Me n’ Popeye on the Bowery

I had one of those New York moments this morning that could be construed as depressing or funny, depending on where one’s head is at, I suppose. It sort of warmed my heart a bit to the city that sometimes seems like a shell of its former glory to me.

On Saturday night I had to explain to yet another overprivileged trio of children fresh out of Westchester that in public areas in the city, space is tight, so slamming into the person sitting next to you at the bar (me) repeatedly is unwanted, and in some circles, considered a bit rude. 

I asked the girl doing the slamming to stop (nicely) and of course she continued. Because they always continue. 
I’m guessing in this case it’s probably because she’s a spoiled asshole whose parents have been telling her she’s awesome and everything she does or thinks or says is awesome and she’s never been told no throughout the length of her pointless, useless existence. But again, I’m guessing.

Anyhoo, this is the new me in which there is a concerted effort to resolve issues peacefully, so 
I sat through about ten more minutes of the irritation as patiently as I could, then turned and attempted to explain it all to her again, in a calm voice with a smile on my face. 

The boyfriend cut me off with my least favorite one word sentence on the planet: “Relax!” The sidekick said, in the most resentful and petulant tone imaginable, “It was an accident!” And the culprit in question merely pressed her face into the boyfriend’s chest to signify, “I honestly believe that I am too cute to deal with the problems I have created around me so I’m just going to behave like a five year old until the moment passes.” New York, New York on a Saturday night. 

I will always look back somewhat wistfully upon the days when the occasional bar brawl was par for the course and not a big enough reason to call the police. A trio like this would have lasted five minutes in our old world, and that’s maybe how some people have to learn how to behave. And 
I am somewhat sad, and occasionally resentful and petulant myself about the evil population tide that has washed over the bars and clubs of my neighborhood. So I welcome any encounter that resembles the East Village of my past, no matter what form it takes.

I walk to work every day and as I was nearing Bowery (the street on which I work) I saw a man ahead of me slumped over in a wheelchair. As I got closer I could see he was missing half a leg, and he was so far over that his hands were touching the sidewalk. His clothes looked clean. He didn’t appear to be breathing. 

Numerous people passed and I was a little shocked that no one even looked at him. There was a moving truck parked in front of where he sat and the guys doing the moving (giant flat screens into overpriced new condos, she says in a bitter tone) merely walked around him and into the building, without pause.

Now, it’s Bowery, which features a very expensive new hotel, the afore-mentioned overpriced bullshit condos, a homeless shelter and the White Hotel, which is the last oldschool flophouse left in that area. So anything is possible. It’s a melange, if you will, of the high and the low, the tourist and the bum, which can be very entertaining if you’re in the right mood. 

I passed the man, thinking, agh, he’s just in the middle of a goodly sized dope moment. But I wavered and thought, what if he’s not? It would be so typical of the new regime in this city to let a man die on the street without notice. He wasn’t moving after all, so things were questionable. Usually with heroin, or whatever opiates people can get their hands on now, you’ll get a little amount of snapping to and then going back down again. What if he overdosed? Or what if it’s a heart attack and everyone is assuming he’s fucked up? 

I turned around and went back. 
I put my hand on his shoulder and asked, “Sir? Are you okay?”

He sat up slowly and blinked a pair of very blue eyes. He looked like Popeye, which immediately endeared him to me.

He said, 
“Oh, yeah. I’m just very sleepy. Very sleepy.”

I said, “So you’re just high, right? You don’t need any help?”

He said, “I took a couple of aspirin, but I’m fine. I’m so tired. Thank you, sweetheart. Do you know what time it is?”

I looked at my phone and said, “10: 58.”

He replied, “Oh thank you dear! I’m late!” And he started up the wheels of his chair like there was going to be some hustling.

I turned, took a few steps to the corner and looked over my shoulder to wave back at him. He was already in full frontal slump, face between his knees (or one knee and stump) fingers on the ground. He’d probably moved three feet from the original resting spot.

I wanted to run back and give him a quick hug, but I didn’t want to ruin the nod. 

Rebirthing for Nerds

I have a boss (not Pat) who is completely psychotic, but to his credit is always working to get less so through spiritual practice. He has tried a few different methodologies and found he really likes rebirthing. He feels that it helps to clear the substantial amount of rage and pain he carries with him, and over the summer he was so convinced of rebirthing’s value that he handed me an envelope with a rebirther’s number and the price of a session.

I would have preferred to keep the cash and put it towards something like botox or hair extensions, but I dutifully called the man and set up an appointment. My boss warned me that the guy was a bit of an oddball, and to roll with it. I took a train uptown and from my experience of the neighborhood and the mission at hand, anticipated a clean, new agey white apartment with plants and a massage table in the middle. There’s almost always a massage table involved with this sort of activity.

I was greeted by a bearded man of small build wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He was probably a couple of years younger than me, and he welcomed me into a one room hippie pad, which could only be described as grubby and clearly the home of a bachelor. It did have plants, but messy plants. It had that kind of organization of a man who doesn’t know fully how to clean properly but knows that he must make things presentable.

I recognized the signs immediately: The bed was made. There was a pile of quilts on the floor which were folded neatly into a sort of pallet, which I assumed that I would be laying on. They looked washed and I was grateful for that. The floor was clean-ish. But the kitchen looked dubious from a distance, and the bathroom, which I used upon entering, was pretty crusty. I am a fussy girl when it comes to the settings of my new age brain clearing activities, so I immediately felt edgy and judgy. What is it with some guys that they can’t scrub out a tub? What germ life is my bare ass touching right now on this toilet?

But, in for a penny, in for a pound. I squared my shoulders, re-entered the room, sat down on the pallet in a protected yoga crossleg and listened to what he had to say. And he had to say A LOT. I think my tattooed appearance and guarded demeanor made him feel the need to explain that he too was hip and knew the streets of New York, and he outlined every detail about his former life as a drug addict and how he had come to the process of rebirthing and how much happier he is as a result.

He leaned back on pillows in comfortable hippie bachelor dude mode, while I sat stiffly, semi-smile pasted on my face. I felt deeply uncomfortable, which in fairness is more a statement about my mental state than his own. It was like one of those times where you find yourself waiting for a friend at a bar and end up sitting next to a too-interested guy who really wants to get to know you while you continue to glance at the door hopefully for your rescue. I am uncomfortable meeting new people in an ideal setting so this was nowhere near a relaxed zone for me.

Rebirthing, according to what information I ingested and retained, has to do with breathing. The theory is that the birth process is one in which we are thrust upon the world in a manner that is traumatizing. Breathing is painful in those first minutes and so we learn to never breathe fully and properly, and we hold energy from traumas throughout our birth and life in our muscles and body. Rebirthing is the act of breathing deeply and quickly, which causes a buildup of oxygen in the blood and helps to cleanse the suppressed emotions we are holding down by a lifetime of holding our breath. Here’s the wikipedia page:

I grasped that I would soon be laying on the floor and panting heavily while this strange man stared down at me. Fabulous. I am not thrilled, and not convinced, and grateful that I wore a big t-shirt rather than something breast-ey and low cut. But he seems harmless enough and very confident that this will be a life-altering experience, so I get on with it, thinking the faster we get it going, the faster I’m out of there.

I start panting, and within seconds it’s excruciating. I want to be anywhere else in the world except laying there huffing. It’s too much work. I don’t feel good. I question the cleanliness of the blankets underneath me. Thoughts are racing through my head and I want to run. I’m unhappy physically and mentally. He tells me this resistance is normal and you have to ride it out until you come out the other end, which, God-willing, is the clearing side. I curse my boss. Isn’t it enough that he tortures me at work? Why am I here?

But after what seemed like an hour of agony something did happen, and it’s interesting enough that I put it in a corner of my brain to blog about at a later date, in case the information is of any use to anyone else:

I do a thing with my hand when I get defensive or angry, which is sort of cock it up in a “halt” position. A friend noticed it years ago when I was an angrier person than now, and she would shout, “The hand! The hand!” when she thought we were nearing a danger zone. My dog, who was viciously abused in his early years, does a unique thing with his paws whenever he’s afraid, which is to tense them up and cross them over each other very tightly, almost as if he’s wringing them. It’s the saddest, most pathetic thing you’ve ever seen: as you dip him into a bath he just gives up and rolls in like a furry pill bug.

So I’m laying there panting like an idiot and my hand goes up, my feet tighten, bend, and cross just like my dog’s, and memories of a night that I was molested as a very young child flood my brain. And I start crying. It was instantaneous and very emotional, and at the same time there is another part of me thinking, great, this is absolutely mortifying and the last thing I wanted to do was give this guy the satisfaction of weeping five minutes into this crap while he is probably looking at my boobs or wondering what he’s going to have for lunch. But he’s still talking and telling me to go with it, and it was either go on or make a scene and drag it out even longer.

The next thing that rolled into my head almost as instantaneously was a cinematic action version of this, which is an image from a video game called Bioshock II:

Last year I got completely obsessed with playing Bioshock and Bioshock II. It’s a great game, visually it is right up my alley with beautifully detailed art deco settings, music from the 30’s, interesting opponents and a very creative and fun weaponry system. Dork, dork, dork. Your character is a man in a nearly invincible suit of armor which looks like an old-fashioned diving suit, and the game offers you a choice to be either a protector/rescuer or a harvester of of these little girls who have been turned into sort of energy collecting zombies. It’s all very complicated and awesome and creepy, and I spent months and months stomping around as one of these big daddies, protecting and restoring little girls. I just could not get enough, I would finish and start right over again, until I reluctantly loaned the games to my brother to get them out of the house for a little while.

So I’m laying there sniffling and I think, this is weird, how did Big Daddy get in here? So random…And then OOOOHHHHHH. What we ladies like to call an Oprah “aha!” moment. Of course he’s here while I’m crunching up physically over something that happened to me when I was 8. And THAT’S why this game crawled so deeply into my psyche. I get to be a giant, armored monster who protects the little girl.

Well duh.

So without getting all sappy and drawing this out, I do feel that I cleared some of that particular energy out and got a better understanding of how much that incident hurt me. I have always felt that it was a minor infraction in my life compared to the pain that other people have suffered at the hands of abusers. It probably lasted 15 minutes, after a couple of days of painfully uncomfortable interaction in which I sensed it was coming, and then I never saw the person again. But clearly, if this is what came up, it was still sitting in there, and is maybe emblematic for other hurts that were too easily dismissed without the proper respect. 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to pay attention to, and what to let go. I am very cautious about fetishizing pain, and have a hard time with people who can’t move forward in their lives. But at the same time, you have to deal with your crap.

If I look at my life from the outside, objectively, the Big Daddy/Little Sister relationship has been a primary theme throughout. Protecting the inner, easily wounded part with armor and ferocity. I am attracted to people who behave similarly and love breaking down the scariest person in the room. But then, isn’t this how most of us protect ourselves anyway? It manifests outwardly with different armors, but the essence is there. Some people use anger, some addiction, some people-pleasing, some sex, some plain old asshole-ism. Peeling off those layers is, in my mind, the whole point of being here.

As far as rebirthing goes, I was told that it is recommended that people go for numerous sessions, as different things come up to clear every time. I am sure that’s true. He pushed me to make another appointment and I declined, stating that I would at a later time, but knowing that I wouldn’t be back. I gleaned some information out of the experience that was valuable to me, but I don’t feel a burning desire to go back. I I just want to lay the experience out here for those of you who are curious about the process or seeking new methods of healing.

And happily,
Skyrim was released this week, can’t wait to see what the dragons have to teach me about my deep inner life. This is the excuse that will now be used for the hours spent nerdgaming. Oh happy day!

Birthday Poem Part 1

This is total ego-braying now, but my lovely friend Chloe Valentine posted this on my Facebook wall today, and I feel the need to share…

With no further delay, I present your birthday poem Part 1

Homage to Mary Raffaele

Ivory skin, silky so fine
An infectious smile
She is divine

A Scorpio Birthday
A delightful lass

Cats, high heels, pasta, glamorous dresses
Patron, jewels, and Lemmy…

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