This week my cousin Jo sent me childhood photos. I was thrilled to have them, because the past is not well-represented in my life. Looking at the images, I remembered the girl who was New York bound at age seven.
New York is the city of big dreams and shattered stories. And hope, too — in the hands of performers like The Saw Lady. If New York is one giant performance act, then it’s the musicians who carry us along in troubled times.
Frank Sinatra Sings ‘New York, New York’
In what has been an emotional time in my life, I savoured the young images images of my dreadful, bangs-abundant hairdo and remarked over my wide smile.
My grin was almost as wide as my head, when I was five years old. Truthfully, I still have a gorgeous smile, but not in front of the camera.
What happens to us that we smile so effortlessly as children, even in stress, and drown in self-consciousness as an adult?
Returning the precious photos to an envelope, I headed off for lunch at an Indian resturant in the East Village, then up to Barnes and Noble in Union Square, to buy “The Broken American Male” by Rabbi Schmuley Boteach.
Dropping back into the subway, I heard a familiar sound — the hauntingly beautiful music of our friend, The Saw Lady. In the midst of a very emotional time for me, The Saw Lady grounded me in the value of authenticity.
Rereading my J’Adore: Saw Lady from last July, I want to introduce Natalia Paruz to new readers. Meeting her again in the nation’s new economic circumstances, I found Natalia even more relevant and inspiring, down there in the bowels of New York’s subway system.
Natalia is also blogging now about her life and scenes of humanity where the trains roar down miles of track, moving us all forward … somewhere, but we New Yorkers are not sure where.
The Saw Lady
In this YouTube video, shot earlier than the ones featured in my J’Adore, Natalia shares her thoughts on self-education. Reminding us that we can’t all go to Julliard, Natalia challenges us to take up the discipline of teaching ourselves.
See my just-now post in Dolce Vita: Studying at Academic Earth about how to get a free education, when you can’t afford the Ivy League, or — like me — you want to learn until you die.
A Dimmer Light
My friend Laura was here last week from Paris, and she remarked that the light has gone out in New York. I’m not certain that the situation is quite this dire, but it’s bad.
After reconnecting with the Saw Lady (see her MySpace page), I boarded the R train south to Wall Street.
We New Yorkers tend to sit or stand in our own words in subway cars, until disrupted — willingly or not. Four well-dressed African American boarded the train and I, too, did a deep sign of “do we have to listen?”
Smiles Are Free
Still sighing “must we do this, because I’m not in a great mood today”, the exhuberant sound of four African American men signing for their supper was thrust on me — like it or not. I wanted to resist, although I adore just about every aspect of African American culture.
These guys made it impossible for me not to smile. Little by little, I melted, touched by their humanity and determination.
I regret that I’m the only one in the car who opened my wallet, but times are tough in our hard-nosed city. Besides the fact that these talented guys really can sing — just like Saw Lady makes a pretty mean melody — their positive exhuberance and harmony were spreading a very important message in the New York subway.
Music connects us all over the words. This day, I stayed home in my own neighborhood, and didn’t go darting around cyberspace looking for ‘new’. I stayed with ‘old’: The Saw Lady and Negro Spirituals; both comforted me.
When the Saints Go Marching In
Listening to the Seegers Session Band sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” slower than I’ve ever heard it performed, the lyrics resonate with life here in New York City. Thursday’s African American combo performed with much more gusto, but perhaps it’s time for a reflective moment, here in the Big Apple.
We are preparing for a new world and it needn’t be a bad one, even if times are very scarry here and all over America.
I sense that the ‘worser’ stories aren’t being revealed in the press, so I’ll tell you a couple.
True Stories in the Naked City
My dear friend P says that crews are walking away from construction sites in New York. In one case, the developer is behind $900,000 in payroll. Note that a couple guys stay on, because a total walkout would just put them at risk for breaking their contract and never getting paid for work already finished.
How can people continue to work, without being paid?
Another friend’s software business employs 200 professionals and is almost 12 months behind, being paid on past-due invoices for Fortune 500 companies. Household words, they must remain nameless in my post. Every hour is challenged and must be defended on the invoice. He says that he must hire five people, just to keep up with the client challenges.
Simply stated, it’s a deferring payment strategy.
My star-power friend missed his payroll three times in the last couple months. The executive staff has all taken a serious pay cut, but there’s no way they can continue, when Blue Chip clients are a year behind in receivables.
The word in the liquor industry is that our vodka moment has passed, but today’s NYTimes says: Not so Fast.
A man who prides himself on keeping his word — almost to a fault — my MIT MBA grad friend, with about four post-grad degrees — all Ivy League, drank himself into near oblivion, the last time I saw him two months ago.
I went to bed at his place, but when the glass shattered twice — once in the kitchen — and also in the living room, I was frankly worried about him and myself, for fear I might end up with a bleeding foot, trying to help him.
It was clear that our earlier conversation barely scraped the surface of his pain and concern for employees. Now he was reeling in self-destructive behavior, seeking escape with the vodka bottle.
“Remember that there’s glass everywhere,” I whispered, waiting until I knew for certain that he heard me.”Please, please be careful, because I’m deadly concerned that you will cut yourself.”
Leaving in the morning, after what was not a night of sexy pleasure and frolicking around, but two good friends trying to nurture each other, I walked into the rarified air of a Central Park South morning.
This is Donald Trump’s town, and appearances mean everything.
The doorman nodded, and an Italian woman was getting out of a limo. Too early for pink blossoms, the crisp air streamed with bright sunshine. The joggers were running in Central Park, and I decided to stop for a civilized coffee, before heading home.
All appeared normal to the eye of visitors arriving in my fair city, but in truth, there’s something very rotten in the state of Denmark. I sense that vodka-drinking is only the tip of the iceberg.
When the chips are down, I’m always up for a rendition of “I will Survive”. In our New York moment, I think this video seems more appropriate:
Diana Ross and Ru Paul - I Will Survive
With love, Anne