8/26/07

An August Day Unlike Any Other

Yesterday proved to be a somber day as the FDNY honored another brother lost. A veteran fireman who survived 9/11 was lay to rest having perished in a condemned building, one of the last standing from the terrorist attacks. Rockefeller Center, and its surrounding streets, was a sea of blue; the melancholy hymns of sorrow could be heard from every corporate office nearby.

This year will mark the 6th since the tragedy that befell NYC. In some ways we have learned nothing from our loss; and in others we have learned more than we could ever hope to about death. Not one for conspiracy theories or curses, I find it eerie that these recent deaths are occurring so close to the anniversary date. Almost as if the grounds themselves are trying to tell the world they are sacred, hallowed.

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A summer day is never quite complete without a pining for, if not a moment at, the beach. The weather this past week has been abominable. An unlikely term I suppose but the cold came too quickly. We went from light silks and cotton sheers to pulling out leather coats and sweaters in the middle of August. August!?! I know that most people are at odds about the meaning of global warming but there has been a definitive shift in our climate pattern.

The water was at battle with itself today: suck the swimmers out to sea or slap them back onto the shore. Perhaps that's a harsh description but the water was not its usual self. Maybe it's because I'm not a strong swimmer but I prefer to feel the ocean feeling me, its waves cleansing the weariness from my soul after a chaotic week. There was none of that this afternoon. The strength of the undertow was disconcerting; there were pockets of water that surely could have been riptides, water-filled quicksand. I was quite content to return to the blanket to nap and read my book--Paulo Coelho's latest, The Witch of Portobello, instead of getting sloshed about.

On this late afternoon in what is supposed to be the hottest month of the summer, I noticed that one thing was missing from the shore: jellyfish. August is for swimming with the fear of being stung by a jellyfish, it's practically a rites of passage. And to date, I haven't seen one yet. Strange, no?

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I joined Lillian, Rob and their family for a good old-fashioned block party tonight. Lillian and I met at Suzanne's birthday dinner back in February. We took the train back to Brooklyn together, forming a friendship on the ride home. I missed the rides and the band but came just in time for dessert: apple pie & cupcakes. I cannot remember the last time I attended a block party; I'm afraid to say that it might have been nearly (gulp) 15 years ago.

Suzanne & Jason were there with their children Lauren & Noah whom I haven't seen in at least two years. Time just keeps on moving whether we are present in all the moments in between or not. I was thinking about that last night when Luiz and I were walking through the Village. We had stopped for a slice of Joe's Pizza (the lightest Neapolitan I've had in years that wasn't dripping with oil) and then went to Cones for a gelato/sorbet. As we walked around the block it was hard to fathom how many places I had known (Shotzkin's, Boxers, among others) were gone and replaced by new hot venues (mostly gelateria's, pizza shops and Beard Papa's cream puff shops).

Anyway, it was comforting to be in the company of an Italian family. Lillian's mom spoke in Sicilian, so many words and phrases my mom and grandmother would recite. She spoke of the fig tree in their backyard and how it produced both white and dark green figs; how her husband had cut off the branches last winter so that he could wrap it and keep it warm from the drop in temperature; how the tree had sprouted nearly twice its harvest from last year.

All of it reminded me of the block parties we used to have. Lisa's family would barbecue and we would play volleyball over the fence in the driveway, later having dessert and coffee at her house and then again at my house under the awning on the porch. Easily crossing the streets without fear of cars racing by, the streets blocked off with police sawhorses. Sitting on each other's stoops listening to the adult chatter; and now here we are the adults. Names from my childhood flood my brain: Peter & Mark, Alice, Frank Jude & Prudy, Lisa...where are they all now? Back when we were kids everyone knew each others names, we were part of each other's lives. Hardly anyone knows one another anymore, hardly anyone speaks let alone smiles at anyone they don't know. We share the same commute to and from the train station and don't even acknowledge each other. How did it get to be this way?
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