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The Tilt Towards Eternity

August 27, 2013

Normally at this time – the inexorable demise of summer – I begin to feel sad. The most verdant part of the year has peaked and we’re slowly tumbling towards whatever surges the sea or sky may have in store, plus a deep freeze or two.

New York will suffer its annual de-greening as it’s stripped of its natural garments, until the Empire State has no clothes.

As a result, our muscles and minds will constrict and contract even more beneath microfiber and goose down.

There’ve been times at this turning I’ve felt it all the more so because this slow decent corresponds far too well with my own: I’d like to hold onto whatever’s left of my summer, but I know it’s my fall.

Patients enter the office and note where we are in the cycle: “Summer’s almost over; it’s sad!” But from where I sit, I’ve seen so many summers and winters come and go that lately I feel I’m observing more of an annual swirl than a cycle of seasons. (Is time speeding up because I’m slowing down? Or because, at 64, a year = only 1/64th of my life?) I almost feel like I’m bidding my patients a Happy Valentine’s Easter of July. Enjoy your Labor High Holy Day, and a Happy ThanksChristmas to ya!

So actually, from over here, summer’s ending isn’t throwing me so much this year. I know how fast even a NYC winter will pass.

Another such way time is playing with me is when something I thought happened last week happened a month ago. And something I’m sure happened a little ways back happened way back.

I blink and suddenly I’m Rip Van Winkle waking to another world gone by. A small example is yesterday (or was that last week?) I read a piece online mentioning Rosie O’Donnell, and how her daytime show ended…back in 2002. Nah. I know I saw a promo for the show just a year or two ago. Another time my wife showed me a photo on Facebook of her niece’s kid, who’s now…five?! That can’t be him. He was just born!

I can peg whether a song is from 1966 vs. 1967, but music after that, and especially past the 70’s, is another matter. I recognize a great new Madonna song and then learn it’s not new at all. I take my eye off the road or the rear view mirror a moment, and that scene I thought I was just passing is now far out of sight.

I think that thing inside that’s observing all I see and do and all the time I move through is called my spirit. It resides in a fixed location inside me, like a camera posted on the back of the inside of my skull. It records holographic images which depict my whole life: I’m 5, 18, 64 and 84 all at once. But the man it resides in and observes — he’s a seasoned personality with an ageing body. This is one reason I hang with younger people: not just to feel younger, but because, from my spirit’s POV, I am younger. I’m young and I’m old and long gone. I’m between incarnations (almost wrote, “between incarcerations”) and busy choosing the next one as we speak.

But when the mirror shows me what time it is from my body’s perspective, I sometimes get startled into a sense of existential urgency. Exactly how many good days have I left? (Without physical pain or debilitating stresses, I mean.)

Fats Waller’s tagline pops to mind…


Fats Waller


That’s when I attend to the tilt towards eternity. Towards the growing mound at the bottom of the hourglass. Towards having known, soon, more people who have gone than are still here.  I think of my first love Debby, and of Andy and my slightly odd and remarkable psychic friend Gerri Leigh, and Irv Elias, my old neighbor on West 72nd Street, and my old comrades with whom I shared the time and the times — Abbie and Jerry and Allen and John (not to mention Albert, Tim and Terrence) and my parents, aunts and uncles and the ever-increasing number of stories only I can tell.

I was six years old when I read a children’s book about a kid who is visited by another kid from outer space somewhere, who lands right in his backyard one night. No one else would know, as they instantly swear a lifelong friendship. Soon the space traveler has to leave for home, promising he’ll return one day. But in his planet’s years, this could be so long, and will they ever see each other again?

And the kid on earth, he grows up, and old, and lives his life feeling like he never really belonged here. The knowledge that he has one true eternal friend out there brings him such solace. And he faithfully waits for his compadre to return.

Every night when the sky is clear, straight through to the end of his life, he peers up through the folds of sky, back to the mouth of the river.



Eternal City of Now

August 13, 2013

I. I Remember It Like It Was The Day After Yesterday

As a hippie I traveled across 1970 America, all thumbs, entering cars to the soundtrack of We’ve Only Just Begun, Our House, Out In The Country, Snowbird. I spent nights on Salvation Army cots or on dewy ground, or at the home of a fabulous furry freak brother whose VW van snatched me that day from the jaws of red-baiting rednecks fueled by booze and envy.

I wrote a song then called, “Movin’ Over This Land While I Can.” Because I knew I couldn’t be doing it for long. (I thought at the time the world was coming to an end, but it was really my youth).

Now again, I’m movin’ through this town while I can. Because one day, I can’t.

So in the meantime, I’m experiencing a nostalgia for now.


II. From The Ferry

As I watch the sun set as a blurry yet still red rubber ball (remember that song, written by a native?)…



…I feel a swell of Wo! I’ve been here a long time!

I’ve seen so much change, yet stay the same. I feel all of my 64 years, along with the privilege of still being here to tell the tale.

Just the Battery of Manhattan alone has changed so much, so fast. It’s wider than when I first stepped around there. Perfectly sturdy brick and stone structures have had to make way for gleamy skyticklers, glass and steel salutes, strutting Sequoias.

This city was here before me, will go on without me when I’m done. It embraces me like a shop window — in a fleeting glance it knows and forgets I’m here.

In a few days I will do one of my Walkabouts, this time with a dear friend. I like re-exploring parts of Manhattan. I turn around, 20 years have passed, it’s a new town. Half remains; half replaced.

This is the city that never creeps.


III. Walkabout

The level of intensity between these two old quirks is something to see. Cassady and I together total about 120 years, yet are, we proudly note, still young rascals at heart. He and I can talk about anything – the sign of a true friendship. We’re both a bit edgy, but together we’re more great than grating. I know it sounds funny, but we share a high level of depth.

Today we start our journey like I always do, by hopping over the Brooklyn Bridge. Then, sneaking up on Chinatown, we each have a craven plan. First, Cassady wants to pull me down and up stairs into “Backrub” parlors to suss out their less-than-legitimate-massage potential. Likewise, I’m pulling him into all sorts of Chinese Herb stores to try to cop some Ma Huang.

This entails moseying into each establishment and asking a series of circumspect questions. First, for him, we enter these little storefronts.

“How late are you open?” Cassady asks as his eyes dart around like a sexual gangster casing the joint. Back on the street, he confides, “I look for a woman at the desk, and closed curtains.”

Then I’m shuffling us into Chinese Pharmacies.

“Anything for asthma?” I ask, knowing the herb I seek is an ancient Chinese remedy, albeit one that happens to have…..other qualities.

“I look to see if they have any fresh stems or powder; that’s the best,” I tell him.

Each time we leave empty handed – or, in Cassady’s case, maybe to return in the hopes of getting full-handed.

As we turn off Mott, we find ourselves on, or in (the aptly named) Canal, suddenly awash up to our eyeballs in a sea of humanity. There among hormonal undertows, and riptides of eye candy, we wade through waves of wrinkle-less faces waving existential bye-byes at us, ‘till we finally body surf our way up to Lafayette.

We take the subway…

Blog 8-13-13 re NYC 001


…up to 42nd Street, and walk to the river, and then go south from there. Soon, the city would be at our feet, as the highlight of the day is when we head towards the High Line. When we turn onto West 30th Street, we walk right into a tour about to begin of an outdoor sculpture show — up there! — on the unopened, still raw leg of the Line.


Blog 8-13-13 re NYC 004


By 2015 this stretch will be paved and sanitized. But today, we catch a sun setting over a black Jersey, and a darkly sparkling Hudson….

Blog 8-13-13 re NYC 005


…  Vegetation erupts like a slow green prairie fire overrunning the old tracks


Blog 8-13-13 re NYC 003



Industrial ghosts of grit haunt the old LIRR train yards, the city above them bashfully lighting up as if it just had illicit sex in the tunnels .


QUIZ: Was this a view from the Highline? Or something else?

Blog 8-13-13 re NYC 007


IV.So Long

Come to think of it, I am much like those tracks up there on the old High Line: I move people from here to there. I offer a view. I’ll eventually be shoveled aside and forgotten, yet will somehow still remain part of things.  This to me is The Eternal City. If it ever dies (“Everything put together falls apart” – P. Simon) it will be my final burial.




No Marriage Is An Island

July 30, 2013

Many couples today try to do the impossible. They come into my office wanting me to fix their issues – money arguments; infidelity; fights that become about the fight. But often they have a fatal flaw, and then I feel like they’ve come to ask me to help them rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

This is because they’re trying to conduct a successful relationship in a vacuum. But no happy marriage is an island – nor is any romantic relationship for that matter. A healthy coupling takes love, but love is never enough. It takes that, and work, and a village as well.

I learned this lesson the hard way myself.

I was in my twenties, and Debby and I became a thing. Because of what was happening in my life at the time, I lost one friend after another. Soon, Debby became not only my girlfriend, but my best friend (and one of my only friends), also my chief confidant, and my major source of social support. Finally she did what many women have come to do with such men – she dumped me. I had simply become too dependent on her.

But the whole story is that she also had become pretty dependent on me as well. This often left me feeling claustrophobic at times, but without the wherewithal to periodically take some space, for if she would ever get mad at me for doing so, I’d suddenly feel utterly alone in the world.

I came to refer to what we had as an “A-Frame relationship” – when each side completely leans on the other and cannot stand on its own.

When Debby finally found the strength to leave our stagnant structure, I fell to pieces.

After this I realized that having my own support system, be it family, friends, therapist, or a peer support group, was fundamental to what I brought to the table. Otherwise, I was not so much asking a woman to enter a relationship with me, but an enmeshment, a symbiosis.

Which is exactly what so often passes for a relationship these days.

It shocks me that with all the books, websites, blogs and talk shows out there offering couples advice, few if any ever mention this crucial point. For thousands of years it was always the community at large – the tribe or extended family, the neighbors (indeed the whole neighborhood) along with friends at the marketplace or the workplace, as well as the local spiritual leader and the congregation at large, that provided the social safety net to catch a couple when they were in danger of falling apart. But these days this fact gets discarded along with yesterday’s landlines.

Men especially are subject to ignoring this fundamental need for a support system, perhaps because we are more socialized to go it alone, and not value our male friends as much as women tend to value theirs. This is one reason that increasingly these days we see the woman ending things: All too often she has leap-frogged her mate in terms of growth, aided partially by the very support network he lacks.

And yeah—how many times have I said this? – we need our same sex friends the most, at least when it comes to sustaining a romantic relationship. It is they, generally speaking, that most reliably understand our needs and have our backs.

In America, and in her narcissistic brainchild New York, we live in a Cult of Individualism, and believe all I need is me…and money…and ways to improve myself. And oh yes – you. And ways to improve you.

We live to work, and love, and both takes up all our time.

Usually what happens when all one’s social needs get conflated into one person is such relationships go one of two routes: They either devolve into constant bickering and fighting – you-and-me-against-the-world usually becomes you-and- me-against-each-other — until one of them can’t stand it anymore, or the two people live unhappily ever after, stagnating together for decades, protecting each other from change. These are the stories you hear about when one partner dies, and the other follows within a matter of weeks or months. (Sometimes days).

Lately, Shelley has found a knitting circle, a feisty bunch of creative women who affirm her strong female essence. And I have my men’s team, my therapist, and my (mostly male) friends.

It can be a challenge in this world to find such support, but all I can say is, for us, and for the couples I work with, it works.

Searching For My Village

July 16, 2013

Lately, I’ve been spending my every-two-week alcohol allowance by hanging out in the garden of a local bar, shmoozing with a friend.

Sharing a drink with a friend and hanging out – what a concept!

Last time I did this, just chillin’ with a man from my men’s group, for a moment or two I almost felt normal. (It soon passed). So this is what the humans do!

Usually I’ve spent my downtime, sober or not, by myself, writing, observing others, listening to music or dancing. I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding idle chitchat and small talk, feeling secretly above such indulgences. But lately I’m starting to regret this, as I believe I’ve missed out on (along with some wasted time) much human connection.

And I notice in my work that this tendency to go it alone in life tends to afflict more members of the male persuasion and can be pathological. There should be a name for it, like Isolationary Personality Disorder.

Which leads me, once again, to my dad, as I notice my tendency to replicate his loner way, which was to distance himself from old friends by judging them out of his life.

As I’ve noticed before in these pages, by the time he reached his 70s, my father had effectively cut himself off from most of his social circle. Periodically complaining to me about especially his male friends and acquaintances, he’d bury the remains of the friendship by shoveling the phrase “not a real man” onto his final critique, and that would be that. He was still friendly with everyone, but friends with practically no one, and died virtually alone.

I think he ultimately became disappointed with them, and I notice this proclivity in me as well, which I compound by accumulating unexpressed hurts, disappointments, judgments and resentments over decades, like so many bricks in a wall.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and have been noticing how judging in itself tends to be a hurtful, contagious energy. When someone directs it my way, I judge them back to defend myself.

When judged or criticized, I tend to barely register, and jump over, my feelings of hurt or fear, and go directly to anger. And not only anger, but an anger that’s been infected with the judgment and returns the favor.

In 12 Step programs they put it this way: Hurt people hurt people. Yeah, that would be me.

Put another way, being judged hurts me when I grab hold of the arrow shot my way and defend myself by hurling it back, not realizing I’ve wounded myself by grabbing its sharp edges instead of simply dodging it.

I mean, someone could point at me and laugh derisively, and say, “You’re a complete idiot!” and I could get all huffy and offended. But if they did the same and said, “You’re a complete Martian!” I’d just look at them funny. Yet I’m no more an idiot than I am a Martian. (There are those who might disagree). If I know this, why grab the arrow?

Truth is, I’m most sensitive to receiving the same criticism I tend to give myself, so it’s like I’m getting caught in the crossfire. This has led me to consider that when I’m critical and judgmental, I’m simply throwing at others the same darts and knives that I’ve sharpened all too well on my own skin and bones.

While we’re talking about this, there is a distinction to be made between judging and discerning. It’s healthy and necessary to discern, for example, who is wise or foolish about something. Or who is better at this and worse at that. Being judgmental, however, adds a whole overlay of value or moral judgment, implying superiority over the one being judged, and exercising aspects of condemnation, faultfinding and self-righteousness.

It’s like the two meanings of the word, discriminating. One definition means to discern, the other, to be biased against and reject.

I want to be discriminating about who I continue to be friends with, naturally. But I need to guard against my inherited rejection-gene.

I don’t know where this post is going really, like I don’t know where I myself am headed on this path. I’ve tended to choose the road not taken, and have benefited greatly. At the same time, I often feel lonely, and am scared to death of dying old and forgotten. I continue to strive in all sorts of directions, and tend to be a loner in this regard as well. But every season I look around me as others are hanging out at barbecues, in parks and on benches, or watching ESPN, or at the beach, or even on Facebook for chrissakes, just shootin’ the shit, and I increasingly feel envious.

They say, “It takes a village” to raise a child (or, I might add, live a full life). I guess I’m still searching for mine.



The Ecstasy of Ahh

July 2, 2013

I have intimately known many of life’s pleasures.  But as time goes on, I marvel at the one pleasure that hides in plain sight, and waits poised beneath every stress, every problem, illness, fret, disaster. Indeed, it couldn’t exist without them.

For one of life’s greatest pleasures is relief. Defined as “The release from or easing of a burden or distress, such as pain, anxiety, or oppression,” it can bring remarkable pleasure and even joy.

Comedian Buddy Hackett once told the story of entering the military as a young man. “Within a few days, I knew from the strange sensation in my chest that I was dying. I visited the medic, and he realized the fear that gripped me was due to the sudden absence of the heartburn I’d always had from my mother’s cooking.”

Another standup comic once said it in a different way:

“I’ve been blissed out on great drugs; jumped out of airplanes and risked my life climbing mountains; I’ve stood before huge audiences and entertained them. But let me tell ya, the feeling of finally extricating myself from a bad relationship is unbeatable!”

Maybe he was trying to be funny, but who has ever left a bad marriage and has not eventually felt the thrill of relief?

And when I think about my own life’s moments of joy, they’ve mostly been about this ecstasy of ahh. The moment my new girlfriend Nancy walked into my living room when I was 17 and my whole body relaxed and warmed (and I hadn’t even known how tight and cold it had been) for that room had been devoid of female energy ever since my mom had died two years before. The phone call I got in ‘74 from the passenger who had interviewed me, to tell me I was hired and could quit driving a cab.  When once a long-overdue and desperately needed check arrived. When Shelley and I realized her ex wasn’t showing up in court to press his suit against her. Whenever the Yom Kippur fast finally ends.

Or the day the sun finally comes and melts the rest of winter. Or when a thunderstorm snaps a heat spell. Or when I’ve awoken in a cold sweat and realized it was all just a dream. The time the cop let me go; or the time I finally let go of a grudge. When the Vicodin kicked in after the surgery; or when a good joke broke the tension in the room.

Relief is usually a great…relief.

I remember a daylong marathon group therapy encounter once in the early 70s with Joe, my therapist at the time. I’d been through the wringer romantically and spiritually for years and was at a true low point in my life. I felt depleted, starved for nurturing and longed just to be taken care of a little while. Joe had me go around the room and approach each person and ask, “Will you take care of me?” They all politely declined. The last person for me to ask was Joe himself. When I did, he pulled me to him in a warm embrace, and I immediately broke down into the deepest sobbing of my life, and stayed there, held in his arms and crying like a baby for the longest time, discharging years of accumulated sorrow and hardship and unmet needs. It was then I knew the ecstasy of relief, and how enormously healing it could be.

And the work I do now with clients often entails opening wide enough to receive them completely and without judgment, and embrace them in my heart, often resulting for them in the great relief of simply being heard and gotten.

So all this leaves me wondering about the nature of pleasure and pain. For example,  are the words most certain to bring a tear of joy, the ones you most wish to hear in life, are they words like, “I love you”?  Or words like, “It’s benign”?

Are they,”You’ve won the lottery”, or “We’ve found your child, and he’s ok” ?

I suspect they would be the latter.

But relief can only be as good as the bad was bad. Removing the thorn from your side can only feel as wonderful as the thorn was not. It can be a sobering realization that life from this perspective can appear to be little more than an endless building up and releasing of tensions and stresses of one kind or another.

And speaking of life, let me end by relating something the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass once said. He had asked an entity that someone was channeling (hey, I’m just reporting here) about what dying was like.

“Dying”, the entity said, “is like taking off an old shoe.”

So perhaps the one thing many of us fear the most in life – its end — will also come as a great relief.

Of Mensches and Paesanos

June 4, 2013

My father eschewed therapy and therapists. The day he met Joe, my therapist at the time, he looked him in the eye and said,  “So we meet again, Maggio”.  The words were cryptic to me, but not to Joe, who later explained to me that this was the line uttered by Ernest Borgnine’s character in “From Here To Eternity” upon encountering Private Maggio (played by Frank Sinatra) right before pulling a knife and killing him.

But the truth is, years before, when my father realized he needed some help dealing with the loss of his wife, he found it in the form of a therapist – a man named D’mico.

And years later, long after ending therapy with Joe, whose last name is Rizzo, both my brother and I would seek counseling from men whose names ended in vowels. My therapist of the past 92 years is named DeAngelo.

Are we beginning to glimpse a pattern here?

Noted therapist and author Sheldon Kopp and others have long observed the ying/yang dance between Jewish and Italian men. We Hebes are more intellectual, learned, nuanced, crafty. Italian men are more athletic, physical, blunt, forceful. At least so the story goes.

When I sought out therapists (I can’t speak for my dad or my bro) there was something these older Italian (and Brooklyn-raised) men seemed to have that I felt I lacked at the time. They embodied the more jagged and edgy aspects of masculinity that had been finely polished from me as I was being groomed to be a Nice Jewish Boy (from Great Neck yet) and I wanted some of what they had. A certain swagger and pride; a sense of entitlement, especially when it came to women, or an ability to just cut through the bullshit. A boldness and a bluntness to compliment my nuanced conceptualizations and sensitivities. A way to balance myself out.

I also wanted a mentor who’d feel like an ally and who’d take my side and have my back in ways my father rarely would. Whatever it was, I wanted it. And for the most part, I’ve benefited greatly.

Especially when it came to relating to women.

Is this because Italian-American males have been more in touch with their aggression and have tended to view women differently? In my life, I’ve known lots of Jewish guys who’ve worshipped women in general, and their wives in particular. But the things I’ve heard come out of the mouths of Italian guys about (their) women often shocked, appalled and fascinated me – not the least because they seemed to have little trouble attracting them. At least so it seemed to me.

Yet, at least in this country, Jewish men have had a reputation for making good husbands: Attentive, loving, good providers. Italian men seem to have more of a reputation for philandering. A Jewish guy cheats one time, and calls his wife to confess while pulling his pants back on. An Italian man cheats on his wife and calls it Tuesday.

Hey — I’m not saying either rep is necessarily deserved, but stereotypes often become so for a reason.

Stereotypically, Jewish women are more strong-willed, are less domestic and dominate their men. Italian men are more revengeful, hot tempered, and hot, and dominate their women.

I myself have attracted many Jewish women in my lifetime. I’ve been slightly less lucky with Italian women, however. The only one I’ve ever had sex with came out a week later as a lesbian.

Maybe it was something I said?

And then there’s the Car Test. In Chazz Palminteri’s “A Bronx Tale”, there’s a scene well known to many men.  Palminteri plays Sonny, a Mafioso who befriends a young man (Calogero) coming of age, and in the scene he’s giving him advice about a new girlfriend.   He says, in essence…

“When you pick her up on the first date, unlock the car and open the door for her. If, by the time you’ve walked around the back of the car to your door, she hasn’t reached over to unlock it, dump her!”

My point is: Could you picture this advice coming from a Jewish guy? I can’t.

These days, the stereotypes I’ve discussed above are mostly rooted in the perceptions of the past. Nowadays Italians, Jews and other such groups are more Americanized and homogenized, and the distinctions between them blur. (Except when it comes to food, which both still love and can talk about for hours).

These days, young men, Italian and otherwise, come to me for counseling. They may not know it, but what they’re getting is the distillation of the Jewish and the Italian New Yorker.  Much like I imagine they get when they seek counseling from my father’s sister’s son, Joe Bavonese. It’s something that runs through the bloodlines of my family…and my town.  And it is no small prize.










The Faith That Keeps Me

May 21, 2013

Sometimes I need to question what it means to “keep the faith”. Faith in what, exactly? Or whom?

For me it can manifest as sentimentality for a tumultuous time long gone: I was touched to the bone back then for one astonishing, extended moment, felt so connected to the people who were there, and to something so much larger than me or any of us, that I unwittingly became eternally loyal that instant, for nothing seemed more meaningful to me.

But over time I’ve often felt like the one who stayed at the party, or carried the flag, or a torch for a lover, long after everyone else had gone, or had abandoned the cause, or the bed.

But I didn’t mind. I was staying true to the truth I’ve tried to live my life by. What else is there to do, really?

Besides, it makes me feel just a wee bit superior, so I suppose that’s one thing I get out of it.

And there were times I’ve broken the faith, like with friends. And sometimes I’ve stayed true even when the cause seemed to abandon truth, like when the Left stubbornly holds to a position that defies logic. And I’ve stayed true when logic would dictate I stop hoarding all that sixties memorabilia, or my mom’s obtuse poetry (one day I’ll understand what she meant, won’t I?) or my dad’s chaotic paintings.

But I’ve erred on the side of fire tending because it lights the landscape and keeps me warm. And I know if I let that flame go out, it’ll dim my vision, and my ideals, and I’ll lose my moral compass in the process. The trajectory of my whole life’s purpose, and that of my tribe’s, has always been towards freedom, egalitarianism, a society whose bottom line is generosity rather than profit. I still truly believe we’re all actually here to lower the heavens, as well as to place the first human being on earth. To help each other help each other. And this too is the faith I try to keep.

But sometimes I’ve been the one left holding the bag. Like at the Six Day, named after the length of this retreat put on by the est folks back in the eighties. By the end, I feel moved and connected to everyone there, so when they ask us to commit to bringing guests to the follow-up event the next week, I’m one of the many in the group of 75 who raise their hand.

That next week, I stroll excitedly into the room with my two guests in tow, to find…the speaker. And that’s all. No one else has shown up. I don’t know if I’m feeling more proud or like a fool. Maybe both – a proud fool.

But sometimes it’s worth it. Like with my friend and classmate Pam Motley, a single mom with a spirit like a tigress but who could purr like a kitten.  Sharp, big-hearted, and a therapist-in-training like myself,  we became lovers for a while with the death of my first marriage.

Years later, she calls to inform me, with a note of defeat in her voice, “I have…Alzheimer’s.”

But not simply Alzheimer’s — a rare and barely understood strain that the doctors tell her will quickly ravage her body along with her mind. And she’s all of 52.

So I visit her at her East 89th Street apartment, and she is still very much with it, but we know what is coming. When I leave I say, almost as a parting pleasantry, “I’ll come again.” She thanks me.

Several months later, we haven’t spoken, and my words begin to haunt me. I finally bring myself to call her house. Her nurse affirms she is still with us. I’m not sure I’m happy to hear it. She can’t come to the phone, her nurse says. If I visit, she might know I’m there, but won’t be able to respond.

I can’t do this, I tell myself. But then I tell myself, fuck it.

I arrive to find Pam’s home rearranged to accommodate her demise. Her world has been reduced to her bed, upon which she repeatedly shakes and quivers. Her hollowed-out eyes serve as two peepholes through which a seemingly lost and frightened child keeps scanning the room.

We, or rather I, make small talk for what seems like the longest time, and with a hemorrhaging sense of futility and heaviness. I know I won’t be able to take this much longer. Finally, almost out of frustration, I say the only thing left to say.

“I still love you, Pam.”

And at this she turns her head to me and exclaims, “Oh!” and squeezes my hand, and comes back a moment, before falling away again.

Yeah — sometimes it’s worth keeping the faith.

David Crosby wrote a song once, way back in the day, called “Almost Cut My Hair”.


“But I didn’t, and I wonder why

          I decided to let my freak flag fly.

I feel like I owe it to someone.”


And while these days, when I say I got my hair cut, I’m more accurately referring to the singular than the plural, whenever I’m tempted to discard more of the past, or to not call an old friend for his or her birthday, or not contribute money to a worthy but seemingly hopeless cause, or not commemorate Bicycle Day, or not give the thumbs up to the statue in the harbor when I cross the bridge, I usually find myself instead keeping the faith.

I feel like I owe it to someone.


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