my style.  So, I gave myself a boy cut, loaded my closet with flats, white tank tops and tight jeans; and began taking the train into Manhattan thrice a week.

One day, my girl and I had stepped out onto Madison Ave, to do some hunting.  It was one of those spring days that breathed down New Yorkers’ neck with warm air and smells of budding cherry trees — but the sun had yet to come out.  We strutted southbound.  My girl lead the way.  Despite the promise of spring, she had zipped-up her hoody; and not tempted for a second to absorb the one New York season that reminds its natives as to why they choose to suffer there for the rest of the year, she hurriedly strutted to our decided destination.

A Nuevo-Rican  had come from behind us at a pedestrian crossing and studied our asses, in creepy silence; and when he realized my girl was one hot number underneath that zipped-up hoody, he began to whine, nasally:

“Ooh, mami!”

“Fuck you!” my girl shot him down over her shoulder and stepped off the curb, long before the light had changed in our favor.  POW!

Then:

“So, what was your definition of ‘forgiveness’?”  Just like that, she was back to me.  She was back — with me.  MINE!  I’d been out of breath for thirteen blocks by now:  from trying to catch up to her, like that poor Nuevo-Rican doubling over behind us, at the street light.  Not waiting for my answer, she resumed:

“Forgiveness — is like courage:  It is only committed for your own sake.”

“Forgiveness is like courage,” I repeated in a half-whisper, as if asking for her hand in marriage.

“NO!” she threw over her shoulder again, like a fuck-you to those who were unable to catch up.  “Forgiveness IS courage.” 

And off she went:  strutting, leaping, pouncing and leading the way, half a generation ahead of me and through strange, exotic histories in between; running every red light and giving me the most generous go-ahead of my life.

Yesterday… All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away…

Glorious morning to you, my most beautiful creatures.  You hearts beloved by me or someone else, but still:  beloved!  My exploring Doras and Little Princes, who sooner or later have had to grow-up — fall out of love with roses and sheep — but oh how I pray have never grown out of your childlike curiosity.  “You princes of Maine… you kings of New England.”  You bohemians and gypsies whose eyesight has been humbled by the size of the world, but whose souls expanded across the universe.  You decent beings, with daily acts of courageous living:

How I wish for your world to be ever-so kind!  How stubbornly I hope that there is enough love in your lives to give space to your mournings and strife — and to resurrect and heal you at the end, every single time!  As trials and tribulations of humanity affect you via headlines or, more directly, via personal tragedies, I know your souls can summon the grace you didn’t know you possessed — and your hearts can prove to be resilient.  There shall be more forgiveness, if you want it — I promise.  And there shall always be more love!

This morning, I woke up thinking of my goddaughter.  Three time zones away from my spoiling hand (and wallet), she is quickly growing-up on the opposite coast, where over a decade ago, I chose to grow-up myself.  There, at my college, is where I met her mother — my best friend.  My total BFF!  My “dudette” and confidant.  The Sister of My Heart.  The woman of unbeatable grace, and of spirituality so disciplined, I have yet to find someone to measure up to it.  It is her love — and the love of her family — that has replaced this gypsy’s lack of homeland or home.  Seemingly forever — or for as long as my ever lasts on this planet — I shall continue coming back to that love, after every insignificant defeat; and every single of my tiny victories, I shall stubbornly dedicate to her.

Ten years ago, we were inseparable.  Oh how many endless, pontificating walks we taken back then, along the campus of our all-women’s college!  (Yep, I was of those naive feminists back then; and thank Shiva, I haven’t grown out of it!)  And oh how many human emotions we thought we could deconstruct to a complete understanding, while en route to pick-up some Chinese food!  The stories we’ve collected and retold, one brown mouth to another’s brown ear (or pen to paper and fingertips to a key board) — they are infinite!  In a group of fellow writers and nerds, we dominated the office of the college newspaper, staying up past enough sunrises that even the campus security gave-up on hoarding us back to our dorms.  (Oh, we were official!  The Midnight Moths, they called us.  And we demanded to be reckoned with!)

When the academic year of 2001 began, my schedule was overloaded with journalism classes while BFF was quickly becoming a computer wiz.  When the news of a plane crashing into a Manhattan building popped-up in the corner of my computer monitor taken up by a QuarkXpress tutorial, I shrugged it off as just another freak accident which any self-respecting New Yorker should be able to take in stride.  (And that’s exactly what I decided to be then:  A New Yorker –with internships and friendships in the City, and a quickly developing sense of style, identity and womanhood.)

But then — there came another hit…

In that room, chairs were shuffled in panic.  Somewhere, in the back, a classmate broke down.  Recently returned from California, I was wearing too summery of an outfit; and as further headlines floated up onto my computer screen, I fiddled with the belt of my wraparound skirt.  And then, there was the face of my teacher — the mentor to my aspiring journalism career — and that face was paralyzed by a lack of any comprehension or adult composure.  I think she was about to cry.  What was happening? 

No way, was I sticking around!  I was out!  The first to leave the classroom, not at all interested in the consequences, I went looking for my BFF.  If only I could find her, I thought, the world would not dare to fall apart on us.

I found her.  On a staircase where we’ve watched marathons of Will and Grace and Peter Jennnings during our Christmas decorating stunts.  I’m sure she’s seen me demonstrate some very embarrassing, sleep-deprived behaviors on those same stairs.  But that day, my girl just sat there.  Silent.  Stunned, I fiddled with my belt:  In our now decade-long friendship, that morning — would be the only time I would see her cry.  And her face!  It seemed I would never forgive the world for that face!  For not until that day — and not since — have I seen her resemble a little girl.

She is a mother now.  A mother to my goddaughter.  Always inseparable, even in this experience, my girl has granted me the privilege to live vicariously — with her.  And as I watch the face of her daughter (via BFF’s disciplined acts of photojournalism on Facebook), I wonder about the world that she is about to experience.

Thankfully, that kiddo is never easily entertained.  Perpetually, her face looks like that of a philosopher or a writer — and she makes this Russian mama ever so proud!  (I am pretty sure that if ever I am to experience my own motherhood, my child will turn out to be one of those goofy, grinning munchkins — just so that I myself learn to lighten up a bit.)  With my breath stolen by that little brown face, I am waiting for her to start talking.  What will she say?  How will she comprehend the world still filled with misery and misunderstanding which I haven’t been able to fix for her?  Where will I find the wisdom to teach her that despite the daily testaments to some terrible human behavior, she shouldn’t fear — but inherit the life of grace and love from her magnificent mother?  What will happen to us all?  How will I shield her?  How will I endure witnessing the loss of her innocence?…

Oh, hush a bye, my little darling heart!

For love has not expired.  It will never expire — if we choose.  I shall show you what your mama has taught me:  That no matter the acts of disappointing human behavior, love strives — still!  We may be no longer innocent, but hopefully ever-so wise; wise enough to know that love — is the universal homecoming for us all.

So, hush, my little darling.  Hush, my little darlings.  

Hush.