New Year’s Eve

Statue of Liberty

(photo credit – BEV Norton)

No traffic
bus arrives early at Port Authority
Times Square barricaded
as if we are under siege

At the office
tolling the hours
without bells
or fanfare

New Year’s Eve

It’s getting colder
is winter coming
or did we miss it this year?

polar bears on melting ice
Mississippi River flooding
people living on the streets

the young woman huddles, arms over head
on the southeast corner of
Third Avenue and 42nd Street

I see her every day
I want to know who she is
but am afraid to ask

her cardboard sign says she needs
more money for shelter
and “Happy New Year”

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

What would Emma Lazarus say today?

Shiny tourists rush past her
with children, well-fed and tan
going to see the ball drop tonight
or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

how brave of her to write
“Happy New Year”
in black marker
in defiance of her circumstance

I hope she has one
I hope we all do

[Note: Section in italics is from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus]

The Lions in Winter

lion in winterlion in winter 2

photos by E. Herd

 Patience and Fortitude, the world-renowned pair of marble lions that stand proudly before the majestic Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, have captured the imagination and affection of New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world since the Library was dedicated on May 23, 1911.

When I was in college, the New York Public Library was my favorite place to study on a Saturday afternoon. Many fond memories . . . and the lions were always there.

Happy Friday, all, from me and the lions!

Stay Classy, New Jersey–on Groundhog Day

bottle on sidewalk

“Pink Zinfandel on Snow,” photo by E. Herd

Groundhog Day started out well enough: Lorin and I shoveled out the driveway, then dug out the cars–no sweat. Lorin drove to the bus stop at 7 a.m., but there were no buses running and the sidewalks were mountains of snow. He came back home, waited with me till 8, and then we drove together to the usual parking lot, directly behind the bus stop, where we bus commuters leave our cars. A snow plow was cleaning it out. We ventured on to ShopRite, since a fellow bus rider told me she leaves her car there sometimes, and no one complains. We parked and started exiting the car, when a middle-aged man in a cream pullover and stiff salt and pepper coif came out of W Construction Company. “W” shares the strip mall with ShopRite, a bagel store, Boiling Springs Savings Bank, a Dry Cleaners and a couple other stores.

The man shouted, “You think you’re gonna leave your car there all day while you’re at work?”

Lorin shouted back, “That’s the general idea.”

“Well, you better not, or it’s gonna be towed!” His tone was less than pleasant.

“Where are we supposed to go?” Lorin said.

“Not my problem,” he said, maintaining the Good Samaritan vibe.

Stay Classy, New Jersey.

“Thank you, sir,” Lorin said, crossing his hands over his heart, “you have a big heart.”

The guy stood there, staring at us.

“Go fuck yourself!” I shouted, “Fuck you!”

We walked back toward the car.

“I’m sorry, I can’t take it anymore,” I said to Lorin.

It was now 8:13 and it was sleeting. We drove back to our usual parking lot. The snow plow driver rolled down his window.

Lorin said, “Can we park here? We park here with a bunch of other commuters every day.”

The guy said, “Well, I just got a call from ShopRite, and they said if anyone parks here, their car will get towed.”

“Oh,” Lorin said. “Thanks for letting us know.”

I said to Lorin, “I bet that asshole from the construction company called ShopRite. What can they do—ban us from all the parking lots?”

We parked on a side street—nowhere left to go. This town doesn’t make it easy for the working slobs. The sidewalks weren’t cleared off, so we waited for a bus in the street, the sleet mercilessly pelting our faces.

On to the groundhog, since it was his day, after all. Did you know that New Jersey has three of its own furry prognosticators? They are: (1) Midtown Mel, (2) Essex Ed and (3) Stonewall Jackson. Sound like racehorses more than soothsayers, but hey.

Here are their predictions:

Midtown Mel
“Six more weeks of winter,” said Jerry Guthlein, spokesman and handler for Mel, hailing from Middlesex County.

midtown mel

Stonewall Jackson of Sussex county looked for his shadow on Monday, but there was none to be found.

“So I guess in theory, it’s going to be an early spring,” said Assemblyman Parker Space, owner of Space Farms. “You wouldn’t think it to look outside.”

The current Stonewall has been making predictions for 3 or 4 years, with about 75% accuracy.


photo courtesy of Parker Space

Essex Ed, resident groundhog at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, like Mel, predicted another six weeks of winter. Oh, Ed! Zoo director Brint Spencer unfurled the scroll showing his prediction.

Essex Ed

The groundhogs have spoken. Punxatawney Phil says six more blasted weeks of winter too. Let’s all try to make the best of it, in spite of the self-designated “parking police” and other assorted assholes.

Pit Stop

7 11

google images

This morning I saw my friend across the street and waved for her to come quickly: the bus was coming. The New Jersey Transit buses run on their own schedule: the 7:56 comes at either 8:00 or 8:01, the 8:09 doesn’t seem to come at all (unless it’s invisible), and the 8:22 arrives at about 8:15, so you see the importance of catching the bus right away especially when waiting at a bus stop with no shelter, and it is friggin’ cold outside. When I boarded, I said to the driver, “There’s someone coming from across the street.”

Wool cap pulled down, looking down at me from behind his shades, he said, “I can’t wait for somebody across the street.”

“Okay,” I said.

Guess my buddy will have to wait for the 8:22, I mean, 8:15 bus.

She made it! Not sure if he had second thoughts, or if she got lucky. Either way, I was happy for her. We exchanged smiles.

The driver was racing, stopping short, and I started feeling nauseous. What’s his damn hurry?

At the Passaic and Esplanade stop, he turned off the ignition, turned to us and said, “I’ll be back in a minute.”

I felt like a kid on the way to a field trip being abandoned on the side of the road. I remembered the time Mrs. Nesi locked us in the classroom in third grade. She pulled down the shades and put a sheet of black construction paper in the square window in the door. She said she was leaving us because we had misbehaved, and this was our punishment. Some kids started crying; some laughed and threw paper airplanes or fired spitballs. Others sat obediently on their hands as instructed, staring into space—Catholic school will do that to you. An airless room, no AC, in June 1970.

The bus sounds were amplified: the businessman on his cell phone more obnoxious than ever, throat clearing, a fitful sneeze. Then radio silence.

Our driver abandoned ship for an excursion to 7-11, apparently to take a piss, because when he returned, there was a spring in his step. I guess that’s why he was in such a hurry.

His driving continued to be jerky, but less so than before. Thank God for small blessings. I still felt nauseous and shut my eyes, figuring what I would use for a vomit bag. The plastic CVS bag that held my lunch would do fine. Hopefully it wouldn’t be necessary.

Reading on my iPhone was now out of the question, so I put in the earbuds and tuned into Pandora radio, which now wants me to connect with friends on Facebook. But I don’t want to!

I simply want to hear a soothing refrain to get my mind off puking. The Monteverdi station, that’s good, no, how about the Django Reinhardt station. “Minor Swing” was making me dizzy so I switched to the Thomas Newman station which features film soundtracks like The Road to Perdition, The Hours and Battlestar Gallactica—much better. I was starting to feel less sick.

Oh no. As we approached the toll plaza, the driver opened the door and said to the driver to our right, “Do you want one? Do you want a problem?”

Oh my God. Is there going to be a bus drivers’ duel? What the hell?

I shut my eyes, and continued listening to The Hours by Philip Glass, burrowing snugly into my happy place. 

The bus door shut. Then it re-opened. “Hey, catch you later!” our driver said, laughing.

Hallelujah, he’s happy again, and he’s not going to get into a rumble with the other guy and abandon us again, and we may all make it to work on time!

We pulled into Port Authority at 9:05—not bad at all.

“Thank you,” I said to the bus driver.

He did not respond, and that’s OK.

The Ice Storm

fog and trees

Thomas E Bush IV

Yesterday was not a day to be out of doors. Ruby, our red Pathfinder, was covered in a sheet of ice, icicles hanging like fringe from the side mirrors and the bottom of the doors—not the surrey with the fringe on top. We had to venture forth. Ruby saved me during a car accident almost 4 years to the day; she would come through for us today.

We were out of salt, so Lorin scattered kitty litter on the front steps and walkway before we left. It does the trick, but it’s a bitch to clean up later.

It took about two hours to drive from New Jersey to the Bronx—there was an accident on the Bruckner Interchange. We headed to the Whitestone, onto the Cross Island Parkway, then onto the LIE. It took another hour to reach Long Island with the brakes acting up, Lorin pumping them to try to unfreeze the brake pads. It took a while to come to a full stop on icy roads. It was a white knuckler of a ride.

When I allowed myself not to be afraid, I took in the sky: thick and white, only the outlines of trees visible. Hauntingly beautiful and composed.

Cold, snow, ice and loss have mixed together into a kind of cosmic blender. A gentle snow fell the night of my accident in 2011, the first time I diapered my mother, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Another January has come, and Lorin’s father has passed away after a heart attack from which he never awoke. Lorin, his dad’s girlfriend B and I were at the hospital on and off for nine days. The palliative team at Bellevue Hospital kept him very comfortable, and he died peacefully. A good death, you could say.

We gathered on Long Island with family for bagels and coffee, to look at photographs, to reminisce and make plans for a memorial, most likely in the spring.

“Dad liked nature,” Lorin said. He would have liked to see the flowers in bloom.

Out of the ice and into the bloom.

He sang in the choir at his Lutheran church. They laid his robe over his chair during the church service yesterday.

We drove his girlfriend B back to Brooklyn, Lorin still pumping brakes, no ice falling, but heavy rain.

When Lorin lit up a cigarette, B said, “That reminds me of your father.”

“How many did he smoke a day?” I asked.

“Only 2 or 3. I’ll miss him when I’m at home,” she said.

It was a little easier driving home, but still scary at times. At times we stopped breathing, I think.

This morning, I scraped off the cemented-on kitty litter on the stairs and walkway with a shovel, disposing of as much as I could; some was frozen under a layer of ice. Later on, Lorin hosed off more of the litter and put down liquid blue Ice Melt. We dropped Ruby off at the mechanic.

A London Broil’s in the slow cooker, listening to the new age music channel, Soundscapes.

No ice storm in the forecast. We welcome the mundane.