Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sally Is Dead!

I should have known how wrong things were when she rang my bell suddenly at midnight on a day before work. I didn’t know what to do and at first considered not ringing her in. I hadn’t heard from her for at least ten years. I rang her up and tried to make short work of it but spent over an hour listening to her repeat the same sentences, sometimes as many as three times. I knew something was amiss but couldn’t figure it out. I wondered if my old friend had Alzheimer's. Sally was only 43. How could she have Alzheimer’s? It seemed strange that she would repeat sentences I told her and act like it was the first time she asked the question. I gently asked her, “Sally, don’t you recall? We just said this same thing 20 minutes ago. Realizing that it was now going on 1 a.m., I told Sally I had to get up at 6 for work the next day and escorted her to the front of my building both of us promising to keep in touch. After many unanswered calls, I ran into John, her ex-husband, in front of the hospital where he’d worked for 25 years. It was 10 p.m. He sat there calmly eating a sandwich in his blue scrubs, chatting with a co-worker.
“How’s Sally?” I asked.
“Didn’t you hear?” John responded.
“Hear what?”
“Sally’s dead.”
“Dead from what?” I asked surprised.
“She died in her apartment about a month ago. She’d been dead at least a week and neighbors noticed the smell.”
“She visited me two months ago and I hadn’t seen her for years,” I said. “She showed up at midnight.”
John laughed. “That would be Sally,” he said. “No one could handle being around her anymore. Even our daughters moved in with me.”
“I didn’t know that. How old are they?”
“Stephanie started college this fall and she’s 18. Brenda is 23 and just graduated Queens College.”
“Congratulations,” I said. “How did Sally die?”
“Sally just stopped eating and going out. She was found on her bed. They said it was death through starvation.”
“Oh my God! Just starved herself to death just like that?”
“She said she was too fat and needed to diet. She used to come here on my lunch hour and sit here with me while I ate my sandwich. She did it at least once a week.”
“Yes she told me too she’d gotten too fat but she didn’t seem too fat. Maybe she could’ve stood to lose 15 or 20 pounds. She had no one else in her life?”
“Her mother died some time ago. Her grandmother is gone too. There was no one left. I guess that’s why she used to come here to sit with me. She had no one else in her life.”
“No one knew how desperate she was?”
“We were all used to her eccentricity. When she showed up here a month ago and said she was starting a new diet, we figured, here goes Sally again, off on a new spin.”
“No one saw how ill she was,” I said, “not even me. I saw she repeated herself over and over but I didn’t suspect things were that bad that she’d starve herself to death in seclusion.”
We said our goodbyes and I left wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent her death. I knew her mom had been institutionalized when Sally was a child and we used to hang out at her grandma’s apartment. I remember we visited her mom together in the institution. Her mom never left the hospital except once for a visit. I remember grandma made us matching dresses in a beautiful stretch nylon sleeveless with a round neck and knee length. Sally’s dress was gold, burnt sienna and brown diamond patterned and mine was blue, turquoise and green diamond shaped pattern. I remember because it was the first really pretty sexy dress I had clinging to all my curves. Back then I wore a size 34 size A bra and had a 25 inch waist. I weighed 125 pounds. Sally weighed 115 and had brown gold eyes and a heart shaped face. I introduced her to her husband. She married him when she turned 17 and was pregnant with her first child.
I sit here today, 18 years later, remembering Sally and wondering if anything could have prevented her death. I miss Sally too as she was my first true friend.

 Sally took this pic of me in the dress her grandma made for me when we were 14 years old.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jamming in the Heights

There are bad days and there are good days, stupendous days and plain old shitty days and sometimes there are bad days that stay around forever or it can seem like that anyway. Yesterday was a big day for me, one that made me feel better than I've felt for a long time, months actually, better, healthier and happier.

Today is about shout outs for me, shouting out to all those people around me who enrich my life by being part of it.

Yesterday was the Annual Ring Garden Art Show, Art In The Garden 2012, and as usual, I was listed on the menu. I use the word 'usual' because back in 2006, when I first proposed to Liz Popiel who organized the event that I read poetry at her upcoming event, Liz politely said, "Well, I kind'a made up my mind after the last poet who performed, not to include poets."

"What happened then?" I asked.
"He caused me no end of grief about the noise, about the crowd not paying attention, and about our sound system, which I provide."
"That's it?" I said. "I promise not to do any of that and just be happy to be there and be part of it."
We shook hands on it then and I asked if I could include a few of my neighborhood poetry buddies who felt the same way as me. When poetry and music began back then as part of the  annual garden art show, there was me, Demetrius Daniels, Fred Arcoleo, and Robin Glasser either reading her adult Dr. Seuss poems or reading her geisha stories.

Over the years we've continued to add many more talented performers including Carlo Baldi, Dubblex, Ruben Gonzales, Peggy Ann Tartt, Greta Herron, Carla Lynne Hall, and Amy Soucy who usually performs back up for Fred and who occasionally graces us with one of her own numbers. This year Ruben didn't show and neither did Amy, but the rest of us came and performed our little or big tushies off. This year another newbie came, Roger E Ranski, and Ranski worked it out.

Demetrius took a minute to back me and I was like, damn what's up here but later he said he guessed he became like Dubblex, afraid to intrude. I'm like, "Please don't wait for invitations in the future!" I really swooned the last number, Stormy Weather and our small but enthusiastic audience threw in, swooning right along with me. Thanks to Demetrius for his tromboetry, Dubblex for his soulful melodica and Roger E Ranski for his improv guitar.

A shout out to Donna Deming, our illustrious and charming host who replaces our beloved Liz Popiel, who nurtured this event for many years. A shout out to all the participating artists who come every year.

A special shout out too to Carolyn Stanford for her tireless work in supporting and promoting art created by incarcerated non-violent offenders through her organization, "Inside Out Art".

I am looking forward to June 30th to Poetry & Music In The Garden. Please come and enjoy and BYOB!~

Hopefully this will help to banish those blue days that don't want to go away ~

This is the line up so far:

Joy Leftow
Carol Lynn Hall
Peggy Ann Tartt
Greta Herron
Demetrius Daniels
Roger E Ranski
Carlo Baldi
Arthur Sherry
Mario Coppola
Curtis Becraft of Curtis and The Dilettantes fame.

More info to follow ...