Spreading the July Fourth Cheer

Each morning my heart pounding, sweaty, I wake up from yet another nightmare. An agitated escape this time. We were at my parents, my mother not worried like she usually is, but reminding us the airplane is about to take off. I fight with a woman that has an afro like Jeremiah Drake, the Theater of the Oppressed practitioner I saw again at the exhibition opening last week. He was in the food-buffet line. I forgot his name so I addressed him as, ‘Hey, Theater of the Oppressed, how are you?’ In the dream the woman actually seems to be my son’s godmother, she has fluffy curly hair, but she behaves like him, dilly dallying when it’s time to rush actually. A slightly smug attitude, aggravating, but you can’t tell it to his face, because it backfires. ‘What do you mean, you drank a little and you don’t come home in the evening, as scheduled, since you need to go to the summer camp counselor training? You have to be responsible. You’ll work with children. What if you’re tired and a poor kid gets drown under your watch? Alright, it’s your birthday, you celebrate it, but still, as if you drink every weekend now! In 10, 15 years I see you going to rehab if you keep at telling yourself this is a nice way of asserting your manhood.’
But in the dream I holler, choking, ‘We gonna miss the airplane. Hurry up!’ to no avail. I’m not sure how many bags we have, I count them, definitely over 4, it’s gonna cost us. One is a cheap Chinese bag made of raffia, shark skin color.
Then I’m in a school gym hall, like the one I go for Zumba classes on Tuesdays. Last time it was weird how teenage boys were playing basketball, they were all shinny with sweat and then they sat about benches and our trainer made us make all kinds of Zumba moves, gyrate our tushies, which when we are on our own it’s no big deal, but in front of the teenagers it seemed showing off, ‘We might be your moms’ age but we have the right to be sexy, fuck off.’ The boys were not sniggering, they were just looking in silence, and then when the bell rang they trouped out.
In the dream there’s a thick line, an airport check in line, but with police fences along one side of the gym. I eagerly ask where do they fly, the poor travelers, peasants, with modest luggage, say they’re going to America, America.
I’m all up in arms. ‘We can still catch the airplane, hurry up!’ I rush back into my parents’ home, ‘Hurry up! We can still catch the airplane!’ I struggle with various bags, while my son’s godmother still procrastinates.
I wake up upset.
But my son came home at 6:30, wanted to sleep half an hour more, I woke him up after 2 minutes, he grumped he’d set his alarm, I went back in the kitchen, I made onion omelet, and fried bacon strips, and made toast, and put together two sandwiches containing Virginia ham and Swiss cheese slices, buttered the bread. Also a speckled banana. And water.
I used the filtering water pitcher to purify the water, and filled his plastic water gallon container. The fridge top shelf was so full that when he wanted to put it back after he filled his mug for the road, he dropped the gallon, water splashed on the floor, obviously his reflexes awry with tiredness, but I said calmly, ‘Just go, don’t miss the camp bus. I’ll mop. It’s time to mop the floor anyway,’ and he said he appreciates my care, and he went to catch the bus, with his basketball cloth shoes they gave as an advertising gift at the music studio last week, and his plastic large shorts. I hope he doesn’t get overheated in such attire.
I came around noon to my vending spot on Fifth Avenue and it was scorching sunny for an hour. I opened my white umbrella but I thought I’ll die from heat. Now presumably it’s going to rain, 25% chance. My next door, shy, New York crappola vendor covered his stand with a plastic sheet, but I brave it.
The human parade goes by, I am uninterested to further document it. Everything has its time. I was looking at my window sill garden, and I’m not sure I love my flowers anymore.
Across the sidewalk, but to the far right by the store wall, seats a regular, a badly burnt beggar. Each time I look his way, he lowers his head. So I don’t look his way. I feel like asking him, ‘What has happened to you?’ but then I cringe. I don’t want to condone my morbid inclinations.
My Romanian complainer stopped by with more horrid stories, but I feel no inclination to write them down. I’d like to take a break from Romania, for a week, like a fast, but I’m intertwined with Romania, I don’t think I can extricate myself from Romania.
She comes, large and voluptuous, and starts her complaining serenade: She woke up feeling sick, she moved in a shared apartment from the old apartment in which the owner was trying to poison her with fumes and carbon dioxide, so on. She has three lawsuits with him, three because he forged some documents, got loans in her name, and also got a life insurance on her, hoping she dies and he makes $100,000 on her death. She wants me to write an article about this, she’s sure there will be an outcry. Though I told her last time when she told me the story that I’m not up to it. I assisted another Romanian acquaintance a while ago in a complaint against his former employer in whose iron factory he worked on a lathe making steel pieces and his lungs got ruined because of the iron dust, so he sued and tried to get disability, but it’s been six years now and he still sues to no avail. So I’m not eager to document her plight. I’m not even able to focus on what she says to me. I resent her dumping on me her bad moods and ailments. I don’t even scurry to write down her stories, like in my old sense of mission writer days. Maybe because Romanians often berate me on the internet. One endeavored to write me a letter that I should be ashamed of myself, to write such stuff about Romania, that when I grew up I suffered at the hand of rapists, communists, and secret policemen, I should be ashamed of myself, to say such horrible things about the country that educated me. I am nothing, he said.
I just don’t understand why write someone first thing in the morning to inform her she’s nothing. Nothing is nothing. We all are something. Anyway, it rubs on me. This new wave of hatred resulted from an interview published in the Romanian press, though my interview shrank and got neutered under the Romanian editor’s cautious pruning eye, yet it raised hollering, though I thought I gave a positive interview. After the editor complimented me on the quality of my écriture, I asked her if she’d like us to collaborate, and what would be her ideal collaboration scenario, but after she said she’d be ever so honored for me to write for them, in the end she didn’t write me back with the ideal scenario. All they seem to want are success stories of Romanians abroad.

I’m bored and tired.
So the complainer: her previous landlord agreed for her to stay rent-free in his apartment until August but she moved out because she feared for her life. She found a box in her entertainment center after she realized each time she’d lounge in her lazy chair and listen to music, she’d feel sick, so she looked in the music center and found that box, like a face cream. She took it to the police, they said she should take it to a specialist to analyze its content. She went to a specialist, paid $60, only to be told it needed to be shipped to another place. Shipped it did. Those ones told her to pay $1,000 for poison tests. She asked them to ship her music center and cream back to her. They never did. Luckily she kept some samples from the cream that was poisoning her when it got heated from the music center playing while she listened to Bach, and she went to Long Island and they told her she should throw everything immediately because it was awfully poisonous.
The bloody landlord was after her, put poisonous stuff in all her appliances and she likely carries them with her, each time she plugs something in is afraid it shall emanate more noxious fumes.
At this new place, for the first three weeks she slept alright, but last night didn’t. She woke up with a migraine, didn’t take her pill that costs $30 a pop, stronger than ibuprofen. So she was on her way to church. Got on the bus, then got off, since she felt awful. Crossed the street to go back home, but then she said what should she do home? It’s bad as it is. She bought six rolls of toilet paper and they finished them, four people, her landlady, her son and mother, and her mother’s attendant, plus her, that’s five, not four she pointed out to the landlady. She put the rolls to last for the entire month, her contribution, but it’s all gone and the landlady won’t buy more. The wipes my complainer bought, the attendant uses them to wipe the mother. So then she cut them into two. The paper towels, the landlady constantly busies herself by wiping the kitchen appliances with it, even a drop of water she wipes off. She warned my complainer to be very cautious not to ruin the stove and fridge enamel, since she just bought them.
So she didn’t go back home, crossed the street again, got on the bus, got off in front of the Holiday Inn. Asked to rent a room for two hours to sleep, hoping it shall be $16, but the guys said its $157 for the day, and he can’t go lower than $50. She told him she needs the room to sleep, not for sex, but he’d not lower the price. She gave him her ID, then she thought better, what if she can’t sleep at all, so she asked her ID back, hopped on the bus again, and went to sleep in Central Park on the grass for an hour. She fears she shall be crippled tomorrow, sleeping on the tough, naked earth it’s nothing like sleeping on a good mattress. She brought me half a waffle, she ate also chocolate puffs to boost her energy. I ask her if she can guard my table while I pop inside the Bergdorf Goodman store for a pee and water bottle refill. She assures me she shall steal nothing. After I refresh, put some lipstick on from the cosmetic counter samples, I return. She opens widely her bag to assure me she hasn’t stolen anything.
We get to talk about Romanians who curse you out thinking you don’t understand what they’re saying to each other. Take her, she worked at a hospital as a nurse, brought on the job by another Romanian nurse, and they were tending to a gentleman who just had a kidney transplant, his mom donated one of hers. And the other Romanian nurse hissed to her, as they were changing his bed sheets, ‘You should be all over this guy, catch him, he’s rotten rich. He owns a gallery. Girl, jump on him!’ But my complainer, with her voluptuous breasts and lips contoured with darker color pencil, said with pity, ‘Don’t speak like that about the poor man, he being so very sick, we shouldn’t…’ and the man then said in Romanian to her, ‘Oh, Ioana, I want to go home. Take me home, please.’ They were very surprised he was Romanian, because his name was Jewish. So later on when he felt better he invited her at one of his gallery openings, he lived right across the street from my vending table, on top of the Louis Vuitton store. He had such expensive art, half a million dollar paintings. And here was Ioana with a bouquet of flowers, eating dainty finger food. He took the flowers and put them in a vase. She doesn’t know what impression she made on the visitors because one by one they vanished and came back with flower bouquets themselves. The gallery owner was amused. One artist, tall and blond, seeing her chat with the gallery owner, cornered her and showed her his portfolio, asking her to help him get a show in the gallery. But when she talked to the owner he said he was besieged by artists and took only the best.
In the end he died, the kidney transplant didn’t work, he was doing drugs too, so now the gallery lives just in the complainer’s memory, his daughter lives out in California.
But we agreed that Romanians just spew hatred needlessly. She once went to a fortune teller recommended by a fellow Romanian whom the fortune teller helped restore some loving husband.
As she was taken in the fortune telling magical area, the woman told her daughter, ‘I shall fleece this one thoroughly,’ in Romanian. My complainer didn’t say a word until the end of the session, which was $35, fleeced she was since usually a palm reading is $5, but when the session was done she told her, ‘I’ve heard what you told your daughter, and no, I don’t want to have any further séances.’ The palmist still called her, but my complainer, stood her ground. She is not one to quarrel, though at times, she should impart less information, she reasons.
God, so many feet I see passing by on the sidewalk, as I have my head down typing on the laptop that I hold on my knees.
She told me how when she worked as a school teacher at a Catholic high school nearby, she saw several window displays were neglected. She can’t abide neglect. It’s been the second time she went to see Brâncuşi’s sculptures at MOMA and they are still surrounded by dust bunnies. But she’s not one to quarrel, so she didn’t call the custodian’s attention. Still, disrespect. So at the Catholic school she asked the principal for the display key and she cleaned it, dusted it, and a beautiful red velvet lining emerged from under the dust. She then asked permission to regularly change the display, according to the lessons she taught, first the respiratory system, then the reproduction system. It was a joy, the girls helped her out and learned in the process, the principal praised her. But here she was finishing arranging the reproduction system anatomical parts when one of her colleagues, the math guy, passed by and, conversant as she is, asked him if he enjoyed the looks of the reproductive system display, and to her surprise the guy said meanly, no, he didn’t like it a bit. He didn’t know what gratification was she seeking, but he resented that now he has to mount all kinds of displays himself, when he was meagerly paid only to teach and all teachers can’t wait to get out of the building, but now they have to deal with displays. So he doesn’t like her, or what she does.
She was stunned, she just did it to beautify the work place and so that the students can learn more. But this is how Americans are. They don’t want to give you a chance. One of her students, she likes talking to her students, find out things about them, one of her students didn’t do well in some of other teachers’ classes, but in her class she did alright. And she was chatting with the kids and the girl said she doesn’t need all that schooling, she is a stripper and makes $800 a night. The other kids swarmed around her wanting to find out more about night club life. So a few days later when a new teacher, a trouble monger, bitched about this particular stripper girl, and asked my complainer’s opinion on the student’s performance, she told the teacher, ‘The girl is fine, after all she’s a stripper.’
Well, one day as the girl was holding her ground with this oppressive new teacher who was berating her, the arrogant newbie snapped at her, ‘Hold your tongue, you’re but a stripper.’
Well, the girl summoned her parents to school, and shortly the teachers were summoned the principal’s office. First the arrogant one, then my complainer, having no clue what was going on, why was the principal asking her over the loudspeaker to come to her office. She passed by the arrogant one returning from the principal, but she didn’t know what was going on and the arrogant didn’t warn her.
The principal wanted to understand the situation, if indeed my complainer knew the girl was a stripper and if yes, why didn’t she report immediately. My complainer said she thought the girl was just boasting to impress the other kids. Yes, she was mistaken, she was sorry now.
The arrogant teacher was fired on the spot, my complainer got to teach until the end of the year, but they didn’t renew her contract.
Conclusion: American people don’t let you get ahead. They just pretend.
And now to end my story in my signature no end loose left style, here comes another horrible dream nightmare to your delight:
It is hot. I wake up sweaty, heart pounding chocking. Partial recollection of dream: I’m part of a collective exhibition. The curator/promoter, a young Caucasian man with small features, longish hair, white shirt, nothing like the real life curator of the collective show I’m part of, who is a black guy, has a Mohawk, and wore a bras covered in various size buttons, but this white man in the dream eats or writes notes at a table. We, artists, are about the gallery. He points out some of us, who then clumsily talk about their work exhibited in the gallery. After a few of them, he says, ‘Alright, I think I’ve picked/heard enough.’ I, possessed by the energy of ‘I’m missing a chance. I have to jump at the opportunity’ that I am told for decades one has to act upon in the art world, I jump almost sliding on his long table, and I say, ‘Well, let me tell you about vampires, there’s nothing more exciting than my vampires.’ ‘Alright’ he gives in, pen in hand or fork. I go towards my piece all puffed up with pride, ready to talk about people from Transylvania, expecting to see my image of a young Gypsy couple, she dressed in a red orange flowery apron, holding hands, but instead I see a few men in gray worn out shirts in a badly composed/cropped picture. Outraged and mortified I tell the curator, ‘But this is so bad! This is not at all what I had in mind. This is so amateurish.’ ‘I thought so myself,’ he replies, chewing or writing with his pen. ‘But why didn’t you say something? I would have brought the right picture.’ ‘Oh, well.’ He waves his hand and goes on about his business.
I am at my home, heart broken. It is far away from the city of the gallery. I’m in the countryside, my hometown where I am condemned to a life of slow disintegration. I am heartbroken. I think of the curator.
I have a few cold cut meats in my lap, large like tree rounds, slabs, and I cut out the middle of the various salamis and hams, leaving out their encasing like tree bark. Each slab is differently colored and configured. I am weighed down by the meat slabs. I cut all of them until there’s no more to cut and I am blocked by my meat slabs on my lap, stuck. I am confused in my head. I want to ask for help but nothing comes out of my mouth. A man alertly brings some plastic bags and helps me put the meats in them. I thank him, both humiliated and grateful, my mind foggy. I resolve to go to the gallery and deliver the curator a bag of meats and tell him that I love him, knowing too well it’s an unfortunate feeling and situation. At the same time I plan to go to another guy with my second bag of meat and also tell him that I love him, only him, and what a tragedy.
The meat slabs were molding on my thighs cold. I wake up humiliated and upset.
My son asks me over breakfast why I’m so weary. I tell him my nightmare. He smiles, ‘This is your nightmare? Mine is chased by murderers, rolling down hill in a car, dying, always dying.’ ‘Like in action movies?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘You won’t die. Well, to each his own. I seem to worry about my career choices.’

New York,
Sunday, July 07, 2013


 Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.

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