Category Archives: friends

THE BEAR’S BAG

She sits placidly on an antique cedar chest, covered with a hand-knitted green and pink blanket. She is four feet tall when standing at her full height (which sadly never happens – her legs are made for sitting.) A number of years ago, I adorned her with a big floppy straw beach hat and a slightly threadbare cloth bag of many colors (purchased at a street fair I know not when).

Before we left for Fire Island last week, I “borrowed” the cloth bag – which is my preferred carrier for the back and forth of toting to the beach. She (the bear) is not happy. She pines for her bag and her distress infiltrates my thoughts as I sit peacefully here by the ocean.

She is quite bereft and can only burrow down within herself to locate a small and wan ray of hope for the return of her possession. Why, she wonders, would Karen do me like that? No answer is forthcoming.

I feel an uncomfortable mixture of remorse and righteousness. My needs matter. But she asks for so little. I think: I must make it up to her. But how? What would regenerate her regular state of happinness and trust? I may have an answer. A companion…and, at long last, a name. I will call her Ishmaella.

Robert Gedaliah: the most influential person in my life.

My friend Robert. Yes. That he is. But he’s had a greater impact on me than almost anyone ever has. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be a writer. That’s true. It was during a conversation with him that he said, “You can write a book.” It had not been a potential or a plan or even a real concept. But when he said those words, the universe shifted and I moved squarely into the possibility that he saw. He’s pretty powerful and his vision shines brightly. So, now I’ve written five books.

Robert has been the source of some of the most wonderful people in my life. He’s a resource for great human beings.

Every conversation with Robert is an opportunity – for me. Because he’s not a go-along kind of person; he’s an affirmative actor who uses each moment to the best of his ability. He’s a little like a German shepherd, kindly but firmly nudging the sheep in me so I don’t wander off into aimlessness. He’s also capable of a transcendent lightness of being. He shines with an inner light. When he laughs – and he does so often – everyone around him feels bathed in joy.

Robert is a man who has been tested – and continues to be – by powerful forces in both the physical and emotional realm. He allows vulnerability into his process and is an example for us all. He is, at his core, a fighter for life. And being around him is energizing.

Is Robert a perfect man? No. Does he have foibles and flaws? Sure. But his commitment – which is evident in his actions and communications – is to strive to overcome that which can be overcome.

We love certain people in our lives and we don’t know why. With Robert, I know exactly why. He’s quite wonderful.

FYI: my new science fiction novel, RAYMÒN AND SUNSHINE, is available on amazon.com. It’s about the relationship between an autistic man and a female android three hundred years in the future. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Raym%C3%B2n-Sunshine-Karen-Krett/dp/0692660887/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461866431&sr=8-1&keywords=krett+sunshine

You can find more information about me and my books at www.karenkrettauthor.com/

Good endings

Happily ever after. Who hasn’t felt the release those three words bring, when Mom or Dad closed the book after reading you a story. What if they didn’t live happily ever after? What kind of kid-ish agita would you have felt?

The beginning is the easy part: Once upon a time; Hey, did you hear this one? In the beginning…

Once the beginning is over there’s lots of action to keep you going. But, after the ending…? Nothing but the echo of the sense that it was worth it; or that everything is going to be okay; or that the questions you are left with are acceptable, tolerable, significant.

A dear friend just went through some profound transitions. He has moved on to a new chapter in his life and brought to a close a long career. But he did it up right, with class and full-on passion. Those who were going to lose their daily access to him were given the opportunity to let him know what he meant to them. Very important for people to be able to express that. In this ending he was, as he always had been, generous, giving, authentic. I listened to the story of how the various pieces of his life were being tied up and acknowledged. I was moved. As I’m sure those he connected with and now, disconnected from, were as well.

We learn early on that we have to take great care in the beginning of things: watch your step, go slow, take your time… But endings are critical to the integrity of the past and future, to the continuity of our selves and the experience of others.

Every ending is a new beginning – even if we don’t know what that is going to look like, even if we can’t see around the corner of our feelings of loss and upset. Change is. No qualifier necessary there. It is the stuff of life. And, if there’s change, there have to be endings. We would do well to take a page from my friend’s book. Go out standing tall, with love and humor. And don’t avoid the tide of emotions that inevitably accompanies the turning of the page.

And they all lived happily ever after. That’s my wish for you, my friend.

LIFE ENDS BADLY

But there’s an upside. Compassion rises; bullshit burns off.

So I have learned from my friend, R. He’s got cancer. This is not supposed to happen in my storyline – and not in his either. But it’s happened nonetheless. And he’s one of those rare people who is pretty much always authentic, so I’m graced with his real experience and responses to this new dire turn his life has taken.

How can I explain why I look forward to talking to him? Isn’t it a universal truth that we all want to avoid engaging the evidence of the grim reaper? And what could be more vivid evidence than cancer? But I’ve loved this guy, my dear friend, for thirty years or so. Because he tells it straight but with a lyrical twist. So, even cancer can be an engaging point of contact when he shares his truth. And his fear and sadness. And the physical changes he is experiencing.

I want to say I believe he will be okay – because I do. But, ultimately, we are not destined to be okay forever. We all have an expiration date. Should we turn leaden and stop living as we approach it? …if we know when it is, or can surmise that it’s getting close?

No fucking way. Let’s be like R. Honest, alive, full of piss and vinegar and every phase of the human spectrum. Staying in contact with self and others and hope and dread and whatever is real.

He tells me about what is happening in his body – not just clinically – but in a way so I can understand what it’s like for him. And he let’s me be how I truly am, which is sometimes freaked out by what I hear, and sometimes up to being full-on supportive. He gives more than he takes. But that’s always been the case.

The Dog Had Other Ideas

I know there are things I should take seriously – many things. One of them is (are?) service dogs.

Okay. I’ll try. But, come on…Dogs should be available for me to pet. That seems like nature’s way.

I was at a school concert today. A young family member was going to be singing – along with her classmates. So, of course, I showed up. Not much can improve on my delight at hearing the sweet, uplifted voices of well-rehearsed boys and girls.

Well, there is one thing – A gorgeous, grey-toned Great Dane ‘sitting’ next to me. I love the breed. They are big and sweet and affectionate. I once owned one such dramatic canine. So, with memories of Francesca filling my mind, I reached for the giant pooch.

“Uh, uh, uh!”  The human appendage spoke. “This is a service dog.” Our eyes met (me and the dog’s) and we knew that we were now precluded from that moment of contact.

I withdrew to the confines of my seat; with difficulty, keeping my hands off the shapely head and strong back of my four-legged neighbor. He however, had other ideas. I felt – then saw – some large hindquarters backing up against my thigh. And then he sat on me.

I figured – if you’re virtually in my lap, I can be permitted to pet you. No one stopped us – even as my leg became numb. I didn’t care. Love the dog.

Everything is better at the ballet. But everything is passing strange at the opera.

This is going to be a much longer post than usual, but it’s part of my homage to the opera…which does go on and on.

I came to my passion for opera late in life, only as a by-product of a desire to provide a grandchild with the full New York cultural experience. I was seduced like one of the round-heeled women that are the centerpiece of so many librettos. But each time I visit the stately chambers of the Metropolitan Opera house (or another of the several venues in the city), I am struck by the bizarre behavior – not on stage, but in the audience.

It was a Wednesday night, and it would be fair to say that only the most valiant lovers of the three-and-a-half hour passion play were in attendance. Waiting for the curtain to rise, the delightful anticipation was heightened by the presence of one of my favorite people in the world: Cherise. We share a love of opera, among many other things.

The orchestra began its overture; the lights dimmed; quiet descended.

Nudge, nudge. (That’s me.) I directed my friend’s attention to the woman on my left. She had some damn ultra-bright book-light in use, to see whatever it was that was the object of her unrelenting attention. Understanding the unspoken “can you fucking believe her?” my friend appropriately squeezed my arm; I could make out her compassionate eye-rolling even in the darkened space.

Then there was the crinkling. Isn’t there a law on the books prohibiting the eating of anything in a noisy plastic wrapper – in any theatre: movie, play, opera, ballet…? Well, if not, let’s make it so! I said nothing – which was an excessively difficult stance for me. The noise stopped.

Intermission: For those of you who don’t know, sometimes there are several during an opera. The first one was obvious. But when the second began, it wasn’t clear (to either of the two of us) whether the show was over or not. And we could tell we weren’t alone in our confusion. People were shifting in their seats, waiting to see if there was a curtain coming down. There was. But, as it turned out, that didn’t signify the end of the opera. Strange, and a bit forced (may I say staged?) And then the lead singers stepped out from behind that curtain and took the atypical intermission bow. The uneven smattering of applause was a coherent communication: What the hell is going on?

Taking advantage of the break in the action, I sped to the bathroom. There was, of course, the usual line of women. I’m convinced that theatre owners have colluded in hiring people to stand in line just so no woman can relieve herself in a speedy fashion. I’m paranoid. True. But that doesn’t mean I’m not also right.

There was a washroom attendant directing traffic. But that wasn’t her only mission. She had decided she was the appropriateness police. She commented on each person as they walked out – noting with scorn those who failed to wash their hands. I admit to being intimidated. All things being equal and anxious to get back in my seat, I would have employed the logic of another old friend who famously asked: What exactly were you doing with that hand? And I would have taken a pass on the sink. But I didn’t want to hear the shaming commentary at my back – so I did a quick rinse.

A bit of digression: Before the opera, my friend and I had dinner in the resident restaurant of the Metropolitan Opera House: the Grand Tier. It’s up – not surprisingly – on the third level, also known as the Grand Tier. Coat racks were outside the restaurant. We were told they would be moved down to the lower level where coats are usually stashed. Miraculously, they were there at the close. It’s a magical thing, to be taken care of with great competence. I felt a little like royalty.

No night at the opera is complete without the end-of-evening agonizing about how to get home. For my friend, it was a serious drive to the wilds of Long Island. For me, it was a mere mile and a half, but – wait for a bus in the cold? Deal with a late night subway? Or, hope to get a taxi? The outflow of Lincoln Center will often absorb the entire universe of cabs. But this was to be a stellar night; taxis were plentiful and the final act ended on a most positive note.

THE EMOTIONAL VICISSITUDES OF DEPRESSED DOGDOM

The sentence itself is enough. I’m not sure I can add anything by writing about it. But I will anyway.

Two people very close to me are, out of their essential goodness and innate sense of fellowship, dog-sitting for a friend. Not one dog, but two. Lovely dogs. One’s a puppy.

While speaking to one of the voluntary canine captives (you see how I’m foreshadowing here), she – and I must add that this is one of the strongest women I know – expressed how daunted they were by the level of care and attention that our second favorite species requires. But then she shared the unexpected elements of…you guessed it…the emotional vicissitudes of depressed dogdom.

The morose state of the where’s-my-master-and-first-love? which emanates from the older pooch was a grevious thing to behold. And for empathic humans it’s all the more difficult. The loop of fruitlessness and dispiritedness has been taking its toll. No chew toy, no yummy treat, no romp (- who’s romping here? not this pup -) is having any impact. When a dog settles in to a bout of melancholia, you just can’t budge him. Even so (and perhaps, even more so), sad dog wants – as does cheerful puppy – to sleep in bed with them. So, no nocturnal respite for the good folks who have volunteered for this prolonged mission.

I asked, So how much longer until their master returns? Trying to keep from my voice the sense of eternal damnation I felt in response to her answer, I said, Oh, just seven more days. That’s not so long.

Depression tends to make time stand still. On a good day. (Are there good days associated with depression?) Under the circumstances, seven days will be long enough to restructure the universe.
Ah. That’s been done.

A Day’s Grist for the Blogging Mill

Close encounter of the tourist kind

While waiting impatiently for the crosstown bus at 86th Street (on my way to meet a friend, how dare it keep me waiting?), a rather hale and robust looking man, with coloring which spoke to a level of non-pollution that isn’t possible in the Apple, asked if I was a New Yorker.

Okay. My weirdar was raised a tad, but his demeanor told me it was okay to engage.

Why, yes. Feeling a bit like one of the chosen people (which, in fact, I am), I acknowledged that I was…a New Yorker, that is.

If I just got off the subway (there was an entrance a few feet from where we were standing) and I want to go to the Met (I understood museum not opera), is this where I get the bus?

He was indeed in the right place and I reassured him, adding that he would get off after going through the park. Giving him the benefit of my infinite wisdom.

He already knew that, he said, his own ego not in hiding.

I returned to my thoughts and then took out my little notebook to write this for a new post.

Excuse me, just one last question, he interjected.

I smiled. It doesn’t have to be your last question. I am nothing if not magnanimous.

(Note to self: write this so YOU can read it at another time. Handwriting deteriorates with age. Remember how it is to try to interpret those random chicken scratches?)

We then entered into what is inevitably an esoteric conversation about the vicissitudes of public transportation.

(Another digression: Had anyone ever heard the word “vicissitudes” before Freud used it? I hadn’t. Yes, this is a bit of inside baseball.)

I let him know that he would have a free transfer from the subway to the bus. He knew that it would expire in an hour. (News to me!) He wondered if the metrocard itself expired. I assured him it wouldn’t. (Now, I have to look into that. I think I know everything and I certainly wasn’t going to admit that this New Yorker was less than well-informed. But I’d better find out.)

Yet another ride from Hell

Bus driver stops short. People almost go flying. New Yorkers are land surfers. Amazing that no one fell. My cell phone hit me in the nose, however. So, I’m pissed.

Now we’re in some kind of holding pattern. Choppy driving continues. I’d like to give the driver a parting smack on the head. Only in fantasy. Repeat: Only in fantasy. The “I could have walked there faster” level of irritation has set in. Sandwiched between what the fuck?s.

Balls of NY

Crossing the street, even a busy Avenue, with the light or against it, I will direct traffic. No, I command. Don’t run me over. Don’t go there. Stop. Wait. Okay, go. All New Yorkers do this. It’s our birthright.

The boy at the next table

I met that dear friend for lunch at an Upper East Side venue. It had been a long time, so we had to catch up on EVERYTHING. Topics ranged across the spectrum, from work to family to relationships and so on.

As is inevitable, some of what we shared was either pretty dark or somewhat racy in nature.  It wasn’t until an hour into our meeting that I notice a boy at the adjacent table. He was sitting with his parents. He was about ten years old and avidly listening to our conversation. The parents were shedding bands of annoyance in our direction.

As my friend said, when I mentioned how unhappy these people were with their boy being privy to discussions of shall we call them romantic peccadillos, and of bad relatives and their shortcomings whom we each reviled with long-winded glee, parents have to think about where they choose to take their children. And, I added, speaking the mantra which provides an explanation for anything, anytime: this is New York!

 

THE FRIENDLY SKIES

So much has been written about the inconveniences which have become integral to the experience of flying: small seats, no legroom, no meals, long delays…and on and on. Nothing (as far as I know) has been written about the opportunity that presents itself  – on a long airborne ride with a stranger (or two) up close and possibly personal.

Last weekend I flew roundtrip to Florida: a visit to my mother. On the way back, on what would have otherwise been a humdrum three plus hour flight (which I would definitely have been complaining about during and after), the most wonderful thing happened. I made a friend. No  – not a friend…a FRIEND. There he was, already seated by the window, a man apparently (although not actually) flying on his own. (There were relatives dispersed throughout the plane.) My husband and I sat down. I spoke to him first, which is not necessarily typical for me: I’m a little bit shy of strangers. But, somewhere outside my conscious awareness, I must have understood – here was a person for me to know. Within moments (my husband will attest to this), he and I were chatting and sharing and laughing and revealing our authentic selves. Our strangerhood didn’t last very long. I don’t think we stopped talking until the plane was about to land.

By the time we arrived in New York it was as if I had known him for decades. I’m grateful for this gift of new friendship: a rare jewel.

Being locked up in a flying tin can has its benefits.

WHAT’S MORE NEW YORK THAN ZABAR’S?

Why am I thinking about Zabar’s? I’ll tell you why. I’m going to be visiting a dear friend for the day, who lives waaay out on Long Island. I want to bring something, something that she’d enjoy, but something that would provide her with a little piece of the City. The image of a goodie basket from Zabar’s arose in my inner vision. Umm hmmm, I said to myself. That’s it. What could be more New York than Zabar’s?

Well…

If my father were still with us, he’d say, “Screw Zabar’s, Barney Greengrass is the real New York.” For those poor souls who don’t know what that is, let me enlighten you. My father would probably yell like a drill sergeant right in your face: “What the hell’s the matter with you? You don’t know the best place in the world for smoked fish…and everything else that defines Jewish ‘appetizing?’”

Of course there is the entire realm of non-food (yes, there really is!). I could get my friend tickets to a Broadway show. And what could be more New York than Broadway? Except maybe Off-(and Off-Off) Broadway, the extended gamut of everything from Nude Boys doing ballet en pointe to the next Phantom of the Opera.

But what about Lincoln Center. It may not be a century old, but doesn’t it cast it’s operatic, balletic, philharmonic, and theatrical shadow far and wide, representing the finest cultural experiences that only New York can muster all in one place? I could get her a subscription to something at Lincoln Center.

Since it’ a quick bus-ride away, I just came back from Zabar’s. When I entered at the extraordinarily early hour of 9:15 on a Sunday morning, I had to dodge and weave, elbows just slightly akimbo, in order to move across the store from entry to bakery (replete with a palate of handmade French macarons) and fresh bread counter, to prepared foods wafting the fragrant aromas of Chinese loin of pork, two kinds of stuffed cabbage, six kinds of salmon,  into the consciousness of  the sleepy-eyed avidity of the Upper West Side and beyond shoppers, to the smoked fish and olives and other drool-producing taste treats , to the ….okay, you got the picture.

The word “quintessential” echoed in my mind. Why go anywhere else? This was as New York as it gets.