New York City: My Home

Even though a geographical site, a city is a microcosm, a setting, for one person’s existence, which is by definition unique, as no one else has had your life. I wanted to pay tribute, but also remember the knocks of this beloved city I call my home, from which even today, tears still beckon when flying back in, especially at night, with “the neon lights visible, so pretty–how can u lose?”- Petula Clark, song, Downtown. (Paraphrased).

It starts in the Bronx, New York, where I was born, in a time when the Baby Boomers were still being born in force, and I was born at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, which is the South Bronx now, on the Grand Concourse, and on the same exact day, a girl who came to be a friend through life, was also born, though we met in high school, and later on, both of us became registered nurses, as second careers. We went to each other’s Sweet 16 parties too. And our mothers were also late life friends, at the local Bronx Mosholu Montefiore Community Center.

This community center was important to many of us. I learned darkroom picture development photography there as a girl, learned proper dance technique, was a 13 year old cheerleader, made fun of, because I am Marsha, and there was a player named Brady on the team…even today, I cannot live down Marcia Brady jokes, Marsha Marsha Marsha.  We traveled w the team, as cheerleaders, to points in PA, NJ, not too far, but far enough. I remembered the wonderful Amish Country cooking. But back to NY.

Van Cortlandt Park, the Williamsbridge Oval, Harris Field, City Island, Shorehaven Beach Club, Great Adventure, Radio City Music Hall, w the Rockettes, before  movie was played; Fordham Road, Alexander’s, driving mom crazy by hiding in a drawer, in said Alexander’s, thinking it was Hide n Seek time, but it wasn’t. Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor, the Kitchen Sink, a behemoth of a sundae, for a size party of 12, or more…4 movie theaters on Fordham, and we went, and sat for reruns of shows we especially liked, one after another. Later, the golf course at Van Cortlandt would turn out to be a likely place to hide from prying parent eyes, and get it on, yup, in the grass, w friends also doing the same, beside me. Boy, do I have some tales! Ye Olde Mill was also the site of an inappropriate encounter, as we timed the ride, and figured certain sex acts would be finished before the end of said ride. And who can forget the famed 4 wall handball court, which had a lock on the inside?? Hopscotch, tag,  the Lake House in the park, watching geese, and raccoons too, bird watching, kissing, running to Woodlawn as a teenager, because no privacy at home to talk to the boyfriend…wanting to grow up! Doing a full 180 degree split, because big dog Princess had pulled me hard, and wow, there went my legs, hither and yon! I cracked up. Splits hurt, but they make you laugh.

And then, the good days of the Bronx were winding down as we watched the encroachment of the poor, coming northbound on the number 4 subway line, and sure enough, it was going to reach Norwood. We were prepared, but also relatively powerless to prevent the onslaught of the crack epidemic, and the bad old 1990’s, when the NYC murder rate skyrocketed. I left again, trying to find a path forward, after school teaching was clearly not working for me, and was a hornet’s nest of differing priorities, of administrators, parents, students and those poor teachers as well. No one was happy in those days.

And as the poor took over the neighborhood, signs of neglect by the government were obvious as well. Overflowing garbage cans, graffiti everywhere, squeegee men who were threatening you if you didn’t want to pay them for a service of cleaning a windshield, that you never asked for. The beggars, the homeless, the burned out hulls of buildings, not being restored, just boarded up, left to rot, and becoming homes for the disenfranchised, even without running water, or electricity within. Just extension cords running from street lamps, to power one or two items…I see Jonathan Larson’s RENT in my mind’s eye, as I evoke this image…and that was in NYC too, Lower East Side.

And then looking for a way to get $, and a new future, I turned to business school, University of Miami, in Florida, but that turned out to be just helpful for other hats to wear, later in life, as a businesswoman…and then, back to the Bronx, traumatized by events in Miami. One year later, entered Nursing School, South Bronx, Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College, w a surprisingly rigorous 3 year program for the RN license, if you managed to survive the virtual incarceration it demanded of you. I was highly motivated however, as the Bronx had lost its hope for me, at that point. I did well, graduated w honors, and secured a job fresh out of school and RN licensure, at North Central Bronx Hospital, which was walking distance from my by now disgusting home. 7am shift, till 3:30pm daily, I was willing to do my service, even though unhappy w living conditions.

The ER was very good but also eye opening for me. I saw the worst of humanity there. Stabbings, gunshot wounds, hit and runs, screams, stench, vermin, contamination, a strong gag reflex, which was unwelcome in such circumstances, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, you name it. Yeah, eye opening all right. I determined to make my last will and testament right then and there, plus my own health care proxy, because I saw what not having these things meant, in real time. I was only 31 years old at the time. It was life changing, seeing all that. Also, life threatening diseases, allergies, accidents, unexpected anything, you saw that life did not depend on your age, only on if you were fortunate or not, just happenstance. Death could come knocking at any time. Whether you were prepared or not. I still hold this maxim, as a life philosophy: that you should live every day as if it were your last. Have no regrets, say what needs saying, do what needs doing…because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

And then, just a song before I go…because NYC is also a mecca for music, and the arts. I especially love theater, concerts of pop, rock, disco, as an old age genre, museums, art galleries, film festivals, going to the movies, especially art house movies, of high quality, the availability of travel, because I live now in Queens, home to both NY’s major airports, Laguardia and JFK. Many non-stops all over the USA and the world are accessible by online booking. I can take an Uber or a cheap taxi ride to either airport, and use curb side check in quite easily.

And because I had a hard ride in, in the Bronx, till 2011, way too long, I am now very grateful for deliverance. I know what it is to suffer, and as such, with the memories of the trash, the crime, the rats, roaches, mice, the peeling lead paint, filthy walls, ceilings dropping due to leaks, every few months, mildew in the floorboards and ceilings, exposed, possibility of ceiling dropping on your head, never to be the same, elevators out of order, poor foods available in ghettos, leading to likely obesity, smokestack chimneys belching thick black smoke, daily, from burning trash, using #2 and #4 fuel oils, linked to cancer, for heat, which was not on enough, because of broken boilers, and poor residents, and overworked 311 lines, w no teeth to force compliance, freezing apartments, no sprinklers, just wood houses, waiting to burn, which many did, and as time goes on, damage to lungs, irretrievable, even if you escape, you cannot escape everything, because you carry those lungs w you, that smelled too much, and took in too much, when you couldn’t get out. There was soot laden on my artwork, when we moved to Queens, and I thought of my lungs then, that I had already paid too high a price. And my body was also that of a poor girl, who couldn’t make it out, in time, to prevent a hard life, going forward. But still grateful. And they built a water filtration plant too, in the old neighborhood, because of what is now termed economic racism, because alienation of parkland is just the tip of the iceberg. The water filtration plant had an expected mortality rate within a one mile radius of the plant: and we fell squarely in that one mile. And larger numbers for the numbers of lung cases, w expected new diagnoses of asthma and COPD. Yup, they knew, and we were deemed expendable, because we were poor. OK, water filtration needs to be done, but why in the City of NY? Why when there are such numbers of local inhabitants? Much better to put such operations further upstate, in lesser densely populated communities, who wanted the development, not by us, who had to pay w our lives.

Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who is now in the US Congress, represents parts of the Bronx. She knows directly of what I speak. The outrage of putting out people, of disenfranchising them, by the vote, by economics, by housing deterioration, by lack of maintenance, by siting public works projects that are harmful to the surrounding community, all are examples of Mr. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, before he was disabused of his heartless attitudes towards those less fortunate. In the name of anything holy, that people believe in, we need to be compassionate and enact programs that empower people, to be the best that they can be, so that the American dream doesn’t die in the inner city, wherever it is, and continues to be.

Ironically, I have become the very person that in the past and present cared not a fig about the working class, or those less fortunate. But I remember my past, and my heart became as it is now: concerned for all those left behind. Sharing w they who should have gotten more of the good life as well. That is my legacy, whatever time remains, and I am proud of that! They shall say of me that I did not flinch, even when the truth was hard to tell. Some of my friends have stayed w me, on this life long odyssey, and for that, I will also always be blessed, grateful.

The Vaccination Crisis

As of today, in Rockland County, a suburban county of New York City, the officials have declared that all children from ages 4-18, who do not have a measles vaccine under their belts will be unallowed to be in public enclosed spaces, until such vaccination is accomplished. Only public parks and being at home is the option for these children. The acting mayor/County Executive is right to issue such a draconian measure, on the backs of parents who, in the name of freedom, religious or otherwise, have chosen to not vaccinate their children, as recommended, when the pediatrician suggests that the child has reached the age of administration. How did we get here?

In 2000, measles was declared eradicated in the USA, which for the time it was, almost gone, with only a handful of cases, and only 1 death in 3 years since then, the latest being in 2015. In the years before 1963, when the measles, mumps rubella combined vaccine became widely available, most children in the USA got these childhood diseases, and some proportion of them died from measles, a slightly higher number had life changing complications like encephalitis, and the disease was endemic in the USA, with major rashes, fever and suffering. So now fast forward to 2019, and many people do not remember or simply weren’t alive, back in the early 1960’s, when it was all over, the problems, and the sequelae of measles, mumps and rubella. People today have a fallacy in their minds, about disproven autism being caused from vaccine preservatives. Or the right to prevent their children from receiving the protection due to religious views. Only a relatively small number of children have documented allergies to the vaccines.

Whether experts in the field, or simply this registered nurse, who has extensive experience with vaccine administration, titers of immunity to the diseases, protest against such short sighted parents who have foolhardedly denied their children protection from serious and in some cases fatal diseases, and in many cases bringing back “The Boogey Man,” I say your job is to protect and educate your children. Secondarily, but equally important, you owe society at large what is known in the field as “herd immunity,” which is when a certain percentage of the total population is inoculated against a disease, say 90% or higher, the ones who aren’t inoculated are less likely to contract the disease, by virtue of its relative scarcity in the population, like we had in 2000. NOT NOW. Now, we have major outbreaks, all over the world, but especially clustered in Rockland County, NY, and some of those affected, with active disease, are spreading the disease, and a certain percentage of those will go on to permanent cognitive disability and/or death.

So you sow, so shall you reap. The County Executive has no power of enforcement, but for visual examination of the characteristic rash of measles, when it is active. No parents are required to carry around vaccination cards with them. But this story in the news is unprecedented, and long since due, for public health. These parents have erred, and need to repent. Get thee to a clinic, go! In conjunction with this initiative, free clinics are providing the vaccine, and all you need to do is be responsible, and get the kids vaccinated! It seems that people have forgotten that if we don’t care for ourselves, we also don’t care for anyone else. We become reservoirs of disease, hosts.

I also advocate for all other available vaccines, as all my friends know, when you are in the appropriate life stage for administration. In our life stage, that includes Pneumococcal, Shingles, Flu annually, and if necessary, by lifestyle, Hepatitis A, B. Too bad that Hepatitis C did not get its own vaccine, because many Baby Boomers have contracted that one. And it’s serious as well, with likelihood of disability and death too. And keep count of your Tetanus as well, at least every 10 years. Keep a booklet, like you do for your kids. It’s the kind, responsible thing to do. Unnecessary contagion is just stupid. Next stop, seeing children in wheelchairs, due to polio outbreak and attendant complications….

Now, Things to Do

What, you’re surprised? Of course you have to have the corollary list to contrast w the preceding. Here’s a list of things that you should do, if you have the moxie.

  1. Be fantabulous, that is to say, your unique self. Wear high stilettos if that’s your thing, in boots, up to the thighs. Interpret as you see fit.
  2. Be the parents that you wish you had, if you are a parent. Use their example of how to be and how NOT to be, if they went wrong with something.
  3. Have a moral compass. Whether it’s an organized religion, straight spirituality, or just plain a higher being to pray to, a la AA’s mantra, be sure to be on the straight and narrow, in case there is a God, that many believe that there isn’t.
  4. Love with your whole body and soul at least once in this life. If you don’t, you will regret it. If you can, find your soul mate, and keep that person.
  5. Find what you are good at, and are interested in, and evaluate whether this is good for future development of a career, even if unlikely. Give it a shot at least, to see if you are that shooting star in the sky. Develop hobbies to foster self esteem.
  6. Write a Bucket List at an appropriate life stage. Try to check off as much as possible on that list. Do things with the closest people you know, from that list.
  7. Be kind, especially with those who are less fortunate than you are. They are out there, no matter where on the ladder you are. It’s your job to find them and help.
  8. Be the solution to a problem you see in the world. Implement steps to make your solution a reality. Seek resources from Googling experts in the field, if necessary. There are many charitable foundations that will be delighted to help, if they can be helpful with a major goal. Eradicate AIDS? Stand Up to Cancer? There are millions of worthwhile projects to help, if you can.
  9. If your genetics suggests you are at risk for a disease, it will also suggest ways to combat that predisposition. Follow guidelines as much as possible. Genetics is not all destiny.
  10. While you have your sanity, (which could change, of course, due to a life stressor, like a divorce, death of a loved one, homelessness, etc), make out papers like a health care proxy, living will, a regular last will and testament, or if circumstances warrant, a revocable trust, because you might have your life circumstances significantly change, somewhere down the line. A trust is preferable in large assets positions because it gets assets to beneficiaries much faster. These documents will save your life, or potentially save yourself countless months of suffering, or longer, if you have thought of this ahead of any sad event, like recently, Luke Perry, dead at 52. Update your papers when major life events occur, like a wedding, perhaps engagement, adoption, birth, etc. The people you love will know for certain how much you loved them by doing this ahead.
  11. Take all recommended vaccinations, when they are available, and are applicable to your life stage. To not do so is to say that you don’t care about your child’s safety and health, as well as the public at large, via herd immunity. Will you care when you see children again in wheelchairs, due to polio resurgence? (As an example).
  12. Save for retirement, if possible to do. You are hereby advised that in the USA Social Security will be insufficient to even likely cover your rent/mortgage, as inflation is a known factor over time. And about half of people will be forced to retire before they intend to, because of health reasons. Try not to be one of them, but be prepared ahead. Save early and often. Also, keep in mind that people are living longer than ever in this country, as a whole, so count on living a good long time after you retire, and calculate with a financial adviser how to manage your living standard accordingly.
  13. If you are apt to run out of money before long, well, you might opt for a strategy of whoop it up, eat whatever you want, without cares, avoid exercise, drink, smoke, do drugs, have unprotected sex with strangers or go play in traffic…take your pick, and your poison. You don’t want to wind up dead in the subway after all, or cold, in snow, naked…Or you could go to one of our red Southern states, get a handgun, and do what comes naturally…Some of the loonies have done that too, with no holds barred. 2nd Amendment enshrined forever in this country.
  14. Be a good parent, grandparent, husband/wife, brother/sister, son/daughter, friend, cousin, aunt/uncle, etc. These are the most important people in your life, in one way or another. Honor that, and forgive, before it is too late, if that is possible to do. The hurts we hand out to each other are what nightmares are made of. “Love one another, as I have loved you.”- Jesus. Great advice.
  15. And for Heaven’s sake, do wear a bra, or a jockstrap. I don’t think gravity is leaving us any time soon. We want to be upright in all ways!

Things Not to Do

  1. Get involved with murderers
  2. Automatically trust strangers
  3. Invite strangers, from bars or otherwise, to your hotel room or apartment, 4 sex
  4. Walk naked in front of your smart TV, which can see and hear u, potentially broadcasting to others, without your knowledge or consent.
  5. Also, be aware of your Echo device, Google Home, etc. They can also hear u.
  6. Take $ for nefarious schemes, that the police will look askance at.
  7. Climb tall building, neither in a single bound, nor without permits.
  8. Eat dairy excessively, when lactose intolerant, even w lactase supplements. Results not pretty. Also goes 4 gluten intolerance. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
  9. Stay w someone as a partner or spouse, when it is clear that u r better off without them, than with them. Life is too short 4 that. And u will harm the children also by staying, if u have those. Like Shatner said: “Get a life!” Really.
  10. Be desperate. Assume the order of the Universe is that u will get what is coming to u, by karma. Your destiny is written, so it shall be done.
  11. Stay sick in your bubble. Avoid others, get depressed, do nothing, wait out your life sentence in home confinement. Such is how mass murderers r made.
  12. Post sensitive info on any social media platform. Upload sexting and the like to the Cloud. It will prevent your future happiness.
  13. Get addicted to any substance, sexting, sending naked pix, especially underage, which is a crime already. Be aware of the Cloud sharing of your cell phone.
  14. Avoid excessive usage of cell phones and computers, PlayStations, Xboxes, tablets, etc. We r making a generation of connected zombies, who do not drive, watching the road. They text, watch every single minute, addicted, when at a traffic light…this portends future accidents, both serious and fatal, on the road, increasing.
  15. The rules have changed 4 everyone. Learn them. “Do. Not do not. There is no try.” -Yoda, Jedi Master, creation of George Lucas. Just a paraphrase here, but u get the idea. Learn the future, which is now.
  16. And lastly, if u have a Narcissistic Personality, do us all a favor by staying out of both parenthood and politics. U haven’t the skin 4 these jobs, and the results might be calamitous, or funny, if u r inclined to see it as a Comedy of Errors…your child is NOT a Mini-Me, after all, and will never be one. Not entirely anyway.

Song 4 Methusaleh

Was thinking that 10 second snippets of songs musically congruent in style, from my youth, would make a fun wholly unoriginal but yet new work, if we could get a good DJ and sound mixer in a baseball cap and leather jacket, in a recording studio.

But then we’d need the releases of all the artists to use 10 second snippets of their work, in a  compilation, and then I groaned, turned over and went back to sleep on another idea…no one is going to license their hard won rock and pop songs to a nobody who wants to make a custom tape 4 a loved one! Not without massive royalties and profit sharing, if any.

And that’s the problem with society. Everything is imbued with the religion of capitalism. Which is a bloody hell way of a system that rewards ingenuity and originality, but protects patents for drugs for like 20 years, so sick patients can’t get said drugs, unless they go through hoops of regulations, and red tape, in order to only get said drugs as an exceptional case. Most people don’t do that. They go to the pharmacy to find that life saving insulin or Narcan by inhalation is prohibitively expensive, even while Mexicans and Canadians can get their drugs at far far less. And the European Union as well. I was a tourist in London when I had a nasty fall on my left arm, requiring medical treatment, and pain relievers. They provided care and the drug for FREE, to me, a mere tourist, in the ER. No way does the USA do that for even its own citizens. The bill here would exceed $10,000 for such care. And insurance won’t cover it all either. Even if it is urgent care.

This is the system here. Dog eat dog. Pay through the nose for things that ought to be a right, like health care, except it isn’t. It’s rationed to reward the big hitters, the pro sports players, the politicians, with their own preferential health care system for life, mind you!  Their lives have been valued higher than yours and mine, in advance. Call it malevolent despotism. Each life has a monetary value, based upon what services you provide, and what zip code you live in. Hence South Bronx and Jackson Heights and Harlem get cracked sidewalks, slow pothole repairs, and poor schools, whereas Forest Hills, Upper East Side and Greenwich Village get all the advantageous opposites in services and care. You see, your zip code and your neighborhood are destiny for you. The likelihood of making it out of your social situation, that you were born in, via education, is actually quite rare. More likely, you aren’t invested in, your schools are dumbed down by poor compensation rates for teachers, getting worse all the time, and we know that your life is how much money you make, so do the math.

When you don’t pay your teachers fair wages, when you don’t pick up garbage from overflowing cans on the streets, when you don’t pay for that hardworking building inspector, who doubles as a Fire Inspector too, but with not one iota of extra pay, due to political corruption in certain circles, well, the staff rate in your local precinct of the police isn’t very good either, and your local fire house is way too far for a big area like yours, well…you were born this way. Look for scholarships to afford that vaunted education, to lift you up out of the ghetto, except those scholarships were proportionally much more of the cost of higher education in the past. Today you just have lines and lines of offered loans to finance college, which is needed more than ever now, because of the reduced labor participation rate and the mechanization of the economy. More jobs are just exiting, in favor of robots, who don’t require health care, or even a salary.

And this trend is accelerating. To not have an STEM major is to be irrelevant in tomorrow’s economy. They will be getting rid of the humans in favor of that almighty dollar, because that’s what business is about, not providing a stable workforce and society, but profits at the expense of the many.

Personally, I’m glad I did more of my living in the past, because the future is looking positively Orwellian, with Big Brother already here, watching your every move. And the Dickens of the world were right, it’s a Bleak House we are building. Watch out: the Teacher in the Peanuts was an amorphous blob with a mechanical sounding voice. Coming to a school near you….

Don’t forget to arm Rosie the Robot with a machine gun, when the humans desperate for money, come crashing in…because that’s what happens when you remove all opportunity for advancement in the masses of hungry dead eyes, like zombie apocalypse.  They’re coming to take us all away, in one form or another. And we built this city, not on Rock and Roll, but on a snowball gathering steam as it rolls down the mountain, to an avalanche to bury us all.

Favoring money over people is what Capitalism is about. Not saving democracy either, because a hungry, desperate populace with no options for future advancement and development will lead to war, famine and yes, the aforementioned Armageddon. It’s not even coming now; it’s already here: we can see the rolling thunder in the distance, like a Tornado Force 5. Better get thee a storm shelter and load it up, because others will want what you have. I feel like I’m living already in The Twilight Zone.

Let’s just play a song before we go.