Sometimes the Gifts you Seek…

The van was rust. Well, mostly rust. Rust colored.


When the 1984 Dodge “classic” stopped, the squeal from metal on metal, lack of brakes, compelled me to look out my driver’s side window. The piercing noise caused me to wince. And it pissed me off.

Sitting there, in my car, at a Valero, rummaging for change, texting a friend, I can see this bag of Detroit bones, held together by some form of metal miracle, had stopped perpendicular and was there just for me.

Oh joy.

I knew I was lingering at the auto vacuum/air oasis, off in a corner, way too long. It’s that time of year when idling more than three minutes anywhere attracts beggars like a gunshot on “The Walking Dead,” attracts well, the walking dead.

“Sir, are you going to use the air?”

I grimaced – Wondering what the catch was. He continued.

“If you are, can I please pull in behind you? I just want to use the air you don’t use. My tire is really flat and I don’t have enough money to pay for air. I just used my last dollar on gas.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m here to use the vacuum.”

The little black man hobbled away politely. I pulled my eyes away. Before I did I noticed the blue handicap parking tag dangling from the rearview window. Figures. I continued a text where I left off…


Recently, I visited a friend at her fashion boutique. She was showing me a couple of gifts received from a friend. Simple gifts to say the least. I sort of stared at them as they occupied the floor space of a back office.

First was a wine-bottle lamp. Complete with cute burgundy lamp shade.

Second was a, how can I describe it, a real Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree. It was centered in criss-crossed wood and black tape secured it to the base.

photoWell here it is.

I  looked down. I stared again. I raised my eyes. We looked at each other. I shrugged. Overall, it’s been a strange holiday season. Gifts given, others taken away. Some still linger like ghosts which thrive in the white of tiny Christmas lights. And when they twinkle another gift of pain has been successfully delivered. Happy holidays!

drunk christmas A reasonable alternative to holiday parties.

This time of year, gift giving is in. The rest of the time, we truly don’t give a damn. Most of the year we gift heartache, turmoil, disappointment, but in a strange way, aren’t they gifts too? Not pretty. No ribbons. Like receiving a gift of soul shrapnel you swallow and then your inner self shits blood for days.

And blood for days can lead to blood for months, years, decades. As long as your memory remembers the pain. You bleed. Yet, there’s a blessing in this blood. When you step back, there’s always a release and then joy in the blood of bad gifts. Sooner or later you clot, or die. Decide.

Random Thoughts:

1). Wrapped in every life lesson, even a bad one, there is a gift. It doesn’t feel that way at first. Over time, as your heart takes the pain to dull throb, you begin to analyze the true reason behind the offering you received.

2). Wrapped in every small gift, there’s a big message. The best gifts you can share are also the least expensive. They are created from thought, kindness, rememberance, respect, bonding. We’ve lost the ability to communicate. We’ve found a way to cut people out of our lives through electronic channels. We say goodbye using e-mail and text. Our voices are dead. Bring the gift of your voice back. Empathize. Be human again. Talk. Discuss. Debate. Converse. True gifts. Gifts of self. Gifts of thought.

3). Gifts can be taken away in a moment. A special gift received can be taken away when you least expect it. Pulled from you. Taken. Never forget a gift of a moment, especially now that you realize it may quickly disappear.

4). All gifts from ex-lovers, ex-friends, ex-inner circlers (is that a word, who knows) should be trashed, donated or returned. Or a combination of the previous. Charitable donations are preferable, you may receive a tax deduction. Make someone else happy from your grief. You’ll feel fulfilled. Trashing is fun too if you can smash the sentiment first. A combination always works best for me.

5). Watch the re-gift. Never re-gift the pain, disappointment or baggage you’ve received from another or caused to yourself. Never re-gift an image of what you think another person should be, just because you believe it should be. Never re-gift guilt, betrayal. Start fresh and gift good things.

6). Never forget: The gifts you seek or want, are most likely the gifts you don’t need. You just think you need them. Time will prove how what you want or desire may actually be poisonous to your soul (there’s that bleeding thing again.)

Back to the vacuum and the car mats. The hobbly man pulled in behind me, obviously to use the air. He got out of the rust bucket. He began to wobble over to me. Here we go again.

“Sir, I just wanted to thank you for the two dollars for the air. You’re a real life saver. Nobody really cares about people anymore, so thank you. I didn’t think you were going to give me anything.”

“I wasn’t. I changed my mind,” I admitted. I went back to the mat-sucking business aware that my vacuum time was about to run out.

“Hey, I really like your car. Your car is my dream car.”

I stopped and looked him in the eyes.

“My car is your dream car?” I said, sort of amused. “A 2009 Nissan Maxima is your dream car?”

“Oh yea, it’s a beauty. I had a Nissan a long time ago. Those things really move. Well, have a good day sir. God bless.”

For a measly gift of two-dollars, I was given a gift. A gift of perspective. The realization that I should be thankful for what I have in the present and not sorrowful for the gifts I lost.

My dollar ran out.

I didn’t care anymore.

I stood there.

I felt a breeze on my face.

Awaiting the next gift.

ugly gift


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?


40 years from now.

Will those words comfort you or drive you insane?

You choose.