In the northeast and other cooler parts of the country autumn is in full bloom, her orange, yellow, crimson, rust colored leaves dancing in the fall breezes, giving us a wonderful show before they fall forward into winter.
I think of Gail as the quintessential late bloomer, a girl of autumn, her blooms melting into the earth where they will wait patiently for the rebirth of spring.
Snippets from two chapters …
You might be wondering how a nice Jewish girl from Washington Heights ended up like this. It’s simple.
My Aunt Rachel plays Mahjong with Sarah Silverstein. Aunt Rachel worries over her poor unmarried niece. That would be me. Mrs. Silverstein also worries about her wonderful bachelor son, who needs to settle down and give her grandchildren before she buys a ticket to the farm. That would be the ex, Benjamin Silverstein.
Both sets of parents invest plenty, a formal wedding at Huntington Town House on the Island and a furnished, darling two-bed, two bath co-op apartment in a doorman building off Central Park West.
During our marriage, I would not say the groom was warm and fuzzy. More accurately, he was like cod fish; big, cold and stupid.
Three years later, in the dead of winter, 1981, a blizzard traps Ben in a quaint log cabin in the mountains with his latest conquest.
Before he departs for the mountain cabin with the bimbo, he moves out all his stereo equipment and his amazing collection of record albums.
By spring, my father talks to my Uncle Herb, who talks to a couple of his old college chums and comes up with the perfect job for Gail. “It’s real estate, Ira. What better career for a young divorcee than real estate.”
It’s not exactly like selling high-end co-ops to the likes of Carter-Smythe. I’m in the lower end of real estate. The bottom of the barrel would be a step up.
It reminds me of the water barrels scattered around the bungalow colony in the mountains where we spent our summers.
Jerome Kravitz, the manager-coordinator of High-Top Bungalows, left water barrels with small ladles hanging off wilted brown rope.
Every time the boy had to move the barrel closer to the hose outlet, my friend, Stu and I watched. It was fun to see the slime, wriggling with worms and dead flies that populate the portion of the world under the barrel.
Real estate management for instance.
Don’t get your shorts in a knot. I know management is a dignified career. Sharp looking people work in management. Women in designer suits, sporting imported briefcases, in which they keep their monogrammed day planners and men with gold-rimmed glasses and silk ties, manage the ass off thousands of Manhattan apartment buildings.
They make appointments, keep the doormen in line, and make sure the super doesn’t skim more off the top than they do.
No, I work on St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights for Greenberg Brothers. My boss, Sol Greenberg, is my uncle’s old college buddy from NYU. He and his partners manage low-end buildings on the East Side of the neighborhood, below Broadway.
Every time I push through the double glass doors, heading for my desk and the coffeepot to get Sol his black coffee with three sugars and not that phony stuff, all I can see is the kid rolling the barrel closer to the hose while Stu pokes the mud for worms and dead flies.
Avoiding people, I learn, is easy. I work in an environment where no one notices if I am breathing and at home, I am invisible and prefer the anonymity of take-out food.
New York City take-out is about the most marvelous invention of the twentieth century, beating out Pac Man and the magic-lift bra. When I am not of a mind to walk the neighborhood for the delightful array eateries, the food vendors deliver.
A short, smart-assed kid wearing black on black attire, sporting long hair, stuffs hot cooked food in my hands and leans on the doorframe, waiting for his tip.
The time it takes to close the door, bring the wonderful Chinese, Italian, Spanish or whatever else to the table, is more than enough time for Miriam Goldblum to reach for the phone. “So, you don’t want to eat good, home cooked food? What, you’d rather eat grease and risk another eruption?”
It’s been a long day slaving at the management office. Do I need to watch Dan Rather with my dad, or listen to my mother telling me of Elaine’s latest vacation plans? “Martin is renting an island in the Bahamas for their anniversary. He’s so romantic.”
Martin Hamlin, changed from Horowitz, is a wealthy stockbroker on Wall Street. Like my ex, Ben, he has the eyes of a shark. This, my mother claims, is the intensity he brings to his career. “Your father has tripled his investments since we left Ben for Marty.”
Marty is a graduate of The Harvard Business School, the training grounds for the dark knights of the corporate world. Elaine met him at a mixer one weekend at Harvard and within the year, the proud parents posted their vows in the Sunday New York Times, right next to the picture of Lizbeth Payton Carter to marry Thornton Sterling Smythe next summer in Hyannis.
It’s not like I don’t care where my sister goes for her anniversary. I care. I care dearly for my sister. For instance, I would care if her hair turned into mousy blonde frizz and her narrow, athletic frame puffed up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
It’s just that I’d rather sit with my latest Silhouette novel and eat my food in peace.
As the plot thickens, I treat myself to Rocky Road ice-cream.
You know? Straight from the carton. No little dishes with manageable portions. The whole thing, spoon by creamy spoon, until the melted ice-cream at the bottom is the consistency of a milk shake and you can drink it.
I lick my lips and wait for the rich ranch owner to notice the poor cowgirl who struggles to help her aging grandfather run his failing ranch.
I’m crying and blow my nose, happy the little cowgirl married the rich ranch owner and will live happily ever-after.
I turn the last page of my book and spot the latest carton from Publishers Clearing House sitting on the living room floor and before retiring I rummage through to get my next installment of happily ever-after.
This, I am sure, will lull me off to dreamland.
There is a good reason millions of people read hundreds of millions romance books each year.
There is nothing more addictive than a story you know from the get-go is going to have a happy ending.
Not all happy endings are found in romance novels. There are lots of coming-of-age, young adults, cozy mysteries, and fantasy stories to warm your cockles.
Tell me, should I give Gail a happy ending?
And what mood do you expect when you
crack open the spine of yet another tale?
fOIS In The City
News Flash …
Yesterday, I Googled “writing prompts” and found this web site: The Working Writer’s Club. Since this is my first look-see, I cannot recommend you join. I do, however, recommend you scan their fifty-odd sentence prompts. You never know when one of them will show up here.