The Life In The Mirror. 3 Ways to Save It.

I bolted. Ran out the door. Down three flights of stairs. 3am. Screaming. For a Brooklyn street it was eerie quiet. Dark. Street lights out. A desperate sprint. In pajamas. To the only pay phone close by. Would it be working? It had to be the most vandalized pay phone in the city. Odds weren’t good.

Directly across the avenue from Harold’s Pharmacy.

Neon beacon in the night. Still around.

It was a shabby three-room apartment in a pre-WWII three-story walk up.  But it was shelter. That’s all I cared about. It was my world for a time and to me it felt big when things were good and amazingly small and cloying when things were bad.

Lately it felt as if I was living on a pin and the head was about to run out of room.   For an old building, the steam heat worked amazingly well. New York cold was occasionally harsh, so I was grateful. Turn the valve for the first time and the radiator clanked and clunked loud like an old car starting up after a long hibernation. Steam heat smelled good to me. Like a change of season coming. Only because there were summers. Rough summers. Rough seasons overall. This summer was a scorcher. Hotter than usual. It was ready to crescendo to one of the most memorable electrical blackouts in New York City history.

Two weeks before it felt as if I leaped from the heat right into the fire. A life or death decision flare up. A three alarmer. I wasn’t mentally ready to play God, but God didn’t seem to give a shit. I was in the intense heat of a crossroad on fire. I needed to make a move. Otherwise someone was gonna die. I remember thinking: “I’m too young to be dealing with this shit.”

Is it really worth growing older? I ponder this question.

Mom & I alternated use of the only bedroom (for sleeping. Me anyway.) One night couch (no sleep), next night bed (sleep). There was this full-length mirror. I recall dad cursing, fighting to secure the clunky structure to the hall-closet door. It was his good deed. Got mom off his back. And he wasn’t very good at chores around the house.     If  the closet door was open just right, I could get a full view of the kitchen as it reflected into my line of sight. From the bedroom.     Since mom always seemed to gravitate to the kitchen especially late, the reflection in the mirror of her her pacing back and forth would always wake me.  Prevent me from staying asleep. My habit was to wake, look in the mirror, turn over. Eventually,  I was forced to get up and close the door so I couldn’t see what was going on. Back to precious sleep time. It was my turn to have the bed, dammit!  The night before she destroyed the red trimline phone. The entire phone right down to the wall. And beyond. R.I.P. trimline.

10pm: Wake up. Look in mirror. See kitchen. Fridge door open. More beer I was sure.  Midnight: Wake up. Look in mirror. See kitchen. Fridge door open. Heavy drinking binge. Turn over. 2:30am: Wake up. Turn over. Look in mirror. See kitchen. Fridge door open. Again? Or Still? Weird.

I was mad. So mad. Until I saw. Mom on the floor. On her side. Tangled in the phone cord. Her head literally inside the bottom shelf of the fridge. I picked her up from the shoulders. She was so cold. Her joints were stiff. She was a 100-pound human accordian who wouldn’t unfold. I thought this was how rigor mortis started. Yet she was alive. How could that be? Stll breathing. Her breath was far from normal. Shallow. Her tongue shriveled. Mouth open wide. Lips colorless, perhaps light blue.  I was in a panic. Half asleep. My mind reeling.

Then suddenly, I was overcome with calm. I sat on the floor. Staring at her. Thinking. I watched mom’s small chest closely as it went still for longer on the exhale. Then her machine started up again. I was waiting for stillness. Perhaps hoping for it. I was at a crossroad. I knew I was. It was the power to make a decision that would change everything.  An inside voice was talking. One I never heard before. It kept asking. Slightly teasing. The repetition of the query felt forbidden. But it continued.

Does she live or die? Choose.

Would it be humane but inhuman just for me to return to bed? She had lived such a horrible life so far. Mom was 35 but looked twice that age. Especially now. On the floor. I sort of understood the weight of what was unfolding in front of me.

I knew my path, my karma, my thought process would be shaped, or changed forever perhaps in a way I wasn’t sure I could live with.

I rose. Moved strangely calm, to the hall mirror. Stood there. Staring at myself. So many questions rolled through my head.

Would I look the same in this damn mirror tomorrow if I decided just to leave her there? She would most likely be dead in a few minutes. Was I supposed to find her? Was there a higher power guiding me? Was the mirror the conduit for the message?

What if I woke up just 5 minutes later? Then I wouldn’t need to deal with a choice like this. And why was this even a choice for me?

Was the phone, now ripped from the wall, dead, a sign? Why was I given the responsibility of dealing with this situation? I never asked for this challenge.

Random Thoughts:

1). Seek Out Your Mirrors. When up against the wall, at a crossroad, what decisions will you make? Would you be able to live with them? How would you go on? I’ve trained myself to ask tough questions and imagine how I would respond. What if I had a life-threatening illness, lost a leg, lost a loved one to tragedy? How would I appear in the mirror. My actions would shape my image.

2). Be Open to Reflection. Never question why a challenge, a person, an illness, an opportunity, a setback gets thrown in your life path. It was placed there from an energy source  you’ll never be able to explain or fully understand. Signs are all around you if you just let go of skepticism. Stay open minded.  What does your life mirror reflect upon? Whose life remains in the balance once you open your eyes, mind and heart to the signs?

3).  Own the Decision of Life or Death. Don’t let family members, children, parents, friends, be forced to make a decision that concludes your life. Who would make healthcare decisions for you when you can’t make them? What kind of medical treatment would you want, or don’t want if faced with a terminal illness? It’s not fair to place this burden on others, especially without notice. Go to www.agingwithdignity.org and complete the Five Wishes exercise.  Five Wishes is changing the way America talks about and plans for care at the end of life.  More than 18 million copies of Five Wishes are in circulation across the nation, distributed by more than 35,000 organizations.  Five Wishes meets the legal requirements in 42 states and is useful in all 50.

Five Wishes has become America’s most popular living will because it is written in everyday language and helps start and structure important conversations about care in times of serious illness. I was required to make the life or death decision for close family. It’s not a good feeling-It will change forever who you see in the mirror.

I ran. I bolted. The pay phone was working (a sign I made the right choice at least to me). I called 911.

It took mom 6 months to recover. I stayed out of school nursing her back to health. And then one day she noticed. Puzzled.

“What happened to the mirror?”

“Don’t you remember? You broke it the night you fought with what’s-his-name?”

She didn’t remember. I didn’t share the truth. I never did.

The hall mirror and its reflections were best left buried.

I wonder if it’s still in the ground?

I’ll never share the location.

That’s a decision I can live with.

Happily.

Don’t Go Crazy on Purpose – 3 Ways to Understand the Power Inside You.

1974: “She went crazy on purpose because she had you!”

1959:  The same Long Island Rail Road schedule followed every week. Sundays. When most people were asleep. When humans of the mainstream were hiding under bed covers to escape personal asylum, he embraced discomfort. He ventured out in it. He traveled on the fringe of time. Early. On Sunday.

Like a soldier who accepted and knew his duty. He carried on. Tired. Only one name compelled him to tremble. It was rarely spoken. Except for Sunday. Sunday was different. Her name was all he could think of. On the long trip he tried to remember what her voice sounded like. He worked hard at this. At times, he was upset with himself because he felt her voice slip away deep into the past.

The Sunday ritual should have been comfortable. Or at the least, accepted by then. Nineteen years of the same routine, facing the same distant stare from a bed. His wife. His Josephine. It starts all over again. Every week. His journey to the silent. The only women he ever knew and loved. Gone for 19 years but still breathing. A shell.

Two hours from now he would enter a tiny room, lead painted white, half battleship gray. Eternally cold. Even in summer. At least that’s what I remember. Joseph told me so. He was solemn as he entered a world that would remain silent. He respected what he couldn’t understand. Perhaps it was out of respect. Out of loss. I know he screamed a lot inside. He told me that, too.

Kings Park Psychiatric Center was Josephine’s home for close to two decades. Immediately after she gave birth in 1940, something happened. Something bad. She suffered a stroke as soon as the baby was delivered. By the time the baby, a new daughter, was cleaned up and presented, Josephine could barely speak or move her arms.

Joseph lost it too. He was an immigrant from Italy, his English broken,  but he was able to clearly mutter two words. Again, from what he told me. From what I remember.

My God.”

Allegedly, Kings Park was haunted. I believe it.

This Sunday, 1959, November was different. Joseph was able to borrow his boss’ car. A Buick. The Kings Park doctors were going to allow Joseph to take Josephine on a road trip to Brooklyn. Her daughter was going to be married in a few weeks. Josephine was aware, sort of aware. Partly in this world, one foot in another. She couldn’t speak any longer. No voice at all. She knew she had a daughter, however. Josephine sort of knew her mother was raising the child as her own.

It was to be Joseph & Josephine together again. For a road trip. For an introduction. The cover was going to come off, blown off, a family secret.  Revealed to an 18 year-old girl who was told her mother died during childbirth. And now at a pre-wedding party she was to be told the truth. In front of family. Two weeks before her nuptials. At a party.

Joseph purchased Josephine a new dress for the visit. It took him a month to save for it. He stocked food shelves for a small store in downtown Manhattan, lived in a tiny apartment close by the store. Never remarried. His daughter lived in a nice house with his mother-in-law, raising his only daughter. A subway ride away. In Brooklyn. His only real family. And he lived separated. As I mentioned: He existed on the fringe. For his wife and daughter. Oh, the in-laws adored him. His sacrifice. His dedication. But it wasn’t the same for him. He spent all his free time (for what it was) with Josephine and his only daughter. He was always traveling. A life on trains. He told me.

Joseph bought me a battery-operated aqua-colored locomotive that puffed real smoke. It was 99 cents. He told me that’s what it cost. I never forgot. He told me about all his time on trains. His thoughts while sitting. I felt how tortured he was. I heard the despair in his voice. I hugged him. I wanted to take the pain from him. I felt his chest sob. I still remember his tears on my forehead.

“Passion and love can cause tears.” He said that. I remember it. He was right. As I get older I realize how truly spot on grandpa was. I didn’t understand at the time. For a grocer he was the the most intuitive man on earth. He wasn’t ashamed to cry. I bet he cried a lot.

Random Thoughts:

1). Words Mean Everything. What you say to others counts. I imagine each word immediately gains 100 pounds when it leaves my mouth. I can feel the heaviness on my tongue. A sentence weighs a thousand pounds. Don’t say what you don’t mean. Mean what you say. Mean it deep. Last month, I received a twitter message from a person I haven’t spoken with in 15 years. She told me how words spoken by me changed her life for the better. Then I got to thinking: What have I said to others in the past that may have changed lives for the worse? I was a friend who provided sincere encouragement at the time. Remember your words weigh heavy. Screw all this “actions speak louder than words,” bullshit you hear.

2). Words Mean Everything. What you say to yourself counts. If you speak to yourself negatively, good things won’t happen. On occasion, bad things will. If you tell yourself you’ll be financially secure, your mind will work toward it (even without you knowing from a conscious level). If you say to yourself that you will be better – physically, mentally, it will happen. Never underestimate the power of words.

3). Words Written or Spoken Lead to Self Discovery. The more you communicate, the more you weigh the words, the more you shape the tone of those words, the more people can see you mean them (and they will) the more influence and power you’ll possess. The right people will love you more. The wrong will hate you more. I used the word “more,” more on purpose. Deal with it.

1974: “She went crazy on purpose because she had you!”

I screamed those words at her. Mom. She was pushing my buttons. Hard. She was drunk. She hit me. I hit her back. There was blood everywhere. From her nose. My nose. I meant it too. Josephine went insane because she saw your future, mom!! She saw what a miserable human, horrible mother you were going to turn out to be and the disappointment was too much!!

She sat there. At the edge of the bathtub. Bleeding. She said: “I’m sorry.” That’s it. I stopped her in her tracks. My words hit harder than a palm against her face. I knew they would.

Grandpa Joseph told me about his mistake. He saw a change in his girl. When he wheeled in Josephine and introduced her to his daughter. He said the words he knew changed his daughter forever. But it was too late.

“This is your real momma, honey.”

I barely remember what Grandpa Joseph looked like. I can’t recall his voice at all. But I remember the words he spoke to me. I remember what he told me.

Like it was yesterday. I remember the words I said to mom. Like it was yesterday almost 40 years ago.

Who will remember your words?

Today.

40 years from now.

Will those words comfort you or drive you insane?

You choose.

Regrets that Rip You Apart. 8 Ways to Learn from a Machete Maniac.

“What are these crescent marks on your homework, Richard?”

What will leave a mark on you? On your work? On your soul?“The paper came like that. I have no idea,” I said (as non-chalant as possible).

Hell, I knew what those odd marks were. I wasn’t going to tell my teacher, that’s for sure. Smearing my #2 pencil math and causing me to lose precious points.

“Look he’s a good boy. He works so hard, then he sits here and does his homework,” she said.

“He’s going places.”

Not then. Certainly not at that age. I sat at the corner of a circular bar late in the afternoon. After school. With a Coke. Lots of ice and french fries to get me through.

I looked up. Susan was wearing much of nothing. I loved and still remember how the bottom of her perk-hard breasts curved higher and her nipples were always erect. She told me it was an affliction or genetic or something I can’t recall. Either way, I focused on them a lot so I know she knew what she was talking about.

She would peek down. Hair hanging close enough for me to smell the Prell. She’d grin and point to me like I was the man (boy). I noticed I was the only person she would point at. I was special.

A couple of nights a week she would let me sleep on the couch at her place. I thought she was old. Susan couldn’t have been older than 22 but to a 13 year-old, 22 is damn near ancient. She had been on her own for a long time that I knew. She appeared older because inside she was.

Her face was perfect and clean except for some light/dark circles under her eyes. Yet they were the most perfect brown eyes. Her dark hair was big-wave curly most of the time, longer than shoulder length. She barely wore make up (I remember because I cleaned her bathroom).

To earn my keep I completed various chores which included select personal grooming. Pedicures (bright-red polish I bought at Duane Reade’s for 59 cents), deep hair conditioning, run bath water, cook, vacuum (my favorite for some reason) and other responsibilities I’ll refrain from print.

Susan was a pseudo-mom, occasionally a big sister, frequently a guardian and all the time, as she strut her stuff on that bar for strange men, she was my overseer. A mentor in size 6 black heels. Always black.

I rarely saw her happy. When I told her about my good grades at school, she did smile. Genuine. Her eyes would brighten. She would hug me. It was at those times, she appeared much younger. I felt older than her when she smiled. It was that kind of innocent. In some way, I took her pain away.

“It’s important you stay in school, Richie.”

I hated Richie but it stuck for years. Even now I cringe if people call me that. Most important was what she taught me, how she truly cared for me, took on a roll a mother abandoned for a time. I could see in her eyes how much she loved me. If I was older I think she would have married me. I questioned why I should bother to stay in school, what was the point?

We could live together and go on like this forever and instead of laboring over homework and studies I could get a real job. I worked in the place she did. I cleaned tables, put aluminum foil  and mirrors up on dank walls, filled the cigarette machine and I was grateful for the money but for Susan I wanted to accomplish more.

She inspired me in a world that was several bottoms less than inspiring. Was it romantic love I felt? Not sure. I loved her but couldn’t forge the feelings correctly in my head. They only went so far. My life experiences then were too limited to put the pieces together properly.

I’m saddened (tortured) even today,  how I never asked her why she cared so much, why she bothered. What was her past like? I don’t recall any family discussed, any photos hanging on the walls of the studio apartment above the Salumeria (Italian deli). Who influenced her? I regret not asking. Not caring for her more. I took out a big knife with rusty edges. I…

                                           Wondered what happened to her?

I saved this photo months ago. Best resemblance to Susan I could find.

Bonds you extend to others, those they extend to you, are (I’m convinced)  laid out by a higher power. I have no clue what the power or energy is. Is it God? Not certain. Are these bonds darker and do they hold more DNA than blood? Yes. In that I AM certain.

Sometimes people you extend the bond to sever it. And not surgically. Some will use a machete and whack at it in such a terrifying manner and so quickly, you are not sure you could ever extend the bond again.

There’s too much of your own blood spilled. You need a transfusion from someone. Something. Who the fuck is listening?

But where? Who? I know. It happened to me recently. It’s happened to you. And I’m not clear on my ability to bond again for the first time in a long time.

                                 I raised the machete to Susan many years ago.

I was cut by beauty & intelligence. Never again. Never again?

And after several decades, the regret of what happened then and today resurfaces like a beast. A demon I thought was slayed, returns. Much stronger.A greater malevolence than I ever imagined was (is) still thrives within. And I regret every moment of what (who) unchained it. It was Susan. A Susan doppleganger.

Every moment of happiness, every dinner, every discussion, I regret.

But I say, in the blood is the lesson. Because that’s where lessons are born. Oaths are taken.

In blood. In the blood of interaction, in the blood of intimacy, in the blood of vulnerability, in the blood of stupidity, trust. In toe-nail polish.

Regrets can rip you apart. Yet in a way, you will eventually emerge from a cocoon more beautiful than ever before, a diamond with an additional imperfection which can only make you more valuable to yourself and others.

Random Thoughts:

1). Cocoon. You must heal. Assess what you will and won’t do again. Create your machete protection program but be careful. To live, you must be cut. You decide for how much and how long. Feel bad for yourself. Live with the demon a bit. It’s ok. I’m doing it. Demon has been stealing my socks for a couple of months.

2). Spend money. On anything that will make you stronger physically or emotionally. An exercise class, martial arts, a book on self-improvement. Indulge a bit. It takes time to heal from a machete attack.

3). Listen to.  Music. So many studies that show how music can help your mind, your healing. Find music that relates to your situation. Listen to music that allows happier memories to emerge. And stick.

4). Don’t listen to. People-who try to give you guidance right now. Fuck them. What do they know about what you’re going through?  Only you know. Be polite, but…

“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying, Only the echoes of my mind. People stopping staring, I can’t see their faces, Only the shadows of their eyes.”

Thank you Harry Nilsson and “Midnight Cowboy,” for the encouragement.

5). Learn to.  Ask people why they love you. Why they hate you. Why do they care so much about you? Be sincerely interested in others that higher powers throw in your path. Everyone has a story. Perhaps you’ll learn something to make you better in the long run. But DO IT AFTER YOUR COCOON PROCESS HAS CONCLUDED.

6). Pray. To yourself. To the healer inside you.

7). Downsize. Get rid of the baggage, toxic chemicals and material crap that makes you a slave. Free your mind from excess. For example, I stopped drinking and my regret demon hates it. It reminds me in the shower of how much it hates my abstinence.

8). Mind your mentors. They are all ages, all forms. Some are smarter, others not. You’ll love them, you’ll hate them. Susan was a mentor. Susan’s double was too.

Susan walked on my homework. I have no idea. Perhaps it was her stamp of approval. I never asked why she did.

The crescents were the bottom of her tiny heels.

When I was 16 I severed ties with her. I felt I was too good for her. She was a low-life stripper and I was going to be successful. She tried to find me. I told her I would meet her for coffee and I watched from across the street as she went into a luncheonette in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She sat there for an hour and a half and waited for me.

Ten years ago she died from a drug overdose. Alone. I still had time to thank her, to ask, to tell her. To explain. To be there.

But I didn’t. And I wasn’t..

And so I must live with this regret.  Learn to cage it again. It’s a lot stronger/bigger this go round.  Who will unleash it next?

I pray it isn’t you. And you know who you are.

Life & Money Lessons out of Asphalt – The Parking Lot IS the Paradise.

Who watch is that?”

This dude is askin’ for trouble.

He came out of nowhere. Kept asking me about my wrist watch. Where I got it. Who made it. Too much focus on the watch.I knew what was coming. Why were criminals compelled to ask a bunch of questions before they violated your  already-diminished faith in humanity?

I guess it was sort of nice how muggers tried to warm you up for the kill back in the 70’s. At least that was my experience.

Today? No small talk. It’s right to eating your face. Everyone is under a time crunch. I mean everyone. At least another person was taking an interest even if he wanted to kill me.

I always wondered if this questioning technique was effective. I guess it did indeed work as I was ready to turn over a watch I knew I should have never worn to high school even before I recognized a six-inch stiletto blade ready for action.

It was my late grandfather’s gold watch, too. It was the first time I  wore it. I had enough sense to keep it home all this time but  sorrow got the best of me. Gramps died six months earlier and I was missing him.

I was late to class this particular day and to save time I cut through a paved parking lot (now more littered with broken glass, used condoms and tall weeds that eminated a foul odor).

He rose from behind the stink. The hurry in my step took my defenses down, my blinders were off and this time, the one time, it was a big mistake.

“Who make watch?”

Oh I don’t know. I think it was Timex, really. Most important was the person who wanted to make sure I owned the damn timepiece when he was gone. Now it was almost on to new ownership by a toothless bastard who badly needed a heroin fix.

Even I could tell and I never took a damn drug. Good for him. Wait until he tried to sell this thing. He thought he was twitching in the parking lot. Wait until shaky mugger was told by Mr. PawnBroker that it was worth $8 bucks. Maybe.

Yet to me, it was priceless. The days granddad came over after slaving hours stocking shelves in a grocery store. He reached out to hug me with that arm. That hand.  He was left handed (like me). The watch. I noticed. The fresh italian bread he cut, buttered and handed to me. The watch was on that arm. I noticed. When he took my hand to cross the street for ice cream with that hand. The watch. I noticed.

I did. Should have worn the button over the watch? Stupid.

This wasn’t my first criminal rodeo. When it came to muggings this was seemingly going to be my fifth go round.However. This time was different because I was going to adjust the outcome. I was going to see how this ended before it ended.

I was going to take control. In a parking lot loaded with more semen than I had in my little scrotum (and it was very little).

The parking lot became a “high-noon,” moment.

I asked Mr. Shaky with shaky knife: “Are you planning to take my watch?”

His face changed. The toothy grin was gone. The change was frightening actually. There was a demon in front of me. Even the shaky bakey stopped.

“Hands it over.”

Mr Knife made an appearance. Surprisingly pointed. No jitters.

“I have a hard time getting it off,” I said. All the time staring at him in the face-blood shot eyes.

He grabbed at it. Dropped the knife. I raised my arm, my right hand as steady as it can be (I was again, a leftie, so it wasn’t easy) and uppercut him with my bookbag. He fell.

On his back. He was shaky again. I got on top of him. I took an old condom and shoved it in his mouth. I took dog shit and shoved it in his mouth. I closed his jaw and then pushed his teeth together with my palm. Right until I saw (felt) him swallow the mix.

Now his blinders were down.

I took the knife. Thought about what I was going to do next. I was ready for anything. Someone was going to pay for the others who were able to mug me before. Before this. Before I possessed the will to fight for what was important. I held it to his throat and began to press. Now I was shaking.

                                                           Grandpa can you see me?

Some of your best lessons will occur in places you least expect.

Random Thoughts:

1). Learn anywhere. There are lessons in the rhythm of the world. Everywhere you go. Can you see them? Every day as I drive the toll road I pass a huge parking lot. It’s a place where automobiles are stored before they’re spidered out to car dealers. In late 2007, during the early stage of the financial crisis, this huge lot was EMPTY. It was then I realized the world had changed. The entire world stopped buying cars. I helped clients take action to protect. I watch that lot every day. It’s 25% empty now. I’m concerned.  Is your financial advisor truly watching what’s going on? Ask him or her. Ask for an opinion. Not the opinion of the firm they work for either.

2). Fight for what you believe in. The people you believe in. I will do what I can to promote my friends and mentors. I don’t care for anything in return yet I get everything in return. I will fight to keep the people I love even when they don’t love me and they try to stay away.  What or who will you fight for today?

3). Don’t let the status quo take your watch. When I reported my incident to NY’s Finest they advised me that I should have never worn the watch to school. I also should have never gone through that parking lot. Thanks. How helpful.  Who is stealing what you cherish today?

4). Don’t be afraid to move to ground level to survive. When you fight for what you believe in and it comes down to a good old gutter fight, I’m willing to pick up used condoms and dog crap with my bare hands. How will you get your hands dirty for what you believe in today?

In 1970, the legendary Joni Mitchell wrote and performed a song titled “Big Yellow Taxi.” It was one of my favorites growing up. I don’t know. It was full of whimsy. I don’t give a shit about the message about hugging the environment or whatever.

From Wikipedia. Where would we be without Wikipedia I mean really.

Mitchell got the idea for the song during a visit to Hawaii. She looked out of her hotel window at the spectacular Pacific mountain scenery, and then down to a parking lot.

Joni said this about writing the song to journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s:

I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.

A well-known line from the song: “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.” For me, the parking lot was (is) the paradise.

I tossed the knife. As far as I could. I was out of energy. I did the best I could. The cheap watch was toast. Busted. The mugger was wide-eyed and still. Not blinking. I took what was left of Grandpa’s legacy and stuffed it in his shirt.

I got up. Went to class.

I realized the most valuable possession wasn’t the watch. I just didn’t realize it until I was late for school. On the day I cut through a parking lot.

I learned a valuable lesson, Joni. I’m sorry.

The world needs more parking lots.

I’m convinced.

Lessons from a Fleabag Hotel. Fight the Yellow Sticky.

The smell of urine, semen and god knows what else (like there’s anything worse) filled my nose 3 stations before the train stopped at ground zero.

I could taste sour things way before.  The foulness overtook me. Absorbed in my clothes. I was paranoid about an air-born disease festerering in my liver.

The hollow of a play land called Coney Island-long deteriorated, burned out, rusted, ignored, graffiti ridden, was home to the Terminal Hotel.

Coney Island. Also home to the background for apocalyptic movies.

Only “The Warriors,” are not afraid of hanging around Coney Island.

The Terminal – It thrived, heaved in and out like an Amityville horror house but not as pretty. It was an evil presence that swallowed you whole. A landmark, a beacon, to the hopeless built right across from the elevated train line. There were no ghosts. Ghosts were too smart to linger.

The scary residents long or short stay were very real (but ghostly). They excreted more than normal humans should. And when the train passed, everything shook. Everything felt worse shaking. The residents shook. And fell. Some died right there in the entrance.

Mom couldn’t score a job at a grocery store or even a funeral parlor. And we had a great funeral parlor in our neighborhood. Those who visited the Terminal were dead but didn’t know it. And we were responsible for cleansing the linens of their gooey remnants. And there weren’t big enough washing machines; super-hot water wasn’t strong enough to handle the load (loads). Mom also handled the front desk. She was adept at making toothless barely-breathing death piles feel human.

I was forced to go. It was the only job mom could get that paid under the table. Along I went. Against my will. She played against my sympathy. She couldn’t do it alone. She needed me to strip the beds. I felt like I owed her even though I now realize I didn’t owe her. Cursing and screaming the entire way on the commuter train that railed you directly to the feet of darkness (what I called the Coney Island train station). Fridays after school and the weekends were no longer my own.

long-term resident. The Terminal Hotel. Coney Island. Join us!

I despised my own skin for an entire year. I couldn’t sanitize my hands enough. I didn’t want to associate with this.

I wouldn’t even touch myself below for a year (and you know how tough that can be for a boy who requires relief).

Why didn’t I consider gloves?

I just wasn’t thinking clearly on those trips.

Bed sheets were stained cloths. As rigid as plate glass in sections (hard, so hard in the middle). They were so soaked and dried, soaked and dried, and so wrinkled that the ends appeared to have shrunk. They’d ride up at the edges.

Almost seemed like they wanted to curl into a big yellow ball and die an honorable linen death.

It was customary to roll over a sleeping drunk to one side, then the other, just to expose what used to be at one time, a real mattress and get a sheet off. To me, there was nothing else on earth as putrid as these mattresses because they were NEVER cleaned.

Once I rolled this anemic looking passed-out naked black dude all the way into the hall just for fun. Later I found out he was dead and I didn’t know it. Real learning experience.

He appeared very peaceful. Too peaceful to be sequestered to a room in hell. He was in a far better place.

Once off the bed I’d drop the death piles of sheets to the floor and stuff them in a big laundry bag using a discarded wooden plunger handle. The handle was also a reasonable weapon to keep the toothless scrawny hookers away from me. I’d swing the stick way above my head like a lasso so they’d leave me alone.

 I was like sugar or meth to them for some reason.

No thanks.

I also learned the lessons of the yellow sticky in 1978.

I wished the hookers looked like this at the Terminal.

So what is yellow sticky?

Yellow  sticky are the shitty things you remember. Things that happened to you. Things you have really no control over yet affect you throughout your entire life.

Conditions that have been forced on you. Mostly unfortunate. Mainly through no fault of your own.

They’ve left a mark on you. Permanently altered your life filter whether you realize it or not

Look around. Think about it. There are many people you know right now who have cursed you with the yellow sticky.

It’s extremely challenging to shake off yellow sticky, too. Or at the least, work it down to a subtle buzz in your brain. The very best you can hope for is a channeling of its power into something productive. It can be done, but it’s going to take time. Steps to follow are coming. First, there must be awareness.

Yellow and sticky fades to clean but you’re never the same. It never goes away completely.

Everyone deals with yellow and sticky to some degree. For some, it’s as large as a bed sheet. Actually, your personal yellow and sticky is always large unless you’re in denial. And denial works to fade it. The denial method is temporary at best

Negative ways to deal with your PYS (Personal Yellow Sticky) Factor:

Drugs or alcohol. They do a fine job masking the factor yet the pain will return until next dosage. Over time the condition will worsen too if you don’t stop. You’re just trading in one yellow sticky for a numbing form of the same.

Therapists. My personal belief is they have good intentions but only make things worse. They’re attempting to cure you. That’s what they’re hired to do. From experience I’ve only become more confused by the processes they follow.

Anger. Anger will deteriorate your organs. Warp your mind. Cause cancer. Anger can cause you to lash out at those trying to help. Your door to healing will be cemented shut,emotionally.

Laziness. It’s fine to hang around, go numb to recharge batteries. It’s good for you. Ifyou’re spending a good majority of your time in front of the television, social media youmay be a victim of laziness. That is also an escape from yellow sticky. Learn to recognize and change the behavior.

Excessive work. The bookend to lazy. This has been my own way out for years. Sixty-hour work weeks on the short end, ninety on the other is a way to marathon run from yellow sticky. I can feel its presence chasing me constantly.

The harder and longer I work, thequicker and smarter it gets. On occasion I feel as if I’m on an endless treadmill and yellow sticky is a devious clown who hopes I stumble.

I shall eat you when you stumble. And you will stumble.

Overspending. Buying junk you don’t need, especially on credit, is just a temporary relief and enough of it will be detrimental to your financial health.

Spending within reason is fine. Spending to feel better is not healthy.

You want to know why America is sad? Why the majority is depressed?

Because we don’t possess the financial resources to spend like before. We can’t use our homes as never-ending ATM machines pumping out cash for new surround sound equipment or lavish trips.

I admit. I overwash sheets and pillowcases. Makes me feel in control. I’ve dropped every connection to yellow sticky in my life. I hadn’t seen my mother for 15 years. Oh I spoke to her on the phone from time to time but that’s it.

She died at an early age with me on the other end of the phone. I encouraged her to pass. The only way she was going to overcome yellow sticky was through death. I knew that. At the end, so did she.

For you, death is not an option.

Best it’s boarded up now. The smell remains…