New Year, 2020

It’s been a perfectly lazy holiday break. Howie and I have watched way too much Netflix. When he watched sports, I alternated between Dr. Who and Dexter. The most constructive thing I’ve done in the last two weeks is let my hair grow. I’m at an age where appearance options are reduced to cute, drab, or fierce. I’ve allowed myself to verge on drab long enough; I’m too lazy for cute, and therefore I’m considering going full-on Patti Smith (without the pigtails). Though I may never possess her fierceness, I can at least look like I might.
I know women who have the ability to frighten young men and small children. They relish their capacity and I admire them. Some of these women keep cats, but I’m a dog girl by nature—and horoscope. This year being a Year of the Rat, I’m hoping it will bring out a bit more “wolf in the forest” than my natural tendency toward “squirrel chasing stray or curled up and dreaming in a warm corner.”
Holidays are over and it’s time to come out of my cozy space, stand up, and face the world again. I stand behind women who are taking on the patriarchy, bigotry and inhumanity. I stand beside women (and men) who are truthful and just, and who respect the planet and all its creatures.
There are many fierce women I admire (with good hair and bad, pigtails and not) but only one has a birthday today.
Happy Birthday Patti.

On a bench in Central Park…

I’m sitting in Central Park on a late weekday morning a few days after returning from eleven days in Scotland. The day is clear and sunny, unlike Scotland where I’d gotten used to the transcendence of mist, drizzle, and rain. The brightness seems surreal and a bit obscene. I watch people amble along, speaking foreign languages riding bikes, wheeling bored children, struggling to jog up the hill in front of me, walking indentured dogs. Men in bucket trucks manicure trees. Horses pull carriages grudgingly, drivers relating historical half-truths to passengers. Rickshaw drivers do the same. A woman in a wheelchair is rolled past me. She looks down at the paving below her as if she might perceive a lifting of her vehicle, a rise into the air and flight. Nannies gossip while their babies in strollers give me The Eye, a look that says, “You know how this goes.” Or, Don’t tell them we know what they’re up to.” They blink, then turn away and resume their blank stares and dribbling.
I’m sitting on a bench not far from the John Lennon memorial, or as my kids once called him, “Sean’s dad.” This is because, although they didn’t know Sean well, he lived nearby and was their age. They were very young and identified with the sorrow of a boy losing his father more than the impact of such a loss on the world.
Sean’s dad’s memorial is a manhole sized mosaic asking us to “Imagine.” I try to exercise this directive in a positive way but often it slips into a dark crack that extends deep below sanity. This day, however, I languish in the peacefulness of a warm fall morning and the lingering spell of a magical country (Scotland).
I lived on the west side of the park for twenty years, my kids were raised here. As I walked through the park today from the opposite side, there was a strange smell, antiseptic, unnatural, as if the cleaning lady had just buzzed through. It wasn’t the smell of flower, tree, or grass, nor was it the clear aroma of mist or rain that I’d gotten used to in Scotland; it was something artificial. What could it be? A sign of change, of wiping the past clean—the past weeks? Years?
Here, from a bench at the park’s seventy-second street entrance, I study knots of visitors, taking photos listening to guides. I wonder what photo I would take if I was a tourist here? Since I’m a long time resident and on my way from one appointment to another, I take a photo of my shadow (because it doesn’t show my age and my hair looks better in silhouette). I’m sorry visitors, but this is my city, my park—well, technically it’s not MY park. My current neighborhood park is Marcus Garvey, less travelers (except Sunday when they come for the churches), darker complications, and an overload of derelict squirrels.
Back on the West Side, they’ve changed the courtyard of the building we used to live in. They allow people to take pictures in front—which they didn’t for a long time. Some people believe the building is haunted. Many times we drive by at night and (most) of the windows are dark and ominous. Does Sean’s dad haunt these neighborhood streets? This section of the park?
When I look up at my old window today, will the memory of that life have been purged? Purified? Or will I see my ghostly self? How will that phantom image effect the appearance of my hair?

Betrayal

There’s a song that’s been stuck in my head for a while. It’s a song about betrayal, sung by a dead man (and sometimes Willie Nelson). It’s not a song about a cheating lover; it’s a song about the betrayal of a friend. It tells the tale of a blatant, in-your-face sell-out, neither clever nor sneaky. Worse than an outright fight, more heartbreaking than angry insults, it’s a betrayal that destroys lives.
The song is set in a brightly-colored tropical country, a country of peasants with mind-your-own sorrows attitudes. There’s crime and virtue in the song and, of course, disappointment. There is heat and dust.
The one betrayed dies and becomes legend. The betrayer lives on in obscurity and regret.
The first time I was betrayed I was a fourth-grader. I never spoke to the offender again. I was angry and hurt, but it wasn’t hard to move on. I knew I could do without a friend like that.
Adult betrayals are not always so simple. Sometimes necessity overrides treachery. Sometimes affection gets in the way especially if the betrayer betrays themselves as well. Forgiveness is in order, though it may not be easy to forget.
Sometimes the betrayal overrides any chance of forgiveness. What are we to do when we’re being betrayed at an unparalleled level of treachery by people in power? Confrontation does no good. Criticism has no effect. The devil has no shame.
Perhaps this epic double-cross can’t be sung…or perhaps it just hasn’t been sung yet. Perhaps there is someone out there who can sing the truth of it. To catch on, it will need a strong voice and a loud guitar. It will need an earthy base, a soulful drummer, and a honky tonk keyboard player so as not to frighten the innocent. It will need words like “dust” and “destiny.” It will need courage, dedication and sleepless nights. It might need horses.
There are some people voicing solemn refrains but often their voices fall flat, are discordant or masked by shrill duplicity. But time and determination have a way of airing treachery and sounding out revelation. Resonance is eminent.
Then for us to move on, cells with strong bars will be needed.