Category Archives: Hosing Decision

Happy New You

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12/31/07 05:35:55 AM

Where has the year gone? Has it gone into the trash heap or the archives; I’m not sure which. Into the archives is another beautiful year with a wonderful family. We’ve just moved into an apartment which seems to fit us better. We, for the first time, are in a home big enough for all of us (the second bathroom is key).

Here is an outline of the biggies I can think of this minute:

New House

We love our new house and are looking forward to finishing moving in. Three bedrooms and two baths is the right fit for us. Mason has his own room and it is big enough to send him to. 🙂 Chandler and Lennox are working out the wrinkles in their new quasi-cohabitation. Generally permission is granted to cross the armistice line; especially since Lenna got her princess netting and pink rug. It is strange to be in a modern building and the view, as I look over the BQE and east into Woodside and Rego Park and watch the sun rise as I write this the sky and the contours of the land are enthralling to me. I love watching when the LIRR rolls out of Woodside on the way to Jamaica: a long silvery snake a half a mile on.

Family

 

I am still so in Love With Linda that it scares me. She is the model for everything beautiful and desirable in my life. I wish I could be with her more and, paradoxically, more like her. I am blessed to be chosen by her to spend these days together with her.

Chandler continues to thrive at the TAG school she’s in. She has a lot of homework and does it without complaint, though she looks at the confections of Cable TV as the just and right compensation for her work. At least is is mostly Disnified Pre-Tween Confections, though she will be a teenager on February 23rd.

Mason and I survived the soccer season (he’s quite good) with me as coach, though he declined to play winter league indoors. Mason’s way with words continues to amaze Linda and I mostly because he is not the squeaky wheel. Out of -or out from under- the hubbub of the family Mason will make a wry comment that puts everything that we are all elbowing to the front to try and frame just so into context. He does so uproariously and seemingly without effort.

Lennox is growing up so fast in so many ways. Just like with her sister we are often fooled into thinking that she’s older because she’s so damned verbal. She is also sassy in a way Chandler can only dream of (and rue). So when she puts her hand on her splayed hip and rolls her eyes as she wipes stray locks out of her eyes explaining “whatever, duh!” we lose track of her age (5) and size (just right). We start trying to reason with the sarcastic teenager that she apes rather than the Kindergartener that she is. Needless to say we miss having Kindergarten across the street, but we’ll see how this move will effect our lives (passive aggressively I think the earlier wake-up and travel will be good for the family).

School Year

I loved my Fall 1 Classes and I am really enjoying the Lit Elective classes I am teaching. The Contemporary African American Fiction and the Black Lit Survey have been soul-expanding (as much as teaching a class can be). I love the students at LaGuardia CC. Teaching them is a dream come true. In many of their faces and papers I see myself struggling intellectually to come into my own. It is a humbling flashback when I see the same misunderstandings that I made in someone else’s paper. It is a merciful reminder of my current domestic bliss when I see the sturm und drang of youthful courting around campus. I look forward to working on my own intellectual and academic development this next year.

Amir’s Murder

The horror of Amir Hassan Reed’s murder this year has put a lot of things into perspective. I am so grateful to be alive, which I generally take for granted. I take life, mine and my beautiful family’s to be a given that shall continue along, but it “Ain’t Necessarily So.” I had taken it for granted that I would wake up to the same cast that I went to sleep with. It is rare that such a Cause Célèbre visits our lives, and I had often wished that my life would intersect with drama and fame. Sigh, I wish that I had marked my door with blood so this angel never came. What I found most annoying and titillating was the comments left on the SFGate site articles: people who knew the least seemed to make the strongest comments. This puts all of my “Willie-Neckbone-Expertise” into perspective: the more I think I know, the less I know.

48 Years

I turned 48 this December. I remember in 1974 thinking that it would be the year 2000 when I was 40. It seemed so abstract and distant (and of course I took it for granted that I would live that long). Well until this year I’ve held up well. During the spring my Achilles tendons started to act up (and I didn’t go to the doctor). In the Fall, playing soccer with Mason I tore up my ankle (and I didn’t go to the doctor). This December my ankle got infected and I went to the doctor. I will go to physical therapy soon because I really miss my morning runs through Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth and Long Island City. I’m feeling trapped by my infirmity in spite of the fact that I did go for a bike ride yesterday. Linda is sick this morning so I don’t think I’ll have that luxury.

Dreams

I still haven’t written the great American novel, but I have been working on a story. I haven’t published my dissertation, but I hope to. I want to do more original scholarship rather than just “willie-neckbone” out opinions on things I know little about. So I will continue to do as the Sanskrit Proverb suggests:

Look to this day
For it is life
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power —

For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well-lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.

Happy New YOU, Love Stafford.

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Prophet Housing

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12/18/07 04:56:38 AM

So our new lives in our new apartment have started. I took Chandler to meet Aneka at 46th Street on the seven train. We were there so early Chandler has renegotiated for an extra 10 minutes of sleep today. I was a work by 7:30 and If I continue to do this I’ll have time to go to the gym in morning. Apparently Lennox and Mason’s drop off also went well. Linda and I went to Costco to buy a TV, which I think we’ve put off in the hopes that we can buy the kids more of what they want this “holiday” season. Funny thing about that ironic use of quotation marked holiday.

I found a copy of Khalil Ghibran’s The Prophet (that I had bought on telegraph avenue used) and in it was a bookmark. The page it marked was the Prophet’s response to the Mason. “’Ironic,’ thought I, it is addressed to my son.” But the opening line is “Then a [M]ason came forth and said speak to us of Houses” (34). So, since I spent the evening unpacking my seemingly endless supply of things and assembling them I was intrigued by the synchronicity of the bookmarking.1 This is the electronics (and modern) version of feathering my nest. We’ve got to get all of the twigs and grass just right so that the chicks and their parents will all fit comfortably. I imagine a bird’s nest of wires, surge protectors, USB cables and transformer power lines in which we comfortably cuddle together. (God, how I digress.)

The first few “stanzas” were pure anti-city, and I’ll include a bit here as an illustration: “Would the valleys your streets and the green paths your alleys… [and] In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together” (35). These nods to the bucolic piss me off. Besides the fact that the human condition is social, and there would be no wilderness if we spread people out like that, even in 1922, I just want to dissent a bit further on this romanticization of the bucolic.

(Digression Alert) I remember one week when Scott and I lived on Maui. This was before we got food stamps, in deed it might be why I got food stamps. We had “no visible means of support” and we had alienated those off of whom we could beg. But there was a mango tree and an avocado tree that were in season near where we were camping. We could fill ourselves nicely on these huge trees for the cost of a climb. Guavas, I think were also ripe in a pasture a couple of miles away. Before seven days had passed I was crazy and hungry though my stomach never went empty. There is a reason that we are a social and agrarian species. The hunter gatherer thing is too much work. (I think it is also why we are omnivores, but that is another rant.)

Then the prophet gets to why I am writing this now:

Tell me have you [peace, remembrances and beauty] in your houses?

Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.

Though its hands are silken, its hear is of iron.

It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeers at the dignity of the flesh.

It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.2

Verily the lust for comfort murders the the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children o space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast. (36)

Continue reading

Moving Impotence

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12/14/0710:46:52 AM

So the movers are packing away and Linda is away at the other apartment cleaning and accepting deliveries of new furniture. “The game is afoot,” as Holmes often said. Things are happening fast and I’m not sure how much I can write here. I am useless now that I’ve washed the dishes and tightened the cheap Ikea chairs that are always falling loose. There is a feeling of impotence that accepting (or paying for) help causes. I want to have meaning in this whole process which I don’t seem to feel just paying for it. I am too 19th century. I feel like if I don’t put my shoulder to the wheel in this move I am not actually helping. Of course that is ridiculous because Linda and I are the “first movers” of this whole show. These three strong Latinas would not be here if we were not paying for them to be here.

It is strange having people in your house touching all of our stuff. Now I don’t know these women in our house singing away to the popular music they have thumping from our boom box as they yell questions and comments back and forth. I guess this adds to the strange feeling of helplessness that I feel not helping. Here are three total strangers doing what in the past only our dearest (and most willing) friends had done. But they are not Richard Heller, Joel Stanger, Trevor Turner, John Mercer, or any of my Berkeley friends who helped with the last three moves. Interestingly the last move here we were helped by Miss Misti H and the one two moves ago involved Dennis Wolf. Both of those people are out of reach to me now and I am sad that they have been replaced by paid professionals.

Neither am I participating physically (no heave-ho), nor am I intimate with the workers. I am slipping out of my life during this move. In this journal, a sign of my increasing alienation from my life, I am recording my increasing feelings of alienation from my life. The skrittch of packing tape sounds like fingernails on the blackboard of my life as I sit in a house with people working incredibly hard as I sit here and diddle on the computer. I guess the root of it is that I am uncomfortable with and unused to my new status as bourgeois middle class sub-gentry (I can’t even own up to the fact that I am indeed a well paid middle class professional with a post graduate degree and a good union job [I’m prayin’ for tenure]). I want to live in my imaginary hey-day of a working class youthful messenger. Sigh. If it was that good I’d have never gone to college.

If I insist on continually romanticizing my youth I will always be unhappy, looking over my shoulder at some thin hungry horny bachelor. The truth of the matter is that he was miserable and empty. I was lonely and bored except when I was misbehaving and in grave peril. The life I fantasize about was the life of a young man with few coping skills and a lot of misused down time. I guess I should be proud of one thing. When I was bored, lonely and venal I at least painted and wrote and some of those drawings and writings still exist. Two moves ago, from one place in the village to another I went through my “archive” and looked at lots of my letters and paintings (that wasted time alone justifies the cost of this packing). Up in the attic are two huge tubes of my work from the early 1980s that are testaments to the fact that there might be something to this nostalgia thing. But if you count out how much time I’ve lived and subtracted the time I “created” you’d still have each and every waking hour of a misspent youth.

So I think, against my better judgment I’ll post this now because I’m tired of writing.

 

When I was trying to stay out of the packers way I thought of a poetic way to characterize our move, but I think I’ve lost it: “from the intimate proximity of the gardens to the phallic modernity of the Big Six. ”

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Hijabed Air Force ROTC Cadet (Poem)

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We’re moving tomorrow and I found two poems I had written that I thought I had keyed in.  I’ll key ’em in now.  The first was about the shy young woman I saw heading to Aviation HS one morning.  Refined and restrained, though she was obviously one of the kids, she seemed apart.

Hijabed Air Force ROTC Cadet

High school phalanx / A boisterous wedge
Tumbling Down / Off the concrete EL

Unapproachable / In stylized youth
A garden of  / Performed individualism

Petals and thorns / Of hidden beauty
Instant adolescent / Fauna wilderness

In the rigid  / Individualism
Is a patch of / Conformity

We’re all sad and scared about moving. I’m nervous as hell. I’ve been snapping at the kids and crabby with Ms. L.  We love it here and I want to spill my guts about it, but I found these poems instead, so I’ll post them and see where it leads.

Surveillance

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Here is the space that we will move into. In order to move here we have to fit a certain number of criteria (like the ACT, guys), live in New York, have three kids of two genders and not earn too much money. Mitchell Lama has enough rules for a politburo standing committee or the Republican Platform Committee, and one of them is a home inspection. We are to be inspected today between 1 and 4 in our current home.

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Since we are completely legitimate, I’m not worried. I am so glad that L—- is the queen of all forms and documents and we are all set on that count. If it were up to me we’d be in trouble.

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The idea of being inspected is a lot like the tribulations that they put people through in order to live in New York Public Housing (back in the day?). This is intrusive, but in order to move into this beautiful subsidized HUGE apartment we’re willing to suffer some (foucauldian?) surveillance. The inspector will be here today. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Big Move (Sunnyside to Woodside)

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OK, we got the call. It looks like we’ll be moving to Woodside. Before I go into the particulars of the place, which I’ve written in painful (and hopefully amusing) detail below, let me say that I think we’re all in shock and a bit out of sorts. Lots of big fights over little stuff, which leads me to believe that we’re coming to grips with the fact that change is coming.

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We went to see the first apartment offered us at Big Six, the Mitchell-Lama Coop on Queens Boulevard in Woodside. WOW. It was huge, and, according to big Gene, in the best building (furthest from the BLVD.). Of course that puts it closest to the L.I.E., but that’s a different story. Which is worse, air pollution or noise pollution? And if noise pollution is better, what about the fact that some days (like yesterday) it is under the flight path to LaGuardia? Every two minutes another silver bird came grinding over us. The wheels are down by the time they come over, so you know that they are pretty low.

Hurm. I loved the apartment, why am I leading off with this? I guess that there is some thinly veiled ambivalence in my initial response.

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The apartment is huge. The basic dimensions are 50’ by 20’, though there are some oddities that make it actually larger. When we first moved to University Village our apartment was a 600’ two bedroom, this is very close to twice the size of the place we were all happiest together, so if size matters, we should do well here. Of course, there is more to life than square-footage (or even acreage), so the jury is out on this one. My little piece of bottom land is on the 6th floor.

It faces East North: that is the balcony faces North East, while there are two bedroom windows facing East and two (1 smaller) facing North. With the Balcony’s Eastward sweep, however, the overall feeling is East. The dining room and living room total almost 400 square feet, not including the screened in balcony. It is huge. If it were on the roof I’d open a farm. Of course the thresher will be powerful hard to get on the roof.

Each of the bedrooms is over 140 square feet (140, 142, and 159). OK, now the bedroom, the master bedroom we’re in now is barely 140 square feet, and some of it in hard to use nooks and crannies. There is a lot of jockeying for position vis-à-vis room selection, and I’ll leave the choice to the calmer and cooler heads who actually think logically and strategically. The master bedroom has two windows one small one facing north and one larger one facing East. It is large, and we’re thinking of splitting that room for two of the kids to share (there are battles over this division, but I’m not a snitch). The closets are huge, no joke. There is enough room for two Senators and an evangelical minister (who is health conscious: Falwell wouldn’t fit). I think that any of them would be large enough for Linda and I to fit all of our (hanging) clothes in together, though maybe I embellish here.

The kitchen is big, with so much cupboard space I feel like we could actually safely shop at Costco (when we lived in the village we would split bulk items like diapers and paper towels between families so that we wouldn’t overload our precarious little arcs). SO now I feel fully empowered to overshop in the American fashion. This is the New York version of getting a SUV. I’m fighting the desire to squelch my recycling impulse as I key this in.

We are so used to one person kitchens that I’m going to have to learn how to share the kitchen again (no more crabby “I’ll finish when you’re done and I’m alone in here…” statements). There is so much room in the kitchen that we’ll be able to pass each other carrying pizzas, while I foam cappuccino, as Linda practices her Kung Fu katas (her sticky hands technique is feared on both coasts of North America). Indeed, we will have room for all of the gizmos that I keep in the attic like the Cuisinart and slow cooker that I bring down for particular recipes.

And speaking of conflicts in rooms with plumbing: we will now have two bathrooms, though only 1 has a shower. No more worries about an ill-timed bowel movement when people are trying to brush teeth during the morning rush, we can have the offending element take “potty-B” and work it out as we file through and do our dental ablutions in a neat and orderly file in the master bathroom. The plumbing and construction look like that good early 60s vintage, though the water-saver showerhead is not long for my apartment. The tiles are all good, there is no decay or mold or cockamamie cosmetic paint (read camouflage), it is all so well maintained that I am ashamed of all of the messed-up places I’ve tolerated in my adult apartment-dwelling-life.

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(Below and above the flags and next to the morning glory is our balcony)

Hard upon the two bathrooms is a closet that is so large that I immediately thought of putting a washer and dryer in there, though on sober reflection I think an office or computer nook might be better. Linda, however, smartly points out that we want the computer with internet access in a public space for reasons I don’t want to think about. The closet is about 4×3, which is much larger than the closet under the stairs where we had an office when I finished my dissertation.

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Running around the flat on first

There is only one real drawback (besides moving during the semester) and that is storage space. We have a lot of (hard to access) storage space here in the attic, but maybe we’ll have to rent a storage space someplace for a couple of years until we get through the waiting list for a place here. There are multiple waiting-lists we’ll qualify for now: there is a whole magical world of wait-lists in the Big Six: there’s the storage room list, the parking lot list (and these are just the ones they let we new initiates know about). It will be a good use of the hundreds of dollars we’ll be saving in rent every month. I mean really, who wants to winter in the DR, or visit Javier, Julia and Lulu in Australia, or buy a minivan that we don’t fill so we can bring friends places out of the city?

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There is a bike room, so I can take my bike off the street, and move the kids’ bike inside too. In fact, maybe I’ll buy them better bikes, since they don’t have to live on Skillman Ave anymore.

As I got up early this morning and worked on my lessons and grading, in our cramped cute apartment on a tree-lined block I have to say that I am sad about having to move. Yesterday one of Mason’s friends came to the door and invited him out to play soccer at the park, and he could just go. Tomorrow, around the corner and across the street there will be a farmers’ market where we’ll pay too much for fresh local produce. I love this safe, cute, quaint, human-scale neighborhood. But the size of the apartment and the savings and the security, and the professionalism, and the maintenance of the Big Six are making us an offer we cannot refuse. (I look forward to an apartment that won’t need me to manually unclog the toilet regularly-yuck!)

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So though we’ve been feuding like a sack full of wet Democrats all day long, we are still a family. Chandler Mason Lennox, Linda and Stafford are all grateful for the huge new apartment we might live in. If I can find the right photo you’ll see our happy faces looking around the apartment in awe. I mean they all look big without furniture, but do they all have echoes? This change, though painful and terrifying, will be for the best, إن شاء الله.

Kiko’s Patron (Reindeer Games III) and a Walk in Woodside

We had so much fun at Coney Island.

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But First, A Walk in Woodside with my best girl

Yesterday was an amazingly nice day. I took the kids to school early because they had a field trip. After I dropped them off I fixed up the bike I found for Lennox, finding that the tires held air and the rust came off of the handlebars. The chain seems to be much better now that it is oiled, so all is good. After I dropped them off Linda and I futzed around for a an hour talking, in the nice satisfying way that married couples can. I talked Linda into walking me to the hardware store, bike shop and the 99¢ store. Though she was reluctant we had a grand time once we got out, playing “what if-“on where we should live and other things that otherwise stressed us.

If we move to Woodside (which is where we ended up walking) we would or could save huge amounts of money. After I got my bike out of the shop and training wheels for Lennox’s little pink bike we came across a terraced garden with water storage, drip irrigation and PVC Plumbing trellises for the beans to grow on behind the fence above the Woodside LIRR Station. There was an older man holding sway over the 2000 feet of arable land tucked behind the fence above the tracks at Woodside Ave and 63rd street. Tons of hot peppers, beans and other ‘crops’ I couldn’t discern were in terraced plots the size of mattresses (infant, twin, king and queen) climbing the right-of-way between the platform above the tracks and the fence. There was one farmer/gardener with that kind of plot in the Garden in University Village, but he used “black fertilizer” so we were a bit afraid of him.

Next we met a couple of guys after the meeting who both live in Big Six. They both sang its praises, and pointed out the benefits of living there, in spite of the recent problems (corruption, fee increases). John, who looked about my age, said he was retiring (one of the luxuries of low rent) and told us that he complex actually has fairly big cash reserves, so it should be OK right now. Jim, with the ponytail and amazing complexion, said that he thinks it is safe, doesn’t worry when his 24-year-old daughter walks from the subway late at night, has a dog and a cat, but can’t seem to get a storage space (he’s been on the wait list for storage for a “big six” years). John said that he doesn’t have a parking spot, but usually gets parking whenever he comes home within a building or two of his home.

Finally we went to La Flor Café and had a nouvelle Mexican lunch worthy of Picante or Jimmy Bean’s. The vegetable Tacos were freshly sautéed and sprinkled with a wonderful piquant queso fresca with a strong flavor. The marinated pork steak (whose proper name I forget) had a wonderful citrusy aftertaste. It was a sandwich, called a torta, that blew our minds. We shared an excellent Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie for desert and it was like being back in the Gormet Ghetto of Berkeley again, except we were under the El at 52nd St and Roosevelt.

I came home and put the training wheels on Lennox’s bike and took it up to her daycare to pick her up. When I gave her the neck-chain with the keys to her bike her face lit up like she had been ambushed by Christmas. She told Elexa and Christina that she was going to ride her bike home proudly. Needless to say after dinner we went to the park and she rode around the play structure, benches and park building endlessly. It was a good day!

Here’s the latest installment of Kiko’s Tale. He will be back soon, but I’ve got to set up the bike racing, which I’m still waiting to hear feedback on. If you ride, formally, with clubs and packs check this for realism and send me a line. And of course, if you want to start from the beginning, go here.

“Well, shit, it’s like this,” he confessed. “On the way here this delivery guy, on his delivery bike, wearing delivery guy clothes, came past me as I climbed the bridge. I mean, that’s where I rule. I was holding my like pumping up the bridge at a great clip and this freakin’ Spanish guy on a cheap bike with a chain locked around the seat-post breezes past me like I’m riding Barney in front of a drugstore.” Thinking, he added, “I don’t even think he was breathin’ hard. I mean, hell, I was beaten.”

There was a lot of disbelief, and none of the pack thought that he was serious. They had ridden together for over two years and they knew each other pretty well and to a man the pack thought that a) Mike must have lost his girlfriend and b) that the Spanish guy was a figment of his dumped and tortured imagination. Delivery-guys do not beat bike racers up hills. Especially not the guy who had led them, gasping, up most of the hills that morning. Not possible. Period.

On the ride home he thought about the kid he’d learn later was named Kiko and worked delivering food in the Financial district. This kid, no, not kid, man, only a man could make that piece of shit bike glide up the bridge he was now climbing so effortlessly. He could see the rear-wheel suspension bouncing as he pumped the pedals and hear the basket rattle as they went over the expansion plate. The bike was like a mechanical bull bouncing up and down under the rider as he passed him. Everything about the bike was loose and rattled. It sounded like it was held together by a second-rate-duct-tape-force-field rather than screws, nuts and bolts.