THE PRIVILEGE OF ILLNESS AND ALONENESS IN GOTHAM

THEA - NEW YORK, New York
Entered on February 15, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: place

THIS I BELIEVE FOR NPR

I BELIEVE, AS I SIT HERE IN MY ROUND 8 ROOM APARTMENT ON RIVERSIDE DRIVE, NEW YORK, THAT ILLNESS AND LONELINESS,ARE HUMAN CHARACTERISTICS BEST SERVED WARM.

THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT IS FAR MORE COMPELLING THAN THE LONG DRAWN OUT REOCCURRING INTERLUDES OF ILLNESS WHICH ALIENATE

THOSE AROUND US FROM US, CULMINATING IN OUR EXTREME SENSE OF ISOLATION. AN ISOLATION ALL THE MORE POIGNANT IN A METROPOLIS, …A GOTHAM OF THE MOSTLY PRIVILEGED MASSES. ORIGINATING FROM THOSE YOURNING TO BE FREE. YOURNING TO BE FREE OF THE SHACKLES OF THE COUNTRIES OF THEIR ORIGIN. THE COUNTRIES WHERE FAMILY TIES WERE NOT ONLY THE GLUE OF ONE’S SOCIAL LIFE, BUT THE VERY GLUE THAT OFTEN SAVED PEOPLE’S LIVES. THE COMBINATION OF FREEDOM TO BE ISOLATED IN ONE’S ILLNESS AND ALONENESS, IS ALL CONSUMING. IF ONE WAS RAISED IN AN IMMIGRANT NEIGHBORHOOD OF NEW YORK ON MANHATTAN’S LOWER EAST SIDE, WHERE ALONENESS WAS AT A PREMIUM.

THE MASSES OF HUMANITY FROM ALL CORNERS OF THE WORLD, CONVERGED AND MELTED TOGETHER IN MY COTTON DRESSED WORLD. MY CLOTHES WERE INVARIABLY HAND ME DOWNS, AND I COULD BE CAUGHT CHEWING ON THE SUGAR COATED, LICOROUS OF “GOOD AND PLENTY” SWEETS OUT OF A PINK AND WHITE ILLUSTRATED NARROW ARDBOARD BOX, ….OR IF EXTREMELY LUCKY, GIFTED WITH TWO PIECES OF CHOCOLATE COVERED HALEVAH, HANDED TO ME BY MY DEAF GRANDMOTHER IN A TINY PAPER BAG. SHE WAS ALWAYS DRESSED IN HER UKRANIAN FLOOR LENGTH BLACK DRESS, AND HEAD WRAPPED IN LONG GREY BRAID. WHAT A WARM AND LOVING WOMAN, MY GRANDMOTHER WAS. WITH HER, ADVENTURE WAS A RIDE ON THE TROLLEY OVER THE WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE, SPARKS FLYING OFF THE METAL RODS ATTACHED TO THE OVERHEAD ELECTRIFIED WIRES,….THE LIFE BLOOD OF THE MOVEMENT OF THE TROLLEY CARS.

OVER THE BRIDGE WE WOULD GO, MY GRANDMOTHER AND ME TO SOME UNKNOWN NEIGHBORHOOD IN BROOKLYN,….SHE VISITING SOME VERY TALL PERSON WHO DIDN’T HOLD MY INTEREST. MY TOWER OF STRENGTH AND PROTECTION WAS A PERSON TOTALLY ALIENATED NOT ONLY BY CULTURE, BUT BY SOUND,….BY HER ADOPTED CITY. MY GRANDMOTHER LUBA, WHICH MEANS LOVE.

THE LOWER EASTSIDE, THE VERY SAME NEIGHBORHOOD WHICH IS NOW THE MECCA OF NEW YORK’S YOUTH SEEKING OUT COMPANIONSHIP AND URBAN ADVENTURE, WAS UNWITTINGLY THE PLAYGROUND OF MY BIRTH AND YOUTH.

I SLEPT IN THE TOP DRAWER OF OUR SINGULAR BUREAU IN OUR ONE AND A HALF ROOM FLAT OF A TENAMENT AT 24 LUDLOW STREET. THE SECOND FLOOR REAR APARTMENT, AND NARROW HALLWAYS WERE THE PERIMETERS OF MY PROTECTED WORLD. ONCE OUTSIDE ON THE STREETS, MY LIFE BECAME ALMOST BIBLICAL. I WAS, MY BROTHER’S KEEPER, BY FATHERLY DECREE. AND SOCIAL LIFE WAS COMPOSED OF GUESSING WHAT WAS EXPECTED AMONGST THE JEWISH, ITALIAN, POLISH CHILDREN,…..CHILDREN OF MY CHILDHOOD YEARS. ONE WAS IN DANGER OF BEING PUSHED, SHOVED, EVEN BURNED, OUT ON THOSE STREETS, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT A WORLD THAT SEEMED CONVOLUTED AND UNSOLVABLE TO THE EYES AND EARS OF A CHILD RAISED BY PEOPLE WITHOUT THE SOCIAL CUES WHO WERE THEMSELVES LOST ON THE STREETS OF GOTHAM.

THE OCCASIONAL CRISP SWEET POTATO BAKED AND KEPT WARM IN THE DRAWER OF A PORTABLE HAMMERED METAL OVEN, HEATED BY COALS, WAS A GREAT SOURCE OF COMFORT FOOD AT 5 CENTS A POP.

JACKS, JUMP ROPE, HOPSCOTCH, AND HOME MADE SCOOTERS MADE FROM WOODEN MILK BOXES ATTACHED TO A LONG WOODEN FOOT REST

ON SKATE WHEELS, WAS THE PINNACLE OF THE STREETED JOYS OF SOCIALIZATION. EVERYONE ONE BUMPED INTO WAS A BIT OF A CHILD

WANDERING IN A FERMAMENT OF STRANGENESS AND LOSTNESS. FOREIGN TONGUES WERE RAMPANT, AND ACCENTED ENGLISH WAS THE FAMILIAR. ALL AND ALL, ONE HAD PLENTY OF COMPANY,

ALONENESS WAS A MISSING COMPONENT IN ONE’S DAY, UNLESS YOU WERE WILLING TO RISK THE CLIMB TO THE TENAMENT ROOFTOP, OR

EVEN MORE ADVENTUROUS OUT ONTO THE FIRESCAPE WITH BLANKET ON A HOT AND HUMID NIGHT TO SLEEP UNDER THE NARROW SCOPED VIEW

OF THE SKY.

THIS I BELIEVE. THE PLEASURE AND TREASURE OF ISOLATION AND ALONENESS, CAN ONLY BE EXPLAINED IN THE CONTEXT OF MY NEW YORK

UPBRINGING AND EXPERIENCE. I, CONCLUDING THOUGH, THAT ALONENESS AND ISOLATION IN ONE’S AGING AND PHYSICAL DISINTEGRATION, CAN BE A TREASURE AS WELL AS A HORROR. BOTH

CAN INHABIT THE SAME SPACE AT THE SAME TIME IN THE BIG APPLE OF GOTHAM,….LAND OF MANY PRIVILEGED AND HOME OF THE FREE.