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Music Under New York

6

As I step off the train into the flow of foot traffic, wheeling my unwieldy suitcase behind me, I am keenly aware that I look like a tourist. Yet, this is my city; the sounds and smells are as familiar to me as ever; the exhaust fumes and warmth generated by hundreds of bodies welcome me home.

I join the herd of commuters and visitors climbing the stairs from the platform to the lower concourse, and I can hear jazz music being played on a keyboard: Gabriel Aldort leans forward into the microphone and his husky voice fills the room. It takes me a few beats to realize that he has switched to a Billy Joel song. I picture the album cover in my mind, and lean against the pillar to enjoy the melody and the memory.

He takes a short break to chat with a transit cop, and I round the pillar to get a closer look at his set-up. His keyboard cover, open on the floor in front of him, is quickly filling with singles and a few fives. There is a photo of an infant, and next to it a sign indicating that he is an MTA Arts for Transit musician.

A woman moves over to make room for me on the bench, and I sit to savor my coffee and several songs. He is better than any musician I’ve heard playing in train stations. Grateful for his music, which has transported me from Grand Central Station to the bedroom of my teen years, I raise my phone to snap this photo:

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He nods slightly and then moves into the bridge of Elton John’s “Your Song.” This is not the city I remember. Like Gabriel’s music, it is an improvement on the original.

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Years May Come, Years May Go

This morning, when I was remembering the victims of the Holocaust and praying for their eternal rest, the strangest thing happened to me.  Well, not the strangest thing, since I tend to free associate during my private prayers.  But it was strange enough that–after I finished my prayers–I decided to reconstruct my thought process. I wanted to figure out how I had gotten from Holocaust remembrance to the Irish Rovers.

My prayers went something like this:

I was reading Stephen Mitchell’s adaptation of Psalm 90 when I arrived at one of my favorite biblical verses: “Teach us how short our time is; let us know it in the depths of our souls.”  I felt tears stinging at the back of my eyes, but that wasn’t strange at all.  This often happens when I read Psalms, especially Psalm 90.

I thought about my mantra of middle age. Time really is going by more quickly now.

Then I thought about where I was last year on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  I was finishing up revisions of a reflection that I had written after hearing Arnold Whitaker’s address to the Walton High School sophomore class.

My thoughts strayed from the Walton High School auditorium–where I had been sitting next to my then-sixteen-year-old daughter–to our apartment in Riverdale.  It was what the Real Estate agents called a Junior 4. Her bedroom was a small alcove off the kitchen that had been converted into the fourth room in the apartment. She was fussy in the evenings and never wanted to go to bed.  At nap times, the babysitter used to sing lullabies, songs that had traveled across an ocean from her native Ireland to my native New York City.  I sang Yiddish lullabies and, when they didn’t do the trick, I would play the Irish Rovers CD and sing along softly as we danced slowly around the apartment.

My arms began to ache from the memory, although they held only a thin volume of Psalms.

This is how my prayers to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust became a mash-up of Psalm 90 and an Irish lullaby:

“Show us how precious each day is; teach us to be fully here.”

“Some heartaches I don’t doubt,
life’s sure to dish us out.
We’ll beat the lot and that is what
life’s all about.
Whatever may come true,
ahead for me and you –
Some day it all will be
Memories.”

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The Art of a Spreadsheet

3

Instead of writing a blog post this morning, I was reading one.  I couldn’t help myself. The title caught my eye: “How to Write a Book When You’re Really, Really Busy.”  I bet if you were me–the really, really busy me who is trying to write a book and book proposal–you would have dropped everything to read this article, too.

I don’t know if Ashley Ream’s methods would work for me, and I appreciate the grace with which she acknowledges that all writers have a different process. I can tell you, though, that when I scrolled down and saw her spreadsheet , I felt a pang of envy. I lingered there for several minutes, taking it in like I would a painting in a museum.

I felt a kind of yearning for better visual-spatial skills which might enable me to create such a beautifully drawn schedule.  Wistfully, I slid my mouse over the x-in-the-box and clicked.

As I closed my browser and opened my notebook, my mind’s eye still saw green.

 

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