Thursday, December 22, 2005

nina and the train

I met someone this afternoon, waiting for the train. I don't normally converse much with strangers like that, but these were unusual circumstances what with the transit strike. We started talking to find out whether the train was a bronx shuttle, or one that went further north.

She was the outgoing one, I was slower to respond, just listening to her at first. But then she asked if I taught (I'd mentioned the university), and wanted to know what I taught. I started talking about advocacy around social issues affecting the low income, and she began sharing details about her life.

She had just moved from welfare to social security. No, not age, but physical problems that prevented ongoing work. She was 33, had an 11 year old. Six years ago, she left her abusive husband and found an apartment near Fordham Road. He found her, stalked her, broke in, raped her, beat her, knocked out 8 teeth, broke her jaw, and caused head trauma that still brings on migraines this many years later. After leaving the hospital, she took her son and went to a safe shelter.

But this woman was not bowed, was no longer a victim. She was, from what I could see, intelligent, emotionally strong, and in a healthy relationship with one she called her fiance. Although I hadn't been through what she'd been through, we connected in that kind of poverty level and intellectually higher functioning single mom kind of way. We talked about the decisions we'd made in life, and the parallels. Her dad died of an overdose when she was 11, my dad left when I was a toddler.

She'd gone into one violent relationship after another, I'd seen that in my mom and steered clear of any men actually in my home.

We both had struggled with how to raise sons who would move out of poverty without using that poverty as an excuse to engage in illegal activities to earn money.

We were concerned about raising sons who knew how to treat a woman appropriately after seeing other men abuse women--hers from the father, mine from a babysitter and a grandma.

We talked about the cycle of poverty, and how important decent schools are in turning that around. About the importance of health insurance.

We marveled that despite the fact that poverty and rough lives tend to make one look older, we both looked younger than our years.

It was pretty amazing, really. Especially for someone who is normally as reserved as I am with strangers.

But we talked away, about life. In a way, we knew each other. In some deeper way. Despite being strangers. We didn't even introduce ourselves, share our names, till the very end, as we arrived at my stop and we said goodbye and merry christmas. I even considered, for a moment, giving her my email address. But we left it at 'I'm sure we'll see each other, I'm always on Fordham Road.'

I hope she got to her family alright, and I hope she has a wonderful christmas. She certainly deserves it, after what life has dealt her.

It's funny how we connect with people in life. How we interact. And then we go on our way. Go on living.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


That's what was in my mind those few days
when I took that nose dive

Defies logic, but there it is

I'd worked so hard
Come so far
But I made it
Self supporting
Taking care of the rugrat
Living comfortably
Albeit somewhat simply
Nearly done with school
Embarking soon on a new career
I didn't even care
That I worked two jobs to make it
It IS New York, after all
Everyone works two jobs to make it

Hell...I was making it in New York, for fuck's sake

And then, the shit hit the fan
And then, everything went south
And then, I wasn't making it anymore
And then, I was a failure

I had taken two big steps forward
And then fell
One huge step backward

A series of seemingly random incidents
That added up to...breakdown, crash, collapse

In my mind, I was a failure

And it hit me hard

All I could do was focus on that huge fall backward

I couldn't seem to see
That I was still one big step ahead
Of where I started out

But my mind is clear now
The initial devastation
And hopelessness

And I see the step forward
And that's what I need to focus on

One step forward

One step forward

Friday, December 16, 2005


Is a relative term
A month ago I’d have said 35
was nearing the ice age
today it was a welcome change from
0…10…or even 20.

On the train by the river
It’s early…the mists have yet to clear
The calm, pale grey of the fog
The darker, angrier grey of the water
The tips of the whitecaps
The swirling greys as the mist meets the Hudson
The silhouettes of bare trees, black against the greys
The white of the remaining snow
turning grey and black in the rain
Quickly melting into the landscape
I once thought grey dreary
Lacking in colour
But its beauty is in its simplicity
in its starkness
Embrace the greyness, I have often said
And now I see why
Embrace it for the beauty within

Cheap, black down coat
Weighed down by the rain
For which it was not intended
I could have worn my raincoat
Who knew 35 would be this warm
Unbuttoning my coat
Taking off gloves
Cooling down the body
Yet still chilled when the body heat drops
After the walk

Good morning
From the bodega owner setting up
I’ve walked by his shop every morning this week
He finally speaks
And have a nice weekend
He calls after me
I turn, smile and wave

Remnants of the preparations
In anticipation of the strike that hasn’t yet happened
Police barricades
Stacked by major intersections last night
Gone this morning
Rail link busses at train stations in the Bronx
There last night
Gone this morning

The rugrat cheered her first ever game yesterday
I wanted to be there for her first one
But I was
On the train

Thursday, December 15, 2005

don't get on the train

don’t get on the train
when you’ve had a big-assed schooner of beer
and a quesadilla
and you suffer from motion sickness
can you say queasy
i knew you could

don’t get on the train
when you’ve had a big-assed schooner of beer
and a glass of ice water
and haven’t, as my bio dad would say ‘powdered your nose’
cause the walk home from the station
is mostly uphill
you try walking uphill
when you really, really have to pee
and by the way where else would you pay
7 bucks for a schooner of beer on tap
but in New York City

don’t get on the train
when the conductor is yelling out the door
hurry up, or we’ll leave youse
and yes, he really said youse
well…maybe you’d better get on the train then

litter on the sidewalks
men in orange jumpsuits sweeping it up
city workers
bet they’re really WEP workers
not even getting minimum wage

alarm going off at Jimmy Jazz
a store on Fordham Road
cops are ignoring it completely

impending mta strike tomorrow morning
exactly how does one get to work
when they have no vehicle
and the busses and trains are on strike
and one definitely doesn’t have taxi money

think i'm on my way back up

Monday, December 12, 2005

on the train

Is this the express?
No, it’s the local.

Jumping on at the last minute.


Watching people.

They sit on the outside.
Force others to climb over them.
Face in their newspapers.
Somehow surprised when their shoulder is tapped.
And someone says excuse me.
Oh, sorry.
Like it doesn’t happen every day.

Tickets, please!

Swaying to the motions.

Eyes drooping.

Leather briefcases.
Leather backpacks.


I look down.
Sneakers and sweats.
I’m not walking in 3 inch heels.
I’ll change at work.

I’m alone.
I’m different.
Watching people.
I’m observant.
They’re oblivious.

University Heights.
Doors open in the first four cars only.
Station has been remodeled since February.
Which way do I go?

Bundle up.
Cover ears.
Cover fingers.

The bodegas.
Bins on the sidewalk.
The smell of fresh fruit in winter.
Who knew fruit could smell so crisp and clean.
I want something.

Hustle up, catch that light.
Dodge the cars.

The drugstore.
With the Christmas trees lined up outside.
A deep breath.
Full of pine.
Did I bring my inhaler?

At work.
Eyes drooping.

Twenty five degrees.
But the sun is shining.
The sky is blue.

Mood: Quiet.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

my fav christmas songs

Aren't christmas songs at all. I LOVE Adam Sandler's series of Hanukkah songs. Listening to one on the radio right now.

Okay... This is a song that uhh..
There’s a lot of christmas songs out there and uhh..
Not too many chanukah songs. S
o uhh.. I wrote a song for all those nice little jewish kids who don’t get to hear any chanukah songs.
Here we go...

Put on your yarmulke
Here comes chanukah
So much funukah
To celebrate chanukah
Chanukah is the festival of lights
Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights

When you feel like the only kid in town without a christmas tree
Here’s a list of people who are jewish just like you and me
David lee roth lights the menorah
So do james caan, kirk douglas, and the late dinah shore-ah
Guess who eats together at the carnegie deli
Bowser from sha na na and arthur fonzerelli
Paul newman’s half jewish, goldie hawn’s half too
Put them together, what a fine lookin’ jew
You don’t need deck the halls or jingle bell rock
’cause you can spin a dreidel with captain kirk and mr. spock- both jewish

Put on your yarmulke
It’s time for chanukah
The owner of the seattle supersonicahs
Celebrates chanukah
O.j. simpson, not a jew
But guess who is? hall of famer rod carew- he converted
We got ann landers and her sister dear abby
Harrison ford’s a quarter jewish- not too shabby
Some people think that ebenezer scrooge is
Well he’s not, but guess who is
All three stooges
So many jews are in showbiz
Tom cruise isn’t, but I heard his agent is

Tell your friend veronica
It’s time to celebrate chanukah
I hope I get a harmonicah
Oh this lovely, lovely chanukah
So drink your gin and tonicah
And smoke your marijuanikah
If you really, really wannakah
Have a happy, happy, happy, happy chanukah

Happy chanukah

Friday, December 02, 2005

memories nudged...of babies and snow

It's funny sometimes the things one remembers from their past. And what triggers that memory.

In a previous post, I wrote about 'strapping' my 3 month old to my front, grabbing bookbag and diaper bag, and heading for the bus. And just now I caught a photo tgirltopping posted of someone mid-slip-and-fall in snow and ice. And suddenly, one particular morning years ago filtered into my consciousness. And I'm not being sad or maudlin here. In retrospect, I have to laugh. I survived, after all.

I remember one winter morning. My first semester at college. I was 30, the rugrat 5 months old. A particularly bad winter morning it was, with lots of very slippery ice. Everything was icy, in fact, except for the deep snow drifts. Walking was perilous at best. 8 AM, weekday morning. I have the rugrat strapped to my front with one of those over one shoulder slings that tend to be used by mothers in third world countries. I swear by those, by the way. They are ideal, and you can carry a kid hands free from infancy to toddlerhood.

So, baby, and two bags. And flat boots on ice with no traction. I slipped and slid the entire 5 blocks to the bus stop from our apartment. Getting more and more exhausted with the effort of staying upright. Because, what if I fell forward? On the baby?

I fell several times, always managing to twist my body so that I fell to one side, or backwards. But once...ah, once. I fell forward. I just couldn't stop myself. I dropped bags as I fell, and tried to double my body up to cushion the impact as much as possible. And, other than a little whine, the rugrat was miraculously fine.

By the time I reached the bus stop, I'd missed the bus. Which meant I'd missed my first class. And I hated missing class. It meant missing lecture, and I was so new that if I missed lecture, I felt completely lost. I was exhausted by the time I climbed on the next bus. And frozen. And as close to tears as I've ever been. Even got teary-eyed, believe it or not. The one who never cries out loud. People got on and off the bus, saw me, and you could tell they saw something in me. Something forlorn and lost. You could see it in the sympathetic glances.

I also remember the major body aches, the bruises that lasted for days. I might as well have been beat, lol! I did indulge in a long, hot bubble bath when I got home later. I remember I used to wonder if it would ever end. The sheer exhaustion. I don't know if I really thought it would. I never looked much to the future. Just hunkered down and dealt with it. Took a sort of one-day-at-a-time approach, and muddled through.

But I made it through that day, and through every day since, successfully. And I have no doubts I'll make it through the rest. It's just so funny what little tidbits of memories come into your mind sometimes.