Tag Archives: New York City

Gone

Paul in New York City, Memorial Day weekend 1997

In 1983, when I was 19 years old, I visited a doctor for some long-forgotten reason.  Before then I had noticed a slight leftward tilt in my torso, even when I stood perfectly straight.  As a gymnast, perfect form was essential.  It still is for that matter.  When I mentioned it to the doctor, he said, “Oh, that’s scoliosis.”  In my naiveté, he might as well have said, ‘You have terminal cancer and have about six months to live.’  I honestly knew nothing about scoliosis, so after he left the room, I began contemplating my 19 years on Earth and what kind of mark I’d made on my loved ones.  I took it that seriously.

When the doctor returned after a few moments, I inquired further, and he explained in greater detail what scoliosis is and what causes it.  My anxiety came across as mere curiosity.  I had learned to act and – as a typical male – hide my emotions.  If the bastard only knew how terrified I was…

One of my long-time friends, Paul, died on April 9 after a year-long battle with liver cancer.  He was 55.  I’d written about him previously.  Paul and I had known each other for some 35 years.  We actually attended the same parochial grade school in Dallas and were altar boys at the same Catholic Church.  Our fathers had grown up together in East Dallas in the 1930s and 40s.  Like me, Paul had a strong dedication to family.  We had so much in common, yet differed on many levels.  We often dined together, and during one meal a few years ago, he asked why I still hung around him.  I couldn’t really answer him.  In some respects, he had an elitist mentality; in part, I think, because of his years living in New York and his trips to Europe.  We had something of a love/hate relationship.  We’d have a dispute over some issue and would be estranged from each other for weeks and sometimes months.

Aside from good food, one love we shared was cinema.  Among our favorite films was the campy 1962 classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”.  The movie is like a steak cooked rare – an acquired taste.  We often jokingly referred to ourselves as ‘Blanche’ and ‘Baby Jane’, the dueling sisters of the story enmeshed in an unbreakable union of alcohol, bitter memories and dated outfits.  Yes, I know that sounds gay, but bear with me.  We watched a slew of films over the years and afterwards, critiqued them like an amateur Siskel and Ebert duo over cocktails.

Like me, Paul desired a career in the motion picture field.  In the mid-1980s, I studied filmmaking at the University of North Texas.  In 1991, Paul moved to New York to study the same at New York University.  He earned his degree three years later and remained in New York; trying to secure his place in one of the most fickle industries in one of the toughest cities in the world.  He finally decided to move back to Dallas in 1996 whereupon we began hanging out together again.

The friendship connection extended to our respective families.  I’d come to know his parents, and he had come to know mine.  We experienced each other’s struggles with family, friends, romance and work – you know, the usual stuff of life.  When he lived in a tiny apartment, he had Christmas parties every year, with plenty of food and beverages.  As much as it cost him, he told me, the gatherings made him happy.  And it made others happy.  They were simple times, but they were good.

I’ve written before about losing a close friend to AIDS in 1993 and how I got sick with hepatitis at the same time; how that prevented me from attending his funeral; how that made me feel I had betrayed his mother at the last moment by abandoning them – like so many of her son’s so-called friends had done.  I noted how the bonds of friendship are tested during the worst times of our lives.  I’m proud to say I’ve often been that ‘True’ friend and equally happy to say I have ‘True’ friends among my inner circle.

Paul and I had a dispute at the end of 2020.  The source?  A “New York Times” editorial about the unexpected support Donald Trump received from Hispanics in Texas.  I expressed surprise, but Paul (who had grown increasingly conservative) said it made perfect sense to him.  A short time later he learned he had liver cancer.  As 2021 progressed, his health worsened, and our mutual desire to reconnect increased.  We were old friends, after all, getting to be old men.  Or as I like to call it – the tail end of middle age.  A news editorial shouldn’t be a permanent barrier to good memories.

When Paul’s sister called me that Saturday night to inform me of his death, she asked, “Are you sitting down?”

“Is he gone?” I replied.

I already knew the answer.

One of my last text messages with Paul

I’ve been going through a lot personally in recent months.  Paul’s demise only adds to it.  There’s nothing like the death of a relative or close friend to put our lives into perspective; to understand what is truly important and valuable.

The funeral was this past Wednesday, the 20th.  Beneath a cloudy sky, I stood beside a mutual and much younger friend who was doing everything not to burst out crying.  I wrapped an arm around him and told him these moments are what make life so hard.  We have to deal with the deaths of people we know and love – family, friends, coworkers.  It’s what allows people to survive and reach a certain age.  Paul buried both his parents, a beloved aunt, his older brother and two nephews.  For whatever reason, his time here had ended.

Another mutual friend told me shortly after he’d learned of Paul’s death that he had dreamed of him.  “I didn’t know if it was the edible I’d eaten earlier,” he added.  But he said Paul told him he was happy now; he felt good and was safe.

I have to admit that – as bad as I’ve been feeling lately – I bore some envy of Paul.  He was no longer suffering.  All his pain had gone.  He didn’t have to worry about credit card bills, taking out the trash – or wondering if he was going to wake up the next day.  He also won’t get to live out his dreams of being a screenwriter.

When each of my parents died, I told people my only consolation was that they were no longer suffering from physical agonies.  But they had lived long lives and they’d achieved the best they could, given their circumstances.

I suppose Paul had done the same in his 55 years.

Living our best lives is all we should do with whatever time we have.

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In Remembrance: September 11, 2001

“They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.”

Native American Proverb

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Tweet of the Week – June 19, 2021

Meghan McCain

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Worst Quotes of the Week – April 24, 2021

“Her message was clearly intended to get to the jury – ‘If you will acquit or if you find the charge less than murder, we will burn down your buildings. We will burn down your businesses. We will attack you. We will do what happened to the witness – blood on their door.’”

Alan Dershowitz, claiming U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters incited violence during the trial of Derek Chauvin

He was also referring to how the former home of defense expert Barry Brodd was recently vandalized.

“This weekend in Minnesota, Maxine Waters broke the law by violating curfew and then incited violence.”

Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Minority Leader, condemning Rep. Waters’ comments

McCarthy – who declined to do anything about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) after social media posts indicating her support for murdering top Democrats emerged – also revealed that he was moving to censure Waters over her comments telling protesters to keep up their demonstrations.

“Well, first, let me say that if I go to Cubbyhole, I think I’m going to be accompanied by at least one of my two campaign managers who are both gay.  So there’s like a lot of, you know, familiarity with, with the community, at the head of my campaign leading it.”

Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and current New York City mayoral candidate, to a group of LGBT voters

His efforts failed and have resulted in a series if mocking memes.

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Video of the Week – April 3, 2021

This attack on a 65-year-old Filipino woman in New York City was the latest in a long string anti-Asian hate crimes.  Authorities have arrested a suspect who was on parole for murdering his mother in 2002.

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Video of the Week – February 27, 2021

Donald Trump may be a native New Yorker, but there’s no love lost for the Orange One in a city that often shows no mercy.  Earlier this week a man carrying a “Trump 2024” flag at Wollman Rink in Central Park was tackled by an ice skater.  Chaos ensued.

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Photo of the Week – July 25, 2020

This is just one of a large number of photos captured by New York City area residents on July 23 of a lightning bolt striking near the Statue of Liberty.

Just sort of humbles humanity back into its rightful place, doesn’t it?

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Video of the Week – June 19, 2020

Here we have foreign-born Abraham “Avrumy” Knofler screaming about a “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of one of the most dangerous establishments in the world – a coffee shop in New York.  “I was making a protest – all lives matter,” he told Gothamist.

Yes, they do, Avrumy.  But assholes don’t matter at all!

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Mad Rudy

Apparently, New York City has lost love for its former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, along with the rest of the United States.  As personal attorney to Faux-President Donald Trump, Giuliani has found himself in the unenviable position of defending his psychopathic client.  How sad.  Giuliani’s staunch leadership during the horrific 09/11 cataclysm got him dubbed as “Mayor or America.”  Now, he’s like a neophyte lawyer handling public drunkenness charges.

Recently, a series of mock posters have been appearing on New York City subway’s noting (emphasizing) Giuliani’s tragic descent into madness.

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Booth Blooms

Well, at long last, someone has found a good use for old phone booths*. Botanical designer Lewis Miller ambushed the streets of New York City recently to adorn an otherwise ordinary corner in swaths of floral color and energy.  A few years ago Miller transformed the notoriously banal empty garbage cans into vases of sumptuous flowers.  In this most recent endeavor to make a gritty urban area appear palatable – a project he dubs “Flower Flash” – Miller and his crew filled a Manhattan telephone booth with a plethora of flowers and greenery.

“What initially began as a Lewis Miller design experiment to reinvigorate and reconnect us to our craft, turned into a beautiful shared experience in a city of millions,” the group stated.  The “reactions to our flower flashes emphasizes the basic goodness in all people and prioritizes compassion”.

The results are more than a little impressive, and I feel we need more of Lewis Miller’s works in our increasingly crowded and convoluted world.

*To the under-30 crowd, phone booths are tall glass structures where people would have to make phone calls if they weren’t at home, at work or in jail.  You’d put a quarter into a little slot towards the bottom of the actual phone; wipe the receiver as best you could so you wouldn’t catch germs like herpes or gingivitis; and press little buttons on said phone to make the call.

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