the compulsive newyorker – 110919

It’s Thursday November 7th 2019. I’m sitting on a Norwegian built molded teakwood kneeling chair, slouching in my lower back, now straight – that’s what this type of chair, without backrest, does – it makes conscious connection to the spine…

the compulsive newyorker – 110919

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It’s Thursday November 7th 2019. I’m sitting on a Norwegian built molded teakwood kneeling chair, slouching in my lower back, now straight – that’s what this type of chair, without backrest, does – it makes conscious connection to the spine and that slouch is not bad because the correcting it is good. In fact just that action of constant straightening spine is the genius of its invention. I also have vague sad feeling that today could have been my mother’s 108th birthday had she lived past 74 of inoperable brain tumor. Or maybe I’m confusing it with my stepfather’s birthday. Can parents, my roots, slip so deeply into history in my own aging brain?
Tonight I was at meeting at Ansche Chesed Synagogue named ‘It’s Easy Being Green.’ It was conducted by a volunteer advocacy group in a meeting room on fifth floor with slide projector and screen, and the primary speaker was the president of Riverside Park Conservancy, a 45 year-young Dan Garodnick. This tax-exempt organization has 55 employees and a yearly budget of near 8 million dollars. It is funded mainly by the city through the Parks Department and the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Society. It maintains nearly 8 miles of Hudson River waterfront parkland, Riverside Park, that stretches from 59th St to beyond George Washington Bridge at 181 St averaging one city block wide. 500 acres [200 hectares] of waterfront park to Central Park’s 850 acres [345 hect]. This park was designed in 1870s by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same work he initiated with landscape architect Calvert Vaux for Central Park in the 1850s. Three vital statistics: Since 1900 the water level has risen 9 inches [22 cm]; trees grow on carbon-dioxide, oxygenate the air and remove pollutants; 40,000 yearly volunteer hours are contributed by Upper Westside residents to its maintenance. It is a major lifestyle amenity to New York City. In Manhattan, only second to the still better maintained higher budgeted Central Park, also half half, private & public funding.
The stress of living with in a generational persecution environment that infects with pogrom insecurity is damaging to various organs, especially the brain which is where her tumor was located as far as I know, though I never was informed or discussed her condition with her doctor. Fourteen times I visited her lying comatose in her private hospital room without external medical support in which she lived for three weeks. I played her Russian vocal music, I touched her breasts, and just sat for an hour each time. A six-bar Russian Orthodox cross lay on her bedside table, proof of her family’s past voluntary conversion efforts. On her last day she was pulled out on a narrow freezer bed in the hospital basement and given a generic Last Rights ritual by a woman chaplain. I kissed my mother’s frozen lips.
I do believe it was her doctor was the same I had more contact with in my stepfather’s last days, ten years later, when for thirty days I slept side by side with him in my mother’s bed. He needed to talk, he dreamed, he had to urinate. His breathing a deathly rattle. It was that doctor who handed me, I think, the three four or five white morphine pills my stepfather was to voluntarily take one January evening out from my sister’s hand. His love child’s hand. Both he and my mother, from my best evaluations, had a good life as first generation Americans. They lived those fifty years mostly in New York’s Manhattan Upper Eastside in a five story brownstone house with three tenants, which they bought with his psychoanalytic practice income during the decades when Freud’s behavioral theories and treatment style were still highly respected. I have his and my mother’s wooden bed-frames hanging over me as I write this.

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