Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Yesterday, while on his evening walk, The Poocherooni reminded me why we get along so well: we're just alike. He dawdles. I dawdle. We remind each other to look, really look, at the world. The dogwoods have been losing their blossoms this week. The petals have been falling like pink snow. They blanket the sidewalk at one end of the Heather Garden. Last night, The Pooch stuck his nose to the ground as if in a trance, his path sinuous as he traced S's in the petals with his nose. I had no choice but to admire the last of this spring's dogwood blossoms. This morning, The Poocherooni had to sniff recently upturned earth underneath a tree. As he did so, a bird trilled like a flute above us. In the tree perched a cardinal, calling with all his strength to a potential mate, his red plummage made more dramatic by the contrasting emerald leaves. In this world there are sad, tactless people full of venom. They will tell you that you're not competitive, that you're not good enough, that they don't want you (even though they don't bother to take the time to know anything about you). This happened to me yesterday. After a bout of self pitying, I went into the Heather Garden. The sight of water droplets on grass made brilliant green by rain shot the funk to hell. I have conclused that the battle between the dark forces in the universe is not one of good vs. evil, but one of venomed people (Pessimists: The Venomed Ones) who try to squash the zest for life in the rest of us (Optimists: The Zesty Ones). As long as I have a place to walk like the Heather Garden, and for as long as I have the company of a soul like The Pooch, the Venomed Ones will lose. Here's proof. This morning in the subway, I looked down. Someone had littered. A subway card lay abandoned on the ground. The back of the card faced up and the word beaming toward me read: Optimism.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Tonight I went for an early evening walk with The Pooch in the Heather Garden. It was nearing the end of dusk. The sun still cut a slice of gold at the horizon. The sky was cloudless. Its upper reaches had darkened to ceramic blue. We sat on the Linden Terrace, Pooch on my lap cuddling his head against my chest. He has been sick for months. Most recently his lungs had filled up with fluid from an overdose of steroids. Then all he wanted to do was to be next to me, even though I wanted nothing more than to see him running around on his own, forgetting about me. But tonight, on a lower dose of medication, he was feeling better. We were alone on the Linden Terrace except for the Old Russian Couple, sitting closely together on a bench behind us. We watched the horizon nuzzle into darkness and then headed home through the garden. Though the flowers had lost the brilliance of day, their scents had magnified. I stood on a stone and buried my nose in the lilacs, breathing deeply until my senses were overwhelmed. This is bliss.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Returning at 2AM last night from celebrating a friend's birthday in the West Village and walking bleary-eyed down the stairs with my dog to give him a late night pee, I was surprised by a homeless man camped out on the stairs inside my buildling. He was thin and old. He wore a soiled and tattered jacket and clutched a single plastic bag filled with his belongings. An uncombed, white beard and mustache obscured the bottom half of his face. What are you doing here, I asked. He replied in garbled English, his eyes clouded with dementia, not alcohol or drugs. I tried Spanish, but that got us no further. He said, I know someone who lives here. I am waiting for her, she will let me in. I said, do you need help? He did not understand and refused my offer. A glimmer of anger emerged at the suggestion of needing help. He said, I know someone here. See, I have keys. And he showed me two shiny keys attached to his waste band. I repeated, do you need help? More anger. Pride. And finally, shame. He said, I'll be back. I'll come back shaved. You'll see. I'll come back shaved. And he descended the stairway, off into the night. In my apartment I closed the windows and double bolted the door. This was senseless on my part. So old and frail, this man was perhaps more afraid of my dog and I, than I of him. Where did that man go last night? I often wonder about solitary elderly people: why are they alone? Why does no one care for them? The condition is especially dire for men. More than women, whose physical strength may inspire less fear of violence, few help men in trouble. Adrift alone in this world, they often refuse help, responding with anger and pride. Still, I wonder... did this man survive the night? What could I have done differently?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Spring has been spreading its magic over New York City for the past three weeks. Today, on the way to the dog park, I breathed in the heady scent of lilacs, stronger than the hyacinths (which bloomed last week). The arrival of the lilacs always brings a mixture of pleasure and sadness. Lilacs have the loveliest of scents, but as late bloomers they herald the end of spring. So, here at long last, is my spring inventory. The daffodils that appeared first have for the most part withered away, except for a few hangers-on in shady spots. Next came the hyacinths, turning the night-time air to honey. Then one of the trees in the heather garden turned into white lace. This was followed by other trees bursting into cotton candy. The ground cover of the garden has turned into a jungle of green, aflame here and there with lavender and yellow flowers. The trees overhead have begun to spread a canopy of electric green. It is a young lime-green, the leaves still small and uncertain about their ability to provide shade. And, oh, the tulips! Standing stock straight in a rainbow of beauty: red, orange, pink, yellow, peach, deepest, darkest purple. And, of course, the lilacs, whose scent I wish I could capture in a bottle, to release at home during the dark nights of winter.
Sunday I drove down the Westside Highway to the UWS. It was about 1PM, too early for the traffic jams created by people returning to the City from weekends away, but traffic was backed up, overflowing down the on-ramp. I thought it would clear up after the freeway merger near the George Washington Bridge. But that didn't happen. I switched into the slow lane, where I could easily exit if the traffic became still worse. From my vantage point in the right lane I had a good view of the river. At the speed I was going, I decided not to fret and to enjoy the view over the river and the spring flowers spreading along its banks. The traffic continued stop and go until just past 96th St., when I noticed five or six cars parked along the runner's path, where cars normally are restriced Two were cop cars, the others brown sedans. A little further down the path a group of men stood in a group. At their feet lay a mint green bag, about six feet long and obviously not empty: the telltale swelling at one end tapering down to a smaller bump at the other end betrayed what lay inside. Someone had died, or been found dead, along the river, and very recently. The men stood almostly leisurely above the body bag. No sirens blared. No lights flashed. There was no hurry now. The men could take their time. Some images will stay in my mind for a very long time. This is one of them.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I was riding the late night A train back to Wash Hei' last Saturday when Mr. Speedy struck again. As the train pulled into 125th St., his distinctive voice sang over the subway system, "125th St., Home of the World famous Apollo The-a-tre." The train sped down the tunnel, and within the blink of an eye it lurched into the next stop, "145th St. Straight to Hell!" blurted Mr. Speedy. The doors snapped open, disgorged a few unlucky denizens, and the train was off again, speeding like a bullet out of, well, Hell. "168th St. Da Hospital" announced Mr. Speedy again. The doors blinked open, then closed with precision. The car was nearly empty at this point, but when we reached my stop, Mr. Speedy still had enough energy to announce, "190th St. Cloistahs." At that, I limped out of the car. Earlier that day I had passed out from hunger, or exhaustion, or whatever, in Union Square. I had woken to a crowd of lookie-loos lurking overhead. Confused, I had mistakenly thought that a man trying to pull me to my feet was instead dragging me to who-knows-where. On the subway, while nursing a skinned knee and bruised shoulder, Mr. Speedy had kept me company when I needed it. His familiar voice echoed in my head as I wincingly climbed the stairs to the street, and to home.