Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Just thinkin back

Me free-associating about my childhood in Forest Hills, Queens. It's interesting if you're feeling patient.

My grandma coming to pick me up from school because I say I'm sick but I'm really just faking sick so I can go home and play "Super Mario 3." The plants that were in that area near the Zenith TV and how the air-conditioner always sounded so nice and it was always so cold and when you looked across the street you saw a parking lot with yellow lines separating the spots, and cinder blocks. Oh, and in the back there was a fire escape and we had this giant metal gate behind the window that let out onto the fire escape so no one could break in and there was a padlock on this gate and the key to the padlock was on the dusty windowsill and how my mom had put a chunky plastic keychain on the key to this huge gate. I was always scared to unlock that gate. I think I did it once. And all the pennants I had on my wall. I had Mets pennants on my wall and the way I used to stare out at my mom in the living room from the bedroom. She was watching TV on the couch but in the railroad apartment at night I always liked to look out at her and how it made me feel good if I could see her. And that humidifier we had. I was always fascinated by it. It was green and what was a humidifier? And why did we have it? But I knew the name, I learned that word, "humidifier." And how when I would flush the toilet it would always make this sound: "Joo-weh-jeh." Strange, right? And there was that time when I had gotten up in the early morning to pee and started thinking thoughts like, "Where did language come from?" and how, after I told my mom that I was thinking thoughts like that, she told me she was impressed that I was thinking thoughts like that and asking questions like that. And that fuzzy couch that we had in the living room and how it was, like, grey and black or something and the rug, which was red and huge and had some kind of Native American pattern on it. Whoa. And how I'd look out of the window at night in the winter and there would be snow on everything, on the branches, on the railings, on the air-conditioner boxes, in the streets, and how everything would sort of glow with a pinkish glow and you'd hear the crunch of one person digging his car out of the snow and how the window was so cold and how the window was not new and how the window frame was made of wood and the wood was rotted away in one or two places and how it looked like if you threw a stone at the window, it would definitely shatter. The whole damn thing would definitely shatter. And then there was that caged staircase across the street that I once dreamt about. I once dreamt that my aunt and I walked down this staircase. In reality the staircase led to the basement of a laundromat or a supermarket. But in the dream the stairs led down to a diner and my aunt and I sat at blue, plush, swivel stools and ordered lots of food and lived it up down there, like it was a hot spot, like it was a social club or something like that. And I swore, I swore that we had really been down there together. And how I once wanted to sleep over at my aunt's apartment, across the lobby, on the other side of the apartment building, but then chickened out when it actually came time to do it. I told my aunt I wanted to go back to my apartment, to my mom, and she took me. And how I was once told that someone once swiped my aunt's purse from off her fire escape when she left it on her fire escape. And how I just could not understand that. What would she ever be doing on her fire escape? (She was smoking.) And how exactly did it happen? Did a hand just reach somewhere and grab it in the night or something? And where was everyone when this hand, this disembodied hand, stole this purse? And that was why we kept the fire escape locked. And yeah, you had to walk up to my aunt's apartment. She was not on the first floor. And you walked up there and once you arrived at the top of the stairs, you did an about face. And if you kept walking straight you'd arrive at her doorstep. Just remember a smothered type of feeling in her dining room. But nothing bad. Oh, but remember pictures of the same scene but with my mom wearing a sweatshirt that she'd gotten made up that said, "I Love Chad Reid." How about that, huh? And playing handball with myself in the hallway and how the big Eastern European immigrant families would set up tables in the hallways -- in the hallways -- and eat in the hallways because they couldn't fit all of the guests into their homes. Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania. These people were from these places.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Pretty darn good



My mother is an interesting character. She loves literature, can identify great writing, can write incredibly well herself -- just ask the New York Daily News; it has published about 10 of her "letters to the editor" -- but she doesn't "enjoy" writing. So she doesn't write that much, or as much as I think she should.

Still, there are some times when she'll be on a trip overseas or walking on a beach, among driftwood and a myriad of unique sea stones, and she'll get inspired and put pen to paper. When such moments of inspiration strike, she often writes haikus because she believes that the format "focuses your mind and helps you find a succinct sharp description…."

Recently, she emailed me one of her haikus. She was on a trip out West -- my mom loves it out West -- and she was visiting a place called Antelope Canyon, in Arizona. The site is known for its spectacular sandstone rock formations. Inspiration struck -- after all, did you see the picture above? -- and, boom, I had a photo of the site and a poem describing it in my inbox.

But my mom, you should know, is modest. So in the email, she sent the following message alongside her poem: "Not great poetry, but I was looking for a verbal description."

Well, Ma, I beg to differ. I thought the haiku was pretty darn good. Here it is:
Swirling waves sandstone rock
Crimson tight sharp corkscrew turns
Antelope Canyon