New York Chronicles – September 8, 1989

dugout

Photo credit belongs to Jason Fernau, via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York website.

Last night was a riot. We went first to the Dugout, a neighborhood bar two blocks away from the dorm. Three steps down into the brightly lit bar, its façade lending the impression of an old English pub with wood shingles and a single gable window above the door, and standing room only among the wooden tables. Three frosty drafts went down like water and Alena and Daphne decided we were going to MKay’s.

MKay’s is midtown and more upscale and it was crowded with well-dressed people. We detoured downstairs to the lower level which was more clubby and darker with the flashing lights of DJs and dance music. We met these Italian guys from Milan, which was about the only thing any of them said that I could make out since I think they had about a dozen English words between the three of them. Two more beers went down and it was hilarious – the six of us struggling to have a conversation above the booming music and soon it was just lame.

Getting up for work this morning was rough, and I was still nauseous. I worked from 8 to 4, with an hour lunch break which was great because I really needed the fresh air. The area I work in is basically in the basement, with a separate entrance from the main Admissions office upstairs; we’re kind of like the worker trolls hidden in the basement. I swear I’m going to spend a lot of time underground in New York, and I’m not talking about the “edgy” side of the city.

My boss is nice enough but strange as a three-legged bird, and I haven’t yet figured out which eye to focus on when I talk to her. She’s tough but not unkind. Kind of like a retired military sergeant. Her husband, who works there too and I’m not sure exactly what he does, is a dead ringer for Howdy Doody, and equally as strange. He has an off-color sense of humor that I’m sure isn’t appropriate for the work place, and more than likely he’s got a closet full of bondage paraphernalia at home, or he’s a serial killer. Which, when I think about it, makes it very difficult for me to look him in the eye.

 

**Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is a favorite of mine. There’s also a Facebook page and a published book. It makes me very nostalgic for the New York of my twenties.

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Just Another Thursday Morning

Opac and Veruca were getting ready for school this morning and Todd was cooking bacon and sausage for a breakfast meeting. I’m still trying to ward off the alien invader who made my lip swell up. V has a presentation in Chinese today, so she wanted to practice with us. It sounded great to me – even though I don’t understand a word of it – and I’m still marveling at how well she’s doing with it, since Chinese can be difficult to learn.

Opac stepped up and said it was his turn, said “ni hao” and followed up with “Shanghai, Hong Kong, egg foo young…” at which point I started cracking up…”fortune cookie always wrong!”

He was bumbling his way around the house this morning, first kicking the step stool and startling me. He said, that’s what happens when a steel-toed boot hits a metal stool. Because today he’s wearing shit-kickers. A few minutes later I heard the toilet lid crash down, and from down the hall I heard, “I’m good!” Apparently he caught his boot on the lid, and I just don’t even want to know how that happened. For a brief moment I had a flashback to Neph who, you may recall, I once said Neanderthal’s his way through life.

While I’m marveling at how my daughter is speaking Chinese, I’m beginning to marvel at who-T-F this boy is living in my house. He’s evolving again, from video-gaming, rap-music-loving sport dude to this man wearing cowboy boots or shit-kickers, jeans and flannels, and now listening to ….. country music. It’s all good, just never saw the country music thing coming. Although, to say he doesn’t have an appreciation for all kinds of music would be disingenuous. He likes rock, metal, and reggae too.

He’s a young adult now. His newfound freedom of driving has boosted his confidence to get out and do stuff. He called me at work the other day to tell me, breathlessly, that he drove himself to get a haircut – which in itself must have felt very liberating but was ruined by some “hick” who appeared out of nowhere on his bumper and [likely scared the bejesus out him] pissed him off. I’m thinking, given his penchant for flannel and boots and while driving a 1990 Ford pickup, that he should limit his use of the word, “hick.”

He played me a song called Pickup Man and now I can’t get it out of my head. Not that, or the sound of him singing, you can set my truck on fire and roll it down a hill… and I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coup de Ville… and now I hate my life. Okay, not really. I think it’s hilarious, especially when he told me that Mason got him into country music and when he asked him to send his MP3 list, Mason sent each song separately. Can’t help but wonder how this trend will evolve next year when he’s at college with a whole new set of friends he hasn’t met yet.

I never liked the music my parents listened to, growing up. My mom and stepdad made me and a cousin see Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers at the Valley Forge Music Fair when I was in high school. I hated the idea from the get-go. The worst part – the seats were split up so Jimmy and I sat in one section, and Mom and George sat in another section. But guess what? Though I wasn’t about to tell them, it was a fantastic concert. First, Ziggy sounded like the ghost of his father, and Rita was just breathtaking. Second, it was constructed as a theater-in-the-round with a revolving stage so that there were no bad seats. It was hard NOT to be engaged in the show.

In high school I listened mostly to pop music, except when I was riding in Todd’s car with Dokken and Bon Jovi just beginning to effect what is now hearing loss. So there you have it Todd – you can’t get mad at me for not hearing you, because it’s all your fault I can’t hear!

In college, my first roommate turned me on to INXS and REM, and at my then-boyfriend’s frat house I picked up rock and metal music. One of my sorority sisters played Meatloaf at a dorm party once and now I never turn the dial when Meatloaf comes on. Friends at another fraternity used to play Werewolves of London, and it had other connotations I’d rather not disclose but I still can’t hear that song without thinking of them.

When I moved to New York, my new roommate turned me on to alternative music – New Order, Depeche Mode, the Cure – and one of my suite-mates interned at Elektra and so I came by quite a few cassette tapes of these and other, what SiriusXM now calls, First Wave artists. Conversely, I turned my roommate on to club music.

I used to listen to the country station driving to and from the kids’ preschool – and  a number of favorites are still on the playlist today. I listen to Eminem, mostly but not only, because of Opac. I appreciate the beat of some rap tunes, but not all. Classical music was never my thing at all. I tried to, I really did, thinking it would make me more cultured. But instead it either put me to sleep or made me laugh at someone who did (true story).

Todd’s music tastes – as evidenced by his playlist – run the gamut. This would have surprised me 30 years ago, just like imagining him as a college professor. He’s still HIM, but he’s evolved a lot since those motorhead metal days.

Especially after what he did at the grocery store last week.

New Year’s Eve, Then and Now

1985                         

16 and 17, respectively. Most likely our first official date.

Lying on the floor in my attic bedroom, listening to Prince on my stereo rack in the glass case… Purple Rain, Controversy, For You… talking about whatever teenagers talk about when they’re falling in love and getting to know more about each other.

His brown hair was soft and long, mine was long and curly. Two pairs of brown eyes meeting shyly and intensely across the space between us on the floor.

My parents were downstairs watching TV. I guess they weren’t worried about the daughter two floors up alone with a boy in her bedroom. They didn’t have to be.

We may have had snacks and sodas, I don’t remember.

We may have also cuddled close on that floor, kissing and feeling all the butterflies and fireworks, and falling irrevocably in love.

We may have also had the TV on, watching but not watching Dick Clark and the ball eventually drop, signaling the time for him to go home, because he couldn’t stay.

I went to bed, aching for him in that way that teens in love do, and couldn’t fall sleep.

 

2018

49 and 50, respectively. Our 9th New Year’s Eve together.

We sat at the table with grilled filet and baked potatoes, drinking a bottle of Wente Cab by candlelight, in an otherwise empty house.

He put on one of our MP3 lists, with Scandalous Prince. We talked about our families, those still with us and those who are not. We talked about all the dogs that came before Pi and Sabra, and how neither of us wants to love and lose another pet.

We talked about our plans for the future, airfare, and practical stuff like house renovations, and the next poker party.

His brown hair is short today. So is mine. Maybe his a bit thinner than it was in 1985, and shades of gray peeking through. My hair is a reflection of my original color; otherwise it would be heavily gray.

We sat on the couch and snuggled close and took selfies. I joked we should lie on the floor and make out; he said great idea, until we have to get up off the floor.

We watched Dark Matter on Netflix. The cousins in Oregon called and we had a lovely, long conversation.

We climbed into bed sometime near 11:30, and I fell asleep just 15 minutes before the ball dropped.

 

Collide

2011. I often heard this song on my early morning runs through the streets of my old town. In 2010 I first discovered my love for running, when life was often out of control and stress was high and I needed an outlet. I wasn’t “allowed,” really, to go anywhere without the kids in tow in those days. I was the 24/7 nurse to my type 1 daughter. I was up 3, 4, sometimes 5 times a night checking her blood sugars at the boss’s command.

Running became my way to escape, if only for the time it took to run 3 miles out and back. It was exhilarating, it was liberating, it was mine. I ran through all sorts of music. I ran through Linkin Park – the angry, screaming lyrics driving me forward with all the power in my legs, my anthem to myself to reclaim the life I deserved. Life was complicated then. It was stressful. And there was Todd, in the middle of it, my anchor in the storm my ex had promised to deliver so many times during our marriage. His way, I suppose, of intimidating me to never leave.

2018. I was driving back to the bowling alley after dropping Veruca off at her dad’s. Collide had begun to play on the radio, and it took me back to those early days of fear and anxiety and the only certainty I had was that I was going to be free.

I reflected on how much has changed. How we didn’t see all that lay ahead, all the changes, both good and bad, all the illnesses, the losses.

Over seven years ago, I was running down the alley behind Main Street and Collide began to play on my iPod. I felt a relief and a profound love wash over me and I smiled out loud. I had found Todd again and he had found me, and the butterflies in my stomach ached to get to that place of peace. We weren’t able to see each other every day.

The divorce was [mostly] peaceful. It was the custody that turned ugly. I fled the house with the kids, at the urging of several friends and family who said it was safer to get out.

Over the last seven years, I lived with my dad and stepmom, I worked at the restaurant on weekends to earn money, I stopped eating and was down to an astounding 113 pounds. I hocked a pile of gold jewelry for the $1000 I needed for a deposit on a house in the kids’ school district, in order to maintain temporary custody. Every text and email exchange with ex was nasty and accusatory and threatening. I got an upper respiratory infection that lasted weeks. I started back on anti-anxiety meds. Todd proposed to me.

We married in a civil ceremony in the district courthouse yards away from the home that once felt like a prison. And, after thousands of dollars, I won custody of the children and five days later Todd and I threw a real wedding with our loved ones.

We moved to Maryland into Todd’s home and established new roots and friends. We have wonderful neighbors who are also cherished friends. We’ve been through a handful of emergency room visits, several family members in hospital, my mom’s first major surgery, my first major surgery, four new cars, my first auto accident.

My once 8-year-old and 13-year-old are now halfway through their last years of middle and high school respectively. Opac finally has his driver’s license, and is looking forward to high school graduation and college next fall.

We attended a couple of galas where I could wear a fabulous dress and pretend to be rich for an evening, and two weddings watching long-time couples tie the knot and their happily ever after.

Todd left the college where he spent 18 years, to start a new journey where he can do things and leave a lasting legacy as a dean. Seven years ago, we certainly didn’t see that coming. I finally extricated myself from restauranting, and landed a job at CHOP – somewhere I’ve wanted to work since we moved down here. I am earning more money and I have my weekends free to spend with my husband and friends and family. I love the people I work with.

We’ve made many new friends and strengthened the ones we had. We are building on those friendships because they are valuable to us, even though we all have limited time and occasional scheduling conflicts. Two of my closest girlfriends, who know who they are, I have been talking about planning a girls weekend in the near future.

In these last seven years, I’ve lost an uncle and my maternal grandfather, and both of my stepmother’s parents. We lost someone to a horrific suicide. We’ve lost two friends/family to cancer, and another four to pancreatic cancer. One is still holding on after battling brain cancer, though he will never be the same. A family member was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, and so we begin to cope with this journey. We have family members who choose to be estranged, through no cause of ours.

As Green Day’s song goes, seven years have gone so fast. It sounds like a whole lot of loss and sadness, and for what it’s worth, this post was actually inspired by my mind’s ramblings after hearing Collide two weeks ago. Collide always made me smile, and it still does, and I know I’m being redundant by saying it made me think about all that has transpired since that morning in the alley.

I have a much better life today. I am happy. I am complete. Todd feels the same way, I think. He would say so, and I know him, so I am free to speak for him. The unfortunate things that come to pass are a part of living, as life goes on whether we like it or not, with whom we share it with or not. But SO MUCH has changed.

It gives me pause, to think back on everything and thank God I got here with few scars, a pile of meds to keep me calm, and lessons that caused me to grow. I have Todd and he has me, for as long as God has planned, and I thank Him every day for this blessing.

 

Even the best fall down sometimes

Even the wrong words seem to rhyme

Out of the doubt that fills my mind

I somehow find you and I collide.