The Chinese New Year parade was on a Saturday February 16th, almost 2 weeks after the actual Lunar New Year. This was the first Saturday after the actual New Year that looked astrologically auspicious as a “lucky” day to have the parade.
As I got off the train on Lispenard, just below Canal., I remembered the few times I was on that street in the past. The first time was when Craig Smith and Shaun Connell, a couple I knew in Minneapolis had set me up on a date with their friend who lived on that street. I can’t remember her name, just that the whole thing seemed awkward to me. And I never gave it a second try.
I knew Craig and Shaun because I once co-founded a sort of art gallery in Mpls. It was called “Circus to the Trade.” It was only sort of an art gallery because we only had opening parties and really made no effort to sell anything. The whole thing came about when we rented space for our band to rehearse in and this space included a store front, so the art gallery idea was born. I didn’t know Craig and Shaun well, but Craig was once part of a group show of Mpls. Institute of Arts alumni at the gallery. He was a good painter. His girlfriend Shaun was a photographer and made an effort to take portraits of me before I left for NY. She said they all turned out badly.
I followed Lispenard which turned into Walker and thought about the date with the girl who’s name I couldn’t remember. Many years ago, I was on Lispenard/Walker at the office annex of a now defunct store called Pearl Paint. I bought an office desk for $300 and struggled to get it home in a cab. Pearl paint is long gone., and so is my cheap apartment on Mott Street. I gave the desk to my super after I got married and moved to 187th Street. My super was not extremely bright and couldn’t figure out how to put the desk together even though it had rather obvious connections and I included all of the bolts and screws.. So ultimately the desk went out with the garbage. All of that is gone now, Pearl Paint, the desk, my cheap apartment, my super and my marriage.
And now I am alone walking down Lispenard which turns into Walker. And probably actually rather sadly getting ready to leave New York. Remembering things of my past. And the time when I first got here and was set up on a date with the girl whose name I forgot. And I wondered how she was doing. Should we try a second date now that we are both old?
Crossing Broadway, I saw a store called Jenny’s Souvenirs. I wondered what kind of a Chinese name Jenny was. And I remembered Jenny who went to school in NY, but I met in Mpls. I thought I was in love with her and think she was the second person I wanted to marry. But it was complicated. She was a rich girl and she traveled a lot. I knew her almost every day for a summer, then she was gone, for an entire year. Somehow, she wrote down her overseas address wrong and thought that I’d blown her off since she didn’t get any mail from me. I had actually written, but then got no response from her. Then after a year, she was back for another summer and it was like getting to know her all over again. Then she was gone back to NY to school.
When I moved to NY, the original plan was that I would stay with her. That did not come to pass. She had started to see another man. Then I really lost it, probably feeling sorry for myself moving to NY with no connections and little money while most everything seemed given to her by her parents. I railed at her. I wrote her a hateful break up letter. I called her lots of names, nothing crude or dirty but just hateful, pointing out how I particularly hated that she was such an entitled rich bitch. I did see her by accident in NY a few times, mostly, but we never recovered from my angry words of that day. And probably I was still angry much later.
With the advent of my divorce looming. I have thought about Jenny again. I’ve wondered how she is doing and even reached out by inviting her by email to my parties. I know that she lives in NY, has been at least a sort of successful at being a fine artist, that she’s married, that she has at least one child. I wonder if in time, I will seek to see her out again. Then I also wonder how numbered are my NY days.
I probably saw my first Chinese New Year Parade 20 years ago, but never made it a regular thing. It was a little different then as the Dragons would dance menacingly in front of storefronts and store owners would respond by throwing lit firecrackers into the street. The dragons would then dance on top of the firecrackers. This all changed with Mayor Giuliani who banned firecrackers as a public health hazard, except seemingly in Italian neighborhoods who always seemed to be able to get them. But in general post-Giuliani there were no more firecrackers in the streets. And I guess that’s when the Firecracker Festival, being carefully controlled by NYFD was born.
Going to the Lunar New Year firecracker ceremony has been a bit of a tradition for my kids and I. We have gone at least five time before and we went this year again. Like every year we waited in the crowd and jockeyed for position just to get a glimpse of the firecrackers. Like every year we waited for what seemed like forever for the numerous speakers to stop talking. I came to start mimicking them, thanking New York’s Finest, (the police) and thanking New York’s Bravest, (the fire department), and thanks to all of the local businesses and all of my constituents. You are what makes Chinatown and New York City great.
This year, the vibe was different as my daughter is now almost 16 and her teenage angst is often on full on display. I also brought 2 of my 12 year old son’s friends, which made things slightly more hectic. We did the usual things, we went to a few Buddhist temples, watched the dragons dancing in the streets. We bought the five-dollar cannons that shot confetti. The boys ran around. We walked up to Little Italy and bought cannolis. We did all the usual stuff except we did not eat, since the restaurants we looked at seemed overflowing.
I’m finding my life to be full of ironies. I’ve been thinking a lot about the circumstances and personalities of my breakup with the first woman I thought I wanted to marry. It seems that my relationship with her was more directly involved in my move to NY than I had previously thought. I’ve only just recently realized that in the aftermath of that relationship I had an extreme need to block her out on any deeper level while remaining her friend on a more superficial level. This happened to the extent that when she had been living in NY at the same time as me, that I think I never saw her once. Until recently, I did not realize how deep my wound was. It was not just her, but in general my insecurity was so extreme that I regularly sought validation through sex and relationships, always looking for more, ready to drop someone at the first danger sign, always seeking what I did not have and quickly tiring of what I had already experienced. This went on and on for most of my life. And now more irony that I have realized part of my mistakes and in the case of this one person, my former once thought love of my life, I want more than anything to know her again. But for the most part I am finding that door closed.
So then what? The door is closed, so do I get angry? Do I dismiss that person who has shut the door? Do I block that person out? Do I relive and repeat, my past mistakes over and over again? Do I get angry with her or realize that for the most part, it was I that was at fault? These are hard lessons.
It has seemed odd to have such feelings for someone I have experienced most of my life apart from. I barely know her. I have come to realize that I barely knew her back then when we were together. I was too caught up in my own manic pursuits as well as my tendency to feel sorry for myself and resort to chemicals, other lovers and whatever comforts I might think I’ve found there.
And the same patterns repeat. I recently found myself selling my home, much like what happened when I broke up with her 30 years ago. Once again I am getting a divorce. Once again, I am without a lover, partner or advisor. And this has really been making me come apart. But perhaps this time I can use it more as a way to grow. And I guess the lesson is there. I am alone. I will always be alone, so to speak. This does not mean I will not have new lovers, friends and collaborators. But still in the final analysis, I am alone. My thoughts are mine. I cannot join another person on the deepest level. So perhaps in these my advanced years, I should at least start to get used to that. To somehow find the confidence within myself and get rid of these other props.
Still in my heart of hearts I believe in the return. Of the lovers long separated, now reunited. It makes for such good poetry. But the actual reality has so many pitfalls and remains unclear.
It’s ironic that I walk these streets again. The same streets I walked decades ago. In that time frame everything seemed to be a struggle. And now I look back and if seems like the time then was the good old days. I have wanted to leave New York for the last 20 years and have stayed her for wife and family. Now, the wife is done with me and I rarely see the kids. And now it seems like soon, perhaps seemingly too soon, I will be leaving New York, just at the moment when I am feeling in a need of it and realizing I took it too much for granted and knowing that once I have gone, I will miss it deeply.
It feels like I’m saying a long goodbye to almost everything now. New York has it’s disadvantages. It’s expensive, the infra structure, the people feel somehow it’s their duty to be a little rude and indifferent, if not a little too smug and full of themselves believing that it’s their birthright to feel superior to the rest of the world by virtue of their zip code. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this city. I find the phrase, “Greatest City in the World” to be not only just wrong, but also indicative of the problem that NY is worse off just by believing it’s so great. But there are great things about this city. There’s tons of history, not just in the geography and the buildings but in the sidewalks too. The chain stores have been taking over just like the rest of the world. But there’s still a huge variety of neighborhoods and many of them have been able to keep some of their unique feels. The subway, though it seems more and more dysfunctional being built over a hundred years ago, still covers 245 miles. A person can get on the subway and be in Chinatown in an hour and be at the ocean in two. Of course I live on one of the furthest edges on the A train, so that makes my travel time to most places be longer. My trip to Far Rockaway is about two hours or more, but for the most part I find it relaxing. I can read or see who gets on and off at different stops or just space out.
For a long time, I didn’t like the neighborhood I’m living in because it was too remote from the rest of the city. I used to have a cheap apartment downtown where there’ s lot’s more action in walking distance. I regret not still having that apartment now. MY wife moved to this current neighborhood 20 years ago as a way to save money and I joined her in marriage about five years later. The neighborhood used to be cheap, but cheap is relative. Now cheap means one bedrooms under $3,000. At this time there’s no real deals left in all of NYC. I used to hate how remote this neighborhood is from the rest of the city. The train trip to work in Union Square regularly took me over an hour each way and I did that for over seven years. Right now I would gladly move further to save some money, but the choices for that are now very few. The travel time used to bother me, but now I’m just glad I can get to so many places so cheaply, even if the ride is sometimes delayed and overall a bit rickety. There are not a lot of cities that you can do that in. The cars took over long ago and we stopped building most mass transit. We are a car country.
I live in Fort Washington, so-named because at least some of the Revolutionary War as fought here and Washington really had at least one fort here. I set up a horseshoe pit in a nearby park very nearby Margaret Corbin circle, so-named because this is where Margaret Corbin took the cannon from her wounded husband so as to continue the fight. Sadly it did not end well for Margaret as at the time there were no provisions for female soldiers and it seems she died rather young in relative poverty. Every year they do a Revolutionary re-enactment in Fort Tryon park of one of the battles, some history along with an occasional blacksmith who shows up to demonstrate to people how it was once done.
I set up a horseshoe pit near Margaret Corbin circle a few years ago. Actually the horseshoe area was already there and for years had been unused. I just cleared it out and for awhile I tried to get other dads to show up and play. I did a web site and everything. Last year the horseshoe area was fenced off by the parks dept. I called Jennifer who was in charge of the park and she said the area was closed for safety reasons which where possible more related to homeless problems and people living in the park, than safety. She said it all had to do with the renovation of Jacob Javits park and playground which is roughly across the street. This park has been fenced in for over a year. Lot’s of construction, going very slowly. Will open in another year of so. This is all how New York works. Big plans, slow going, not really in touch with what people need. While it could have been to keep the park open while they did smaller projects. What this all meant was that their might have been a public hearing and meeting that I missed at which point I might have been able to speak about the horseshoe pit or not. But I was never notified about such a meeting and didn’t really look out for it. In the end, this year I was just too busy to pursue this further. So I guess the city won. Probably they will tear down the horseshoe area. Most people will not even notice.
The horseshoe area was technically a part of Fort Tryon Park even though it got roped into the renovation of Jacob Javitts park. I will really miss Fort Tryon Park and I regret not taking more full advantage of it while I lived here. Guess I was too busy being married and raising kids to think about it. But really, during my long car trip, now over a year ago, I really had an awakening about nature and being just a small part of a larger very wonderful and wild planet. I have new appreciation for all of nature now and especially for trees. For some time after my return to New York after traveling. I would go as often as I could to Ft. Tryon at sunset and to talk to the trees, in particular two trees which are my favorites.