Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two Italian Boys

First, I don't know for sure they are Italian. Or how old they are. They could be 15, they could be 25.

But I thought I recognized a certain Italian fierceness in the way his mother walked ahead of him as he lagged behind, that first boy. It was on the corner of Sixth Ave and West 8th, near Go Sushi, and I had seen them before. (I might have glanced quickly away, in pity.) This time I really looked.
His mother had a head of perfectly curled and blow-dried gray hair and she was about 5'2" in her stocking feet; compact of body, in a belted black dress and sensible walking shoes. She was leaning forward, at a tilt, as she towed her son through the waves of summer heat that roiled up from the sticky asphalt. He, not in any kind of hurry, let his too-large head dangle this way and that as he surveyed the crowd, his protruding eyeballs taking in everything he would never get to eat or drink or touch or kiss. His body had more angles than I could count at a glance- crooked back, twisted hips, knees knocking together. He shambled behind her, fierce tugboat that she was, secure in the knowledge that she was taking him someplace safe and known. Which she was. She truly was. He was her son, and she would take care of him if it killed her. I felt a sudden stab of envy for their bond. This was unconditional love, right in the dead center of Greenwich Village.
The second boy/man I spotted a few days later, in the early evening. I was returning slowly home along West 4th Street, thinking of nothing at all, when they rushed past, the dark-haired boy and his companion, who seemed to be his sister. It was only a glimpse, but I almost fainted. His complexion was a perfect pale porcelain, his features like a Greek statue's. He was laughing at something he had just said, looking back to his companion, and his thick dark hair was plastered back like an actor in a Bertolucci film set in the 1920's. He seemed unaware of his otherworldly beauty in his animation; he wasn't posing for anyone. But as I passed on, I wondered: Quasimodo boy, or Bertolucci boy: who will suffer more in this life?
Which one will be told he has been loved for himself, for who he is, and actually believe it?
Or, even better- just know, without needing to be told.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dog Days in NYC or Zen and the Art of Fridge Defrosting

Okay, I said to myself yesterday, it's time to man-up and....defrost the icebox, the under-the-counter half-size object we so gaily refer to as "the refrigerator," evoking visions of a vast Eurostyle appliance, a Sub-zero thingie (why does anyone need something colder than zero degrees? ) bursting with organic watercress and runny French cheeses.... Mais non, ma petite fridge (as we so lovingly call her chez nous) she is full only of 7 kinds of moutarde and 3 or so varieties of berry jam, as well as some VERY ancienne unsalted butter. All of which will survive lack of refrigeration for 24 hours. (And anyway a little mold is good for you once in a while, n'est-ce pas?)

So here's my (soon to be patented) technique:
1- Turn off freezer control. Take a deep breath. Do not turn back now. Commit.
2- Jam clean bath towel into iced-over freezer compartment. (Trust me.)
3- Put large plastic bowl (on top of protective layer of garbage bags) against fridge to protect the charmingly warped oak floors from becoming more charming.
4- Put end of towel neatly into plastic bowl so melting water runs from freezer along towel to bowl. (Osmosis, don'cha know.)
5- Pour self a glass of wine (color optional).
6- Occasionally wring out towel. Surf Web. Watch Jon Stewart on YouTube.
7. Take bath.
8- Repeat 5, 6 and 7 until asleep or otherwise immobile.

If you are an AMATEUR in a HURRY, you can speed things up by using a hair dryer.

But WHY?

Slow down, cowgirl. Enjoy.

Savor the (drippy) hours. It's summer in New York City.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Poodles Goes All Spiritual On You

I've been working hard lately, trying to bring to fruition a creative project. This has meant isolation from friends, late nights, bad food, tons of self-doubt....To try to pull myself back to some semblance of a healthy center I treated myself to a yoga workshop on a recent Friday night. I felt so good afterwards that I lingered at the yoga center's bookshop, reluctant to return to my self-imposed domestic pressure chamber.

My gaze fell upon a book by Jack Kornfield, "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry"- which was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. I have been reading it steadily and slowly since that night, reluctant to come to the end. It is the only book on the pursuit of spirituality/wholeness I have ever read that manages to quote the writers Rumi, Emily Dickinson and Rilke, Helen Keller and Albert Camus...and make all their ideas and thoughts seem like one seamless whole.

It would be foolish to attempt to oversimplify or summarize this powerful book, but I will include one of my favorite quotes here. When I first read it, I almost literally heard the chime of a bell ringing a true note:

A man's life is nothing but an extended trek through the detours of art to recapture those one or two moments when his heart first opened.

Albert Camus

I am hoping I will finish my writing project with a deeper understanding, less ego, and more compassion for myself and others. Most importantly, I want to continue on the path this book has given me signposts to follow. I believe I will be able to.

And all the best roads lead home, don't they?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Journalist? Moi?

Happily, the answer is yes- sort of. The monthly neighborhood newspaper called WestView ("the new voice of the West Village") has invited me to be a columnist, and is publishing my saga of growing up in Greenwich Village in a series of regular columns. It's called "Sex and Sinclair Lewis: Tales From A Greenwich Village Girlhood" and so far my work has appeared in their February issue, and currently can be read online in their March issue under my nom de plume, Barbara Riddle.
You can find it at
I couldn't be happier- their main readership lives on the very streets, alleys and mews (mewses?) that I roamed as a 7- to 12-year-old, glorying in the wild freedom we had before cell phones could track kids 24/7.

Of course, such an adolescence is not generic to West Villagers.....I just happened to have had the good fortune to land here. Oddly, we kids actually knew at the time that we were living in the best of all possible (American)worlds. I totally missed out on that suburban-anomie-alienation thing, and didn't have a clue about the adult misery described in "The Feminine Mystique", since my mom had always worked and enjoyed it. No alcohol-soaked bridge games for her. (Although she could expound at length on unreliable younger-actor-boyfriend woes....)

The other night at a dinner gathering, we went around the table citing favorite movies. I mentioned "400 Blows" by Francois Truffaut- any readers out there have special films dealing with adolescence they'd like to mention? I also adore
"A Thousand Clowns", with Jason Robards. If you haven't seen it, rent it NOW. It is more timely than ever.