Yardley English Lavender



A bar of soap isn’t just a bar of soap.

For example, there’s Yardley English Lavender–Mom’s favorite.

Last week she said, “I meant to tell you to get me more soap.”

I went into her bathroom and saw three bars of soap–not whole, maybe two-thirds used–but nevertheless, Yardley English Lavender.

“Mom, you have soap,” I said from the bathroom.


“Yes, want to see?” I said.

“Okay,” she said, wheeling into the bathroom. She turned on the faucet and started to wash her face and hands.

“Smell it,” I said, handing her the bar. She sniffed it.

“Okay, thank goodness. Yes, that’s it.”

Her aide Christina* came in the room later and said, “I wanted to ask you to bring your mom more soap.”

“But she has three bars in the bathroom,” I said.

“Yes, but she tells me, ‘That’s not soap.’ She likes the big bars,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll bring some next time.”

Christina nodded and smiled.

Before I left, I said to Mom, “Remember, you have soap. There are three bars in the bathroom.”

“Okay,” she said.

I had a feeling this was not the end of the Soap Saga, so I went to CVS and bought three “real” bars of Yardley English Lavender.

Last night after work I stopped by to visit Mom.

I saw the night nurse Jared* on my way to her room and said, “I’m bringing her some soap.”

“Ah, the English soap,” he said, smiling.

“Yes, she loves it.”

It was 7:30, and Mom was already in bed.

“Do you want to watch some TV?” I asked.

“No, I’m sleepy,” she said.

“I’ll put your soap right her next to you, okay?” I placed the bars of soap on the rolling table next to her bed.

“Yes, that’ll be fine. You didn’t have to come today to bring it.”

“No, I wanted to. I didn’t want you to have to wait.”

“Thank you, dear.”

I kissed her on the forehead and said, “good night.”

“Good night, dear.”

I told Jared, “She was very sleepy, so I put the soap by her bed.”

He said, “You didn’t have to come all this way to just to bring her soap. I could have picked some up at Walgreens.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

Sometimes soap isn’t just soap.



*Pseudonyms used for staff members at Actor’s Home.




USA Freedom Kids

Apparently they are a viral sensation, but today is the first day I’m hearing about them. Yes, I mean the USA Freedom Kids! The number they performed at a Trump rally in Pensacola, FL reminds me a bit of Olive’s act in the film Little Miss Sunshine.  The back beat sounds like a techno / diluted version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” Their song entitled “Freedom’s Call” is a re-write of the popular World War I and II tune “Over There.”

The founder / manager of the group is Jeff Popick, father of Alexis, the youngest girl in the group. He is planning to sue the Trump campaign for violating their business agreement. They were promised two performances in Pensacola, but the first performance did not transpire.  When Popick asked for the $2,500 promised for their  one and only performance, a counter offer was proposed to give them a table for pre-selling CDs. No table was set up for them, and they still have not been paid for the performance (January 2016). Boo, Trump!

Trump’s campaign manager also invited the Freedom Kids to perform at a rally in Des Moines which would have brought them huge publicity, but when they arrived, they were told there was a change of plan. They made the trip for nothing and were not compensated for any hotel or travel expenses.

Washington Post article by Philip Bump notes:

. . . Popick’s story mirrors analysis of Trump’s record in working with small business owners, some of whom allege that the Republican nominee failed to live up to financial and other commitments he’d made to them.

So much for Trump’s proclamation to regular folks: “I am your voice.” I beg to differ.

I think I know who has the true heart of glass.

Children Under the Stairs


(photo: Ren Rebadomia)

seen, but not heard
born unwanted

children under the stairs

crust of bread
if you are good
but only
if you are good

spiders and shadows
are your friends
dust engravings
make art
cracks of light
on lucky days

keeps you whole

stay strong,
darling ones

someone will rescue you
I hope

you will no longer be
children under the stairs

High Five

blue boy

(photo by Gisella Klein)

The little boy was standing near the corner of 40th Street and 8th Avenue, across the street from Port Authority Bus Terminal. He was standing to one side of the amNew York newspaper rack and in front of his parents who were pouring over a map. I presume it was a map of New York City. Clearly, they were tourists.

The little boy could not have been more than four or five, his right hand held out to the side so people could “high five” him as they rushed by. Only they didn’t all rush by. Some slowed down, miraculously, to slap his tiny hand. New Yorkers are not known for slowing down for anyone. His smile so wide and bright you’d think this was Disneyland or some other fairy tale place, magical and full of wonder. His parents seemed either oblivious to what he was doing or felt he was safe, or both.

I stopped in my tracks for a moment, thinking this might be a joke, watching the man walking in front of me high-five the boy. I thought, I’m not gonna do that, it’s too weird. But then a flash of whimsy overcame me, and I slapped the boy’s somewhat grubby hand. What a smile! He was the human toll booth you had to pass, but didn’t have to pay. You could ignore him and walk on by, but why would you miss an opportunity for pure joy, however fleeting?

It made the bus ride home so much sweeter.

Pudu Makes It Better




(photo – cnn.com)

This 6×6 inch deer
could fit inside your shoe
unlike Thumbelina or Tinkerbell
he was born at the Queens Zoo


(google images)

It’s hard to be upset or sad
when looking at this fellow
he can calm the worried heart
and make the Angry mellow

The smallest deer species in the world
He prefers solitude and likes to hide
He sprints and jumps with savoir faire
And barks when danger abides

Well that’s the story of the pudu
I hope it makes you smile
and transports you from mundanities
If only for a while

The Real Hunger Games: Starving the Homeless

do not feed the homeless

(Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless said a supporter named Tem Feavel submitted this photo to the Coalition in 2007; there is no record of where it was taken.)

I’m a paycheck or two away from being homeless. With the next round of layoffs looming, it could be any day. The New Normal. I know I’m luckier than most: 610,042 people “experience” homelessness on any given night in the United States. About 9% percent of homeless adults—57, 849—are veterans. Last week I spoke with a homeless marine vet who sits on the subway grating at the northwest corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue and sleeps outside Strawberry at night. Veteran’s Day was the first day I noticed him with his cardboard sign. He told me he was shot up in Afghanistan, his family died in a car accident and he has been homeless for 9 weeks. I never give money to “panhandlers,” but I found him to be genuine, and I wanted to help.


(photo: yelp)

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, one in 45 children in the U.S. is homeless. One in five children live in poverty, according to recent findings by the U.S. Census Bureau. In spite of this, it is now illegal to distribute food to the homeless in 21 cities.

In September 1987, my mother joined the ranks of the homeless. She lived at a women’s shelter on the Upper East Side for six months. I was a student at Hunter College. She visited me in the afternoon, and we’d have coffee in Styrofoam cups at the lobby café. I was afraid someone would figure out she was homeless or that she’d cause a scene. But she didn’t. She told me she went there on her own sometimes for coffee. It was the highlight of her day. It was a time I’d rather forget.

Mental illness was a stepping stone to her homeless odyssey. She always seemed to be on the brink of homelessness; she would be evicted from numerous apartments both in North Carolina, where her sister lived, and in New York. She got herself kicked out of apartments due to her irrational and sometimes hysterical behavior. Why? The Puerto Ricans were trying to kill her. They were poisoning her by spilling toxins down the pipes.  Death from above.

As time wore on, in addition to the Puerto Ricans, the air turned bad; it had different sources–the generators in the parking lot, the rose bush outside the window, toxic mold. She called the Fire Department to investigate mysterious “stains” on her ceiling, and the EPA to come and examine the toxic mold and test the air. Needless to say, this behavior made her less than an ideal tenant. She complained repeatedly to the landlord or building manager, or they’d get wind of her ravings from other tenants or the Fire Department.. Eventually, she made herself more trouble than she was worth, and the management would boot her out.

Once she even lit a newspaper on fire in front of her tormentor’s door. This did not go over well.

She lived with me and my then-boyfriend “Doug” for over 3 months, and we couldn’t take it anymore. One night I saw her shadow outside the curtained French doors leading to our bedroom. She was holding a steak knife. She didn’t enter our room, but her presence was chilling. I assumed she had plans to hurt Doug (and not me).  Doug had recently told her she had to find another place to live.

 * * *

Some events pre-dating her homelessness.
Mom in a house dress and flip flops chasing me with scissors out of my Bronx basement apartment. I run into the elevator. The elevator door slams shut, and she stands there screaming, veins popping out of her petite, muscular arms.  It gives “running with scissors” a whole new meaning.

She shrieks, “It’s my apartment. You’re my daughter. Doug has to leave!”

We call the police who have to remove her bodily from the apartment. An ambulance delivers her to Jacobi Hospital for a psych evaluation. I take out an order of protection against her. I want her to disappear and stop ruining my life.

The hospital releases her (thank you, President Reagan) onto the streets. Now she is homeless.

I don’t feel good about not being able to provide shelter for her, but I have to preserve my own sanity.

Mom finds her way to a shelter.

* * *

When Mom came to visit me at Hunter, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that a fellow student might see her with me, ashamed of the state she was in. Somehow she maintained her hygiene: she was always fastidious about her appearance. It was frightening to see how much weight she’d lost: she was thin to begin with.  I didn’t know how she was eating.

Sometimes we met for dinner at a coffee shop on 86th and Lexington. One night she had a black eye.

“I got into a row with Rosie O’Grady,” she said.

Rosie O’Grady wasn’t the woman’s real name. Mom pled innocence, but I knew she must have pushed the lady’s buttons to get that shiner–not that it made it okay.

I asked if she wanted a chocolate milkshake to go with her hamburger, and she said no.

I said, “I can pay for it, get whatever you want.”

Her face contorted with rage, “You think you can buy me off with a hamburger and a chocolate shake?!”

Her powerful voice resonated throughout the diner, and my cheeks burned. Shame.

“I’m going to find a place by Christmas. I’ve saved the money,” she said. “Remember our Christmases in Jackson Heights? Midnight Mass and your beautiful plum coat.”


“They slashed my suede boots,” she said.

I looked down at my food, unable to eat.

How could this happen? How could I allow this to happen to my own mother?

When I heard that legislation has been enacted to prevent our homeless citizens from receiving food, it touched a nerve. Mom was homeless almost 30 years ago, but it could have been yesterday. Every time I see someone on the streets, I think, it could be her, or it could be me. She has not been homeless since, but I will never forget.


Autumn in New Jersey


(photo credit: Kolchi Hunter, flickr.com)

Pipes are rattling, radiators hissing steam—it’s officially fall.
Leaves transmute like chameleons.
Pumpkins with faces, ghosts and witches populate front porches.
The smell of wood burning, morning frost on cars.

The cats lounge in furry heaps,
night falls faster.

Costumed children will knock on strangers’ doors for a trick or treat,
Something daring in that.