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Letter to Rudi

Hiya Rudi,
Life in NYC is just a little more exciting with the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Things were dying out. Squats became legal and the illegal squats have been opening on the down low because real estate even in bad neighborhoods have become desired commodity. Nearly all the Tompkins Square Park rabble rousers have been spending more time sitting in Dr. Dave’s office because we are all old drunks and druggies and that sort of life wasn’t good to our aging bodies. But now, like the Phoenix, we old fogies are resurrected to fight the good fight again because of the Occupy Wall Street kids!
Me? Well, I feel sort of jaded and skeptical as to the direction this movement is going to and what is it that supposed to come out of it.
Zuccotti Park was a wonderful thing for a few weeks until the freeloaders and thieves came to stay in the park and start taking everything they could get their hands on. Nobody seems to know how to address crime. Nobody wants to police anybody and I can understand that but the reality is that there are criminals and they should not be able to prey on others. This sort of conflict ruined Tompkins Square Park and the Lower East Side Park. The criminals knew how to play people against each other and because nobody would take a stance against the assholes, everybody caved and everybody lost as a result of things.
Do I have answers to the situation? Of course I do but I’m not politically correct. Take a stick and chase the bastards away. If they come and help clean, cook and be respectful, I won’t have a problem with their drugging and drinking if they keep it under wraps but once I’m or others are affected by their behavior adversely, then, they need to go. It’s a simple as that. I don’t want to hear, “I’m black and you’re oppressing me” or other likeminded bullshit games played by bullshit game players.
So, I have to wonder how I can contribute to anything besides singing once in awhile with Rev Billy and the choir. I hate going to meetings but I guess dialogue does account for things being put together. Not I guess, I know, I just hate meetings, sigh.
Anyway, the usual suspects from the L.E.S. are back and doing what we used to do best. I have to start rolling with this posse because I’d rather cause a ruckus than parade down the street singing Kumbaya. That’s just me. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, I’m just saying that’s the right thing for ME to do. Here’s the link to the latest shenanigans in town.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/04/15/nypd-officers-injured-in-run-in-with-anarchists/
I’ll try to keep you up to date on stuff. Seth has been mad busy making all sorts of art projects for OWS and for the things going on in the L.E.S. Evidently, the cops are harassing places where known “anarchists” congregate at. So that means if you take yoga or get organic food shares at the Sixth Street Community Center, you are potentially a dangerous “anarchist” and you will be harassed by the police. The cops came there a few days ago with lies about people throwing things off the roof at people and other bullshit. They harassed everybody at the Center and amazingly enough, this incident did not make the media at all! Seth is going to do a comic strip for the local paper, The Villager. I think the cops are retaliating for the incident regarding the link I sent you. The cops are also none too happy that the Occupy Wall Street movement is still around and moving all over the city, occupying parks and occupying foreclosed homes and moving people in them. It’s a beautiful thing. There’s energy in the air, May first is going to be major magic, I can feel it. I don’t know all that is planned but I can’t wait to find out.

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Tonight’s entree is pesto pizza courtesy of Trader Giotti.   I love Trader Joe’s.  I could spend all day in there.  First I lurk around the sample booth to get some free food to fuel me through my shopping spree.

 

I interrupt my reverie of shopping to tell you that it’s incredibly foggy outside!  It’s beautiful in that nineteenth century way that makes you feel like you’re being stalked by Jack the Ripper.   From my kitchen window I can see downtown Manhattan and I can barely see the skyscrapers.  The odd thing is that I can see the Statue of Liberty clearly.  I guess fog is like that, huh?   Ever since the weather really started switching up, I have experienced weather patterns that we normally never experience on the Northeast coast.  If we did, it was sporadic at best.      Now we get tornadoes like the Great Plains and Fog like Northern California or Southern England.  I wouldn’t mind the constant changing of the weather patterns if we got weather say like, Arizona or Southern California.   No, I would mind, I would mind because the more the weather changes, the more I realize how we humans are fucking up the planet.  I have little hope that the damage can be reversed.  Different species of frogs and bees are dying.   The  ice caps are receding.  I hope these kids playing Angry Birds or shit like that are learning how they are going to deal with this mess because my generation totally blew it.   The children of the fifties, sixties and seventies were not ignorant to the damage we were inflicting to the Earth.   In the sixties and seventies, I remember news stories about how pollution was ruining land, water and air.   On my trips to the city, I could see the dark cloud of smog that hung heavily above Manhattan.   Take the PATH train to and from Newark, you smelled all the noxious fumes that emitted from the factories located in the marshland.     Okay, things are better now but we have a long way to go still.   I tend to slack on sorting my garbage for recycling and I still haven’t curbed my pack rat impulses.   Sometimes I freak out myself when I take out my trash.  I throw out a lot of shit.  I accumulate a lot of trash.  That has got to be one of the things that I concentrate on.  I have to learn to live with less and be happy about it.

So, back to the pizza, I just smacked my cat upside his head because he wanted some.   I just gave that bitch some canned food! WTF?   He’s such a damn guy!

For a number of years I lived in the Lower East Side. I was one of the rare black women in an otherwise primarily white Squatter scene. For a number of years, I squatted buildings and helped renovate them for people to live in. During the course of my years doing this, I was involved in many demonstrations and actions that were supportive of helping people get affordable housing. Many of these actions were emotionally fulfilling for me. Just spending whole day mixing cement and working with my fellow squatter housemates gave me a sense of community and I thrived on it. However, there were situations that were not so good, in fact they were emotionally draining and in the end, because of the not so good times, I ended up burning myself out and I left the radical political activist scene for quite some years until the Republican National Convention in 2004. My memoir will basically be a there and back again collection of stories taken from my journal from my experiences in the Lower East Side, political and non political. This particular story is one of the stories from that time. I hope you enjoy it.

Barbara

October 15th, 1991 Gloomy, Gloomy, Gloomy

I can’t feel anymore. Early this morning I went down to Dinkinsville lot on Eighth Street between Avenues B and C in the East Village to try to save some homeless people from being evicted and it was a total disaster. Sometimes I wonder what it is I fight for.

For at least at a few years since 1988, Tompkins Square Park was a haven for the homeless. They lived there virtually unmolested in their Tent City. The park was open twenty four hours a day and Alphabet City was on the waning end of the lawlessness that prevailed for years. Times were changing, as real estate became valuable, a more affluent element came to reside in the area and as a result, the city government felt compelled to cater to the whims of the new residents. So, in their quest to clean up the neighborhood, the first major decision was to close down the park for renovations. With nowhere else to go except the shelter system, some of the park denizens chose to find a new place to pitch their tents. A vacant lot on Eighth Street between Avenue B and C was the new area chosen and the new tent city was called Dinkinsville.

There was trouble in the air concerning Dinkinsville. Rumor had it that the police was coming to evict the homeless out of the lot. A lot of neighborhood activists were on watch to try to prevent the eviction. Since I lived in Brooklyn at the time, I decided to stay at my friend Lisa’s house to wait for the call to action. It was a night of restless sleep. Sometime around three am, we got the call to activate the eviction phone tree. It was a list of people to call in case of eviction of squats or any other place threatened by police presence.

As I started to activate the phone tree, Lisa was obnoxiously insistent that we hurry up and get to the lot. I ignored her and called some people before she finally made me get off her phone.

I was seething with anger, what was the point of volunteering for something if you don’t do it? Somebody else could have been given the needed task and got it done. I suspect that the main reason for Lisa’s rush was not to help the lot squatters but to be with her lover, John the Communist. John is one of the neighborhood rabble rousers. He makes an awesome appearance with his long blond hair and red communist flag flying in the wind. I guess if I was smitten, I’d be an asshole as well if I thought it would impress him.

To make matters more irritating for me, darling Lisa informed people that she nobly stayed up all night to wait for the call while I slept. She left out that she was up because she had massive homework due to her being in graduate school. As we drew closer to the lot, I left her with a bunch of people we knew and I proceeded on to Dinkinsville. There was hardly anybody there except a few people just arriving. I saw sturdy and blonde Katherine from the Revolutionary Communist Party trying to organize the lot dwellers in order to defend their homes. She was met with opposition especially from on particularly loudmouth Hispanic Indian.

Terry T was a homeless black man who first lived in Tompkins Square Park. His tall, rugged and fierce appearance scared people when they first met him but He was actually a teddy bear at heart. He just was tired of being jerked around by the system. When David Dinkins ran of the office of Mayor of NYC, Terry T, with the help of political activists in the neighborhood: organized the homeless to campaign for Mr. Dinkins. Mr. Dinkins’ thank you to them was to kick them out of Tompkins Square Park. Undaunted by Dinkin’s rejection of the homeless, Terry T became more empowered and politicalized until eventually he got himself out of the streets before he died of AIDS related complications.

That night at the lot, Terry T was trying to let Katherine have her say but then the homeless started arguing fiercely amongst themselves. A lot of people wanted to know whether the police move was rumor or fact and who had the information.

As far as I knew, Moogy and Joel rode on their bicycles up to the 20th street precinct and seen the police massing outside the building. I don’t think that the guys were mistaken. Still, the dissention grew as more supporters showed up.

We were showered with venomous remarks like “the squatters who had buildings won’t share their space with other homeless people but brought trouble upon them instead.” Speaking for myself, considering some of the sights that I’ve seen in that lot, you can’t tell me that they didn’t bring that upon themselves. I’ve witnessed drug usage, rampant drunkenness and physical abuse, especially towards women. Also, I have heard many tales of how a lot of homeless people couldn’t make it in the squats because they refused to do any work on the buildings they lived in but instead spent their time being belligerent and indulging in rampant drug usage. They caused unsafe living conditions, setting fire to some places because of their carelessness with fire. Those are the reasons why the squatters are not willing to let them dwell in the squatted buildings.

I’m not saying that all the homeless had these problems. Actually, some of them made the adjustment to being trusted and respected people in the squatter community and in the general community at large.

Katherine tried to get everybody to build barricades that we would set on fire to prevent the cops from entering the lot. I helped some guys move garbage bags in the rear end of the lot by the recycling place. I was starting to feel really ambitious and good about what we’re doing but then fierce arguments ensued thus bursting my bubble of happiness. Some of the people panicked initially when first news about the impending arrival of the police first hit the lots. A lot of them packed their belongings and went across the street to wait out the situation. After time passed and no cops appeared, the Mexican contingent came back in the lot. Because the cops didn’t come right away, some of the dissenters said that we were full of shit and stirring up trouble. Some of the angry Mexicans started to wreck the front barricades despite our insistence that the police were about to roll on the lots.

Things got really scary then. The American Indian homeless man started to threaten Katherine verbally but she stood her ground until she was persuaded to walk away from him. Some guy who was yelling at John the Communist and Karl decided to fuck with me. He started insulting me as a fake soldier because I was wearing an U.S Air Force field jacket. Actually, I got that jacket when I was enlisted in the Air Force but that’s another story. I screamed at him to shut up and stop talking about things he didn’t know. Then some Mexican guy brandishing a huge stick, yelled at me to get out of the lot. “Fine, they want to be assholes, let them save themselves” I thought to myself.

As soon as I left, there was a huge explosion from the lot bonfire. People flew from the ring around the fire. I was amused. I figured that it served them right for being careless about what they threw in the flames. I hoped that nobody got hurt though.

By this time, all the supporters were outside of the lot, either on the sidewalk or across the street. It was still dark out, the cops haven’t shown yet and the fire raged on.

I took advantage of the chaos following the explosion and ran back inside the lot to the rear barricades. After I felt that one was going to chase me out, I thought about my situation.

Here I am, sentinel of the night, armed with lighter fluid, and spray starch, matches, a huge stick and paper to make a makeshift torch. I figured out how I could effectively ignite the barricades and then I started daydreaming about rebel life to the tune of Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory”, pretty corny, huh?

It’s a tribute to my amazingly wild imagination that I can think of such romantic heroics while standing in a field of shit. Yeah, that’s right, a field of shit. People were flashing their asses, shitting all around me. The smell was “delightful”.

In spite of the noxious surroundings and odor, it was a beautiful night. It was just before morning twilight. The air felt wonderfully cool on my face and the stars were still shining in the navy blue sky. I was transfixed by the beauty of the raging bonfire but I was also worried that it would attract the police and the fire department as well.

From the looks of things, there was nobody in the lot other than Katherine, some of the people who lived there and myself. I don’t think anybody knew that I was in the back and I kept quiet and discreet to keep it that way. In my opinion, I think that everybody that came down to defend the lot was really bewildered at the hostility from the homeless people. People tried to make the homeless understand that we were here to try to help them. The homeless felt that we were bringing trouble to them by being present.

Suddenly there were shouts that the police were coming and I could hear sirens off in the distance. People in the lot started panicking and tried to gather their things. For some odd reason, some of the men just chose to keep the fire going and they threw combustible containers in the flames. Soon there were explosions bursting forth from the bonfire. I just couldn’t understand the stupidity of it all. I mean, I understood that they were in a state of panic but it was suicide as far as I was concerned.

The fire raged out of control and the rear tents caught fire. I could hear men’s voices cry out “Why are you setting the tents on fire!? Stop it!!” The fire spread and it was immense. Flames reached up to burn the trees right behind the tents. I was extremely worried that the adjacent apartment buildings would catch fire but luckily it didn’t happen.

Well, we didn’t have to wait for the cops to evict the lot, the homeless did it to themselves. Word is going around that the Mexicans caused the trouble but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that it went downhill from there. The Fire Department took their time getting to the lot but some of the supporters ran around shouting fire warnings and some of them also brought water to put out the fire.

As the fire raged on, the media descended on the lot, taking pictures of the blaze. I went over to Katherine and when I saw the dejected look in her usually confident face, I knew it was all over. The firemen finally arrived to put out the fire and I ran back inside to see what was going on. I’m not sure if it was a good thing or not but by staying in the lot I avoided being herded away from the perimeters of the lot by the newly arrived piggies in riot gear.

There was just a handful of supporters left in the lot besides the remaining homeless people. Most of the supporters and homeless alike were herded across the street and then off the block. Some cops asked Katherine and I to move away from the lot but we both knew we’d never get back in so we ignored the cops’ request and instead headed back inside the lot. The cops did nothing to deter us. Poor Terry T looked so miserable watching the firemen dousing the flames with water. His home was ruined. Where was he going to go now?

My friend Artie Cabrera, a squatter and a political activist; came up to me and asked me to watch out for firemen needlessly destroying tents. I guess the fire was enough for them because they made no attempt to ruin anything. Artie, Katherine, a reporter for the anarchist paper The Shadow, Terry T and I stood around watching the photojournalists and police photographers scurry around taking pictures of the wreckage.

As daylight arrived, we could see the devastation wrought by the fire. Smoldering mounds of debris were everywhere and the trees were badly burnt. The majority of the tents were undamaged and I half-heartedly hoped that the occupants would be able to go back and live in them.

My answer waited across the street, standing in line with riot helmets upon their piggy heads. Alas, our fun was over. The riot police marched in and ordered us out of the lot. I belligerently demanded to know why we had to leave. One of the cops wasn’t taking my sass and got right back in my face as his cohorts looked menacingly at us.

My friend Artie knew when to quit so we helped Terry T get his cart and followed Artie out of the lot. We ended up by the Hispanic Bakery on Avenue C and Eighth Street and ran into more friends. People were crowded in the bakery, the aroma of Bustelo coffee mixed with the sweet smell of fresh baked bread. As everybody congregated in front of the bakery and compared stories about the situation, Terry T started freaking out and started yelling at the cops. I persuaded Terry to come into the bakery for some coffee. When we came back out, the cops chased us away from the bakery.

Right about this time, I was feeling quite demoralized, all I wanted to do was go home. Our ragtag group walked on for a bit and then dispersed. A few of us walked on, the streets were cordoned off from Ninth Street to Seventh Street between Aves B and D. We managed to make it down to St. Brigid’s Church on the corner of Eighth Street and Ave B. When we got there, Father Kuhn, a priest who was sympathetic to the needs of the homeless in the neighborhood; was giving a statement to channel 2 news and I really wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying. I felt so cruddy and all I wanted to do was go home at this point. I saw a friend of mine across the street at Tompkins Square Park so I went over to talk to him.

Aftermath, I walked the streets of the East Village for the next few days. I see the former residents of the lots wandering, disoriented, not finding shelter. I see more people huddling in doorways, on sidewalks and sleeping in subways. I’m so dazed.

This Sunday, March 11, I turn 52 years old.  It’s the first time in recent memory that I’m not having a party, traveling somewhere or leeching megabucks out of a lover’s wallet for high priced sushi and baubles that I never wear.

Hey, I’m from Long Island, born and bred to be a spoiled brat.

Anyway, this year feels like the year I was homeless.  When my birthday came around back in 1989, I was staying at my ex lover’s place while waiting for a bed to open at a SRO for the homeless.  My friend asked me if I wanted to do anything for my birthday and I blankly stared at the tv and said no in a sullen tone.  I felt so bad for him because he knew that I was in a bad place but he didn’t know what to do for me.

It’s 23 years (DAMN) later and suddenly I’m struck with nearly the same melancholy.  Can it be the simple thought of the fear of aging?  

In this day and age, some of us grew up in a perpetual state of denial that we would ever grow old.  Aging beauty was something to be feared, Goldie Hawn, Joan Rivers and countless other “role model” dyed their hair and pulled their skin to the point of looking horrific in the futile attempt to thwart old age.

And I have my hair dye waiting because the grays are here and I am in denial.

AARP keeps mailing those goddamn memberships to me and now I’m seriously considering it as well as the life insurance.  My parents never talked to me about this crap and now that I’m closer to oblivion, I’m wondering what the fuck am I going to do?   Will my soul care if I end up in Potter’s Field because I have no money to be buried?

Abysmal talk, this is.   The gist of it is that I’m in a birthday rut and life goes on.    Maybe I’ll just succumb to the wiles of a red velvet cupcake and get over myselfImage

Viggo Still loves me.

Viggo Still loves me.

Despite my ups and downs I can always count on Viggo’s love.

February 24, 2012

Image

I have been sadly negligent in keeping up this blog.  So what I am going to do is put in some of the notes from Facebook and start from there.   Happy reading.:

 

Cancer update or I’m not really Wonder Woman but I sure would like that Invisible plane!

It’s been difficult to write about what’s going on with me because it stresses me out to no end. Ever since the surgery, my body has changed so much and I really didn’t think about the repercussions of cutting into my body. It’s funny because I was always against surgery or operations of any kind, especially since my abortions. Since I decided not to get a second opinion and just trust Dr. Axelrod because of her credentials, I didn’t bother thinking of what was going to happen to me. Not that it mattered, I was going to have to get the surgery anyway, I don’t have money like Suzanne Somers.

So, I didn’t expect the pain and discomfort after the surgery. It really got inside my head and made me miserable. On top of that, I ran out of Psych meds and didn’t have the money to refill them so I was off of them from Thursday to Tuesday. By Wednesday (Feb 22), the paranoia, fear, self-deprecating and really set in.

For the past month or so, I’ve been overtly indulgent in spending money that I couldn’t afford to spend recklessly and I gained nine pounds because I took a vacation from Weight Watchers and started eating crap again, profusely.

I’m slowly starting to rein myself in. I went back to Weight Watchers and I’m trying to work out the financial problems. I’m taking my meds and I’m trying to get back to walking more. I need to start disciplining myself and start going to bed at a decent hour so I can get at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night.

The repulsion I felt about my body is dissipating. The pain is going away and I have been lovingly rubbing essential oils on my breast and it’s healing nicely now. There will be a scar but it’s not as bad as it would have been if I didn’t take care of it. All in All, they took out more tissue than they anticipated but my breast held up and it’s not that bad looking.

I have my appointment to start getting radiation treatments next week. Everything is baby steps, I have to be kind to myself. I’m really blessed that I’m in recovery because I don’t think I would’ve got through this as well as I did if I was still using.

Thanks for the love, I’m still going to need it.

Don’t leave me

Don’t leave me.

 

My friend J is a true renaissance man.   Musician, writer, cook, computer whiz.  Is there anything he can’t do?  If you want to find out, read his blog.  You’ll at least see why I think the writer, cook description totally fits!   Read this blog!

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