Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6

Today's an important day for me. It's the birthday of two people who had outsized impacts on my life: my dad and my dear friend Anne Brisk.

My dad died a few years before I met Anne, but I'm certain they would have loved each other. They were, in many ways, alike. Both were a bit larger-than-life, both loved a well-made drink, and both loved to tell and listen to a good story.

Now that I think of it, both of them came from similar backgrounds. My dad was happy to stay in his blue-collar, lower middle class slot, but Anne longed for the big city, big culture and big ideas. Luckily, she was able to move to NYC as a young woman. Few people appreciate what the city had to offer as much as she did, and she spent her free time gobbling it up.

My dad, on the other hand, was really content to sit in his back yard and listen to the Cardinals on the radio. Every year my mother tried to get him to go to Europe with her. She'd never been, and really had a strong desire to see at least a few parts of it. His answer was always the same. "I've been there." My mom would remind him that going over on a troop transport in 1943 and laying sewer pipe in Belgium for a couple of years was not quite the same as flying over and seeing La Tour Eiffel. But he was unbending. He had simple tastes, simple needs, and loved predictability. Luckily, my mother outlived my dad and finally got to travel a little. God knows my dad would never have changed his mind!

I learned to listen to people and their stories from my dad, and I learned to write stories in a better way from Anne. I owe them both more than I can say, but all I can do for either of them at this point is remember them. They say you live until no one thinks of you any longer. Both of them will continue on as long as I'm alive.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why It's So Much Fun To Live With Me

Last night, my wife and I were to meet at a restaurant in Manhattan at 6 pm before going to see a play.

We live in Brooklyn, and my usual train is about 17 stops from 42nd St. I usually take the "F," but the "G" also stops at the same station.

Let me make it clear that I have no sense of direction. I'm also prone to being distracted, especially when I'm in a good writing mood--which I am at the moment.

I knew I'd have to change trains, no matter which I took, since neither the "F" nor the "G" goes to the 42nd St. stop I wanted. So I got on the "G." A few stops later, I got to the correct spot to switch to the "A."

I've lived in NYC for 13 years now, and have taken the "A" train hundreds of times. But I haven't taken it often from Brooklyn. That's a weak defense, but it's all I've got.

I hopped on the first "A" train that was going in the same direction my "G" train had been going and proceeded to space out. I was idly daydreaming until I heard, "Ralph." Ralph? There's a Ralph Street? How could I have never heard of such an oddly named street? Then I started to pay attention. For the next six stops, I marveled that I'd never heard of any of them. Van Siclen, Liberty, Shepard... This was kinda cool! How had I missed all of these names? I must have really been zoning out for the last 13 years!

Then the subway climbed out into the sun. What? The "A" train doesn't go aboveground on the way to Manhattan. But it is, so it must! We're chugging along, with fewer and fewer people on the train--the exact opposite of what should be happening at rush hour. But none of this makes an impact on me. I just think I'm learning something new!

Finally, I look out the window and see, in the relatively close distance, an airplane that's only a few hundred feet off the ground. That doesn't happen often in Brooklyn or Manhattan. I jump up and look out the window, seeing low buildings and a stream of jets, lined up one right after the other. Holy Fuck! I'm almost at JFK!

I got off at the next stop, crossed over to the proper side and called my patient wife, who was now at the restaurant. "Go to 'Find My iPhone' and try to guess how I got here," I said. (I love to give her little detective games to play.)

I was in Ozone Park, just next to Aqueduct Racetrack, a few stops from JFK. 21 stops from my the wrong direction.

We were able to text, since I was aboveground, and she agreed to have dinner alone and meet me at the play. She's a kind soul, since she brought me a snack, which I wolfed down in the lobby of the theater. I spent 2 hours on a trip that should have taken 45 minutes at the outside.

Here's the funny thing. I'll do this again in the future. And will be just as amazed. "Wow, I didn't know the "A" train ran aboveground..." It'll happen. Guaranteed.