January 30, 2005

A Step in the Wrong Direction

I enjoy writing about old jobs. The fact is, I'm not sure I'd run out of topics in this vein. Generally speaking, I'm not what one might refer to as "career material." Assuming that I will eventually retire from my current job (attempted save, incase anyone from my job reads this), let's just say that I've had a rather colorful employment history.

Years ago I was hired as a cocktail waitress at a swanky, new nightclub. The name of the club was Dillinger's and I was to be featured as their Lady in Red. I could write from now till next Saturday about the fine world of cocktail peddling, but the overuse of improper lingo might be frowned upon. For now, I'll share one memorable experience during this short-lived career.

Clearly, it was a theme club. Everything in the place was shiny, sparkly, red and black. There were plastic gats and machine guns on the walls, as well as photos of Chicago and New York back in the days when the word "gangster" had nothing to do with music (as in "gangsta-rap" for the more innocent of readers). Our bartenders, male or female, wore tuxedo shirts tucked into black pants, red cumberbunds and black or red bowties. We waitresses wore skimpy but not whore-ish dresses that were blood red with way too many sparkles. Hey, it was a job.

The club hadn't yet opened when I was hired. We were all pitching in each night to set the place up and get things in order. Most of the folks who worked there were in their early twenties. I was the grandmother of the crew at twenty-nine, but I didn't look a day over twenty-eight.

On opening night, we all met at the club two hours before our first customers would arrive. We were briefed on etiquette and standard operating procedures, all of which pretty much went out the window within a week's time, still it was a reason to get us all there well before the doors opened.

Opening night was going to be quite special. We anticipated a full house due to some clever advertising schemes. The place was the talk of the town for the two weeks that preceded opening. We could easily accommodate three hundred "guests" and inside of the first hour, we were about two thirds full.

But let me take you back to the first ten minutes of my experience as Dillingers' Lady in Red.

There I was, dressed to the nines in my sparkly, would-never-wear-this-thing-anywhere-else-on-earth dress, my low black heels, my lip and cheek enhancement in place and my hair stiff as a board from hair-lock. Hair-lock was this nifty product that all the employees in the place passed around. You could parachute from a plane in full jump-gear and during the entire 10,000 foot drop, not one hair on your head would budge.

They had just painted our dance floor ... metallic red. It was lined with little lights and in the shape of a big kidney bean. Tables were placed around all sides. As I stood waiting for our first customers to choose tables, I double checked my tray which held napkins, a glass with change of a twenty dollar bill, some match books, a small writing pad and some straws. I wondered where I was going to put drinks but figured I'd sort that out later.

People were shuffling in pretty quickly and I watched as some headed straight for one of our three bars. Finally a couple of tables filled up so I walked toward them and made some small talk as I took their cocktail orders. As I turned to walk away, my left foot never connected with floor and I flew ... ohhh I'd say a good six feet ... down the small step and directly into the center of the dance floor. I was face down and so damned embarrassed that I couldn't move for about ten seconds. Let's just say there was now plenty of space on my tray (wherever it landed) for drinks. The glass containing my money was hurled clear across the room and broke into a thousand pieces. Napkins were still airborne and landing all around me, and there wasn't a set of eyeballs in the place that weren't planted directly on me. As two kindly gentlemen were helping me to my feet, I noticed a run in my stocking that started at my ankle and ended in a rather unmentionable place. My knee was scraped and bleeding which immediately reduced me to about eight years old on an emotional level. The deejay compounded this special event by stopping the music and announcing "...and I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce our very own Lady in Red."
Everyone applauded and I just stood there taking a pathetic bow before heading to the back office to compose myself. My elbow was bruised and my ankle quite sore, but my hair was perfectly in place!

The rest of that first evening went smoothly ... well, how could it not? I made good money and had some great laughs.

It didn't take me long to realize that the big bucks were made by the bartenders so within a month, I retired my tray and took over one of the bars. At first, I was nicey-nice to all my customers and greeted everyone with a smile. That lasted for quite awhile until the club started to take a nose-dive, allowing riff-raff through the doors and eliminating our dress code completely. Sometime shortly after being clocked in the head with a beer bottle (it wasn't aimed at me) I started to wear a button that read "TIP ME OR DIE OF THIRST." It worked wonders.

One of these days I'll have to write more on Dillinger's; it was an eye opening experience in so many ways.

One lesson I learned at the club was that when you begin a new job, although it's important to put your best foot forward, you must be careful not to take a step in the wrong direction!






January 29, 2005

It's Not Just Us. Good!

I tried to find the origin of the phrase "Misery loves company," but I'm in too much of a hurry this morning to search any further. What I can tell you is that whoever coined the phrase sure said a mouthful!

Twice in as many days, this has been the theme of the day around our house. This morning's reinforcement pushed me into writing about it, but I'll begin with yesterday just to keep with proper timing.

It's been awfully cold in New England this past week. Yes, it's supposed to be cold in New England in January, but minus eleven degrees three mornings in a row is a bit much. I went to make a third cup of tea around 10:30 in the morning and the water trickled ever-so-slowly out of the faucet. This happened a few days ago as well, but it righted itself inside of a few hours, so it was nothing more than a little bit annoying.

Our water source comes from the Mashantucket Indian Nation who own the property on which the well sits. It's good water, usually. I'm not overly thrilled with the amount of mineral deposit left in the glass or cup, but it hasn't killed me yet so I continue to use the stuff. Yesterday, however, there was almost no pressure. Within an hour, I tried the faucet again. Nothing. Then it chugged, spit and spewed brown crap resembling the color of Jack Daniels. Just ducky, no drinkable water. I wouldn't have minded if I had already taken my shower, but it was my day off and I purposefully rearrange my schedule on such days just so that the routine doesn't resemble a workday.

A call placed to the "Nation" told us that a water main had broken about a mile up the road and they were working on it. Anyone who has ever had trouble with their water company or any public utility knows what that translates to ~ "You'll get it when you get it."

Still, it was a great relief to know that it wasn't just us. The problem did not lie in the house. Phew! Misery loves company.
The water did clear up and come back on, full force, by evening. Luckily I keep plenty of bottled water in the house because otherwise my bladder might have burst while waiting.

This morning, the man of the house braved the frigid air to go out and hunt and gather our newspaper. There was no paper in the box. This annoys us to no end because it's part of the whole morning ritual. It's like "NOOOO... now what am I going to do while sipping my coffee/tea!" You would think someone took away our driver's licenses. I immediately placed a call to the circulation department of our local newspaper. It was music to my ears when the woman told me there was a press problem during the night and the paper deliveries are running about an hour behind schedule. YES! Once again, it wasn't just us. Misery loves company!

Clearly, there's much to be said about not "suffering" alone. As my fiance said "it's okay to get screwed as long as you're not alone." Though this could be taken several ways, I knew just what he meant in this case and couldn't agree more.



January 27, 2005

How To Kill A Frog

Before I begin, please allow me to apologize for making light of a situation that some may view as grave (no pun intended) or disturbing. Trust me when I tell you that no one on this earth was sorrier than I when the incident took place ~ but I honestly believe that only through humor can we survive the tragic. Go ahead, argue that one. I dare you.

Years ago, my daughter received a joyous gift from one of her aunts. I still haven't forgiven said aunt, but that's another story entirely. She was given the gift of a water frog. Oh joy. In my current line of work, one might suspect that this thrilled me to bits, but at the time, I was not in my current line of work, and didn't much think about the educational aspect of such a present. Still, the child was greatly excited by it, and named him Fred.

Fred was adorable. He was tiny and lived in a small habitat filled with water. It didn't take long for even me to become attached to the little bugger. If you looked into his habitat he'd actually swim right up the the side and stare out at you, almost with a smile. (well, frogs can't help but smile, it's something about the shape of their mouths)

Fred was quite easy to maintain. He ate little pellets of "food stuff" which consisted of squished up shrimp, (at least I think that's what it was), and he made no noise whatsoever. All we had to do was keep his environment temperate and change out his water about twice a month. Seemed pretty simple to me ... until we tried to change out his water.

I read the instruction booklet very thoroughly and took great care to place clean water into a small plastic tub so that while I was cleaning his habitat, he'd swim around happily, probably seeing it as a little vacation. I placed his habitat on my stove top. No, no, it's not what you're thinking. I didn't cook Fred. I placed it there so that the mild warmth emanating from the pilot light underneath the surface might help keep the water just right to avoid shock upon returning him into it. I had one of those large stoves with ample room between the two sets of burners. I took the small net provided to remove the frog from his dirty water ... gently scooped him out and placed him into the clean container. He swam to his heart's content ... stretching his little muscular frog legs all over the place. I cleaned out the habitat as my daughter watched and argued the whole while that she could do a better job of this whole process. In retrospect, she probably could have.

Finally it was time to return Fred to his nice, clean home. I took the net and gently lifted him from the container. Sadly, Fred had other plans. Off the net he jumped and directly into the hole at the side of one of the stove burners. I never knew my voice could pitch quite that high nor quite that loudly. My daughter looked on in absolute horror and between the two of us, we grabbed everything off the stove top and pulled up at the top section, lifting it to try to save the frog. No Fred. He somehow managed to find a way down to the next level, which one would think was the oven ... but noooooo. This little guy hopped his way clear through to the broiler at the very bottom of the stove! I grabbed a flashlight (still screaming like a banshee) and searched the entire broiler section only to spot another hole that leads out of the stove and onto the floor.

They say super-strength kicks in at times of great shock or panic. True. I pulled that huge stove out from the wall with one burst and much to our horror, there layed Fred. He was covered in dust, so much so in fact, that it looked like the poor little guy had been there for two years. He wasn't moving. He wasn't smiling either.

My first reaction was to stand there, flashlight in hand, and say "ewwww." But that changed quickly with the help of my child shouting in my ear "YOU KILLED FRED!"

I gingerly removed the carcass and kind of blew the dust bunnies off him ... then placed him into his nice clean habitat. Frogs sink quickly when they've been traumatized.

Now I turned to my daughter and hugged her tightly, as if that might make some sort of difference ~ it didn't. She was almost inconsolable. I felt so, so terrible. It was the only time I ever remember wishing I were still Catholic, just so I could race off to Confession and be forgiven, by SOMEBODY!

My daughter ran off to her room, adequately punishing me for killing her pet, and now I was left standing there alone, well - except for dead Fred. Then something amazing happened. He moved. He poked out one little arm and then another. He was alive! I yelled out to my daughter to come quickly! She and I must have stood there for a solid hour waiting for more signs of life, but unfortunately, that little kick was his last. Maybe he was trying to lash out at me. Perhaps if I had been more attentive, I would have noticed his little tiny middle finger waving in my direction. Who knows?

I've long since recovered from killing Fred. My daughter has also, though she kindly reminds me of this trauma every chance she gets. Luckily, she shares my humor and we both manage to get beyond such things somehow.

This Christmas Santa sent my daughter two tadpoles with a large habitat. They are cute as buttons. They will eventually grow arms and legs and require gross foodstuffs ... but for now, they swim around happily eating their pressed pellets. My daughter feeds them and cleans out their habitat. She won't let me near them. Wise, wise girl.



January 25, 2005

Naming Things

Years ago I worked for a large and prestigious advertising agency in downtown NYC. I was an executive secretary for the president of the company; the top banana; the head honcho. I felt the need to reveal my position because this was probably one of the classiest jobs I ever had in my life. We had four floors worth of employees, one of which (mine, but of course) was clearly designed with executive-type guests in mind. Upon exiting the elevators, visitors were greeted with plush carpeting as they entered the huge double glass doors that led them to my desk, which was obscenely expensive; rich mahogany with etching along the edges, the thing pretty much surrounded me. Expensive art hung on the walls and the crystal candy dish on our etagere was always filled with English toffee. I made big bucks. I was thoroughly impressed with myself, though I'm sure I was the only one who was.
They say the higher up you go, the less you do. This job was a classic example of that. Much of my day was spent chatting with my co-worker who was secretary to the company vice-president. We sat close enough to have paper-clip fights during that final hour of the day when most of the bigwigs had gone home already and the minutes till closing seemed to pass like days. We two had way too much time on our hands and way too much fun on the job.
The copy-writers graced our floor as well, and we would often help them out by typing up offerings for large firms. One day, one of the writers brought the most unique thing over to our desks. It was this little yellow square pad of sorts, bound with glue at the top and boasting about 100 little pages. If you pulled one of the pages off, you could write on it, and re-stick it ~ anywhere! What a great idea! One of our large customers was 3M and apparently they came up with this thing and wanted to pre-test it at several locations to see if it merited mass production. The problem is, they needed a kitschy name for it, as well as some slogans and an ad campaign.
(- and thus was the beginning of my obsession with these little puppies -)
Within ten minutes, my partner-in-crime and I had about twenty of them stuck all around our desks and typewriters. (cripes am I dating myself or what?) Of course, we also had great fun passing the time with notes back and forth to one another; notes with greatly intelligent passages on them like "you suck" ... "you suck worse." Did you know if folded properly, these little squares of paper fly rather well?
We were invited by the writers to try to come up with an appropriate name for the little pads. Between the two of us, we had some goodies, but the one that I turned in never quite made a hit. I thought they should be called "Little Sticky Yellow Mofos." Someone came up to me later that day and explained flat out why I was a secretary and not a copy-writer.
I could have sworn that the name "Post-It Notes" was born in our company, but someone corrected me recently and pointed me to a 3M website that clearly discussed the origin of the name. I guess we lost that particular deal somehow.
It's all good though, because folks like E.F. Hutton and Merrill Lynch seemed to like us pretty well. The man I worked for (president of the firm - did I mention this? Impressed yet?) did coin the well-known phrase "When E.F.Hutton talks, everybody listens" and also "Merrill Lynch is bullish on America." There were dozens more, but my old mind won't let me recall them at present.
To this day, when I see a new product on the market, it conjures up thoughts of a bunch of long-haired, artsy, copy-writer types, sitting around in their t-shirts and Nikes tossing possible names around the room on little sticky yellow mofos.

January 22, 2005

Bread & Milk & Shovels...Oh My!

I took my life in my hands yesterday. I went to the grocery store. Normally, this is not a life-threatening activity, however, we've been warned (oh my) of a blizzard this weekend. This means that every ambulatory human (including their offspring) thinks they have to rush out and buy up all the bread, milk and shovels because they might not get out of the house for ohhh say, half a day. Is it just me or is this one of the stupidest rituals that modern civilization still latches onto?

Come with me for a moment as I reflect on my trek. Saturday is our usual grocery day and this gets done while I'm at work (yes, I have a good man). Since there was a threat of bad weather, I decided to save him the trip this week (yes, he has a good woman).
As I pulled into the parking lot, I was sure they were giving stuff away for free. People were everywhere and the only spots to pull into were ones where someone was pulling out. Since I have always detested shopping of any kind, I was already wearing my flustered face. This was not going to be fun.
Walking into the store, you would think people's butts were on fire; shoving and racing each other to the door as though the store would close down at any moment. Okay, it was bitter cold out too ... compounding the sense of urgency.
Inside the store, I took out my list and split it in two - giving my daughter the lesser section. We each grabbed a cart and parted ways.
As annoying as the trip was, we did manage to get everything on our lists and meet up in the back of the store. We compared notes then thought for a second or two about anything else we might need for the coming month. All the while my sights were set on getting as far away from this hellish environment as quickly as possible. The white noise in the store was deafening. Little old ladies mumbling to themselves as they loaded up their carts, men standing about talking with each other as they waited for wifey to finish up... little kids throwing tantrums in the aisles and that drone of the loud speaker almost constantly... have I mentioned how much I hate shopping?
Finally we were satisfied with our "take" and made our way to the cashiers. To my horror, there were at least thirty people in each line. The part of shopping that I hate the most is standing in line (that's a lie, I mostly hate every part of shopping). We split up again but this time only for the purpose of figuring out which line moves faster. We were next to one another. My daughter picks up a magazine and starts thumbing through it. On the cover was a photo of a rather sad looking Jennifer Aniston. If I didn't spell her name right it's because I just don't care. The caption reads "She Turns to Friends For Support" or some crap like that. My thinking was "oh poor little thang, the woman made a killing for years on her sitcom, married Brad freaking Pitt, then was seen romping around England sans her specially designed wedding band... and now because he's had enough of her, she's got to turn to friends for support ... gee, I feel so badly." This fueled my shopping-rage a little more for some reason. I doubt Jennifer Aniston stands in big lines at grocery stores.
We did make it out of the store and we did survive the ordeal. I suppose my whole point is this. It's January. It's wintertime and we live in New England. It's going to snow and, on occasion, to excess. They have these great devices in New England called snow plows, which, by the way, they are very adept at using. I've been here for nearly twenty years now and have never been stuck in my house for longer than ten hours at a clip. I've also never run out of bread and milk, and if I did, I never curled up and went through withdrawal because of it. And forgive me for sounding stupid, but once you own a shovel, doesn't it keep? I mean, they don't melt, they don't even break too easily... so what's the huge rush on shovels every single time it snows? Are people throwing the blasted things out after one use? I just don't get it!
Perhaps what we need to do is ration the shopping days (pre-storm) like they did with the gas shortage in the good old 70s. People with odd license plate numbers go on one day and those with even license plate numbers on the next. Clever grocery store owners could manage their materials by holding out half the amount of everything in the store... leaving enough bread and milk for the even-numbered people on day two.
Oh and while I'm at it... we need to start issuing driver licenses to the folks who operate those handicap-motor carts up and down the aisles. I almost got run over twice in one visit, and there was a collision in aisle nine. Don't pedestrians still have the right of way?
I think I'm finished now. I'm going off to fix a some hot chocolate and toast ... after all, I can. I went shopping yesterday AND I lived to tell about it.

January 19, 2005

Stuff That Confuses Me

I will be the first to admit that many things confuse me. Okay, maybe not the "first to admit," but damned close.

People who don't like animals confuse me; what's not to like?

Cars that I'm driving that break down on highways give me the creeps. It's just not supposed to happen.

Pockets with holes in them befuddle me; they're not supposed to have holes, that's why they're called pockets... Suddenly they go and change character on me and I feel abandoned - almost cheated!

Curdled milk is a biggie. Nothing should curdle unless it was intended to. Cheese is okay because that's part of the process in making cheese. Not milk. No milk should have lumps and nothing but nothing on this good earth should have a right to smell that bad.

Stop signs with bullet holes in them. This makes my head spin. What did all these stop signs do to initiate such reaction... And furthermore, why haven't they died? Things that get shot to bits and don't die definitely make my hair stand on end.

I shake my head in wonder at taxes. Tax translates to burden; no really... Look it up. Haven't we enough burdens in life without including dollars and cents?

When people say "she's dying" ~ doesn't this go without saying? I mean, we're all dying. Not one person alive today isn't in the process of dying. In essence, living is dying. You cannot die without having been alive, and you cannot remain alive forever. You simply can not.

Ticks. Ticks are clearly a huge mistake of creation. They are tiny little flat insects, way too ugly to share my world, yet they can burrow themselves into my largest organ ~ unbeknownst to me ~ and wreak havoc on my livelihood. This confuses me. They serve no positive purpose and shouldn't exist.

Root canal; now here's an idea. Let's take an area of great pain, shove metallic devices into it, scoop out the insides and rearrange the entire structure of the area ~ permanently ~ so that the tooth can rot, being disconnected from it's life-source, eventually turn grayish black and either fall out of the head or make people cringe and run away. Oh but wait! Before that happens, we can stick a pre-fab covering onto this neutral stub, adequately hiding all the damage we've done. And while we're at it, let's charge many, many dollars for this procedure. Great. Talk about sweeping problems under a rug!

People who are shocked to read about tornados ripping through mobile home parks in Oklahoma. Please don't misunderstand. I wish harm to no one... I feel pity and I wish with all my might that this will never, ever happen again. But folks? IT WILL. If you live in the heart of a tornado-belt, and your house is on wheels, chances are pretty great that it's going to fly. It might be time to rethink your living quarters. Here... Let's look at it this way, a guy walks down a dark alley in an Armani suit flailing a wad of hundred dollar bills in clear view of a group of hoodlums. The poor bastard gets mugged and finds himself naked the next morning with a lump on his head... No suit, no money, and quite shaken. The next month, he puts on yet another flashy suit, heads for the same dark alley and start waving money around in the air, hoping the hoodlums aren't around. But they are, because that's where hoodlums hang out...It's no big secret! The same damned thing happens all over again. I have a hard time feeling too badly for the guy the second time around. There's a lot of land in these United States. A LOT of land. How about we stop putting mobile home parks in the tornado range? This one really twists my brain and no pun is intended at all.

Women between the ages of fifteen and forty who won't change a flat tire on their car ~ this slays me. Unless there's a physical disability, there is no solid reason why this cannot be done. If you don't know how, watch a man do it one time, there aren't really many steps involved and the rules don't change ~ they haven't changed in many, many years. Tires are heavy but guess what, so are those bags of clothing, shoes and accessories you just lugged out of the mall and a mile to your car, and the bags don't roll. In the time it took you to wait for an assist with that tire, you could have been to three more stores. If your hands get dirty, they'll keep; they will not fail you because of a little grime. Now when your timing belt quits, it's time to pick up the phone ... You're not going anywhere.
NOTE: I have called for help in changing a flat tire. I was between the ages of fifteen and forty and quite physically fit at the time. Don't get caught without a functional jack in your car.

Many more things confuse me and I'm sure there will be a "Part II" ... But for now I need a shower. I have the heebie jeebies. I knew I shouldn't have written about ticks.






January 04, 2005

Brooklynese

For those who haven’t had the pleasure to live in or visit Brooklyn, NY, I have decided to translate a few common words, phrases and sentences.

The format will be as such:
Brooklynese
Translation

If you practice really hard, repeating the language over and over again for say, thirty years or so, you may actually be understood if you should ever find yourself in Sheepshead Bay, Red Hook, Bensonhurst or Canarsie, as long as you don’t pronounce most r’s . Read the top line phonetically.

Let’s goda huh house
Let’s go to her house

We wen out ta eat at June-yiz
We went out to eat at Juniors

Friday nightz we party an drink a few beahs, go dansin, ya know, ketchup on things.
Friday nights we party and drink a few beers, go dancing, you know, catch up on things.

Witcha
With you

Glassiz
Glasses

Sumpthin
Something

Are-inge-iz
Oranges

Wawta
Water

I di-int do it
I didn’t do it

Stah-in-eyelind
Staten Island

Mean you
Me and you

Wawkin my dawg
Walking my dog

Whadaya gunna do aboudit?
What are you going to do about it?

Cawl
Call

Tawk
Talk

Wawk
Walk
(see a paddin/pattern?)

mind yerown bizniss
mind your own business

dawta
daughter

for-d-five
forty-five

fiff-d
fifty
(another paddin/pattern)

Um goin on a dye-it
I’m going on a diet

Um dyin ova heah
I’m dying over here

Next yeah
Next year

Wheah ya bin?
Where have you been?

Taygit eeze
Take it easy

Fahgeddaboudit
Forget about it

Fahgeddaboutcha
Forget about you

I’m not tawkina you
I’m not talking to you

Suppa
Supper

Dinna
Dinner

Sig-ni-cha
Signature

Tye-iz
Tires

Gassgit
Gasket

And we cannot leave out the non-phonetic translations:

Tranny
Transmission

Jamoke
Idiot

chewtch
jerk

odjidda
indigestion

mofo
(never mind)

This just gives you the basic idea. Proper inflection is critical and that’s not something one can set to writing.
So if you’re evah in Brooklyn and can’t find your way around, jist pull da car ova, ask somebody for direkshins … tell’m you wanna get ta sevin-d-sevinth and seck-ind by six-a-clock an’ you don’t have a min-it ta speah (pronounced like “yeah”).
Um sure they’ll tell ya da best root ta take.
Tell’m I sentcha.

January 03, 2005

Pieces Come and Pieces Go ...

I’m not always this depressing … honest. Some things just need to be written and due to their nature, I have put them off way too long.

Imagining myself as a complex jigsaw puzzle, I sit here wondering if I’ll ever get the missing pieces back.

Moving through life and experiencing people, jobs, adventures, traumas and thrills, this puzzle has taken on new shape almost every moment. From a distance it appears almost complete but get a little closer and the missing bits start to jump out at you. If I look upon each new piece that makes up who I am, I see that where some have left me, others have been squeezed in somehow to tidy things up a bit. I don’t plan it this way ~ couldn’t if I tried ~ yet it happens, over and over and over again.

Anne was one of the first pieces that started my whole puzzle. We grew up together in a small, tightly knit neighborhood back in good old New York. She and I lived two houses apart and by the time we were seven or eight years old, we were the best of buddies. Tony, her twin brother used to tell us we were attached at the hip. Sometimes it felt that way.

By the time we were teens, hanging out at the park, or the courtyard, Annie and I were the only two females readily accepted amongst the ten or so guys in our ‘hood. We were a part of the crew. Anne was the tomboy and I was the lady. We played integral roles as members of this little society. We were the great advisors to the guys… the mother-hens… and I might add, the brunt of many a practical joke! I learned so much growing up in the old neighborhood; stuff you cannot find in books.
I learned that you don’t shit where you live. You respect one another’s privacy but are ready on a moment’s notice to jump in and defend whoever needed any type of defending, for any reason whatsoever. Your friends were your lifeline. You never talked crap on them and you just knew they were only a phone call away. Their families became your family and you took on many of their characteristics and quirks… like it or not… that’s just the way it was.
I learned that, even if you weren’t feeling well… you made the effort to touch base with them every single day, or they’d come calling on you to see what’s the matter. I learned that you could be completely pissed off at any one of them and still find yourself craving their company. They were my buds. Nothing but nothing was going to shake that. It’s still very much the way I feel about my friends today.

Annie and I grew into adults together. She dropped some of her tomboy-traits about the same time I let go some of my flower-petal softness. We were quick witted and sharp as a tack. We were not to be gotten over on. We had the world at our feet and couldn’t wait to pounce on it. Over time, we mellowed ~ took a step back and realized there’s such a thing as tact and diplomacy. We fought this at first, then caved in and actually started to be comfortable in the adult world.

We were both ready to face Manhattan at the same time ~ me at 16 and Anne at 17. It was time to get real jobs and make some serious cash. Into the city we headed, side by side … to the same employment agency. We both landed jobs within a block from each other … me on Wall Street and Annie on Broad just at the corner of Wall. We ate lunch together damned near every day and waited up for one another for the hike back down to the ferry at the end of the workday. Both of us were in awe as we watched the construction crews building floor upon floor of the Twin Towers. We knew some of the contractors working on the electrical stuff so we got front row seats when we were invited up there during lunchtime breaks. I recall so vividly sitting on the unfinished floor of the 108th floor and looking out the skinny windows down at clouds below us! Both of us commented that we would never work so high up… never. Still, we were in awe of the structures. Who wouldn’t be?

Through the years, Anne and I lost touch with one another. We’d always send the obligatory Christmas card with a catch-up note… and we’d usually try to connect via telephone every couple of years. It always felt like coming home. We could be apart for three full years and pick up conversation like it was yesterday. Eventually, we both were married and living our separate lives. Contact had just about stopped… until the Internet.

I had found Anne on the Internet through a classmate site, and we were writing rather frequently and catching up on all our time apart. It was 2000… and we couldn’t believe how quickly time had passed. We decided to have a little reunion and try to contact some of the guys from the old neighborhood to join us. We were so excited about this. We would head up to Pal Joey’s … our favorite pizzeria on Staten Island. Plans were talked about but not set in stone yet. We were both so busy.

On September 11th, 2001 … hell broke loose. I sat at my job in Connecticut as a coworker ran up to me to tell me to turn on my radio. Reception was poor in our building, but we both sat there listening to what seemed like a terribly written horror story. My heart and my thoughts raced as I gathered up as much information as possible from the static radio station and from what few news websites as I could gain access to. I felt sick. I mean physically sick. I knew that Annie and several other friends now worked in those buildings … I knew it couldn’t be good.
When I ever saw the first images sent out on the Net, I trembled uncontrollably … the World Trade Center was ablaze. “How the fuck could this be happening” I said allowed, not caring much who was within earshot.
I was sent home almost immediately but not before shooting out a few emails to my working friends in New York City. Every email that came bouncing back to me was like a hard strike to the face. I truly felt desperate and wanted to go there… knowing full well it would make no sense.

The two days that followed were insane. My sister worked for NYPD at the time and I could not reach her via telephone. Oh I knew she was okay because she was a clerk, not a cop. Still, every time the sound of a busy circuit interrupted my calls to her, my heart skipped a beat. I sat at my computer and wrote emails to the Fiduciary corporate website in hopes of finding someone there, anyone, who might have known Annie. Her office was located on the 90th floor of Tower Two (the second one hit, first to come down). I finally heard back from someone who said Anne’s name was on the missing list. I was heartbroken, but still not without hope.

After finally reaching my sister, we did nothing more than cry through the phone lines to one another for about ten straight minutes… there were no words that could possibly have meant anything at the time. None. She too had lost so many friends and coworkers.
Once we were able to compose ourselves, we talked for a bit… going down lists of people we needed to try to reach. Everyone in NYC was either related to or knew someone who worked in the buildings or for the city services. During our pathetic attempt at conversation, a knock came at her door and it was Annie’s brother in law. He was there to spread the word that she was still missing. She was never found. No part of her was ever found.

At her Memorial service that October, after her family finally resigned themselves to the fact that she had been killed, I ran into a man who had been good friends with Anne … they had worked together and he was among the lucky few to make it out even before the plane hit their building.
He told me that he last saw her standing with her ex-husband at the elevator bay on the 90th floor. A group of fellow workers had decided that even though it was the other tower that was hit, they didn’t want to be in their building any longer. He prodded Annie to come with them as they headed for the stairway, but she said she needed to meet up with someone else on 92 first. He said she looked shaken but together.

Annie called her mother at some point shortly after the first plane hit the North Tower. Her mother had been doing dishes at home on the Island and hadn’t turned on the television that morning. Annie told her mother she knew she would be so worried, but to turn on the television … that she could see for herself that the South Tower was unaffected. Her mother turned on the set while Annie was assuring her that she was fine and heading out of the building shortly. Not one minute after turning on the set, her mother witnessed the second plane hit the South Tower (Tower Two) and the phone line went dead instantly. Annie was gone. No parent should have to go through that kind of hell. In essence, the woman witnessed her daughter being killed. Annie’s brother told me at the Memorial service that they couldn’t pry the phone from their mother’s hand for an hour as she sat in shock.

We were all at the service. All the guys who lived within driving distance showed up. We were so much older, so much wiser and so terribly sad. One of ours was lost forever. The service was held at the same church where we all made our Communion, Confirmation and graduated from elementary school. The same church where most of us later got married and many of our children were baptized. Tony (Annie’s twin) looked lonelier than I’ve ever seen anyone look in my life. It was difficult to talk with him and not blubber all over myself. He kept it together though … at least while we were all there he did.

I miss Anne tons. Sure we had gone our own ways and hadn’t seen one another for a number of years, but we always remained a part of one another’s lives somehow. I can still see her smile and hear her laughter. I choose not to imagine the last moments of her life.

One of the few regrets I have in my life is that we put off our reunion for so long. It wouldn’t have changed things, but I would have felt so refreshed. She was one of the first people to shape my life. My puzzle is quite different without her in it.

January 02, 2005

And Life Moves On ...

Sooner or later I was bound to broach this topic, and what better day than today, the second day of the second thousand and fifth year?
Losing friends is just such a heartache. Losing friends to death is something quite difficult to put to words but I need to try.
Back in the seventies and eighties, I was graced with the friendship of Nancy. We went everywhere together; explored life together down many, many varied paths. One of our favorite activities was to burn up a dance floor ~ always trying to outdo one another and taking turns at being successful. We had such great fun! Nancy was nearly three years younger than me but it never seemed to come into play. She was a tiny little woman... probably ninety pounds soaking wet... but feisty as all hell and always, ALWAYS comical. I met Nancy through one of my older sisters ~ she was a babysitter hired to look after my niece and nephew while my sister worked. We struck a harmonious chord immediately and spent countless hours driving all over the Island (Staten Island) together ... dining out ... flirting (good GOD were we flirts) ... and just having a grand time. Sometimes we'd just drive over to Kennedy or Newark (airports) and hang out people-watching ~ great places to people-watch!
Nancy was easy going, sweet, upbeat, understanding and quite bright. As we grew up a little more, we kind of started to go our separate ways in between boyfriends and even husbands, but we never ever lost contact and always made some time to just catch a movie or a pizza together and reminisce.
In '85, I moved away from the city and became a mom. Nance and I talked on the phone frequently and in fact, we decided we should take out some stock in the telephone company. She, meanwhile, got married and was quite happy and settled as well.
In early '86, my sister called and asked if she could stop by for a bit. Though we lived only five minutes apart, this was extremely out of the ordinary. She was in the door only ten minutes or so and sat me down to tell me that there had been a horrific accident back home and that Nancy had died. I remember standing up and immediately saying "no" repeatedly, without being a hundred percent sure yet what I was denying. It was the first time in my life when I really understood the concept of something "not sinking in."
Nancy's accident wasn't ordinary by any means... she and her husband had been traveling along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn on their way home from a relative's baby shower. It was late in the evening and crispy clear outdoors. She had fallen asleep in the passenger seat while her husband drove. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a massive tire from an 18-wheeler came crashing directly through the front passenger windshield and upon her. Nobody knows if she knew what hit her, but her injuries didn't immediately kill her. She lay in a coma for a week with a crushed larynx, multiple broken bones in her face, ribs and collar. Her brain swelled over and over and desperate attempts were made to relieve the pressure. At one point, her brother Stephen placed headphones over her ears and turned on a cassette tape... she immediately tapped her foot to the beat of the music, but never responded in any other way. Finally, she simply let go and moved on.
I thought I would die crying when I learned this news, and don't understand fully how it is that people don't do exactly that. I thought I would never laugh again... but I did. I feared I might forget her face and her voice, but that never happened either. Such dire sadness.
Then living continued. For months and months I imagined it was Nancy calling when my phone would ring late at night ~ her favorite time to reach me. Funny how that can happen. I mean, you can know something full well, and still fight it with all your might.
Writing about this does not make me miss Nancy any less, but it somehow reaffirms my love for her ~ my sweet friend ~ and that has to be a good thing.

More on this theme soon... right now I'm going to listen to some music, tap my feet to the rhythm and witness life as it continues.