Monthly Archives: May 2010

I Used to Live Here Once….


(This post from May 2010 is being reposted to the front page in honor of Mittens Romney’s most recent outrage against America gaffe.  As you can see, the first couple of paragraphs explain how my family’s good fortune came about as a direct result of government programs hand-outs which helped them to get stuff like food, shelter, health care, housing, education etc. which made it possible for them to join the growing post WWII middle-class where they contributed to the economy in all kinds of ways including by paying income taxes. Feel free to explain to me why this was a bad thing, and how this “dependence” ruined our lives as I’m obviously to ignorant to “get it.”)

My parents grew up during the Great Depression when even in New York, rents were cheap — though no one could afford anything.  My mother was raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on the Southside in cramped apartments –railroad flats mostly, four people in less than 400 square feet.  They’d move whenever her mother found a better deal.

Despite coming from poor immigrant families, both my parents were able to get college degrees while living at home and attending city colleges, which at the time had free tuition and great reputations.

They married during World War II, and when my father came home he was able to go to optometry school on the GI Bill which also provided a rent subsidy.  Plus the city had introduced its rent control program, so my parents could afford to start a family.  At one point, they lived in the Queensbridge housing projects along with many other returning veterans and young brides.  No one should underestimate how much these safety nets helped grow a middle class.

My father began his career working for another optometrist, but he bought some equipment and saw patients in his living room evenings after work.  Eventually, my parents bought a 3-family home on 43rd Street in Sunnyside, Queens, just a few subway stops from midtown.  My mother wasn’t thrilled with the house at first.  She wanted something on the more fashionable north side of Queens Boulevard, closer to the almost tony, Sunnyside Gardens, but the wide two-way street was more commercial and would work better for my father’s business which they planned to run from the home. Besides, the houses on the south side were less expensive.

Our family’s sleeping quarters were upstairs.  My brother’s bedroom had been a kitchen.  They left the kitchen sink and cabinets, which he used for storage.  The bed was placed where the kitchen table would logically have been.  My grandmother had the bedroom next to his.  My sister slept in what would have been the dining room had they used the upstairs kitchen.  There was no closet, and the only window was off an air-shaft. It was necessary to walk through my sister’s bedroom to reach my parent’s bedroom behind it.  My parents slept on a trundle bed, what they called “a high-riser”.   There was also a couch and a piano in their room which served as a living room as well.

Downstairs, underneath my brother’s room,  there was a working kitchen with an eat-in area.  The room directly below my grandmother’s was used during the day as my father’s examination room and at night as a family room. In addition to the examination equipment, it featured a large console black and white television.   The freestanding  glass-slide projector  for exams with its long metal snout  became a moving object of terror in my nightmares.  The examination chair which moved up and down was an enchanting as an amusement park ride.  The office, where the frames were displayed, was under my sister’s walk-through bedroom.   Years later, by the time I was old enough to have “sleepovers,” I would sneak down there with my friends to try on frames.  There was an arch with a hard plastic room-dividing curtain (usually kept open) that separated the office from the waiting room (which was of course under my parent’s then bedroom).  My father would sometimes host his weekly pinochle game in the waiting room, and on those rare occasions when we invited my cousins for holiday dinners, we’d open up a large metal folding table, put a cloth on it and turn the waiting room into a formal dining room.

Below the kitchen and examination room, there was a garage, barely wide enough for two cars.  We rented out one of the spaces and tried not to scratch the tenant’s car when we got in or out of our own.  There was a basement studio apartment more or less below the waiting room and office which we rented out to a single man with a cat.

Living room 12/2005
Living room 12/2005

After my grandmother was institutionalized, my sister moved into her bedroom. enjoying a brief period of privacy before I was born.  My parents then tore down the wall between her old room and the living room creating a large space separated by only by an arch that made it seem even larger.  They moved their trundle bed over to where my sister’s had been, added a hutch that served as their dresser but could pass as living room furniture. This  room had huge casement windows as well as parquet hard wood floors. Like the waiting room below it and the studio below that, there was  a nonworking brick fireplace decorated with  faux-fireplace implements and electric logs that glowed and crackled.

In need of more lebensraum, my parents evicted the basement renter.and the studio became a laundry room/play room/family room.  At one point in the early 1970’s, my then teenaged sister, painted the walls brown with royal blue doorways and ceiling.   It served the same function for her and her friends as the Foreman’s basement did for that group on  That Seventies Show.

Years later, after my mother was sure that my brother was gone for good, his room was renovated back into a kitchen and the downstairs upstairs-kitchen23kitchen became storage space.  This meant that my mother had to sacrifice her beloved Chambers stove which initially had been brought in with a crane and had required taking out the kitchen window.  Given that the upstairs kitchen window had a fire escape, there was simply no way to bring the Chambers up.  The Chambers sat  unused and ignored.  Here’s a picture of the “new” (circa 1973) kitchen as it looked shortly before the house was sold in 2006.

After I moved out, my parent’s bought a proper bed and a bedroom set and moved their things into the bedroom my sister and I had shared.   Now that they didn’t need to pull out the trundle bed every night, they bought a dining room set and placed it in the front part of the living room.

real-cool-checker-cab2During the mid to late seventies, my brother moved into the basement while he finished a degree and looked for a job.  A couple of years after he vacated, I moved into the studio while “between apartments”  for a few years.  Despite the  Too Close for Comfort vibe, it wasn’t bad, close to Manhattan, and walking distance from my job.  On very sunny days, at just the right time in the afternoon, if I opened the curtains and sat under the window, I could even read without a lamp.  I used the private entrance  by the garage, and was mostly left alone.  At one point, nursing  a slightly broken heart, I painted the fridge yellow with black and white checks, something I might not have dared to do if I hadn’t been close to the landlord.

As my parents grew older, they didn’t maintain the place as they should have. .  The waiting room furniture, mostly purchased in the early 1960’s including a sun-faded beige couch with clear plastic cover that was a hand-me down from the residence, remained long after my father retired.

During the final weeks of my father’s life, when he was bedridden, strange things began to occur. All of the air conditioners, except the one in his bedroom, stopped working.  When it rained, water would come through the skylight. The downstairs bathroom light shorted out and the electrician discovered a potentially hazardous  leak coming from the upstairs shower.  Circuit breakers popped constantly and windows refused to open or slammed themselves shut.

My father whose cognition was by then bit muddled became agitated and kept muttering something about the house and the “clockwork running down.”  He tried to give me instructions, but none of it was comprehensible.  I’d rub his bony shoulder and ask him if he wanted more morphine.

My sister and I  joked about the whole place imploding once he was gone.

As many of the relatives were elderly and could barely make it up the front steps, we sat shiva downstairs in the waiting room/parlor.   My sister scurried my mother to her Albany home within a week of the funeral.

A couple of months later, I was in the living room supervising two men helping me load a truck with the furniture that would go to my mother’s new apartment in an assisted living facility near my sister’s.  As they were bubble wrapping a glass tabletop, my father’s trumpet, which was sitting on a TV snack table in a far corner of the room, crashed to the floor.   There was no vibration or anything that could have accounted for its sudden movement.  I immediately apologized to my father and explained why we were taking the furniture and for whom.  The men, from a culture where talking to the deceased is not considered odd, waited patiently.

The house was sold in early 2006, when the market was still good.  With fancy luxary condos coming up in adjacent Long Island City, Sunnyside’s fortunes were rising.

I never stepped into the house after the sale, but passed by occasionally while they were renovating.  I knew the buyers were planning to fix itbasement-studio7 up, and rent out each unit.   From the outside I could see new walls and doors.  The plan was for both the first and second floor to be functional two bedrooms. They fixed up the patio even adding lawn furniture and built a front entrance for the basement.  I managed to find pictures of the renovated apartments in the rental listings on Craigslist.  The asking price for the wider upstairs apartment was $2,400 which seemed absurdly high, and who knows what they got in the end.   The bathrooms were redone, eliminating the distinctive stall showers with the glass doors which featured  both sideways and overhead sprinklers.  The kitchens were completely updated  and of course the Chambers was gone.   They kept the original parquet floor upstairs, and found the one downstairs buried below the ugly carpet.  They left the fireplaces.   There were no pictures of the renovated “ground floor” studio ($950 a month).  I wonder if the radiator still sits oddly on the ceiling, and hope they didn’t get rid of the original concrete floor tiles.

I still stop by the house from time to time though I neither live nor work anywhere nearby.  One day, when I can no longer stand it, I will knock on the apartment doors and ask to go inside.   I will avoid the temptation to tell them I may have left something behind.

Everybody Loves Hurley’s Island — Coming soon to ABC

(Hugo to Ben Linus in the series finale:  “You were a great Number 2.”  Ben’s reply:  “And you were a great number 1, Hugo”)

Hurley’s Island

Billionaire Lottery winner, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes owns a very exclusive resort on a mysterious island that’s more than a little “out of the way.”

Each week, pilot Frank “Chesty” Lapidus brings new guests for a truly “out of this world” vacation experience.

Hurley’s wry sidekick, Henry Gale plays a sarcastic Tatoo to Hurley’s benovelent Roarke. The hotel is staffed by the sassy clerk Rose whose signature lines are: “Do I look like the cook?”,  “Who invited you?” and “We don’t get involved.” Rose’s much put upon husband, Bernard leads fishing tours and does emergency dental work.

The cast is rounded out by Jimmy Ford, a tough reformed conman and aging stud who runs the local book exchange and bar with his sidekick Miles .

This week’s episode: What Happened on the Island Stays on the Island —

Jimmy’s old flame visits with her new husband. But is there still a spark after all these years? When Henry Gale mentions her past includes run ins with the law, as well as a hot romance with Jimmy, will this create a wedge between the newlyweds? While Freckles and Jimmy insist that the past is just the past, when she and Jimmy both wind up trapped in a hunter’s net, will an old flame spark?  In an effort to smooth things over, Hurley arranges for an old fashioned good time — boar hunting, ghost stories around the campfire and maybe a round of golf.   But who let the polar bears out?

With special guests: Evangeline Lilly as Freckles and Lillian Hurst as Carmen Reyes.

My Lost Theory — It Only Ends Once and It Worked

The following is a speculative theory about the finale. Everything is based on what we’ve already seen in Season Six, so if you are one of those few who haven’t been watching Season Six and don’t want it spoiled or you don’t like speculation, don’t read this.

What viewers have been calling “the altverse,” “alternative timeline” etc, is in fact a “reset” timeline that  began at the time of the jughead blast. However, there was something else, another “variable” besides jughead that caused the Island to sink.

We know that in what we call “alt-2004” the Island is on the bottom of the ocean. Yet Smokey doesn’t seem to be lurking in the world and life goes on. Alt-2004 isn’t exactly hell. Some people are pretty happy. It’s understandable why Eloise doesn’t want anyone messing with it.

So somehow “it worked.” The Island sank and the threat of darkness overtaking the world sank with it. How?

During the finale we will see a final return to the past. When? It has to be some point after the swing sets and dharma houses were built since we see them in the bottom of the ocean as the plane flies above them in alt-2004.  The writers have recently reminded us about the “donkey wheel”.  It’s like a gun on Chekov’s mantle piece (and I don’t mean Chekov from Star Trek).  It’s going to be used again before this thing ends.

Prediction:  They go back to 1977.  Specifically, the day of the jughead blast.  Daniel was right that we are the variables and Juliet was right that it worked, except it didn’t quite work, at least not yet. The reset happens when the island sinks setting off the alt-timeline which is in fact the “real” timeline. Jughead alone didn’t cause this to happen. Jughead plus another factor involving our steadfast survivors on a final mission (and act of faith) will.

I don’t know what the final battle will look like, but it will be well-written and involve community, heroism and sacrifice. Des will play a key part. It will provide a definitive end to the Island and it will “only end once.”

So back in 1977 as our friends  are trying to blow up jughead, they will be “joined” — but probably never meet themselves from 2007 or as Miles might say “last week.”  (Imagine Sawyer from the future  having to watch himself try to save Juliet while future Jack (or Kate) tells him that he has to let it her die.)

Before jughead goes off and whatever else has to happen to sink the Island (probably involving electro magnetic fields, Jack’s finding the source, Des making a sacrifice, Flocke/Smokey getting trapped), the 2007/Losties will be helping to make sure that some of the Dharma folks safely leave. Little Ben and his Dad will be evacuated. My money’s on 2007/Miles making sure that this time Dr. Chang is on the sub with his wife and baby Miles. Or maybe everyone is evacuated to Hydra Island and waits there for rescue.

Those we think of as “original” timeline Hurley, Sawyer, Jack, Des, Kate and Ben all sink with the Island or die in the battle and in the reset timeline aka “the alt-verse” those who are “ready” remember everything. They don’t all have to. Maybe Jin and Sun aren’t at the concert, but each remember having the same crazy dream where they were drowning or Miles doesn’t remember anything because he doesn’t need to. In this timeline he never lost his dad and wasn’t an embittered ghost hunter. Charley will meet Claire though neither need to remember all the details to begin their happily ever after life.

This would explain why Ben and his Dad remember being on the Island and why they left. Damn thing sank! Some Asian guy put them on the last boat to Hydra with Dr. Chang and his family. This would explain why Rousseau never got shipwrecked there. Jacob never went back in time select those particular candidates by screwing with them, so Kate didn’t get away with her lunchbox caper and maybe learned something. Sawyer still sought revenge but had a little counterweight of reason, choosing to be a cop rather than a con. Jack never saw Jacob when he left the operating room. Maybe he calmed down on his own, figured something out. Maybe this had some indirect effect of his not marrying his first wife and instead marrying, well, you know who, and it didn’t quite work out. The reset no doubt had many consequences, but it’s not “alt” or parallel. It’s what happened.

Here’s Part II which I don’t feel like posting separately:

If I’m Right….

If I’m right then what are some other “predictions” that logically follow?

Well for one thing, people, at least one in particular, are still being manipulated, but it’s not Jacob or “the Island” pulling the strings.  If my theory holds water than Eloise and Widemore must have been rescued before the Island sank.  Elosie is not a physicist but she took Daniel’s book with her.  I don’t think she shared everything she knew with Widemore, but she knew about Daniel’s constant, Desmond Hume.  Desmond didn’t have exactly the same life because he wasn’t exposed to the EM and didn’t have “flashes.”  It was the flashes that led him to certain situations like joining the monastery and meeting Penny.  So that doesn’t happen.  But Eloise has the book and knows he’s important and Eloise also knows that her only hope of not shooting her son in 1977 is tied to keeping the present timeline in tact, so she tells her husband to hire the guy and keep an eye on him.  Doesn’t share why but there’s enough stuff she’s told him that he’ll go along.  My guess is that his being on Oceanic 815 was a coincidence.  It wasn’t in Daniel’s book so Eloise didn’t know to stop it.  Otherwise, she would have to protect the time line.

Another person who knows something is Dr. Chang.  He knew that grown up Miles, LaFleur’s assistant visited him and probably saved his life on the island.  He knows that time travel is possible and how dangerous it is.  If he’s met Detective Ford and he probably has, it must have been an interesting meeting and one where Change had to keep his mouth shut.  (Wouldn’t it be hilarious if they used “lefleur” as a codeword because for some crazy reason Dr. Chang keeps calling Jame, LeFleur.  It should be interesting when he sees all those familiar faces from 30 years ago at the museum.  (I’m guessing the Widemore’s are big patrons.)   I predict we’ll get some explanation from Chang before the night is over.

There is coincidence,fate, course correction  and then there’s the butterfly effect.  There are some differences we may not be able to account for.  Jin was sterile in initial time line.  Sun got pregnant because of the power of the island.  In the reset, there was no magic involved.  So maybe whatever made him sterile didn’t happen.  Jack’s appendix came out when he was a child.  The accident leading to Locke’s being in a wheelchair was different in each time line.

Because Des happened to be (or the universe course corrected to put him) on flight 813 he came in contact with the Losties and because of his experience with Charley he learned that even though his life was pretty great in the reset, he was missing something, and then he found it —  Penny.  The poignant part and maybe this is the sacrifice that the Island demands is his Charley.  He and Penny may have a child but will the “reset” Charley be the same one?  For that matter, will Sun and Jin have the same daughter?2

Final thought update (5/22):  If I’m write that the Island is destroyed in 1977 and the alt is the reset timeline which makes the most sense given that the creator of Lost is the same guy who did the Star Trek reset and (possibly)  saved the franchise, then it might be possible that one or more of the original Losties don’t get killed and get rescued along with Chang, Eloise, Widmore, etc.  What if it were Hurley?  What if in this reset he gets the magic lottery numbers from himself instead of the crazy guy?  I hope I am right.  Not just because it would feel immensely satisfying, but because structurally it would provide the least dumb alternative and the best possibilities for all the characters.

Anyway, if you are out their receiving the transmission, please feel free to comment.

5/23 — 90 minutes to go before the finale, so I’m adding one more bit of speculation.   So Damon says in a New York Times interview (you’ll have to find the link yourself) that Walt will in the finale.  This was after he talked about writing the character out because the actor looked too old (and tall) to play him.  There’s also been speculation/spoilers out there that MIB will be killed and the killer will be a surprise.  So here’s my thinking and how it could work with my theory above.  The day the Losties go back to 1977, they find a “new” Dharma recruit.  It’s Walt sent there from 2012 or whatever year he’ll look his age by Jack from the future after this attempt failed and he was the only survivor or maybe Eloise, who knows, not important.  So Walt will be there with them and he’ll be the one who ultimately throws Flocke in the stream or does whatever.   Sure it sounds ridiculous but no more so then that episode of Voyager where Seven of Nine kept getting sent back in time till the scenario worked.    I think ultimately it will be more on the side of “science fiction” — electromagnetic fields shifting time versus  “magic” and even the manifestations of the dead and healing will be sort of explained.

See Something, Say Something?

It’s the middle of the day. You are coming from one work meeting and on your way to another. You go down the subway stairs. A train is pulling in as you swipe your Metro-card. It’s not packed, but there are people.

You take a seat in a row of four seats to the left of the door. There is one other person sitting in the row. She is wearing a black niqab. There is an empty seat between the two of you. All that’s visible is her eyes. Not even her eye-brows or nose. You notice her feet. She’s wearing shoes that don’t have laces. They are not masculine or feminine and they are large. Grandma what big feet you have….

You don’t want to stare, but you look to the side and see what you can of the face. Plump bit of cheek. Dark copper skin. No make-up, no mascara. It’s hard to tell with only this side view, but there’s nothing “womanly” about what you see. Her body too is so covered it’s hard to make out the shape. She has a bag — it’s not a purse, more like a small briefcase with a zipper. You feel a weight in your legs like when you suddenly can’t move in a dream when something bad is about to happen.

She pulls a small leather-bound book from the bag and opens it. The print is Arabic and the borders are very elaborate. She looks like she is praying. You notice her hands holding the book. Her hands are unadorned and quite big. Suddenly you think of the phrase from that old TV show. Man hands.

The train pulls into the next stop. What do you do?

Nobody Knows Anything (About Publishing)

The title phrase was of course coined by screenwriter William Goldman and refers to the entertainment industry. It is most applicable now to publishing though I thought of calling this blog, There’s Something Happening Here, but then got afraid that ASCAP would come after me.

I’m just an interested bystander, and my theories aren’t worth the paper they aren’t printed on, but I’ve been doing some reading and have listed below some interesting pieces. What’s it mean? Draw your own conclusions and by all means, feel free to drop by and spout off your opinion and relevant links.

Here goes:

Publish or Perish from The New Yorker in which Ken Auletta explains how big publishing is hoping the IPad will break Kindle’s hold on the ebook market and allow publishers to charge print prices for ebooks because of course we all know that that will save the book business. (If you go to The New Yorker’s website you’ll also see lots of blogs, letters and articles on related topics.)

The Rise of Self-Publishing in which The New York Times not only discovers self-publishing, but declares it respectable!  (which means that it’s now officially over.)

Man Bites Dog, no that’s not the name of it, but here’s an article from Publisher’s Weekly explaining why award winning writer John Edgar Wideman decided to publish a story collection on Lulu.

There’s More to Publishing Than Meets the Screen by Jonathan Galassi. The head of Farrar, Strauss & Giroux makes a not so subtle case for why publishers should hold digital rights FOREVER. This was as the youts say a pretty lulz-worthy piece of work and led to many responses including one of my own, though my favorite was by Heather Michon in Open Salon who boiled Galassi’s point down to “There is no “I” in book.”

You could also do worse than check out The Militant Writer blog in which Mary Walters takes a hard look at the industry. One of my favorites from that site is a piece where she blames literary agents for the mess. Some of the more blogactive agents posted replies making the discussion uh spirited.

Happy reading!

(Update:  Not too many comments at this obscure website, but there is an ongoing discussion over on a thread on Authonomy.  Anyone can “listen” in, though you’d need to register on the site to participate.)