Above, at our Adirondack cabin.Here, in our JC kitchen.If you read my Sunshine Smoothie post, you know I undertook the Dr. Oz 28 Day Shrink-Your-Stomach Challenge at the beginning of the summer. It was no picnic, but the results were more than palatable. Pounds lost, waistline rediscovered, bloat banished. As I did with my Smoothie […]
The events that led up to our wedding were anything but business-as-usual. Most brides hire a wedding planner and drag their entire entourage over to Kleinfelds’ of Brooklyn for the big pouf-y dresses that cost as much as a Mercedes-Benz. Not me. Not us.
Mark and I decided to get married in a bit of a rush. The entire affair revolved around two events. One was that his parents were heading back to Florida for the winter.
What that meant for me was this: get married before the snowbirds fly away or we may have to part. When I put this to Mark we were in New Corners restaurant in Dyker Heights Brooklyn. A traditional family restaurant with pink tablecloths, wood paneling, little candles in cups on the tables and delicious home-cooked food.
As I sat there eating my mozzarella and carozza the tears started to roll down my face and soon I was sobbing uncontrollably. I could not hold myself back anymore.
“What’s wrong?” Mark asked, “don’t you like your food? We can send it back.”
He knew that couldn’t be it the food because when I bit into my mozzarella and carrozza, I said, “yum,” like I usually do when something is delicious.
No, he knew it wasn’t the food, but he wanted to avert a possible disaster by trying to make light of the situation.
This tactic was not going to work. Not this time
“No, it’s not the food,” I blubbered. I was shaking because I had to throw down the” time to get married” gauntlet. A risky business, yes, however, I had been advised to do so or end up in a “Waiting for Godot” situation.
The waiter came over with a look of concern. “Is everything all right miss?” he asked.
“It’s fine, everything is just fine.” I said as I waved my hand at him dismissively, and gave him a weak smile, my nose red, my face puffy.
I wanted him to leave us alone.
Mark and I had been engaged long enough.
My thoughts went something like this:
Neither of us was getting any younger, we loved each other, we had been living together since we met 2 years before on Fire Island, we’d been on vacations together, put up with his ex-girlfriend living upstairs and taping the Sunday New York Times Real Estate section to our front door every week, really, what is there to think about?
Get married or get gone. It was now or never for me. Though I really wanted only to get married, not break-up, which is why I was sobbing so hard. I was scared sh*t.
Mark needed a push. His personality is such that if one waits till he makes a move, it might be a long wait. He deliberates. He got me the ring because his mother nagged him until he took action. Yes, he wanted to be with me forever he just didn’t want to have to do anything about it.
And so after a lot of crying and shaking in fear, I say to Mark, “it’s time for us to get married we are going to do it before your parents go back to Florida or we end right here. “
I burst into tears as I say this.
Mark looks stunned and then he says to me, “You want to marry me? Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Yes, of course? Why wouldn’t I want to marry you?” I asked.
I knew Mark was the man for me when he first curled up next to me in Fire Island two summers earlier without being invited. This was confirmed for sure when I walked into his yellow and lilac bathroom in his Park Slope apartment and saw enough neatly stacked toilet paper to take us through the winter. I fell in love with him right then and there.
And there were a few other things, like how easy he is on the eyes, how generous he is. Yes, Mark is a bit of a street tough yet underneath lurks a real softie. Besides, Mark wasn’t an ordinary tough guy he also ran a public school in East New York right near where he grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He helped people. He changed lives.
He says to me, “I am not very good at relationships, “ and I respond to him by saying, “Know anybody who is?”
Mark got all uncomfortable and quiet so I did too. I just sat there not crying anymore, silently eating my main course, drinking my wine, sipping the water. Every once in a while we would look at each other and then back to the food. We could talk about the food.
“How is your shrimp scampi?” Mark asks me.
“Delicious, “ I say back, disinterested in this line of conversation but not going to say another word on the subject of getting married until he makes a move.
Enjoy the meal I’m thinking, why ruin a delicious dinner?
“He heard you, now leave it alone,“ I say to myself, you opened this can of worms, now stay quiet, let him figure this out.
The question is what will he do?
The waiter comes back to clear away the main course. He can see I am okay now. We nod. He hands us the dessert menu and I order.
“I’ll have a decaf espresso with a Sambuca and a cannoli.”
Mark takes a decaf espresso with a Sambuca even though he is not much of a drinker.
He seems a bit agitated.
Sure he was.
The ball was in his court.
Mark paid the check and we got into his car without a word. As we drive across Brooklyn he has a look of consternation. When we arrive in Brooklyn Heights Mark circles around looking for a parking space. He finds one on Joralemon Street a few blocks from the Brooklyn promenade.
As we get out of the car Mark is walking faster and faster and pulling me along until we are just above Barge Music and River Café with it’s twinkling lights in the garden.
From where we are standing you can see the NY City Skyline with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center just in front of us and then uptown toward the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. It’s a spot we go to often to skate or cycle.
Mark and I stand there for a moment just taking in the view, breathing in the night air and then he kisses me, comes around toward my back and wraps his arms around me so we are both facing the city skyline.
“So you want us to get married do you? Really? ”
He whispers in my ear.
“Yes I do and we have to do it before your parents go back to Florida.” I say back to him just as quietly.
“ You realize that is ten days from today.” He comes around and looks me in the eye as if to say, “You sure you know what you are doing?”
“ Yep, I do know time is short, so let’s do something very simple. Family only in a rabbi’s study and dinner in a restaurant right in Park Slope.”
Right then and there he says to me, “Okay then, will you marry me?”
“YES” I say, and then throw my arms around him. Then I add with a laugh, I thought you would never ask.” We both laugh just then and I cry again this time from happiness. We are getting married.
A few days later we meet with Rabbi Weiss at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It is a One hundred and fifty year old congregation that had members like Governor Lehman as part of their flock
As it turned out the only date available for the rabbi to marry us was Monday October 27, 1986 one day before my future in-laws would fly back to Florida for the winter.
Which brings me t the other event I mentioned.
The World Series: Our wedding date was set for the day after the seventh game of the World Series.
In the summer of 1986 Mark proudly wore his Mets cap everywhere from Fire Island to Park Slope. It seemed certain that the Mets would make it into the World Series. At least he hoped they would.
As a Yankees fan I was somewhat less interested in the Mets than Mark, he would often say, “I am a New York fan so whichever team gets into the World Series, I am rooting for them.”
Mark followed the Mets all season because for the first time since 1969 the Mets looked like a winning team. The playoff series was grueling and as the excitement started to build and the city was catching World Series fever, we both lost many hours of sleep cheering them on as they edged ever closer to being contenders.
The tension began to mount as the day of our impending wedding drew near. Mark wasn’t very interested in helping me plan our impending wedding his entire focus was on the World Series.
I realize I have competition.
Game six. October 25, 1986. Mark is at the game with his friend Neil who happens to be a neighbor of then Mets manager Davey Johnson in Longwood, Florida. Neil has come up for the series and he has great seats from Davey J.
Mark, my groom and Neil are sitting behind home plate with the Mets’ wives on one side the Red Sox wives on the other. I am home watching the game on television and making lists for last minute details for the wedding.
The Mets win in a stunning victory over the Boston Red Sox.
When Mark comes home he is delirious, “It was so exciting,
Mookie’s * wife was right there next to me. She couldn’t even watch, she just put her head down and prayed and then when he hit that line drive to the limping Bill Buchner, she started screaming and crying, right there next to ME.”
It was exciting! How could my little wedding plans compete with that? I was glad the whole thing would be decided the next night and we could concentrate on pulling our wedding together.
Sunday October 26, 1986. Game seven. Rain. More Rain. Drizzle. Mizzle. Fog. Mist. Downpours. No game was going to be played today and would be postponed until tomorrow. My groom was miserable.
“Well he says, I suppose I should be glad I got to see game six, “ he rationalizes. “ With the rain delay they could lose their momentum. What if they lost?” His tone was one of resignation and misery.
What was I going to do? We got into the car to go have brunch on the Lower East Side and as we drove along in the mist and fog he was wearing his Mets cap and an unhappy look on his face.
He continued, “ I’ll give my ticket away and be glad that I saw the best game of the series.” The air in the car was as thick and soupy as the air outside.
Gloom. Doom. Then, an idea, it seemed crazy as I worked it out in my head. I just spilled it out.
“Most people run out of their wedding to get on a plane for a honeymoon, don’t they?” I asked.
“Yes, and…” my grumpy groom says to me.
“We are not going on a honeymoon right now are we?” I could see he wasn’t following me.
“No, so what’s your point?” He’s a bit testy. I press on.
“ What if we run out of our wedding after the dinner to go to Shea Stadium and see the rest of the game?”
“ Nice try Nancy but I only have one ticket. That is not going to work.” He says to me, shaking his head.
“Wait a minute,” I say to him “ What about this? You know how they let people into Broadway plays without at ticket at intermission?” Now I think, hey this might work.
“Yeah so? This is baseball, not Broadway.” He sounds a bit annoyed at the whole idea.
“ True, not Broadway. What if we could get in after the fifth inning? What if it’s possible? We won’t know until we go do it will we?”
He turns and looks at me with some interest.
“ Hey come on. Let’s do this. The dinner after the wedding should be over around the fifth or sixth inning, we could say our goodbyes, drop people at trains and drive like crazy to Shea. What do you think?”
Mark liked the idea, but then, “What if they don’t let you in? What will you do?” I thought it over. I was used to traveling with a bag packed with comfortable clothes. We were accustomed to spur-of the-moment adventures.
“I’ll take that chance. If necessary I’ll change in the car, listen to the game and wait for you.”
For the first time since the rainout was officially called we both started to smile. We had hatched a plan. We could make it work.
Monday October 27, 1986. Nerves. Drizzle. Fog. Nerves. Fog. We have some running around to do including going to city hall to get our marriage license. We get into a quarrel over flowers, then champagne, cookies.
We pull it together. He picks up his mother and father, the nieces and nephews arrive, I pick up my mother at the train, put on my white evening suit and matching heels, we are ready.
It was time.
There we stood in the rabbi’s study a room larger than most synagogue sanctuaries. Smile, pictures, smiles cookies and champagne and we finally say, “I do.”
Mark stamps on the traditional wine glass and everyone shouts, “Mazeltov”.
I let out a sigh of relief, “I wasn’t so sure we were going to make it.”
Mark smiles at me.
We load into cars and drive the few blocks to “Raintrees” on Prospect Park. It’s a Monday and not very busy. The table is set for our small party, right next to the French windows that wrap around the restaurant for a view of the park.
Dinner. The service was smooth and unhurried. Then, suddenly out of nowhere an out of control car narrowly misses us as it zooms up onto the sidewalk and everyone in the family scatters. We check in with everyone, “Phew, You okay?” then we all sit back down and count our blessings.
The score was 3-0 Bosox. Mark and I agreed that if the Sox were ahead by a big lead we wouldn’t bother with the game.
By this time I was so excited by our plan, I said a silent prayer, “Let’s go Mets! Lets go Mets!”
Dessert. Coffee. I check in with the bartender who has a tiny television behind the bar: top of the sixth, still 3-zip. Then suddenly there is a change. The first baseman, Keith Hernandez hits a two run single in the sixth inning, the Mets are on the scoreboard and we are going to the game.
Check paid. Kisses. Hugs. Everyone piles into cars. We take my mom to the train at Penn Station which eats up a lot of our time going into the city,but neither of us wants to drop her at the Atlantic Avenue station. We give her a kiss and hug and zoom away heading for the Midtown Tunnel to the Long Island Expressway, “oh please don’t let there be traffic,” I am thinking out loud. We sail on through so far, everything is working like clockwork.
Disaster strikes. We get lost! How could this be? We’ve been past Shea a million times the stress of getting there causes us to get confused at a critical moment.
“Where the hell are you going I holler at Mark?” Not exactly helpful words, but I am anxious now we are so close.
Bottom of the seventh, things are heating up on the radio and the Mets shoot into the lead. We’re arguing now.
“What are you doing, hurry up, turn around, go the other way!” I am just spouting out directions, so attached am I to getting there now.
Finally into the parking lot. There are no spots. We park at the exit ramp near the Grand Central Parkway just as Ray Knight hits a home run off BoSox reliever Schiraldi.
We jump out of the car, me in my off white wool crepe suit and ivory high heel pumps, Mark in his suit adorned with a floral spring.
Cops stop us. “You can’t park there.”
We are desperate to get there.
“We just got married.” Mark is waving his single ticket in the air.
Luckily, the cops smile and wave us on.
“All right, your car will be okay there.”
We start to run as the roar of the crowd pulls us forward, the mud from the rains that came the day before splattering onto my suit, my shoes. I didn’t care. We could still make it.
Mark becomes annoyed because I didn’t change into my running shoes, “Why the hell didn’t you put on your sneakers, “ he hisses at me. “You’re slowing us down.”
How could I explain that I didn’t like the way sneakers looked with my winter white wool crepe suit? I knew we would have a better chance of both getting into Shea if I at least looked like a bride.
The crowd is screaming, we could feel the electricity blowing out of the top of Shea Stadium.
There is a thunderous roar as we get to the gate.
Just then Darryl Strawberry hits a home run and we show our single ticket.
“Where are you two going?” the guard at the gate wants to know.
Mark waves his single ticket and show him my suit, the flowers, my now muddy bridal shoes.
Mark says, “We just got married.”
With that, hey don’t just let us in; they escort us in.
It’s working, it’s working we are inside and being shown to our seats.
Bottom of the eighth, we arrive to see Keith Hernandez in his last at bat. The seats we have are the best in the house, right behind home plate where celebrities, friends and family sit. We are so close we can almost touch the catcher, Gary Carter.
The sides retire. the Mets closer Jessie Oroszco is on the mound to finish off the Red Sox.
“Where have you two been? Mark has the best seats ever our box is right directly behind home plate and we are sitting with the Mets wives and Billy Joel and (then wife), Christie Brinkley.
“Pinch me, “ I whisper to Mark who answers for us,
“We just got married and ran here as fast as we could.”
And then on October 27, 1986 ou wedding day, The New York Mets become World Champions for only the second time in baseball history.
Going the “wrong” way might just be what you need.
One grey Yom Kippur morning in September 2007, I awoke early to walk with Mark to our synagogue in Rockville Centre and then I would go on my way to visit a neighbors’ mother who had recently suffered a series of strokes and was in a nursing home right nearby.
Mark and I came from two distinct Jewish backgrounds, his was traditional he had gone to Hebrew School and became a Bar Mitzvah his parents kept kosher. He knew how things worked.
My family was the opposite no formal Jewish education. However,
Mark once said to me about Yom Kippur. “Even the most un-Jewish Jew knows about this day.” True that.
In the simplest of terms Yom Kippur is a high holy and most solemn day of atonement. It is connected to the Days of Awe known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. During this time of reflection Jews pray to God, looking inward to see what things might need to change On Yom Kippur, even the simplest of acts including eating and drinking , looking in the mirror are not done. We fast. We pray. We ask for forgiveness for our sins and to be given another chance to begin anew to be inscribed in the book of life. At the end of this most solemn day we eat, we share a blessed meal with family and loved ones. Everyone is so glad we made it and gratefully we eat with gusto.
On this particular Yom Kippur morning, I walked Mark the 1.7 miles to Temple B’nai Sholom in Rockville Centre and then left him at the front door. I would be back later to be with him. Right then I was a woman on a mission to visit a person who, not very long after my visit, passed on. The nursing care center was just a block or two away. “You are a wandering Jew, on Yom Kippur. You should be in the “shul” atoning for your sins.” Instead I chose first to go see a person who needed a visit and I hoped I would be forgiven for not going into the synagogue right then.
I turned in what I thought was the right direction to go on my short journey to see Margaret. Somehow I turned wrong and instead of the nursing home, I found myself in front of St. Mark’s Church on Hempstead Avenue in Rockville Centre. On the lawn facing me was a large rectangular purple and golden carved wooden sign that read, “Divine Yoga”, with a phone number.
I had been a yoga practitioner for at least 25 years by then and was looking for a new place to practice.
It was Mark who first suggested that I go find my yoga when we lived Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 1980’s. Back then there wasn’t a yoga studio on every street corner. I had to search around to find a class.
I found yoga to be a bit annoying at first, the strange breathing, weird sounds, the chanting Sanskrit, and worse, looking at someone’s bottom in gray sweatpants almost sent me running for the exits. This was pre-Lululemon yoga wear.
Instead I kept looking for my yoga and eventually found Yoga Zone on the east side of Manhattan across town from my office on 54th street. It was an a oasis of calm a respite from my hectic job.
Living on the south shore of Long Island has it benefits, close to beautiful beaches and 35 minutes into Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad. One big drawback was that in 1989 when we moved to Rockville Centre from Brooklyn, yoga studios on the south shore were non-existent. I either practiced in the city or had to travel to Glen Head on the north shore where there was another Yoga Zone studio.
When Yoga Zone closed in Glen Head closed I was bereft. I tried Bikram yoga a kind of yoga known as hot yoga, that has 26 sequential poses done in a 102 degree room. A Bikram yoga studio opened in town and, at first I was glad it was there even though it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but, It wasn’t for me, I got bored with the same 26 poses over and over. The sweat and steam made my hair frizz and it caused a skin issue that was dreadful and that I won’t go into detail about here.
So there I stood on that gray Yom Kippur morning in 2007. How odd I thought, “I have never noticed this sign before and I know I have been past St. Mark’s church many times. “
Mark would say to me that things come into view that were always there but went unnoticed or “the teacher can teach when the student is ready to learn.” It was my moment to find Divine Yoga.
As I stood there facing St. Mark’s church a soft but soon steady rain started to fall. Although I love walking in the rain, I did not have an umbrella and my first thought was, “Ooooh- nooo my hair is going to frizz.“ The curly-haired girls lament.
I spotted a door facing me on the north side of the church, not the main sanctuary door in the front, but another entrance visible from my vantage point… I sprinted toward the door hoping it would be open, I was eager to get out of the rain. It was Yom Kippur and if my hair got ruined I was going to have to live with it until after sundown.
When I pushed the large, heavy wood door, it opened and I was standing in a small vestibule: stairs facing me going up and stairs to my right going down with a mahogany banister
To my left there was a bulletin board decorated in the same colors as the sign on the lawn of the church. Emblazoned with purple and gold letters, the bulletin board was artfully designed with a golden container fastened to the board with the Divine Yoga schedules. I took one down. There was a full schedule of classes including one I had heard of but never tried before: Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.
‘Kundalini yoga?’ Something I wanted to try though I knew not what it was and I was on the lookout looking for a shift in my yoga practice, I wanted something more, was it possible that Kundalini yoga was it?
At the time I did not know it but when I opened that door I found something deep that I sought but had not found.
My walk in the rain led me to a community of friends that would be more important to me than I could have possibly ever imagined at the time. Mark had always encouraged, no pushed me to have more of my own friends not just “our friends” but ones that are mine.
I did not know on that rainy Yom Kippur day in September 2007 when I found Divine Yoga that Mark’s life and mine was soon going to be turned upside down.
I found friends who would be there for me and for Mark in an as yet unknown future crisis.
All because I took a “wrong” turn.
My husband, Mark was a private man. Mark never sought the spotlight.
As a NYC public schools principal and educator for 33 years in Ocean Hill –Brownsville, East New York and the South Bronx, Mark preferred to give credit for his schools’ success to his teachers, staff and students. As a Central Park and Roxy dance skater Mark’s friends were many though just a very few knew his “story.” But he knew theirs.
He was the kind of curious guy who when you were done talking you knew very little about him, yet he knew many things about you. He would ask “What high school did you go to? What did your parents do? What’s a good restaurant in that neighborhood?” You would walk away thinking, “Hmmm. What a great conversation we had. “ Of course it was because you got the chance to talk all about yourself to someone who was interested in the answers.
In March of 2008, Mark thought he had a skating-related pull in his side. He was sent by our family physician for a scan that revealed some kind of mass and was immediately directed to our local hospital for testing. After a week of tests he was diagnosed with sarcoma and we were sent to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
When we met with his oncologist, Mark was told the only proven and effective treatment for his kind of cancer is to remove it surgically and that it would return. As it happens there are the slow moving versions of sarcoma and the aggressive fast-moving types. We were praying for the former.
When the results came back after surgery it was revealed to us that Mark’s cancer was “de-differentiated retroperitonael liposarcoma”. Rare. Aggressive. Shitty. Bad luck.
Mark was told that there were a few clinical trials just starting and that by the time he needs it there may be a drug that might slow down the progress of his particular cancer. The odds were against us though.
After his first surgery Mark enjoyed one year of being cancer-free. When a scan came back in the spring of 2009 showing the return of his tumors he underwent a second surgery. Unfortunately the growth rate of the tumors had begun to pick up speed and were back within 9 months, too soon for another surgery.
In the spring of 2010 Mark began a two-year course of chemotherapy that by some miracle kept him stable for an unheard of 24 months, yet often he was quite exhausted.
Still we continued skating in Central Park and along the pathways of Hudson River Park. We resolved to enjoy life no matter what was going on. Marks’ monthly scans held us in suspense. For a brief while he is told that the tumors are stable and we breathe a sign of relief but we knew eventually the news will not be good.
In December of 2010 we were home listening to jazz on WBGO radio and just enjoying being together, when I turned to him and said this, “ Mark, I read about this new fundraising event called Cycle for Survival and I started a team that you and I are going to lead to raise money for rare cancer research at MSKCC. “
That shook Mark to the core. He flew off the couch and said in a very loud voice, “No, no, no everyone will know now that I have cancer.” He railed at me.
“Honey… Mark”, I said with tears welling up, “ What if maybe people already know? Maybe they noticed that you went from having a full head of hair like Richard Gere to complete baldness like Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. Maybe they know something is up.”
“Not funny, “ he said to me. I am not doing this.” He wasn’t buying it right then. I was shaking with upset but was not deterred. I knew he would come around and be okay with what I was up to for both of us. I had to do something.
Up until reading Jennifer Goodman Linn’s story in a magazine about being fearless and the genesis of Cycle for Survival, I felt powerless that there was nothing I could do to help. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, but being a part of Cycle for Survival gave me a purpose to fight like hell. I felt that I was part of something larger than our situation.
So for those closest to Mark it was a bit of a surprise when, in one week in February of 2012 he agreed to be on Eyewitness News and then Fox and Friends to be interviewed about his rare-near-impossible to treat cancer and Cycle for Survival, a national indoor spin event to raise awareness and money for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Mark had been asked to do some TV spots by the CFS PR team and he said “yes” and was then photographed, interviewed and rode a cycle on national television to publicize the cause.
You might say that our leading two teams in NY and Long Island, comprised of family and friends was transformative for both of us.
“I was not all that thrilled with the idea of sharing my story and going public with what was going on in my life. I have always kept a low profile. It was my wife Nancy who started our indoor cycling team. I am glad that she did it. “ Mark said in one of his interviews. Over the past four years our team originally named Expect Miracles for Mark has raised over $70,000 for rare cancer research.
Mark once said this, “ Being part of something bigger than myself, helping to raise millions and cycling alongside, nurses, doctors, patients helps me as well.” Mark proudly wore his Cycle for Survival hooded sweatshirt to spread the word and as a reminder of the “love, tears and smiles of that inspiring afternoon.”
“No one wants to be in the cancer club, but when your moment comes you have to step up to the plate and keep swinging. When you have a rare cancer with little or no treatments available, you hope, you pray something, anything to give you just a little more time. You just want to hang in there long enough for the miracle,” said Mark.
On September 18, 2012 my brave husband Mark, lost his battle with cancer. A few days before he passed away he reminded me to continue with Cycle for Survival so that no one has to suffer like he did. He was wearing his special Cycle for Survival team hooded sweatshirt when he died at home surrounded by loving family and dear friends.
His wish: that a child with leukemia, a sister with a brain tumor or a mother with pancreatic cancer or a person with any cancer can be told, “We got this. We have a cure and we know that it will work.”
Now that would be a miracle for sure.
And so we continue to be a part of Cycle for Survival with our team renamed Mark’s Magicians and we are always looking for people to help us win this battle. Come and join us.
This photograph was taken in August of 1999, right around Labor Day we rented a lovely posh house second off the beach in Saltaire, FI. Our friends Laurie and David and baby Lauren came to visit. (Click on photo to get a better look at it)
Mark was body-surfing. I was watching both a bit nervously and also so thrilled by how good he was at it and how he was so much himself in the water. He knew and respected the water. Fire Island waters were much like the Rockaways (rough) where he spent many summers.I was on the beach standing under the umbrella with my fab fan hat you see here from my friend Laurie.
As Mark stepped out of the water this large bit of beautiful sea grass with green almost cucumber-like tendrils washed up right next to him. He spontaneously scooped it up and placed it on head. He put it on perfectly just as you see it, in one smooth move.
We laughed our asses off, to use his turn of phrase. And he wore his new “do” up the beach carrying his beach chair and the umbrella to the house where Laurie snapped this photograph, with a film camera. Rasta-Mark.
For me it was a perfectly natural thing for Mark to do. He loved to have fun and even though he would never admit it, he liked being silly.
Without Mark in the picture my relationship with summer is an in love/out of love relationship. I don’t do well in the heat. Humidity makes me dizzy, makes my hair frizz, gives me a headache and makes my allergies flare. I stay out of the sun.
I love the ocean but without my rasta-guy pictured here I don’t feel as safe and confident in the surf as when I did with him. And besides I have Keratin on my hair and the salt water messes that up. Still I love getting the silky feel of the water rippling around me.
I do love the deep wide sunsets of an August evening like a painting or a photograph and I sometimes feel he is right there next to me enjoying the view.
And he would share this with his friends and family in case they wanted to see a spectacular sky show…so I am doing the same.
Coming up Weds late August 12 to 13th Weds night/Thurs 2:00 a.m. and on what hopefully will be a clear and dark night here in the east in mid-August we can all view the Perseids a night of shooting stars. Very cool.
Mark and I more than once were down on the beach to see The Perseids .
It’s a media shower of epic proportions if everything is alignment. Dark night. No clouds.
And I cannot help but wonder if all of those we loved and have moved onto the cosmos, the universe, heaven or on another plane might be there too.
In any case why not get thee to a beach or someplace dark and enjoy sky show known as the THE PERSEIDS.
One note>>Please leave your iPhone etc behind so that the area you are in is as dark as possible. As recommended by Earthandsky.com
Clearing out, making space for new things simplifying, reorganizing. An old “friend” appeared in the back of a cabinet.. the 8 Cassette Tape series (you read that right) of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People a workshop series with Stephen Covey teaching live. It was quite a gift to have that available, a daily lesson with Stephen Covey.
I listened everyday for a year on my Sony Walkman with am/fm radio and cassette player on the way to the city- in and out on the Long Island Rail Road 38 mins each way. So valuable. The Sony Walkman was a gift from Mark. It was a Sports Walkman, yellow and nearly indestructible which was needed for a commute to work up and down the stairs and all. The program was a life-changing experience and I got a “life mission” by listening to Dr. Covey. I wanted “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a higher value.”
Each habit is so simple yet not always easy and quite profound. If you have never listened to Dr. Covey deliver the 7 Habits then you are in for a treat. Try this one at home.
Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
Enjoy your weekend.
In the fall of 1962 my mother, Betty, took a teaching position at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, NY. My parents had just divorced mom went back to work, not taking any alimony just to get out of the marriage. She probably never would have seen any of it any way.
As I remember it my mother and father spent an awful lot of time being nasty to each other.
She sniped; he would goad her and be very nasty. My father somehow managed not to pay child support and, based on the speed with which he had a place to live with a woman he soon married, that he was probably not faithful to my mother and she knew it.
It was better when they split up.
We did have less money without my father. On the other hand he was kind of tight-fisted with the cash and blew a gasket when he discovered the hidden vacuum cleaner in my closet when he was trying to fix the door that had come off the track.
My mother was a class of 1938 NYU school of commerce college graduate. It was 1962, her options were far fewer than women have in 2015 and salaries were minuscule.
She became a teacher of business subjects that year teaching Regents typing and Gregg Shorthand and transcription. At Division Avenue she met some new friends among them: John Burch our boarder, Tim a tall angular man who taught biology, Dan strong slight build tall and blonde, Dan taught History. And then there was Julio.
Before there was AirBNB, there was the teacher bulletin board-my mother rented out a tiny bedroom for a tiny income to a fellow teacher by the name of John Burch who looked a lot like Paul Giamatti in the film Sideways. Mr.Burch was an English teacher and he stayed with us in our Levitt house, while he waited for his family to move into their new home in the area. He was a gentle being. Probably too soft for some of the “hoods” he faced at Division Avenue in 1962.
John Burch drove with my mother to Division Avenue High School each morning. Mom drove a 1956 Turquoise and white two-tone Ford Victoria with chrome trim in which the passenger-seat only reclined. My mother would take off down Trapper Lane and all you could see was Mr. Burch’s nose and a wisp of his already thinned out hair flying in the breeze from the open window. I remember laughing so hard and not being able to stop, tears streaming down my face watching John Burch’s nose fade off as she turned the corner.
One day Mr. Burch left us. We said our good byes and within a day or two a Mr. Julius Nicholai Schmidt came to stay. Mr. Schmidt a diminutive man with long black eyelashes that framed his dark brown O’s of his eyes. He was a Spanish teacher whose family had run from Castro’s Cuba. Mr. Schmidt (or Julio as I used to call him) had one leg shorter than the other with a special built up shoe to accommodate the difference. Julio was a bit of a snazzy dresser always in a jacket and tie (no one wore sweatpants or elastic waist jeans in 1962) and though bald, wore a black toupee that suited his style just fine. Having Julio with us was like having a party every night. Julio and my mother would make paella and bean dishes, drink scotch and sometimes, even dance to Latin jazz. He was a good buffer for me; my mother was less unpredictable with him around.
Once, after Julio moved into the brand new Mitchel Lama apartments on the upper west side mom took me to a New Year’s party to welcome in 1963. I was 11 years old, tall for my age and wore my special “grown-up” red – pencil-skirted dress.
When we got to Julio’s place and the door opened there were some of the most beautiful costumed women I had ever seen. Dazzling in sequins, feather boas and sparkles, high hair and fabulous makeup.
I remember at first feeling out of place not dressed right (a story that has continued my whole life) and stayed out on the terrace. One of the sparkling ladies said “Come dance with us sweetheart don’t stand out here on your own, “ and then in a moment there I was dancing to some of the best dance music I had heard in my young life, men and women, women and men all mushed together shimmying and shaking, feathers flying.
As I remember it was a wonderful night. My mother was busy being a queen bee and I was mostly left to my own devices in this crowd of costumes and celebration, that meant that for that night she was not embarrassing me or picking on me in some way. I could just be.
And then there was Tim and Dan. They both taught at Division Avenue High School they lived on the upper west side. Tim was a biology teacher who drove with Dan in a 1962 Ford Falcon to Levittown from West End Avenue each school day, Dan taught history and then became a librarian. My mother, Tim and Dan became fast friends. They had many interests in common, good music and theater chief among them, good parties, good booze along with a curiosity for ideas old and new. Both Tim and Dan were tall men from Arkansas who had come to New York as many do to find their lives.
We did so many things together with Tim and Dan and Sam and Al and a famous illustrator named Joshua. Once we went to the City Center on 56th Street to see Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The opening piece of music was Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex complete with eye-gouging. For some reason we got the giggles at that part. What was so funny about gouging out eyes will still be a mystery to me, but we got the kind of giggles that are infectious hard to contain and one by one our entire row started to laugh. It was then that the usher came by and tossed us out into the street until we could compose ourselves. She muttered something about “setting a bad example for the child.”
We returned after intermission and were better behaved.
In autumn Tim and Dan bought a cabin in the woods of Massachusetts near the towns of Heath and Dell. My mom and I drove up with them to spend the weekend, in her now newish car: a 1961 butter yellow Mercury convertible. In the chilled autumn air we drove with the top down, me in the back with Dan, the heater running up front as we sang made up “Gregorian style” chants, switching to jazzy made up “skats” and then sliding into an actual genuine song that we sang in some kind of strange multi-part harmony. At some point we just were quiet and looked at the scenery and breathed the night air as we climbed higher into the Berkshires.
That weekend I helped Dan at the edge of the property do some pruning to cut down overgrown brush and weedy trees. It was the first time I had ever seen a pair of “loppers” and thought, “how great to have a man around who knew how to do this.” Dan took off his shirt in the warm afternoon sun and I saw his tanned muscular body rippling as he worked. I was a little kid but by this time I had a bit of a pre-teen crush on him and seeing him like that just fueled the flames of being “in-like”.
That night we took flashlights and walked along the road following the stone minute-man fence lines to Joshua the illustrator’s house. The house was built in the 1700’s and sported low ceilings, a wood-burning stove. George Washington could have slept there.
Although the house has been electrified Joshua designed it to keep its revolutionary war period feeling. Our faces were illuminated more by the light of the fire and the candles that were scattered around than from the light fixtures. It was said in the most hushed of tones, “That the house had ghosts.”
There were others who joined us that night, friends of our friends who had gathered for their weekend in the country. They lived in little towns nearby. We played games like charades, the adults drank scotch, bourbon and wine and then we gathered by the fireplace, toasted marshmallows and Joshua shared ghost stories.
On the walk back to Tim and Dan’s house we heard a crunching sound like footsteps coming from an open field. Then we heard it again. Was it a ghost like Joshua talked about? Was there someone there? I was really scared, but I didn’t want to show it in front of Dan, though he did take my hand like a dad or an uncle would to reassure me.
We drew closer to the sound. It happened again, there a footstep a crunch of the leaves. “Who is there?” Tim and Dan say aloud. “Who is there!?,” they say again. My mother and me, two scaredy-cats creeping toward the sound hiding behind the two tall men. We get as close as we dare as Tim and Dan shine a flashlight into the darkness.
Six sets of big brown eyes stare back at us. “Cows! Cows!” Tim and Dan say aloud and we each break out into peals of laughter. We laughed the whole rest of the weekend just by saying, “Cows! Cows!”
Years later, after I graduate from high school my mother tells me a “secret” about her friends Tim, Dan, Julio, Joshua, Al, Ken and Sam. A best-selling children’s book author of 50 titles, a famous illustrator and artist, a well -known film-maker, a biologist and several educators amongst them.
They were gay. Homosexual. Not into women. Julio’s New Year’s party in 1963 had more men guests than women, though I did not realize it at the time. Julio was a cross-dresser as were many of his friends. He was also gay.
And then there was the biggest heartbreak: Dan would never have asked me out. I still thought one day I would be old enough that our age difference would not matter. I was crushed.
“Nancy we have to keep it a deep dark secret or they would lose their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods, it is illegal to be gay.”
So I thought, that makes you a “fag hag” a not very flattering term I had recently heard used about divorced women who hung out with gay men. Mom was not gay she just loved the company of her friends who happened to be male homosexuals, simple as that. (And I am guessing was more enjoyable than the dating scene.)
The following summer my mother marched in the Gay Pride parade in Provincetown in solidarity with her friends. In time they drifted away, Tim bought a beach house and got married to a famous woman photographer and then they were all gone from our lives. Mom moved on to other friends, other schools and even a few boyfriends. She tended to dump the good ones whom she could marry and have a good life with, that tended to infuriate me.
The events of the past few days made me think of those days and I hope that at least one of those smart, fun and interesting gentlemen is still alive to witness the gay marriage decision last week handed down by the Supreme Court. And I know that even with that it’s time to get ready for the backlash, battle lines are being drawn and next year is 2016.
May a rainbow come to you after the rain and your heart be your guide.