Riding the Broadway bus

I’ve alluded recently to depression and the depressive side of bipolar disorder, which was, well, kind of depressing to reflect on.  Bipolar can actually be quite fun, but most people are unaware of this.

My blogging friend Susan Bernard writes eloquently about depression and bipolar depression in a way I never can.  But at the moment, I’m at the end of a week of little sleep and, if you know about bipolar, this tends to encourage a frame of mind where neurotransmitters do jumping jacks and somersaults 022908catalin822.jpgand, generally, start to party-down inside the brain.

Mania, when controlled as it has been this week, can be both fun and helpful to those around you.  While it is not to be toyed with nor trifled about thoughtlessly, but rather monitored vigilantly, the only way I can exorcise those demons of sickness is to call them on the carpet – them and their bastard cousin depression – and laugh in their faces.

On the depression end of bipolar, I might be found curled in a ball in bed, waiting for the walls to come crashing down because the emotional pain of life is too hard to bear.  This is not hyperbole; it really sucks.  Near the other end of the spectrum – hypo-mania, which is to the left of when psychosis kicks in gear – I might be your colleague at work and send you like ten emails without waiting for a reply, time stamped somewhere between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., one of them outlining in great detail a brilliant solution to a vexing organizational problem and deploying all the forgotten SAT words, seven of the messages being interesting but perhaps superfluous insights into ongoing business, and the final two emails reading like a cross between haiku poetry and some indeterminate angelic language that only I know.  This is bipolar and can be amusing for all who witness it.

Like watching a two-year-old trying to eat a chocolate-frosted cupcake.

There’s really no way not to smile.

Of course, it can lapse into psychosis, which is not recommended and last happened to me 13 years ago.  Yet, controlled and let loose, hypo-mania can result in tremendous production at work and allows you to enjoy to the fullest the most routine of exercises, like riding the bus up Broadway for 14 blocks with your pre-schooler.  Simple pleasures become simply more pleasurable.

This week, I have slept on average 4 to 5 hours a night.  Last night I fell asleep at midnight and woke up at 3 a.m., wide awake with a sore throat and chest congestion.  (These symptoms are not part of bipolar, in case you were wondering…)  The Lovely K strongly urged me to take an ativan (Daddy’s Little Helper) to suppress The Party In My Brain.

I demurred.  I didn’t want to lose the lazy, pointed focus that I had had for the previous four days by taking a drug designed to calm me.  Dull me.

Stacking a couple pillows together and trying to sleep against the congestion and throati-ness, my body and mind would not rest and I started to think about a colleague whose wife was supposed to give birth to their second daughter yesterday.  I didn’t know the status of that, so I started to pray about and for them.  It kept me awake.

I got up at 4, listened to my pastor preach from an MP3 I downloaded, showered and shaved, and then started to work around 5:30.  You can get a lot done at that hour of the morning.

When the kids are still asleep.

And especially when you have an angelic language to employ.

photo:  catalin82

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Does Jorge wear pearl snap?

Judging by who visits which posts here on MOM, there a goodly number of people who are searching for more information on pearl snap shirts (#1 post on this blog) and Jorge Buccio (#2), the Elvis-Johnny Fontaine singer at Puglia in New York’s Little Italy who has been performing there seemingly nightly for the past 23 years.

0220082pearlsnap.jpgFrankly, I think Jorge would look stupendous in The Cowboy Store’s (Kerrville, Texas) finest pearl snap shirt if he doesn’t wear one already.  The Lovely K and I are huge fans of his and of the hit, “Get up and shake your napkin,” which you must sing at least once in your life or you’ve never really visited Little Italy.  Today I acquired another pearl snap, this one an Ariat (the last was Wrangler), whose tag touts it as a “technically advanced product for the competitive rider. …ideal for riding, ranching and everyday wear.”

Well, okay, so that doesn’t exactly fit me to a “t,” but if you care about pearl snap shirts or Jorge, would you take 30 seconds to fill out this simple SurveyMonkey survey?  It could be vital for New York City’s future as a purveyor of pearl snap shirts and will also be informative for famous singers, like Jorge, as they choose their wardrobes.

Promise at the end of rain

“We’re probably the only Starbucks in the United States,” she started to tell the customer with unusual emphasis on our country’s name, “that doesn’t have wireless….”  She continued to explain what they were doing to deal with that, but I tuned out.

Last summer I learned that this Starbucks, in Kerrville, Texas, heart of the Hill Country, didn’t have wireless because of Starbucks’ exclusive arrangement to provide same through t-mobile, which doesn’t have towers here.  I read recently, though, since Howard Schultz came back on board that Starbucks is going to offer wireless now also through AT&T.  This may bring relief to the customer in the first sentence.  As for me, I purchased a wireless card (Verizon) last summer and I have no problems getting signals throughout the Hill Country.

I must say also, as a momentary digression, that Starbucks’ CEO has finally brought nominy (opposite of “ignominy”) to the name Howard, which has sat on the front of my surname for almost 45 years like a mustard stain on the lapel of a blue blazer.  Howard Cosell, Howard Stern, Howard the Duck (which my future brother-in-law invoked when he first heard the Lovely K was dating a man with this name).  It’s not like any of them are axe-022008bjearwicke.jpgmurderers, but I wasn’t convinced it was a name that I wanted to pass along to my progeny.  My father went by Frank, his and my middle name.  So did his father, I believe.  The madness had to stop with my first born son, Carter, whom my mother wanted K and me to name Howard Frank F—– the fifth (V), and nickname him Quint.

“No, mom, I think we’re going with Carter.”

“Well I’m calling him Quint anyway.”

OK.

Mom was born during the Depression, lived through a hurricane that almost killed her mother and younger sister when a brick wall collapsed on their car while it was parked in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, killing another passenger; saw her father try to kill himself; saw her husband succeed in doing so; and she damn well would do what she wanted thank you very much.

She didn’t call him Quint; she called him Carter, but that was by choice, I’m sure.  Carter, at age 14 months, nicknamed her “Mina.”  How he got that, we don’t know.  How do any kids come up with the names and words that they do.  They derive them from some magical database of fantastical and lyrical letter-patterns, the same imaginary place from which Adam drew out words like “hippopotamus,” “tulip,” and “banana.”  K taught him sign language when he was less than a year.  He knew how to say, “more,” “up,” “food,” and “video/TV”.  What more could a one-year-old need?

Bennett was around 11 months old when we visited Mina in her New York City apartment; we were living in Massachusetts at the time.  He crawled on her bed as she lay there with less than three months before the brain cancer killed her.  She seemed a little put out with the infant’s behavior, but that was probably half the disease talking and half her Brahmin sensibilities.  Teak never met her, neither of course did he meet my father.  Now, he spends time around Grandaddy and Memaw and knows them and can laugh and dance in their house here in Kerrville.  My parents are photos to him and to Bennett, and increasingly to Carter, whose memories of them will never be refreshed with new ones to underscore the older ones.  Mom’s and Dad’s personalities are static, two-dimensional and fading like the color on the photos themselves.  I find myself not telling stories about those years to the boys.  It has little to do with my parents and everything to do with me.

It is more that my memory of life in those years – while fine and safe and punctuated by laughter – was a grey day that passed slowly, leading to the sunlight of now.  Why go into detail about how overcast the sky is, how it looks like rain, how it rained yesterday, how perhaps it will rain today.  Maybe, maybe not.  How it looks like rain tomorrow.  Maybe just a drizzle, but bring your umbrella.  The clouds were always present, and I didn’t know it until the sun broke through and exposed what needed to be purified in the rays from that heavenly body.

Now.  Now there is sun and there is no need for umbrellas, even when it pours, because the rain is like a balm that washes and cleanses.  It does not oppress as it did before.  Before, the world was a grey treeless street like the photos of Communist East Germany; now it is an English garden after a summer shower.  Colors burst, and music is implicit.

There is a sun, a morning star, which was always there before but which I couldn’t see for the clouds and rain.  Now I can see the sun – this morning star – because it has appeared, much to my surprise.  So how can I go back?  And why would I?  Regardless of how seemingly joyful things might have been, how can I long for memories from before then, before the sun, before that morning star?  It was all grey then.  It is all color now.

Always.  Even when it rains.

photo:  bjearwicke

Pearl snap, rich

People keep coming to this site to find out about pearl snap shirts, but I’m tellin’ you, friend, if yer lookin’ for ’em here you won’ find ’em.  Go to The Cowboy Store in Kerrville, about three miles from which I now comfortably sit, at my in-laws, watching Texas vs. Texas A&M – not that I care much about basketball, much less the Big 12 Conference – yet I watch on 021808essie82.jpgtheir HD set with a piece of chocolate cherry cheesecake resting on top of a beef chimichanga with queso on it in my stomach that I worked into submission today at the Family Sports Center weight room, about 1/2 mile from The Cowboy Store, aforementioned, which you have to getchyu to.

I know I have written twice previously about pearl snap shirts – of which I will procure another when I go to The Cowboy Store this week – which makes a Google search for this phrase point to this blog at #9.  This is an honor.  Especially considering how the Lovely K, who took vows to love me in sickness and in health, in riches and in poverty, but not necessarily when I try to act country – no, that’s love against all odds, love in the face of sheer idiocy – how she has lovingly chided me about my procurement and subsequent sartorial demonstration of same.

Yeehaw.

photo:  essie82

Leaving Ames

There’s a street vendor just outside the Chase Bank on 39th and Broadway, northwest corner, who sells falafels in pita and falafel platters.  I believe the platters cost around $5.  I’m pretty sure they’re safe, because I ate one and didn’t puke or get a fever.  With your falafel platter, you choose hot red sauce or soothing cucumber white sauce, and it comes with rice and peppers/onions.  Across 39th street on the southwest corner is a fruit vendor selling bananas, apples, pears, kiwi fruit, grapes, plums and assorted tropical fruit.  The only Starbucks within easy striking distance during a brief break from work is on Broadway between 37th and 38th streets, on the east side of the avenue.  Last week there was a line at the counter that backed up against the double glass doors, which open inward.  So I had to open the door slowly and try to politely “bump” the two creative types who were in an animated conversation in front of the doors, one of them having lost most of his Irish brogue, the other nodding and showing no sign of regionality other than his desire to escape wherever he grew up for the promise of a career and excitement in the clubs at night in New York.

When it’s not raining

The morning walk to school with Carter and Bennett is just shy of four avenue blocks.  This, anyone who lives in New York knows, is about eight normal blocks.  We start about fifty feet from Riverside and pass West End, Broadway, Amsterdam and end near Columbus.

021708scol22.jpgCarter usually keeps pace with my stride on his own.  Bennett needs to hold my hand, not just for purposes of Father-Son bonding but also so that I’ll be able to drop them off and still get to work before lunchtime.  Truth be told, I kinda hope he keeps holding my hand for a few more years.  With him now only in first grade, there’s a good chance of that.

The Lovely K has said that for some reason our block is littered with untidy dog owners’ negligence after their charges’ duties.  Indeed, on these walks, with us three abreast, we have to watch carefully where our six feet trod.  Her theory is that when Guiliani was mayor, there was less poop.  At first blush, the logic is elusive.  But it is quite possible that in the crackdown on subway graffiti, which led to the apprehension of many bad guys who had done more serious crimes, there were many bad dogs who also were rounded up and sent to the pokie.  Now they’re out, and wreaking havoc on our sidewalk.

Some mornings, I see the owner of the convertible canary yellow VW Beetle spraying his windows with Windex and taking great care to keep his car clean of city grime.  K points out that she’s seen him primping over his car for 20 minutes before driving away, wiping twigs and objects off the roof, touching up a smudge, buffing a wheel, while another car waited for his spot.  I wondered why a car would wait past a couple minutes, and I wondered why K would watch long enough to time his preening.  She’ll read this and wonder why I mentioned this.  And I’ll hear about it.  Maybe for 21 minutes.

Now and then we’ll link up with our downstairs neighbors, who have two kids in the same school.  The man also has a classic Schwinn cruiser that he bought for next to nothing, he says, which he rides the kids on to school while standing next to it.  He’s been able to lock it up on the street for the past seven years without incident.  It’s chrome and pale green with distinguished rust spots around the edges.  “Thieves don’t want any of the components,” he cheerily points out.

But mostly it’s just us three.

From time to time I have to drop off my shirts at the Korean cleaner on 83rd and Broadway, which is a block out of our way so, effectively, two extra blocks to school.  The boys complain about this detour, which takes all of about four minutes, so occasionally I’ve knuckled under and carried my shirts to their school, then doubled back to the cleaners afterward.

On cold (below freezing) or rainy mornings, I drop off the boys at the main entrance, close to Columbus Avenue.  On warmer, dry mornings, they all go directly into the schoolyard, which K teases hasn’t an ounce of grass so isn’t much of a “yard.”  We pray briefly before I let them go in.  It is my last bit of direct parental influence before setting them free for seven hours, after which K picks them up.  We pull over next to the curb, just shy of the entrance or the gate, as the case may be, and the boys kind of huddle around me and let me do my thing.  (This acquiesence will cease at some point soon, I am confident.)  I ask God to bless them and their day, that they would learn a lot, meet good friends, and be good citizens.  That they would experience his presence throughout the day.

Then, prayer over, a breathy, half-shouted amen by the boys, they turn without looking at me and race off through the door or, on a nice day, through the iron gate which leads into the yard.  They run and then — obeying the large, muscular female gym teacher who guards the gate and barks orders — both slow to a walk, looking for classmates who gather under each grade section’s sign hanging on the 20-foot-high chain link fence.  Bennett finds Aran.  I usually watch Carter, who saunters slowly over to his area.  There’s nobody he’s looking for in particular.  Sometimes he connects with two or three other boys, all taller, whose dark skin sets off his paleness starkly and with whom he feistily roughhouses.  Or he’ll talk with a tall, dark-skinned girl, a full head taller than he.  Or he’ll stand with his green nylon backpack touching the fence, the first one there, waiting.

Waiting.

photo:  scol22

MOVE!!!

How the neighborhood guy with the Hummer finds a spot to park on New York City streets is beyond me.

Tonight I saw it on the northwest corner of 84th and West End Avenue.  Other days I’ve seen it on 84th itself, between Riverside and West End.  It is metallic slate, or metallic taupe – if a guy would be caught dead driving a car of this hue, which fits more the color of Karen’s bridesmaids dresses than a machine that can scale sixteen inches of vertical.  Actually, the website calls it “Graystone Metallic.”  In the Hummer 2 that I am building on its website as I read this – in a separate 021108alve.jpgtab of Internet Explorer made possible by the fine vision of Bill Gates and his crew that will one day also bring us YahooSoftCitibankLite – I chose a model with a First Aid and Tool Kit.  ‘Cuz you never know.  So far it is costing me $58,250.

I also included a sun roof, ebony leather seats – can you believe anyone would put upholstery in one of these babies…?!  Please!! – 17″ polished aluminum wheels, wrap brush grille guard (make sure you spell grille with an “e,” please:  I am spending a lot of money to have extra vowels that serve no purpose), chrome wrap brush guard (cuz I can), chrome hood louver (cuz it’s more chrome), and two removable “U” steps to make it easier to get in the cab since I have very little in the way of developed quadriceps or hamstring muscles.  I’m at $60,850, and I better stop while I’m ahead, because my budget’s $61K and I’ll still have enough to buy the Chemistry 101 textbook for my oldest son when he ships off to college in ten years.

And then there’s Ed.  Ed’s a family friend who owned a Honda Accord and for many years kept it parked off Park Avenue on 94th Street, because he could.  He snuggled his two-door coupe in a space only he seemed to know about between a fire hydrant and the corner.  He knew how much room legally had to go between his front bumper and the fire hydrant, and between his rear bumper and the crosswalk, over which he must not extend, and apparently the brownies who ticketed him multiple times thought they knew, too.  Each time he got ticketed, he’d protest in writing.  And he won, each time.

Ed was terrible to drive with in traffic, however.  I once had the pleasure of his company returning from Long Island with his wife and daughter and had a delightful conversation until we hit the 59th Street bridge and stand-still traffic.  He started contemplating jumping a 6″ high concrete divider and driving along a pedestrian walkway.  He would turn the wheel violently to the right and left while we were stopped and shouted obscenities at the drivers in front of him.  His face turned redder than his usual ruddy complexion by about 6 shades on the Benjamin Moore scale.  I thought he would suddenly eat someone, starting with a passenger and continuing his way forward.  Or have a heart attack.

Eventually we got going and, of course, he committed no crimes, whether moving violation or cannibalistic.  Most of my memories of him are much fonder, like how he carved a turkey at holidays:  a jerking action with a long, serrated knife, not producing slices so much as chunks of bird.

But I’m telling you.  Don’t get in front of him in traffic.

Just don’t.

photo:  alve