Doing The Laundry With George

Growing up, my family lived in an old red brick apartment building in Queens, NY. The apartment building was its own little village on six floors. There was a feeling of comfort and safety having neighbors and friends around us.

I had good friends in the building and I ate many meals in my friends’ homes. In Lotti’s kitchen I always ate home-made matzoh ball soup, the matzoh balls light and airy. She introduced me to my first milkshake, made with chocolate and vanilla ice cream and served in tall, cold glasses.

Vanilla Kipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

Vanilla Kipferl (Vanilla Crescents) (Photo credit: sharon.schneider)

In Omi’s house, (my friend Linda’s grandmother) we settled into over sized chairs and we ate many home-baked cookies: granulated sugar-coated vanilla crescent cookies and chocolate kiss surprise cookies. To this day I can feel the taste of the melting sugar on my tongue, I have seen several duplicates in stores but they missed a very important ingredient: Omi’s special kind of love. I didn’t have grandparents and Omi made me feel like part of the family.

English: Windows in the red brick wall of an a...

My older sister and I, individually, had to do the laundry as our chore. In an apartment building, a couple of old washing machines and one dryer lived questionably in the basement. The basement was dank, dark, dimly lit and uninviting. Thinking back, there never seemed to be anyone else down there doing laundry, it was an experience you just wanted to hurry up and finish, it felt scary being there alone.

I would lug the metal shopping cart, that we also used for groceries, and hold on to it with both hands grasped behind me. It always left a lingering metallic smell on my fingers.The elevator always shook and made loud scraping mechanical noises as it bumped and lurched to a stop in the basement.

The only person who lived in the basement was George, the handyman.  We assumed from his accent he came from Romania or Russia but that was never confirmed.  George was a happy and unconventional man. When you talked to him, most likely he was upside down, standing on his head. There was nothing scary about him, in fact, when the door to his room in the basement was ajar we always felt safer.

Clowns Upside Down on the Ceiling

Clowns Upside Down on the Ceiling (Photo credit: wht_wolf9653)

George spoke little English but every so often he would determinedly either call himself Mr. Rockefeller or call my father Mr. Rockefeller; why we don’t know.

We accepted George the way he was as if he was a character jumping out of the pages of a John Updike novel, smelling slightly of old, cheap wine. All the mothers said “he was harmless.” Back then, he was.  In the sixties, that was normal, we trusted people. We didn’t even question his unusual style, we just laughed with him.

If you were lucky the two washing machines would be free when you had to do the laundry, the sense of achievement and happiness would be intense. I would dig my sweaty fingers into my jeans pockets, front and back, to find three quarters for each machine. The smooth shiny coins were placed in the slotted circles, I waited to hear the metal clinking sound as they dropped down.  Once I put in too much soap and bubbles, huge iridescent sudsy bubbles, started cascading down from the machine, everywhere. I was both thrilled and terrified at the same time. I ran for George.

There was one large dryer but more fascinating were these huge hanging racks that we would have to pull out of the wall and drape clothing on the clothing rods; how this was allowed and sanctioned by the fire department I will never know. Once we pulled back the steel rods and draped our clothing we could see the individual fires blazing. After we pulled our clothes from the hanging rods the clothes were stiff and scratchy. There were no fabric softeners, anything that was on those rods to were as crisp as burned toast.

Chemical Brothers

George lived in our building for many years, we would try to get  in touch with him by phone but he generally didn’t pick up. More often one of us went to his room and knocked loudly on his door.

One day, he disappeared, no one had seen him for a while. Everyone was talking about it but he literally vanished from one day to the next.

In my young imagination, I decided he must have rejoined the circus, as of course, a clown. He already had the sweet smile, the jolly personality and the impeccable skills for standing on his head.

When I remember George I remember him upside down, firmly saying “Mr. Rockefeller.” Why he did this nobody knew, but we all accepted him for who he was.  No one ever heard from him again but after all these years, I never forgot him.

 

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Haters Gonna Hate (Without Me)

English: Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2011 Venice Fi...

English: Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2011 Venice Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve read that there are people who “hate” Ann Hathaway just like they used to hate Gwyneth Paltrow. Hate? I read it in at least three or four different sources and an additional two at the end of the long supermarket line.

Where is all the “hate” coming from these days, I have no idea. I don’t get it. Is it a new “trend” to hate someone? I thought we were moving back to a “kinder, gentler nation.”  I guess I was wrong.

People are now hating  people they don’t even KNOW?

My God, (gasp!!), are we all back in middle school? Does he have”cooties?”Does SHE? UGH, she smells like a monkey, he smells like poop, hey he said a curse word, SHUT UP!!! Dad, he’s screaming at me, MOMMY….. and so it starts….unless the behavior can be changed right away.” Hate is a very strong word my parents told us,” “Hate is a very, very strong word, we told our children.”

I do know grown up people that are obviously mean and negative but, I make an effort to try to stay far away from them. Anyone who is consistently like that is NO longer in my close circle of friends. It wasn’t good for me and I’m much happier now. I know these past friends or acquaintances will stab anyone in the back, some would be shocked to think that they do it, many people are unaware of how they come across.

Apparently the movie “Mean Girls” lives on but instead of being ashamed many people are proud of their status or have no idea what pain they are inflicting on others. There are quite a few “Mean Girls” that grow up without learning lessons, they become “Mean People.”

I’d rather someone be mean to my face than behind my back because you know someone will always delight in telling you. This way, if someone attacks you to your face you can decide to fight back or walk away saying “This is YOUR problem, not Mine.”

So, hate away, haters. I’m not joining in. There’s too much negativity in the world already, I’m not getting involved in anything remotely mean, gossipy or unkind. There is enough pain going around in this world without me adding to it. Even though some people don’t show it, we all have issues we are dealing with inside.

Am I changing the world? I know I’m not. I’m just changing my teeny, tiny piece of it, that’s all I can to do. If I can change one person to stop saying one mean thing I would be thrilled. I’m not changing the world but to me it’s still worth the effort.

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FWF Kellie Elmore

“I am a very old man, yes, I am older than this tree that grows in the backyard of my son’s house. I sit on the green bench so I can watch the tree in all weathers, I have lived here for 200 days now. Enough days, too much. I am dying, I need to go home.

Two hundred days and twenty days ago my beautiful wife, Shuen-Lie of sixty-seven years died, my son from America come to China, I am with pride. Soon, he moves my things together. I say good-bye to him and he gets large and shakes his head the way I used to saw trees and branches to make huts, back and forth, NO, NO, NO in angry voice. But in our culture you do not say no to an elder. He does, he takes my things, brings me to plane to America to live.

It has been 200 days since he take me away, he said “it was best for me to be closer to him.” Who was it better for I tried to ask him, but he keep pretending not to hear. He does not look in my eyes now.

We lived in our little town in China so happy,  but I was so weak, so sad that when my wife, Soon-Li  passed away, mother of our son, that I could not think anymore. I just needed time, I needed time for my sorrow to settle inside me. That is what I needed but he won’t listen.

My son came from America too fast, too fast. I was still very sad, I needed more time to be with my friends who are my people. They understood, we were all together every day, every night. Now my half was gone.  I know. It happens to all of us someday.The hurt in my body would leave but not the love.

I also worked on a fishing boat since I was a boy, It was my job since I was six to catch fish with my hands, for the family. Well, you see my hands now, so many years of work building huts from trees, fishing, I work every day. As I got older, I got better. I learned that with experience. Everyone needs to learn that in their own time.

My son and his wife bring me to America so they can “help” me, watch me, but it is my heart they took out. I want to be in my country, to be with my people who understand me, who have grown up with me. I know they love me here but love talks in many languages. I love my grandson they call “Sam” an American name. My sadness will be missing my grandson but he knows I want to go home. He loves me that much to help me now. That is pure love, white love.

The lights are too bright here, everything is rush rush and too loud. I do not like this. In my world I was a healer. People came to me for my help, now I meditate alone and ask to be listened to, to be back in my country, to die in my bed.

My grandson is a man now, he bought me a ticket, he will take me to airport, we go now to tell his parents, it is my word, the elder’s word that we listen to, as it should be.”

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Dear Alice,

Creamy Coconut Cake

Creamy Coconut Cake (Photo credit: 3liz4)

Hey, Alice, did you see? I wrote about another lunch, this time it had bread and cheese and red grapes which is my all time favorite lunch combination but knowing me I should have added dessert. Yes, I know I should say something like a square of dark chocolate but who am I kidding? First, it would be milk chocolate that would melt slowly, (and not just one piece, mind you)  but you know THE real answer, now don’t you? Well, I’m not going to bring THAT up again, that’s for darn sure.  I have to limit myself on sweets because once I start I can easily continue and that can get bad. I didn’t say I was going to do it but I sure would be tempted with ONE dessert. Oh, don’t even bring up my diabetes, it’s just borderline. Hush.

It’s been a nasty day here, cloud covering, humidity, thick as if holding the rain inside as a hostage, we want it to open up and pour so we can get some relief but there is no relief coming. Not today and not for several more days.  I can’t stand the freezing cold and I am miserable in the extreme heat, basically, I get about two to three weeks a year when I am comfortable but my old bones hurt anyway. Stiff and sore, swollen. I can barely walk now without using that darn walker too. What a pretty sight I am!

It does seem unfair that life is wasted on young people and of course, we were the same way, weren’t we? We knew everything and our lives were just beginning. What happened? Where did the years go?  My it was their first day of nursery school just a minute ago and now they are both all grown up. It goes by too quick doesn’t it Alice?

I just had my after dinner snack and I can hear you laughing.  I had a huge bowl of cereal,  four different cereals mixed together. Someone bought skim milk instead of one percent and frankly that milk looks gray-green to me. It really does taste the same but I find the color just disgusting. I did add some of that half and half and that sure made it more tasty. Like old times when we drank hot coffee with mostly cream and sugar in it pretending we were so grown-up.

Do you remember all the good food we used to eat at your house when we were little? You had the best food of all our friends.  That cake, the coconut cake your mom would make, oh my, that was the most delicious thing I ever ate in my life. Every time I’d go to a restaurant if they had coconut cake I would order it but none compared to your mom’s home-made cake. I begged you to get that recipe for me, but you never did.  I still hold a grudge for that, yes I do and I always will. Yes, always.

It was bad enough that you had the cancer and died on me when we had our plans to live next door to each other in the retirement home, sitting in our rocking chairs, side by side, that was bad enough, that was real bad, Allie. But the only favor I ever ask from you and you never gave me that recipe, for that coconut cake that I loved so dearly. Why Alice, why did you have to die and leave me here alone.

rocking chair

rocking chair (Photo credit: grimescene)

Discovering New Books

The Borders book store at the mall.

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Borders, I Miss You.

Once upon a time, in my perfect world, there was a bookstore named Borders in the next big town over. Unfortunately, my life took a huge dive when they closed, my social life as well. Borders was such a great place to meet up with friends, you could both look for books and have coffee downstairs and talk. I would go there at least twice a week if not more. Since they closed, I have certainly have saved money and I use the library much more often, I miss having a place to look at new books.

There used to be a small independent bookstore in my town but that closed too, a devastating loss to the community. I think it’s a horrible situation, are the only bookstores on-line now? That seems sad to me.

I get ideas on-line from looking at Amazon.com, from magazines that review books, from the NY Times Book Review or from a glance at a book cover I find riveting. I ask friends what they are reading or do research on new fiction and non-fiction books. I love the library system and I appreciate them, now more than ever, but I do miss Borders, in every possible way. I thought of it as my home away from home, with their big comfy chairs and everyone talking books. I would start random conversations with strangers perusing books, it was its own community. Sigh, it’s a new world; not one that I particularly like.

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“MTV, Teen Cribs” ( or I Want To Throw Up)

I actually WATCHED a show on television  (I couldn’t make this up if I tried) where teens show off their, mega, opulent, oversized, disgustingly big rooms/suites. The suites are housed in super big houses, near billiard rooms, bowling alleys and ice skating rinks. Seriously. No joke.  I am both fascinated and nauseated by this show, mostly nauseated. Okay, definitely all nauseated and totally disgusted.

The viewer is welcomed into the homes of these super- rich teenage kids and their ridiculously over indulgent more rich than rich parents. I kid you not. I have never seen anything like this in my life and I hope never to see it again. Once, twice was enough; more than enough. Kids have aquariums based on the movie Finding Nemo; they have home theaters, fully stocked concession stands  arcades, spa rooms,  backyard jacuzzi spa and slide sections so that “even when it’s snowing we can still go in.”  They have their own grotto, in case you were worried. Oh look, how quaint, they are making home-made pizza in their own pizza oven outside situated next to more grills than I could count. We’re not talking English Muffin pizza’s here.

There were hockey rinks, soccer fields, a gym with a working scoreboard. What house is complete without one? They have their own performing studios, and an “every day is a holiday” theme so they can keep the Christmas tree up all year-long. I’ve seen a chair museum in place of a dining room table,  psychedelic, modern, artistic mansions, no MANSIONS. These homes are described by their parents as “having a place where we all feel comfortable.” Give me a break.

This disgusting show of über opulence is so crude that over the top does not quite describe it. Over the top is an understatement. I actually had to text my teenagers to see if this was a real show or if it was made up?  Apparently, it’s real. Real if you live in a fantasy land, on another universe, in another galaxy. After watching this show it seems that Michael Jackson’s Neverland was nothing more than a quaint and cozy little shack.

Is this the standard we want our children to aspire to? Does the plethora of material riches, I mean crap, make them any happier? Don’t even answer that! What are these parents THINKING?  I’d be embarrassed to show off a ridiculous  mega-mansion like any of those shown. I would be ashamed, and I should be. So should they.

Kick these families out of their glamour galaxies, show them the real world, where most of us can barely live, can barely make ends meet. As for the teens? Kick them out of their go carts, scooters, Segueways and disco ball rooms, and hand them a book. A book about the real world, unemployment, financial troubles, poverty. Real people.

After not being able to watch another second of this show, I was grateful to find  a show on NBC about how a community helped a special needs family and their mom. Which show would you want YOUR kids to watch? “MTV Teen Cribs” or “America Now, A Circle of Helping Hands?” You make the decision, you do the math.

After accepting that “MTV Teen Cribs” is going to stay on television, all I can seriously hope for is that these RICH families do a lot for charity. That they give to those less fortunate than themselves (which is probably 99.9 percent of the world), it may sound idealistic but it’s the only hope I’ve got.

Wishing Everyone a Happy 2010

12/31/09

I woke up this morning watching the snow lightly fall on the branches of the trees outside my window. I was immediately delighted and relieved. It felt like the fresh snow was covering all the mishaps, medical illnesses, and hard times of 2009. At least, that is what I hope it means.  I choose to interpret the crystal snow powder as some kind of healing balm, for the human spirit and the soul.

I have no regrets that 2009 is over. None. It was a year filled with illness, sadness,  disappointment, unemployment and marital disputes and too much fighting among family members.   I say good-bye to 2009 with no regrets but with hope for the future. I have taken chances this year, some for the very first time and I hope they will be worth it. But, nonetheless, the act of taking them is, for me, is a significant accomplishment in itself.

Last night I lit the Kaddish candle, a candle of remembrance on the anniversary of my father’s death.  He died on New Year’s Eve 8 years ago, a day before my parents wedding anniversary. This time of year for me and for my family has always been fraught with sadness and emotional upheavals. Instead of lighting the candle this morning when I awakened, I lit it at 12:10 am, last night, in order for the flame to burn brightly during the early morning and through today, but extinguish quickly after the New Year has been rung in.

This is my fervent prayer, that 2010 and the snow that is bringing it in, will heal your pain and bring, if not better relationships, different relationships. If not love, than like. If not better health, a calming spirit. There are some things we have no control over and for those things I wish for patience, and understanding, better coping skills and peace.

Here is a wish for you, my friends and family: I wish you happiness and good health, I hope any gaping wounds you feel inside will be less raw and heal soon.  I hope that if you know your dreams, they will come true. And, if you don’t know what your dreams are you will not look at that with anguish but as a time of taking chances and new opportunities.

I wish for all of you, love, peace and the feeling that you are loved and cared about. I hope you feel that you belong, with someone, or something or some religion and community. Kindness and taking care of others is a universal religion, one that I am proud to be a part of. Please join me.

Happy 2010 for all my family and for the friends that I have and those that I have not yet met.

Love, Laurie