No, indeed. In fact, I'm usually next door at Life Cafe. I've been having brunch here for about ten years. I sit by the window and watch the b-ball games in Thompson Sq. Park, sometimes tourists take pics of the locals, while we get on with our Bloody Mary's. The view is familiar. Comforting. I spent a week here when I was seven. But more importantly, my mother lived here. Right in this building. 343 East 10th Street. When she was a young girl. Working on Madison Avenue. Her favorite story:
When I was filled out the job application, I found the box marked "sex" and I wrote "no."
The first $177 Bagel Award goes to the man who created it, Bronx City Councilman, Larry Seabrook. In one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation, Seabrook’s larceny is not only ironic, it’s comic. The Daily News reports today that Cash and Carry Larry, among other things, “funneled Council funds to non-profits he controlled and directed. Including $300,000 for a bogus program to recruit minority-group candidates for the Fire Department.”
His less egregious, but no less iconic offense is doctoring a receipt: instead of being reimbursed $7 for a bagel, he got $177.00. Hence the title of this award. Now I am not naïve, and I know I haven’t heard his side of the story--- but, for the most part, I believe its--- politics as usual in the Bronx, only Larry, you got caught. Congratulations on being the first recipient of the $177 Bagel Award. Maybe next time you won’t be so greedy, because honestly you make it difficult for the rest of us to be quietly inept and corrupt. Shame!
Next up, is the Department of Education. Congratulations on winning the second $177.00 Bagel Award. Tell me is it true that a teacher in the rubber room has collected over $700,000 in salary while doing nothing? Tell me, is it true that said teacher is allegedly a pervert? Wow, holy shit. What a great career choice for a pedophile! I’m serious. Guy’s probably taking in Broadway shows, dinner out, Starbucks, movies, all that good stuff--- on your dime.
You are too much, srsly. The wheels turn so slowly at the DOE that you win the award for sheer lassitude and entropy. Don’t forget to post these teaching jobs on http://www.idonteach.com/. We wouldn’t want any well-qualified perverts (men as well as women) with a bachelor’s degree to miss out on this great career opportunity in education.
At first, I am horrified by my black and white blue jeans. Simply. Horrified. What in God's name was I thinking? Can I blame them entirely on the 80's? But then I see that I am feeding Tippy Jr., my niece, next to my brother, Mark, whose next to the incomparable, Leokadia. Our mother. Now I like those jeans. I like my pouffy hair, and gigantic glasses. Context indeed is everything.
Jezebel.com posted a wonderful review/article of my new book project, Tales from the Velvet Chamber, written by Katy Kelleher. What's perhaps most gratifying is that the author really gets it. Really wrote eloquently and intelligently about the misson of this anthology. To make this even sweeter, have been a big fan of Jezebel.com for a very long time. As of today, 4,000 people have read it. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, baby.
Yesterday, the air was cold and clean, drenched in winter sunlight. My friend Margaret Clark stood at the door greeting people. She was dressed in hot pink. We spoke for a few minutes about inconsequential things. I wasn't in a hurry to go up the stairs, so stepped outside for a moment just as Janette and her son Luke showed up. We walked back in together. More and more people began to arrive at 775 Washington Street. Well dressed people wearing black; cashmere and leather and silk. Margaret said, I've been to bar mitzvahs here, and even danced here when it was a nightclub in the early 90's.What is it today, I asked. Primarily a photography studio, she replied.
Finally I took to the stairs, and then up a cement ramp that curved to the right. On the landing, a slide show projected onto the large white wall. Jasmina Anema in all her glory; dressed in gold lame with matching gold sneakers, wearing a two piece bathing suit, laughing and giggling, her long braids, her wide smile. A six year old girl. I stepped into the main room flooded with sunlight. Row upon row of white chairs, and in the front of the room, a little white coffin and two large sprays of roses. Jasmina's mother, Thea, seated in the front row on one side, on the other side, Jasmina's birth mother and family.
Jasmina had a fought a year long, much publicized battle with a particularly virulent form of leukemia. Tragically, she lost that battle last Wednesday night. This was her funeral. I walked up the aisle, gave my condolences to Thea, and stepped up to the coffin. There was Jasmina dressed as a fairy princess, the coffin lined with toys and a picture of her with President Obama. Nothing prepares you for this. Soon the service started. Many people spoke, musicians played, two of Jasmina's friends from school sang Twinkle, twinkle little star. My heart ached for Thea.
I only knew her casually through Margaret, but throughout the years, I heard all the stories, all the adventures of Thea and Jasmina; how they traveled around the world, how Jasmina knew Dutch and Mandarin, their summer house in the Catskills. Margaret told me the story about how Thea stitched up a mermaid costume when Jasmina had to undergo a painful procedure at the hospital. When I saw them together, I was humbled, they were such a pair, mother and daughter, bonded for life. The love was palpable. But now it was over. At one point in the service, a man sang a song about how lonely he was going to be, and suddenly the birth mother burst into tears, inconsolable.
I thought about how incalculably generous Thea was--- inviting the birth family. And it was strange to see adults and children who looked so much like Jasmina, but who never really knew her. Thea reached out to them at some point during Jasmina's illness. They bonded. I couldn't get over Thea's courage. I thought how strange, sad and even wonderful that there were two mothers at this funeral for a little girl. Both had, in their own way, lost their child. But Thea was the true mother who raised her, loved her, and who, day after day, stood by Jasmina's side and never gave up. She never spent a night alone in the hospital.
There was no religion at this funeral. No priest. No 23rd Psalm. No drive to the cemetery. Instead in a photography studio flooded with late winter sunlight, a mother and her community grieved the loss of a remarkable and beautiful little girl. My heart is still breaking.
Creator and co-author of the award winning The Erotica Project. Author of erotic short stories published on Salon.com. Producer/author for NPR. MA from NYU. Published by Cleis Press, Seal Press, Heinemann Press, New York Press. Reviewed in NYTimes, Village Voice, Art in America, London Sunday Times.