Friday, July 27, 2007

Another take on internalization

Here's a little somethin'-somethin' that relates to my previous post.

I was on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Friday, crossing Broadway at 79th Street to get to the uptown No. 1 subway.
Three-quarters of the way across the street, I saw this elderly but spry blind man in front of me about to walk into a trash can, though his white cane probably would have forewarned him of the obstacle.

I'm in the habit of asking vision-impaired people if I can help them across the street before I do anything as presumptuous as taking their arm.
This case was no different.

"May I help you cross the street?" I asked.
"There are 14 goddamned steps across Broadway," the man said in an angry voice loud enough to catch the attention of people within a 30-foot radius. For all they knew, I was trying to pick his pocket, such was his reaction.

"I'm just trying to be friendly," I said. "I didn't mean any harm."
He said a bunch of other stuff I can't remember, called me a moron and repeated that "there are 14 goddamned steps across Broadway."
"How the hell are you going to help me?" he said as we reached the opposite sidewalk.
By this time, there must've been about 15 or more people witness to all this, staring at me as if I had accosted the man.
"Hey, sorry, I'm just trying to be helpful," I said, not raising my voice. "Have a nice day."
"Next time don't be so goddamn insincere," he shouted at my back, which by this time I had turned on him.

***

To get to my car, I had to cross 95th Street, which is about as wide as Broadway is at 79th.
The man was absolutely right: It took me exactly14 steps.

Breaking point

This is an extremely difficult post for me to write because it reveals a very human weakness that took me by surprise and manifested itself in an unflattering way.
Discussing this weakness is embarrassing.
It hurts because it contradicts the public face I present on this blog and in person regarding the way I handle my health challenges.
It hurts because it reveals vulnerability, but not on my terms.

I woke at 1:30 this morning out of a tight sleep to go to the bathroom, as I do several times a night.
Coming back to my bed, it occurred to me that I hadn't turned off my cellphone before turning in. So I searched for it in a half-sleep.
It wasn't in the bedroom.
It wasn't in the kitchen.
It wasn't in the bathroom.
It wasn't in the living room.
My panic shattered the last vestiges of sleep.
Did I lose the phone at the bar last night? (No booze, just ginger ales.)
I scoured the bedroom again, then the kitchen.
No trace.
Then I checked the computer table.
There, peeking out from under the plastic dust cover over the computer, was my cellphone.
I grabbed it and smashed it to pieces on the floor. Repeatedly.
All my doctors' numbers, friends' numbers, phone numbers of all kinds gone.
It was literally a blind rage.
Rage isn't called blind for nothing.

The warning signs were there all along, only I didn't pay them much heed. In hindsight they're crystal clear:

--The deep emotion, to the point of tears, at hearing certain music (why music and not poetry, for example, is beyond me). I've always been this way, but moreso lately. In short, I find myself reacting to poignancy and pathos and the occasional unfairness of life with much deeper emotion these days.
--The impatience with small stuff (and small people) that shouldn't be fussed over.
--The refusal to allow myself to truly express fear out of concern it would consume me.

There were other signs, but maybe that last one was key.
I wasn't giving myself the freedom to express a very basic and very healthy human emotion: fear.
The surgeries, the setbacks, the uncertainties, the red tape, everything that has been going on lately and over the years combined into a volatile mix last night.
I've always had a bad temper, long before my health struggles began.
But last night was scary.

It was liberating, or so I thought, to believe that I had no fear of reality. But as it turns out, fear swam freely below the surface of the ice. I rejected it when I should have embraced it.
I strove to be like boxer Rocky Marciano, 49 wins and no losses and on top of the world, even if that world wobbled violently from time to time.
My "fuck you" attitude in the face of fear and adversity wasn't the absence of fear. It was a response to it -- but an incomplete response, with no release valve.
I felt that if I stared reality in the face, it would back down.
Externally, I showed no fear -- none -- chatting with the doctors, being led down that terrifying corridor to the operating room, jumping up on the operating table and telling the surgical team, "Let's do this."
Internally, I was shaking like a dog shitting peach pits, as Ken Kesey put it.

The problem is that I prepare for battle but don't sound the all-clear down once the air raid sirens stop wailing.
And so there was last night.
I wasn't relieving stress nearly as well as I thought.

Hence this post.
Yes, it's very flattering to be thought of as fearless and brave and a rock and an example and all that other bullshit that nobody could ever live up to. At least, I know I can't live up to it and maybe I should stop trying so hard. Or trying at all.

Fighting for my life is a messier business than I thought.
It's far more complicated than I envisioned.
I hope the water doesn't become even more muddied through accusations of my being a hero or an example or any of that other nonsense, ever again.

***

I had my post-op checkup today and the surgeon says I'm healing well. The proof of the pudding will be in my serum calcium level. The blood test results will be in next week.

I asked the surgeon his gut feeling about the big picture. He said I'll probably need much more extensive surgery in 10 months to a year. Every case of this disease is different, and mine presents bigger challenges than many.
A simple series of blood tests over time, though, can change everything.
I'm hopeful.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The rhythm returns

My routine is returning.
Wednesday was my first karate class since the surgery. (I wound up missing just two classes in the interim.)
It was a challenging, kata-based class, very intense but very enjoyable, low impact but draining.
Last night I sipped ginger ales at my neighborhood pub and chatted with a very cute nurse who works at a nearby hospital. It was a youngish crowd and it was karaoke night. In between all the latest pop songs, a short, older fellow wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap sang something that sounded like an operatic aria in such a rich, booming voice that even the youngest kids there gave him an ovation. It was pretty awesome, given that this is New Jersey.
Tomorrow, I go to the hospital for a blood test and a chat with the surgeon.
Yes, the rhythm truly has returned, in every sense.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wean yourself

I opened a book of Rumi's poetry to a random page a short while ago, and this is what I saw.
This was a nice coincidence because Ski and I talked for a long time yesterday on this theme.

Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.

From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter of more invisible game.

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say, "The world outside is vast and intricate.
There are wheatfields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding."

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up
in the dark with eyes closed.
Listen to the answer.

There is no "other world."
I only know what I've experienced.
You must be hallucinating.

I got the keys to the highway

I took a road trip Tuesday to Philadelphia to visit my first karate teacher and to pay homage at Geno's, makers of the best cheese steaks on the planet.

The rain fell in torrents as I headed down the New Jersey Turnpike, but the clouds parted almost on cue as I approached Philly.

The temple of Geno's was my first stop.

"Gimme a wiz wid'out" (Translation: May I please have a cheese steak with Cheez Whiz, and please hold the onions, if you would.)

As I sat down to eat, two youngish priests were chatting at the next table. One was from a Pennsylvania parish, the other visiting from India.
The Pennsylvania priest was telling the Indian priest about what he thought the differences were between Philadelphia and other parts of the country.
"Here," he said with a sweep of his hand, "people will ignore you in the street. They won't make eye contact, they won't exchange pleasantries."
"That's because we can spot the tourists," I chimed in, my freshly purchased souvenir Geno's Steaks T-shirt displayed prominently atop my table.
The American priest gave a curt, polite laugh pregnant with meaning, and he and his friend continued eating in silence.

Can you spot the tourist table? Hint: It's the one with the souvenir T-shirt on top.

I don't know, but in the 10 years I lived in Philadelphia, from 1985-95, I never found the place particularly aloof or unfriendly. Yeah, some days it was the City of Brotherly Love, other days it was the City of Brotherly Shove (to quote Gil Scott-Heron), but on the whole it wasn't that bad. I mean, it wasn't the Soviet-era East Germany the American priest was making it out to be.

I felt bad about my off-the-cuff, unsolicited comment to the priest. So, I finished my cheese steaks (I ate two and bought one to take home), walked up to the Indian priest and gave him my poly-bagged T-shirt. "Here, please take this as a memento of your visit to Philly," I said.
His face beamed. "But I have nothing to give you," he said.
"But you already have: the smile on your face," I said.
I knew fences had been mended when his friend said with a smile that would melt granite, "God bless you."

Bainbridge Street near Seventh

***

Fully sated by my cheese steaks and side order of humble pie, I headed to the home of Gerald "Ski" Evans, who taught me karate from 1993-95 and who has been my treasured friend and mentor ever since.

Teaching kata Tekki Shodan

As always, going to see Ski isn't just something to do. It's an event. A special event.
We talked about life and its challenges and blessings, as we nearly always do, and after we took a break while he taught a karate class, we headed back to his house and chatted some more over Scotch, even though I'm not much of a drinker.


I'm all for change in my life and for trying to embrace it as graciously and gracefully as I can. But I'm also thankful for certain rocks of continuity, chief among them Ski.

***
You can watch 1970s-vintage video of Ski in competition in Japan. Just do a Google search using the terms "Gerald Evans," "karate" and "youtube."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Home sweet home

I got home from the hospital about an hour ago (it's now about 2:30 p.m. Saturday), and boy, is it great to be back amid familiar sights, sounds and smells (remember, I have two cats).

The doctors were impressed by the absence of lingering effects from the surgery and agreed with my entreaties that home is where I should be.

Friday: The day after

The surgery itself wasn't as successful as was hoped for, in that my serum calcium level didn't drop as far as my surgeon and his team would have liked. But the level came down just the same, and we're hoping it will continue.
I'm to report back for tests in a week's time.

I was operated on at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, and the level of care, compassion and empathy were incredible. ("Yeah, just wait till you get the bill," joked my roommate.) But, joking aside, I was made to feel like a person, not a number or a statistic, by every staff member I met, and the activities and diversions they provide for patients are as impressive as they are broad.

One such activity was a Las Vegas Night on Thursday night, following my surgery, at which I won a bottle of Ralph Lauren "Blue" men's cologne at the blackjack table. As I noted in a response in an earlier post from the hospital, this cologne would've been a true godsend if I hadn't been allowed to shower Friday and today ...

The other activity was a copper enameling workshop at which patients were given precut copper blanks in different shapes and sizes with which to make jewelry.

I made an enso, a circle that in Zen Buddhism represents continuity, no beginning and no end, and reality:

I never claimed to be an artist

But the highlight of my hospital experience was meeting a remarkable, courageous and inspiring woman, Jen Goodman Linn, and her equally friendly and gracious husband, Dave.
I was walking the corridor Friday morning for exercise when I heard a voice behind me say, "You're walking pretty fast."
I turned around and this charming woman was there. We did laps around the hallway together and learned about our respective situations.

Jen Goodman Linn and me

Jen, too, is battling a rare cancer, and her fight inspired her in January to host, with her husband, a fund-raising event at a downtown Manhattan gym to raise money for Sloan Kettering. The event, during which individual riders and teams rode long stints on stationary bicycles, raised $215,000. The couple plan to make it an annual event, and I'm on board for this January.

I mentioned to Jen that I believe the encounters we have with others really aren't random, in my opinion. We meet the people we meet for a good reason, sometimes evident, sometimes not.
The bottom line is, we're all confronting and enjoying and sometimes battling life together.
We can choose to do it together or alone.
I've chosen togetherness.

Once again, I can't begin to thank you all for your good vibes and good wishes and heartfelt comments. My gratitude is a challenge to put into words.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Been there, done that

I made it!
My surgery went off without a hitch shortly after 7 and was finished by 10:30. I was awake though pretty incoherent by noon, and the anasthesia wore off more or less completely by early afternoon, as far as I can tell.
It's now about 6:20, and I had a big chicken dinner and ice cream.

There's a nasty incision snaking along the base of my neck, but I'm in practically no pain due to nerves in the region being cut during previous surgeries. Fact is, my teeth hurt more tonight after I finished the ice cream.

The surgeon said we won't know the outcome of the procedure -- whether or not it successfully lowered my serum calcium -- until tests are done tomorrow morning. I'm hoping for the best. I'm also hoping to be dischared Saturday or Sunday.

The hospital has a great crafts/activities center with Internet access, and that's where I'm typing this.

Your thoughts and prayers got me to this point and will take me the rest of the way. I'm truly blessed in ways that are continuously unfolding through the friends and family I have.

I'll write more later. In just a few minutes, there's a blackjack game in the activities center, and I'm feeling pretty damn lucky (but, of course, we're using play money).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Th-th-that's all, folks!

Late morning:

The support I've been receiving from friends in the blogosphere has been amazing! The good wishes, the compassion, the empathy have left a deep impact on me, and I'm very grateful to you all.

Last night, I had the pleasure of chatting on the phone with a blog friend from Manhattan. Among the things we talked about were the connections that guide our encounters with people. I agree with John Donne's observation that no man is an island; the connections that link us all run very deep indeed, if we look for them.
I believe these ties exist for a reason. I'm not so sure there's much randomness involved, if any.

So, my housecleaning is more or less done. Organized chaos, rather than complete mayhem, now prevails under my roof.

A big thunderstorm awakened me around 7 this morning, which was a nice parting gift from Mother Nature because I love thunderstorms (and the day may yet bring several more). Thunderstorms and a cup of tea: perfect together.

Understandably, I'm a little uneasy today, but there is no underlying sense of dread. A nervous stomach, yes. Mental distraction, yes. Paralyzing fear, no.

My plan tomorrow, depending on my frame of mind, is to perform Sanchin kata in the operating room, or just prior to entering. My experience has been that the goings-on inside an OR are as precisely regulated as a Swiss watch, but I can't see too much of a fuss being raised about my taking a few minutes to make personal preparations.

4:15 p.m.:

My cleaning is finished. I always knew I would get it done in time.
All I have to do now is shower, pack and leave for my sister and brother-in-law's place in Manhattan.
The hospital called to tell me that I'm expected there at 5:45 Thursday morning, with surgery scheduled for 7.
A nurse also called to answer any last-minute questions I had.
The i's are dotted, the t's crossed.
I'm thankful for being required to arrive early at the hospital. Had my surgery been scheduled for later, it would have meant that much more time to think and worry over it. Plus, I'll probably be a little foggy because of the earliness of the hour, and that's a good thing, too.

I'll be back here soon.
Please keep my seat warm, so to speak.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No day but today

Monday night, my cousins and cousin-in-law took me to see "Rent" at the Nederlander Theatre in Manhattan.
It was an excellent choice of show because it's set in the East Village -- one of the nation's great neighborhoods -- and was written at an East Village fixture and one of my favorite restaurants, Life Cafe, just across 10th Street from Tompkins Square Park at Avenue B.

The theme of the show is "No day but today," which I thought quite fitting considering events in my life, mostly health related, over the past six years.

On this last full day I'll spend at home before surgery (I head to my sister and brother-in-law's place in Manhattan tomorrow afternoon), I hope finally to get my housecleaning done. There's no day but today (but that's what I said yesterday and the day before ...).

I've been getting good nights' sleep lately, and my spirits are strong. I'm not afraid, though apprehension likely will set in tomorrow and Thursday morning. I would be a strange bird indeed if it didn't.

The surgeon gave me a prescription for valium, which may come in handy tomorrow night (though I slept like a baby the night before my last surgery, in 2005).

I would like to thank my blog friends and my relatives for the wonderful e-mails I've been receiving wishing me well, and I thank everyone for keeping me in their thoughts.

I'm not looking forward to Thursday, but I'm looking forward to Friday.

I hope to make one more blog post sometime tomorrow before I knock off for a few days.

Thanks again!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Untitled

East Village
Manhattan

Art to go


East Village/El Barrio artist James De La Vega puts the finishing touches on (F)Red's T-shirt. Below, (F)Red (the "F" is silent).
I enjoy stopping by James's shop on St. Marks Place for a chat and a chance to sit down during my photographic peregrinations.
We talk about everything: Life, people, music, philosophy, art, you name it.

On Saturday, we had an especially enjoyable talk about our approaches to life.
I told James that I want to leave small footprints as I tread the earth.
I want to move like a ghost, unobtrusively, making my presence known and felt when I need to, but by and large letting things be as they are and enjoying them as they are, inasmuch as I'm able.
It comes down to small footprints.

James liked that idea and suggested I consider making it a theme. So, I've changed the subtitle of my blog to reflect it.
I think it may work.

McSorley's

McSorley's
East Village
Manhattan

Friday, July 13, 2007

Final preparations

I had my presurgery testing this morning, along with a last consultation with the surgeon.

The testing went fine, and the surgeon went over the risks of the procedure, which he expects to last 2 1/2 to three hours, barring surprises. It could take longer. I'll be blissfully unaware, so it doesn't much matter.

The principal risk is that he will be working near some major blood vessels, including my aorta, but this was the case with my prior surgery in 2005. If he doesn't have a sneezing fit, I'll be fine.

He's a confident man, a little cocky, even. That's great. I don't want some milquetoast poking around under the hood. I want a man (or woman) who's going in to kick ass and take names. There's no room for tentativeness or uncertainty.

So, all systems are go.

I had planned on cleaning my apartment tonight, which is looking a bit like a science fair project. It's the very least I can do for the kind co-worker who is coming in to feed and water my cats while I'm away.
It'll get done.
Eventually.

Unfortunately, I have a computer combat flight simulator and I've been flying all over the World War II skies of Western Europe making the world safe for democracy in my British-made Hawker Tempest (the sweetest plane I've ever "flown").
The game's addictive, and it trumps dirty dishes and piles of laundry and papers every time.
I think if housecleaning could be made into a competitive activity (World War II Combat Cleaning Simulator, say) , my place would sparkle.

Saturday, I plan on making my usual foray into the East Village to get in one last burst of photo-taking before I'm laid up for a while. Sunday, I may do more of the same.

I feel no fear right now, and I'm looking at clear, blue skies.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One step backward, two forward

Today, I received a phone call, to be followed up by a letter that's supposedly in the mail, that my surgery will be covered at the in-network rate.

According to the woman with whom I spoke, the confusion over the payment status arose from my request being processed twice by two different departments. OK, that's understandable.

If today's information is the definitive word, then I'm very happy and fortunate.
I plan on being able to get a good laugh out of all this in the near future.

What we need now is a slate of political candidates dedicated to reforming the health-care system in this country.
One's health status shouldn't have to depend upon one's eloquence, patience, employment status or dumb luck.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Touching the power

Today was my last karate class before next Thursday's surgery.
I couldn't have asked for a better, more positive class to end on.

We focused on Sanchin, a kata or form that essentially embodies what the style of karate I study, Okinawan Goju-ryu, is all about.

Sanchin features deep, dynamic breathing (contrary to what the Wikipedia article claims, at least the way my instructor teaches it and his instructor taught him, and so on). To sum up, I believe doing the kata is like tapping into the power of the universe.

You feel this power rising up through the feet and into the legs, and from there extending into and filling the tanden, or center (a point just below the navel, from where movement and power originate). It's a very heady, very powerful feeling, intensified by the fact that it's a very slow kata.

For me, when I'm truly focused on Sanchin (and it doesn't happen often -- yet), time stops. I'm not even aware that it has stopped. It just ceases to be relevant. There's just the focus on deeply breathing in and out and keeping proper muscular tension when moving, blocking and punching. I feel like I lose myself and find myself at the same time.

Sanchin is an extremely tiring kata for me, and it's particularly stressful on my lower back, hips and knees. But the energy I feel blasting through the fatigue really helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

After class, a fellow student, a newly joined black belt from another dojo, said, "See you Friday."
I explained that this was to be my last class for a while, and when he inquired as to why I told him about my illness and upcoming surgery.

"You sure don't move like it," he said.

He may have just been being polite.
But this verbal pat on the back, coupled with the energizing effect of Sanchin, convinced me that everything will be OK.

Theater of the bizarre

Not half an hour after writing yesterday's post, I got a letter in the mail from my health insurance company contradicting what I had been told over the phone about the rate at which my surgery will be covered.

I was told that the surgery would be paid for at the out-of-network rate. Yesterday's letter said it would be paid at the in-network level. Well, at least I have something in writing, although the letter contains a loophole allowing the insurer to change this status if circumstances warrant.
Of course.

Breathe deeply. One. Two. Three.

My little voice tells me everything will work out OK in the end. I just have to get through the floor show.

*******

On a different and extremely important note, I URGE any visitors to my blog who may be battling a serious illness (or who may have a family member who is) to STAY OFF the Internet.

It's perfectly natural to want to understand the challenge you or a loved one may be facing. But the Internet is the wrong place to seek answers, unless your intention is to scare yourself witless.

Years ago, I called the American Cancer Society for information on my parathyroid cancer. An allegedly registered nurse took the call and proceeded to read to me verbatim from a decade-old textbook (she told me the year of publication) whose information was woefully outdated and made no references to advances in treatment that I was later to learn of through an endocrinologist.

It took me days to calm my fears after that call.

The Internet similarly is rife with misinformation about serious illnesses.

Let doctors and nurses (whose qualifications you have checked) answer your questions. You wouldn't medicate yourself, so don't educate yourself, either -- by consulting questionable sources.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Down and out

East Village
Manhattan

Score another one for the system

In a June 28 post, I reported that my surgery, which is now just over a week away, was to be paid for by my health insurer at the in-network rate.
I was assured of this by the insurance company agent with whom I spoke.
It meant the difference between being more or less fully covered for the surgery, and being liable for thousands of dollars in costs before the insurance benefits kick in.

A woman in the billing department at my "home" hospital -- where I've been treated since first being diagnosed with parathyroid cancer in 2002 -- was skeptical.
Even though the surgery will be performed at another hospital, this woman, an angel if ever there was one, continues to stand by me and help me navigate the red tape.

"Get it in writing," she urged. She tried to do just that on my behalf, but was told flat-out by an agent that the company would not send her any documentation. She made further calls, none of which was returned.
She warned me that insurance companies will say one thing and then do another. They'll lead a patient to believe that coverage is provided in full, and then deny ever having promised that after the surgery is finished and it's time to pay the bill.

So I called the insurer to request in writing what they had assured me. I was more or less told that they never promised they would pay for the surgery at the in-network rate, and that it would be treated as an out-of-network procedure.
In order for it to be considered otherwise, they said, the surgeon performing the procedure must contact the insurer and prove that he is the only surgeon within a 70-mile radius qualified to perform it. And then, the surgeon must request payment at the in-network rate.

Great, I thought, I'll just call the surgeon and ask him to provide this proof of qualification. But I was told by his office that the hospital forbids its surgeons to enter into payment arrangements with insurers. This must be done by the hospital itself.
And the likelihood of them doing so is very slim.

So, I'm not exactly back at Square One -- the surgery is, after all, approved by the insurer, and will be given limited coverage -- but the costs just got a whole lot higher.

This experience proves what my benefactor at the other hospital and what those in similar medical straits have told me:
The insurance companies lie -- or at least make things gray enough so that you're unsure exactly what it is they're promising (or not). I learned this when I requested their assurances in writing.
Insurers evidently count on a certain percentage of patients becoming so frustrated with the red tape that they give up their fight (or die before claims can be resolved).

I'm lucky, in that I have sufficient command of the language to state my case and argue with those who would thwart me.
Plus, I'm blessed to have many people who fight on my behalf and whose help has been inestimable as I navigate these rough waters.
And I have a job. Eventually, the bills will be paid.
But what about a person who doesn't have these resources? What about the elderly, who often lack family or friends to advocate for them? What about the uninsured, underinsured or unemployed?

A few people have asked me if I've seen (or intend to see) Michael Moore's new film, "Sicko," which documents the abuses of the health-care system.
Why the hell would I want to see it?
What is Moore going to tell me what I haven't already learned through my own experience?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reminder to myself

Living life to its fullest isn't about
checking off thrills from a list
;
It's about being fearless in following my dreams,
courageous in accepting
that some will go unfulfilled
(but the joy is in the pursuit)

and taking the time
to savor
something as
simple
as a cup

of tea

Scream

Lower East Side
Manhattan

Interlude

James De La Vega
East Village
Manhattan

Wild horse

East Village
Manhattan

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Adama update

Washington Square
Greenwich Village, Manhattan


My friend Adama Dembele is returning to his native Burkina-Faso this month for what he expects to be a yearlong effort to raise funds and devote time to his children's center.

Since 2002, he has traveled the world for six months a year to raise money for the center in Ouagadougou, his hometown. There, children receive education in academic subjects and in music.

To learn more, contact him at adembelefr@yahoo.fr.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Priorities take a hit


It was Saturday evening about 6:30 in the East Village.
Shots were reported fired from an SUV on 14th Street in Alphabet City, police said.
The SUV was surrounded by a swarm of police cars on Avenue A between Ninth and 10th streets, across from Tompkins Square Park.
Two suspects were taken from the vehicle, the man put in handcuffs.
Inside, a newborn kitten was mewing plaintively.
An officer took the kitten from the SUV and handed it to the woman suspect. Another officer fetched a baby bottle of milk for the kitten.
The woman was soon put in cuffs, she and the man were put in separate police vehicles and the SUV was towed away.
The most frequently asked question among the bystanders wasn't "What happened?" or "Was anybody hurt?"
It was, "Oh, the poor kitten ... what happened to it?"

Mosaic magic

Saturday was repair day for a vandalized Jim Power mosaic at Eighth Street and Broadway in the East Village.
I came across Jim at about 3 o'clock as he was assessing the damage to the light standard and deciding the best course of repair. We struck up a conversation -- I hadn't seen Jim in a couple of weeks -- and I began taking photos.
Soon, a throng of passers-by stopped to ask questions and take photos of their own.

What began as a solitary project quickly turned into a community effort as Jim offered pieces of tile to people to patch the battered artwork.

Jim is a living legend in the East Village after crafting a 25-year-long trail of mosaics throughout the neighborhood in the form of decorated light standards, storefront signs, benches and more. Many of Saturday's onlookers were intimately familiar with Jim's work but had never had the chance to chat with him.

As always, the Mosaic Man's youthful exuberance drew people like a magnet.
"HAHA!" he exclaimed. "I'm living one crazy existence!"



Jessie Jane, Jim's ever-present sidekick

Tools of the trade