Feets and Feats

tmp_2290_4-21-2014_110059_-1My  wife seems to be having the beginning symptoms of dementia.   Thank God she’s not anywhere near a drooling, muttering creature that some might portray.  But she is also not the vivacious, dynamic administrator of a large social service organization; not the woman she used to be.
And I…   …   …I am not the man I used to be, without her.  Without her!!  The thought trickles down my mind like a sliver of ice on an blazingly hot desert afternoon.  My shoulder muscles wink together in migraine pain.  Emotional brain-freeze.  I laugh too much; to keep from…   …   …I won’t it say out loud, for fear of what you must already know I’m trying not to express.
We met in Brooklyn, NY, in 1957:  teen-age lovers who went through high school and college together; though continents apart she at East Los Angeles College, (which actually is located on Brooklyn Avenue) and I at Brooklyn College-City University of New York.  I don’t know how to live without her.  And she’s fading away.  Not that anybody notices.  But I notice.  And my daughters notice.
Now we live in a “retirement community” which is not meant to be a prison, but is a prison nonetheless.  A prison of broken people, too tired to die, but without the energy to fully live.
The situation is too complex to describe fully today.  But, little by little, I’ll describe it to you.  I’ll describe it to you from my wheelchair, from our little room, which I am now going to leave for a moment, and contemplate my new world; to see what new opportunities await me. If any!!   If you remember my story, I’ve been dead before (not metaphorically;  but ACTUALLY!!) so anything I now accomplish is a death-defying feat.  So “Feets; don’t fail me now”!!!

Life and Death; and Klezmer

This is the kind of band that would have been playing at my maternal grand-parents wedding. Probably.  I wasn’t there.

In the 1890’s, one didn’t invite ones’ grand-children to ones’ wedding.  Nowadays, you could invite anyone.  Anything goes.  Nowadays.

Those are parenthetical statements.   Not related to anything meaningful; just “filler”.  Its just my writing “style”.  My shrink makes all her money listening to this “style”.  I’m so glad I don’t have to listen to this shit day after day like I used to.  Not any more.

The only thing that my therapist hates…   …   ….

[and she hates no one.    She “accepts” everyone.  Some day, I should test her to see what the limits of her tolerance are.  I know she “accepts” all my deviant excesses.  I’ve tried and tried, but she just smiles, and says I’m okay.

Okay??  Okay????  After all these years of thinking myself weird?  Eccentric?  And all she can say is, “You’re okay”?  What the H— am I paying her for?  I could get that god-damned $0.01 book from Amazon.com to tell me that!!

And that’s another thing.  You can get the book itself for $0.01, but its $3.25 for the shipping!!!  That really pisses me off!!

And that’s another thing.  They’re still selling that silly book, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay“.  Thirty years!  I’m okay, you’re okay.  I’m okay, you’re okay.  I’m okay, you’re okay.  Thirty years!!!  Wouldn’t you think there’d be, like, a Second Edition.  A Foreword.   Something.  SOMETHING!!!!

Christ in heaven, it makes me so fucking mad!!!]

Where was I??  Oh!!  Klezmer.  Give me a sec.  I’ll be right back!!

This is not the way I wanted to start the new year.  Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.


The Two Men With The Three Names

A picture of Carlson Park taken from the corne...
Carlson Park: from the corner of Le Bourget Avenue and Braddock Drive. June 11, 2007. Culver City, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The names are Allen, David, and Jonah.  The way they are related is the gist of the story.  Two of the three names are my own.  The other was owned by my father-in-law, David.

David was 57 years old when he died.  From asbestosis.   You probably don’t know what that is.  Nowadays its called by another name.  Nowadays they call it mesothelioma.  Forty years ago, no one knew how to treated it.  Now no one knows how to treat it.  All that people know is how to make the end-game tolerable. David didn’t even have that.

A day or so before he died, at Brotman Memorial Hospital in Culver City, California, his doctor, [may his soul rot in Hell for eternity, for his insolence and lack of humanity] put him on display during Grand Rounds…   …   …my father-in-law, all tubed up, naso-gasrtically speechless, wheezing in his days-long-death:  the doctor opening his gut to display his weeping wound.  The record shows he died three days later.  But I KNOW he died at the moment he was displayed.  Death must have had a busy schedule that day and it just took Him a few days to keep the appointment.  I still feel the guilt of not just cocking the doctor’s clock right there!!

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Long afterwards, I reflected on those pre-doomed days.  Dave was a determined man.  Loving.  Warm.  Enough sadness in his soul to give him “character”.  A little too much to contain.  Sadness seeped into his pores, played hide-and-seek with him, and continually lost…   …   …giving him a forlorn lost look even when he was happy.  Maybe too much disappointment.  I was too young to know the difference between his “bitter” and his “sweet”…   …   …too young to understand where his journey would lead.  Neither my wife nor I know the particulars of his early life.  That process was a mystery.  But his sadness was tangible.

His death changed my life.  I was Allen Martin.  I became Jonah Allen.

Why?  “It came to me in a dream”, as prophesies usually do.  My father-in-law was, to me, a “Job”-like character.  Long-suffering.  Good to a fault.  I was, and am, good also.  But Not Too Good!.  I’ll curse, and scream, and wiggle my way through…   …   ….  take a risk, find a pleasure too enticing to resist.  I may lose a fight…   …   …but you’ll know there’s “fight” in me and you’ll leave me alone next time.  Apparently that characteristic is in my genes.  When I was unconscious for three weeks after my brain surgery, I was told I was tied down because I thrashing myself free of my bounds.  My “rebelliousness” was alive even when my  “consciousness” wasn’t.

-continued tomorrow-

My Generational Stories

Too much, too soon

Don’t mean to be mysterious.  All is well.  But even explaining sometimes is too, too much.  And I’m not even talking about taxes…that’s already been taken care of.

[Four “too”s in the same paragraph.  That’s computational…got to be a record.!!!]

Four “too”s are, like four-leaf clovers, “4-2-itous”

I’ll be back.


People take pride in their family’s lineage.  They can count the generations.  My story is comparatively short.  Were it not for grandfather Alex’s prescience, my mother, her sisters and brothers, cousins; all would be incinerated in the ovens of the Holocaust.  There have been many holocausts, I’m told.  Armenian.  Rwandan.  Sarajevoen.  Chinese.  Too, too many.  I honor their lost lives, their stories.  I recount my own.

There is another story.  My other grandfather was a bad man.  My father had an older bother, David.  He threw himself of a window.  His father, my other grandfather, berated him constantly.  David, I’m told, had enormous pressures put on him to succeed.  That’s what I was told…and whatever my father was [or was not, because there were several things he was not], he was not an exaggerator of facts.

Funny; I can’t even remember my other grandfather’s name.  Karma, I guess.

Brooklyn, New York. Pitkin Avenue and environs. 1936

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Note elevated highway, top left

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Pitkin Avenue, Street Scene, 2010

My mother hated him.  And feared him.  She protected my father, who was autocratic, refused to speak English, dominated his wife in the way old European men have always done.  She taught me how to disdain authority.  My mother was Ali to Liston’s clumsy plodding.  But I’m getting way far away from the plot-line.

Grandpa Alex was the antipodean.  We  [I’m instantly driven to the “we”.  Alex’s family was “my” family.  The other grandfather was, in all senses, “other”!]  were loved!  There was always some sense of awe with him…gruff beardly-ness, military posture.  But were loved.

I believe my mother brought that lovingness to my father who, for the lack of it, would not have become the man I loved.  But family stories are complex.  Russian novelists have the cornered the market on complex family stories.  I can’t compete!  I’m just a troubadour looking for a scrap of mutton or weak broth.  If I was a song-writer, I’d be The Piano Man.  I sing you my songs for free.

Next time a “theme-setting” story, a fable, and some reflections.

—  continued  —