Monday, July 25, 2016

Last-minute New York trip, the why and the how

Audrey and Herbert, 1947
I have popped down to New York for the funeral of a good friend's father. It was a last-minute decision but I had the time (and no medical appointments) so I said, why not.

The friend is Tommy Rosenfield (now, as a grownup, Tom, but always Tommy). We've been friends  since our idyllic days in Atlantic Beach, with our friendship continuing through Friends Seminary and beyond.

His father, Herb Rosenfield (Aug. 6, 1918 - July 20 2016), lived a good long life, but of course difficult is not a sufficient word to describe what it is like to lose a beloved parent. Tom started his remembrance of his father the way I might have started mine had I been able to speak through the tears when he died: He remembered his father talking about the ice being delivered for the family's ice box. From much later, I can picture Herb going into the ocean at Atlantic Beach, while his wife, tanned, turbined Audrey (my mother always said she was a real beauty), sat in her usual spot further away from the ocean, being the first person to greet us with a warm smile when we came down the small boardwalk before hopping onto the sand. And then Mary Ann, putting down her book, telling me to stop being a chicken and to go into the water with her.

Temple Emanu-el
This morning, after paying my respects to Herb's children, Tom, Patty and Nelson, and to the rest of the family, I had time to wonder at the main chapel in Temple Emanu-El and was lucky to be standing next to a knowledgable man who told me about the mix of architectural styles and the importance of the temple as a must-see destination in New York. I read later that the temple, completed in 1929, is the world's largest synagogue, accommodating 2,500 worshippers.

It was good to give Patty, Nelson and Tom a hug. The timing was so strange because the night before I learned that Herb had died, a dreamt that I was hugging Patty and Tom.

I am staying two nights but wasn't sure about that at first because I thought I would have to ask my cousin Jeanne for two nights on her couch. Then a friend from Friends, Craig Evans, offered his apartment on east 57th Street. I took him up on his offer and got here last night; after recovering from my trip, I had a very nice dinner with his wife, since Craig only coming into the city this morning.

Tonight I will see them again at a reception at the Century Club.

Always wondering which way is best to come into the city, I took the advice of some friends who said they like to drive to New Haven and take Metro North from there. Someone said I live dangerously to have left my car in an open air parking lot, but I figure there are better targets than an old Subaru. One hopes, anyway.

Disheveled Me
Getting swept out of Grand Central in a crowd in the early evening, I didn't think it would be easy to get a cab or an Uber. So I lugged my suitcase down the subway stairs, going very slowly, because I didn't want to repeat my mishap of somehow flying off the top step in the Paris Metro and doing a belly-flop into the car.

Once in the subway car, I caught myself when it jolted and I started to jerk backwards. Then I lugged suitcase and laptop up the stairs and went  across town and up a few blocks. Did I say that I was dripping with sweat?

When I had dropped Maddie off with Jim Bloom before I left, he asked why I didn't just take Amtrak from Holyoke. I don't really have an answer to that question. As I wobbled in the subway, looking like the world's most disheveled out-of-towner, with baseball cap askew, I asked myself why I was doing this.

"Because I can," I said to myself.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Adventures in dreamland and in reality

Some adventures:

Exercising: The other day Maddie and I inadvertently went for a run when we ran into our runner friend Ellen and a friend of hers who had hiked the whole Appalachian Trail. We joined up with them while they finished their walk, but I didn't want to hold them up (as some people know I've gotten kinda slow) so for every one step they took, I jogged a few to keep up...sort of how I walk with Ben.

We ended up at Ellen and Mike's house, where luckily I got a glass of water and a ride back.

Looking out Ozawa Hall
Music: I went with Ken Ross to the opening of the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. I couldn't make much sense of it but after reading Ken's review I understood it better. He was kind enough to put up with me whispering, "Are we going to get some melody next?" He smiled and shook his head no. Despite the mosquitos, it was fun to go and sit in the beautiful Ozawa Hall and look inside and out. Always great to do things with friends from the newspaper biz because you never run out of things to talk about.

Inside Ozawa Hall
Speaking of the newspaper business: I walked into Thornes Marketplace in Northampton the other day and bumped into an old friend from the Transcript-Telegram, Diana Carter, who had bumped into another friend from the T-T, Barry Werth, and his wife, Kathy Goos. I walked over and said, "Is this a T-T reunion?" Barry said that at any minute, Greg Pearson might walk in.

We fell right into an easy conversation as though no time had passed. By the way, when I say "old" in these instances, I mean old as in length of friendship and not as in years!

Dreamland meets reality: I dreamt that I was walking down a street and saw Patty Rosenfield, a friend from Atlantic Beach, and gave her a big hug. Then we saw her brother Tommy walking down the street and called him over for a group hug. The next day I learned that their father had died.

Recurring dream: I dreamt that my mother told me she was going on a long trip to faraway countries and wouldn't be able to call me. I told her I was really upset and actually angry because I needed to hear from her. She said I had grown too attached to her, like she had done with her own mother, and she wanted to help me get some distance. I said it was too late for that and woke up feeling sad.

Feeling pathetic, taking action: Yesterday I had that bereft feeling of wondering where everyone went. Parents departed from the earth, children departed from the area. I called Carolyn and said hello from a person who was feeling lonely and wondering if anything was going on. She said come on down for hotdogs. So I picked up some corn and tomatoes, put Maddie in the car and went on down to Springfield for a cookout with good friends and good conversation for me and two dogs for Maddie: the famous Theo and an adorable golden doodle puppy who Carolyn and Chip are babysitting.

Maddie enjoyed playing tug-of-war with the puppy and even let him climb all over her. They put him in the crate and she went over to see where her little friend had gone. I enjoyed talking to like-minded friends and went back home no longer feeling sad.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

An almost week, in days

Almost a week and and more running in circles than running around:

Last Wednesday was a good day for George's clinic because I didn't have to go to Boston for the light therapy so I could stay longer. After the nearly three hours of fun, some of us diehards stayed for a game of triples.

Thursday was off to a good start with yoga followed by a visit to the Northampton Farmers' Market and sitting on a step, eating blueberries and talking to a friend from the newspaper. Then pedicure so my toes would look decent for my trip to Jacob's Pillow with Ken Ross, who would be reviewing Hubbard Street Dance Chicago for

The pedicurist wouldn't do my left big toe because I had nicked the skin when I hastily cut my toenails without taking the polish off. (Lazy!) She said I should go to go to the doctor because I probably had an infection. So I covered it in a minion bandaid (might as well be cute) and got an appointment the next day.

When riding in the car with Ken, I heard the ding ding ding of texts coming in. I didn't want to be rude and look but finally did and saw that it was some of my high school friends talking to our friend Nancy, who had been in Nice and who was in nearby Cagnes sur Mer and heard what she thought was fireworks and of course  had to do with the truck attack in Nice.

Luckily Nancy was safe, but having a friend so close (who maybe even would have been there) underlined the horror.

Jacob's Pillow
My friends said they would have a drink, and although I don't like to drink before a show, I had the Pillow's special drink when Ken and I had a quick pre-show dinner. I tried to concentrate on the beauty around me.

The show was very dark. Here is Ken's review.

The next day my doctor said he would not give most people an antibiotic,  but he gave me one because I was so "special." He also told me to soak. The news of the day was so full of doom and gloom that I vowed not to watch my usual Friday night news programs. But when we went out for ice cream, a friend told me that a coup was being attempted in Turkey.

It seems like only yesterday that I was a travel agent handing out brochures about things to do in Turkey at our travel fair in Mr. Saltzman's 6th grade class at P.S. 198. My friend and I ate our ice cream while watching the coup. It was surreal and scary. I could not believe I was staying up late watching this happen but I couldn't take my eyes away.

Saturday, super hard yoga class, super hot day, dog walk and nap.

Sunday, semi-private lesson with George. Really great. Then I came home and got down in the dumps because I wanted the sequence of events to be what it was in Atlantic Beach: tennis, shower, then tuna fish sandwiches made by my mother and served on a beautifully decorated tray in the backyard. "Where did everyone go?," I wondered and got tears in my eyes.

Just then, Katie called. The saying is that the child is father to the man, but don't forget about the child being mother to the woman. She said she knew how I felt and recommended getting out of the house. Just then a friend called so we went for a walk. Then I realized that it was the night for the Ko Festival Story Slam, and thought that would be a great way to get over myself as well as a good time to say hi to my friends Dan Green and his wife, Sabrina Hamilton, Ko Fest's artistic director.

The true stories, told a la The Moth, represented a range of experience, from funny to sad, pointed to poignant. I could not believe that one woman up there was telling my story. It was about a mother's difficult (is wrenching too strong a word?) last days with her daughter before her daughter heads to college, and the last minutes in the dorm when you linger, and then the moment when you say goodbye and realize what a wonderful young woman your child has become.

Trying out Hoka One One
Afterwards I searched the storyteller out and told her how much I loved her story and how much I related to it. She was talking to another woman who was saying the same thing. This kind event is so great because even if you can't directly relate to an experience, you can relate to the storytellers.

Much better and more uplifting than watching an attempted coup in Turkey.

Yesterday before a tennis match (so-so) Jim Bloom took a photo of me in the sneakers that I wrote about in my story for Sneak preview: they are supposed to help runners who suffer from osteoarthritis in the big toe, or hallux limitus, which is threatening my running more than all the serious things did.

Now I'm trying to limit my exposure to The Republican convention. But it ain't easy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The really really weird dream show

Sometimes my dreams are more interesting than my life.

Last night I dreamt that while I was still at the newspaper, a friend who is president of a large corporation offered me a job. I would get paid more and work in a much nicer place. For some reason I knew that my newspaper days would end in the near future but I wasn't sure I was ready to go.

I asked what I would be doing and she said that I would be working with people who were recording oral histories. My job was to make sure the recordings had a good ending.

I said I would be good at that because I knew this from my news writing: "Use the best thing first and save the second best for the end."

But then I wouldn't be writing. I would miss that too much.

And I said that I would be more comfortable at the grungy newspaper with the dirt falling onto our desks from the ceiling vents. (This really happened. Every day we would have to come in and wipe the desk calendar off.)

So I went into the office and went to my desk (which in some of my work nightmares has disappeared along with my computer terminal or my lamp and which in some cases is occupied by somebody else) and saw the spookiest thing: The calendar that covered my whole desk, and on which I had scribbled dates and reminders, was still on April.

April was the last month I worked in 2003 before going to Dana-Farber for cancer treatment. I wrote it in my little book. April 4, 2003, last day of work.

I thought I should change it but I didn't do it.

A moment frozen in time.

The night before I had a nightmare that is part of a series about things that have happened to me.

This time it was my skin.

I went to the dermatologist to have her check out a scaly spot on my ankle. (A spot which is actually there but which I'm not supposed to be worried about.)

She said it looked horrible and started slashing at it with a knife. She cut up so much of my skin that I had to wear a cast on that leg. Then I went out with some people to go somewhere and encountered a swamp full of muck. I had no choice but to get the leg thing dirty while we waded through the muck. I was nervous about messing up my skin but we got to dry land and it seemed to be OK.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The trouble with (some) words

Newton haircut
While taking a little break from blogging (laying low) I did some of these things in a discombobulated way, not in order of occurrence: went to spinning straight from Boston in my street clothes, went to yoga in my tennis clothes, took a fabulous 20-mile bike ride on the Allegheny Rail Trail (part of long weekend in Pittsburgh and Hidden Valley, great friends, great food), naively/insensitively posted on Facebook and tweeted about a complaint I had with a company when I should have sent an email, got slammed, insults flying at me that you would never say to someone's face (fuckwaste of a human being, seriously?), did the wrong things (over engaged, overreacted) when, according to this timely post How to Deal With Twitter Drama, I maybe could have engaged for a little while but then should have walked away as the stress level climbed and I even cried; then, following advice of a son who said to think about why I'm tweeting (to promote myself as a writer and comment on the things that interest me, also, cute dog stuff allowed) — and who suggested going back and deleting all the threads of the conversation — went back and cleaned the slate, took a break, and restarted and rebalanced by sending positive vibes to the universe, complimenting other writers or liking and retweeting good advice and thoughts and Democratic points of view.

Since that might have been the longest sentence I ever wrote, time to start another. Gave the pep talk to another Dana-Farber patient who relapsed after bone marrow transplant (connection through the One-to-One program in which those of us who've been there help out those going through it), and she said she felt a lot better.  I said, as I said to previous patients, that I don't know if I should tell her every crazy thing that happened to me because I don't want her to get it in her mind that the same could happen to her, but that I would tell her if she wanted to know, to point out that I'm fine, going on eight years, and she said yes, please tell, because she needed to hear about a good outcome despite twists and turns. I told her what my nurse Vytas (who I miss so much), always said when he sat on my bed and called me Nervous Nellie: "They'll figure it out."

I sent some reading material, including Complex Case Study: Four Stem Cell Transplants for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), in which my Dana-Farber caregivers explain the whole thing from its start in 2003. She asked if she could call and I said of course.

Interspersed with all of this, I managed to go to ECP, get a Newton haircut, go out to dinner with friends and see a great play at The New Century Theater in Northampton, play tennis at the Canoe Club before it rained, walk the dog, and watch Wimbledon, including the tremendous women's final.

Some other thoughts on parsing sentences and phrases: As previously noted, my skin condition backtracked after I extended the time between ECP sessions to three weeks instead of two. I quickly returned to two, but my skin has not bounced back to where it was. I showed Ellen, the PA, how the skin on my abdomen had hardened again (a result of the graft vs. host disease of the skin)  and she said she thought it might be something internal because my skin is OK.

"It's nothing to worry about...for now," she said.

"For now?" I asked. "What does that mean?"

She said it's just something they say.

I repeated this to the two nurses taking care of me and asked, "Does she think I have ovarian cancer?"
They both said to forget about it, it is common for your skin to take a while to soften up after backsliding. One of them said that the PA's modifier was like saying, "Your house is not going to burn down...for now," "That bus is not going to hit you for now," and, adding some more to make me laugh, concluded it was just a case of CYA (Cover Your Ass). Hello healthcare providers: This is not helpful.

Then there were the words the hairdresser told me upon parting, when upon the recommendation of a friend, I got a Newton haircut. I asked what he was going to do, and he said, "Give you the best haircut you ever had." It was a great haircut (twice the price of Western Mass, though), but he said a kind of odd thing, telling me that from looking at me he knew every bone in my body, which is why he can give a good haircut, and at the end of our visit saying, "I sense a lot of fear."


These things are the reason that when driving home Thursday and realizing I didn't have time to go home and change for spinning, I went straight to the Y in my street clothes. Luckily I had my biking shoes in the car.

It was so humid that the fitness class was canceled, but while sweating like crazy, I felt my brain calm down.

At night, another strange thing happened.

I heard a crash in the hall outside my room, but, half asleep,  I didn't get up to investigate. I thought maybe a robber was out there and wished Maddie was a barker. Then I decided it was just a house sound and drifted back to sleep.

In the morning, on the wall where an antique mirror in a wood frame used to be, there was only a piece of wood hanging from a wire. I looked all over and couldn't find the mirror. OK, I thought, so someone had come in and stolen the mirror. Then I saw it face down on the other side of the room. As I went to get it, I said, please don't let the mirror be broken, because then I would have worried that I was going to have seven years of bad luck.

Thankfully it was all in one piece so I had one less strange thing to worry about.