May, 2013 will soon be gone, never to return again. Each turn of the page weaves its magic and then leaves … forever.
A wish …
I wish there was more time. Time to tell those I love all the things I never find the words to say. I wish I could talk less and do more. Kind of like show and tell in our work. Don’t talk about what you want … do it.
I wish I had learned more sooner. Or as my father predicted, that I didn’t have to learn the hard way.
Oh, screw it … I’m having too much fun to worry about woulda-coulda-shoulda.
A birthday …
Tomorrow, Thursday, May 30th, 2013, my mother, Maria Carmela Fieore Fois would have been one hundred and two years old. She lived for eighty-one years. She was a feisty old broad who gambled, drank, smoked and wore it out before she cashed it in.
She left me the legacy of an open window. From the window where I would find her lost in thought … the one that faced wooden fences, pigeon-coops and a string of city-back-yards … to the window where she sat keeping vigil as my father slowly passed his last days … to her last window … the one she never bothered to look through … a cold rectangle in a senior high rise that faced the expressway.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope the view is better where you are now.
A good laugh …
And who doesn’t need one … at least one … every day? From Bleeps, Bloopers and Outtakes … A blind date.
Does Anyone Out There Miss Ronald Reagan …
Or How I Survived The Eighties, Yuppies and Six Blind Dates.
As promised … Gail’s first blind date.
His name is Sherman, the nephew of Uncle Herb’s partner. He is an accountant studying for his CPA exam. “He’s a good catch, Ira. Gail should be grateful.”
Washington Heights is almost the end of Manhattan Island and our subway stop is two stops before the last on the A Train. Most locals know you take the A Express from 59th and Columbus to 125th Street in Harlem, stay on the express until it starts to get closer to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, 181st Street, 190th Street and at the end, 207th Street in Inwood.
Non-locals believe Harlem is a third world country occupying the real estate above Columbia University.
My mother answers the door and he falls in. “Herb never told me you lived in Harlem.”
“What Harlem, Kissinger’s mother lives down the block.”
He is sweating profusely and pulling on the collar of his shirt. His eyes dart around the room. “Should have met downtown.”
She’s not about to let a live one escape. “Come, come. Sit a spell. Have a glass of iced tea and rest. You’ll take a cab downtown.” She turns to my father. “Ira, make sure Gail has cab money.”
Sherman’s eyes open wide. “Cabs come up here?”
My father shakes his hand and shakes off beads of sweat pouring down from the insides of Sherman’s palms.
I nod and he nods and we sit on the edge of the sofa, nodding. He looks around the apartment. “I bet the rents up here are cheap.”
“We live in rent-controlled.” At this he is impressed. New Yorkers have been known to forge birth certificates to move into rent-controlled apartments.
Sherman sips his iced tea and nervously pulls on his shirt collar. The sweat from his hands, splashes me when he gestures and leaves sweat stains on the arms of the sofa. He leaves a large hand, sweat stain on my blouse as we get into the gypsy cab for the ride downtown.
We walk for an hour while Sherman reads each menu posted in the window of each restaurant. We finally settle on a second floor Chinese restaurant with a faded menu taped on the glass door with yellow, dried up scotch tape.
Being a take charge type of guy, Sherman orders two Number Four Combination plates and as he gives the waiter back the menu, it slips from his hands.
It’s late summer and the restaurant is air-conditioned. I ask, “Are you hot, Sherman?”
He frowns and states flatly. “Palmar, hyperhidrosis.”
This I should know, like I carry a medical encyclopedia in my purse? I mumble, “I’m sorry.”
“Not as sorry as I am.” He holds his hands out, palms up. “Only happens when I’m nervous.”
I want to be polite and not stare. It’s not nice to stare at people in wheelchairs, or old men walking on crutches. I can’t stop myself and gawk at the flow of sweat pouring from his palms, looking away quickly if I think he sees.
We eat, or rather, Sherman eats. I am too busy trying not to notice the waterfall of fluid pouring from his hands. I try another tactic. “Can’t you take something?”
He frowns at me and shakes his hands under-the-table. “Tried all sorts of tranquilizers. Nothing helps. The minute I get nervous it starts. It’s the reason I’ve been avoiding the CPA exam.”
On the way to the movie he explains. Hyperhidrosis is a rare nervous disorder, and palmar, meaning the palms of the hands, is one of the most persistent. People with palmar hyperhidrosis are afraid to shake hands, write on paper, or handle paper products at all. Tough luck for a CPA.
We go to the Regency and see a retro of Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Siera Madre. There is a scary scene when one of the men sees a Gila monster crawl under a rock and tries to warn another member of the gang.
When the man persists and begins to reach under the rock, looking for treasure, Sherman cowers. “I can’t look. It’s a reoccurring nightmare that someday I’ll wake and have no hands, just stumps.”
All night I try to avoid any contact with Sherman. Hard to do, as he is like a moth to a flame and touches everything in sight, sweating and muttering. “You don’t have to stare.”
Honestly, it’s not so much Sherman’s sweating and muttering. I am willing to be open-minded when he falls asleep on my shoulder and wakes, screaming. “No, at least leave the right one!” But as we walk out of the Regency, he turns and states flatly. “Herb said your mother dressed you like twins.”
This I am sure is to admonish my obvious attempt to pass myself off as my sister. “You’re no twin. I’ve seen Elaine’s picture on Herb’s desk.” I didn’t know Uncle Herb has a picture of Elaine on his desk.
We stand on the street corner, Sherman’s hands stuffed into his pockets, happily sweating in private. “Cabs won’t go to Harlem.” He hands me a subway token. It slips and I watch as it rolls out of sight through the sewer grating..
I’m still working on Elaine’s picture on my uncle’s desk. He turns to walk away and looks back at me. “You don’t look anything like your sister, you know. You should try Weight Watchers. Always works for my mom.”
I take a cab uptown. When we stop at my building the cabdriver, a man with a name that has seventeen consonants, smiles at me with two gold teeth in his mouth. “Twenty-two dollar.”
“What?” Something about a hazard bonus. He carries on in a dialect, not akin to Yiddish, and waves his hands furiously in the air.
“I do not make the dollar, transporting to Harlem.”
Thanks … I will revisit Gail’s story, the story of the eighties, the story of me, two kids, and star gazing at a window in Washington Heights.
How about you …
Are there moments you wish you could revisit?
What one thing would you change if life gave you one do-over?