I can’t believe I even have to preface this, but these photos are not an endorsement of the nasty Christopher Columbus, of the Spain’s Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, sponsors of Columbus and the monsters behind the Spanish Inquisition and other bloody crimes in the name of Christianity, or the American government and their mistreatment of Native Americans, and certainly not any sarcastic comment about the many accomplishments of Italian-Americans in our country. I was passing through midtown Manhattan. There was a parade. It was pouring. And I like to shoot photos of people with umbrellas. Fair enough?
This is my Facebook update Saturday night after I came home from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade:
Everyone is sexy and beautiful if they want to be. And even if they don’t want to be, they can’t help others from seeing it. Been thinking about that all night. Even I’m kinda sexy.
Maybe I wanted to make it clear that I appreciated the “body positive” vibe of the event. People strolled up and down the boardwalk in various stages of undress, and they didn’t do it for my “male gaze.” The creative folk did it for themselves. They love the opportunity to wear outrageous costumes and paint their bodies in oceanic colors.
I’m a tame voyeur. I never gawk at sunbathers at the beach. I have never visited a strip club. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the pleasure I received from admiring the stew of bodies on view on Saturday in Brooklyn — the big bosomed and the flat-chested, the tight abs and the big guts, the fleshy asses and the large male packages balled into tight-fitting speedos. It was sexy and fun. If I had more chutzpah, I would have taken off my own clothes and painted my ass green.
Is it so wrong that I enjoyed being a blatant voyeur for a few hours? The Mermaid Parade, much like I imagine Mardi Gras or Carnival, allows for a safe and playful expression display of the body. I felt comfortable talking to parade participants and asking permission for photos. When it rained, a whole bunch of us took shelter under the awning of Nathan’s, and soon I was dancing in the downpour with half-naked women. What could be better than that?
It’s easy to connect photography with voyeurism. We like looking at people.
The World Trade Center Transportation Hub’s concourse will ultimately connect visitors to 11 different subway lines; the PATH rail system; the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; World Trade Center Towers 1, 2, 3, and 4; and Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center), which houses the Winter Garden. It represents the most integrated network of underground pedestrian connections in New York City.
The “Oculus” serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, incorporating 78,000 square feet of multi level state-of-the-art retail and dining. The concourses emanating from the Oculus link the entirety of the site above and below grade. With an additional 290,000 square feet of exciting, multi-level retail and dining space, the World Trade Center site is the focal point of Lower Manhattan. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey site)
In my twenties, I would never have slept with a married man. I’m too moralistic. The granddaughter of a preacher. But now, I don’t consider it a moral failing. it just IS. I see him, despite his marital status. I love him, despite his marital status. I caress him in my bed, despite his marital status.
It’s not the big bad city that changed me. I’m still the goody-two-shoes Wisconsin girl. It’s just getting older. It means the stripping the body and mind clean of what constricts us, the old black and white thinking, and embracing complexity. Don’t overthink it. See the world with an open mind. We are all flawed. Brene Brown tells me to not feel shame. My love for him is not shameful. Yes, our relationship is complicated, like they say on Facebook. But I understand it. I understand that he has kids, and his wife who’s crazy, so he needs more time. What I can give him is patience. I can wait. That’s true love. Like in Shakespeare.
He treats me well, better than any other man. He brings me gifts and tells me I’m beautiful. I so want to meet his kids. Some day. And we will be a family. Or else, we can have our own kids. Yeah, imagine that! What am I talking about? I’m not going to turn into my sister, stuck at home with kids, getting fatter by the day. No kids right now! That time will come. Just enjoy what you have. With no shame. Thank you, Brene Brown.
I bought a steak for tonight. He loves steak. I wish we would skip dinner completely and fall into bed, so I can feel his strong hands grab me from behind. I love when he says my name. I wait for that. He says that I make him feel like a man again. That his wife is aloof and makes him feel that he never makes enough money.
It’s 7:30. He said he would meet me here a half hour ago. But it’s OK. He must be stuck somewhere. I know Tuesday night his daughters have Girl Scouts. I wish he would text and tell me where he is. He needs to be discreet. I understand that. Until he can divorce her, it has to be this way. It’s all good. What can I do? All I can to do now is wait. True love requires patience.
It was Friday afternoon and Sandy stood on the 125th subway platform with her daughter, Laila. They were heading downtown; it was her ex-husband’s weekend with his daughter. Sandy’s mind was elsewhere. She was hoping to have a date tonight with the good-looking marketing executive she met on Tinder, but he had yet to return her text.
“How does Santa Claus get into our apartment building. We don’t have a chimney?” asked Laila.
Laila had been obsessing about the truth behind Santa Claus ever since she observed the one from the department store Santa entering the men’s room behind the kitchen appliance section in Macy’s.
“In New York City, Santa Claus brings the toys in through the window. He also has the key to every apartment.” her mother answered.
Normally Sandy hated to bring her daughter over to Luke’s apartment, she disapproved of his new girlfriend, Ellie, a twenty-eight year old Hungarian graduate student with excessive cleavage. This weekend, Sandy was glad for the time alone. She could use her time to watch Hallmark movies in her underwear. Even if the Tinder guy didn’t get back to her this weekend, it will be enough to have the quiet in the apartment.
“And I always have my vibrator” she thought, a gift she bought for herself last Christmas.
Laila was still thinking about Santa Claus.
“So, Santa Claus flies into every single window in New York City? That would take him all night. And, uh, where does he park the reindeer?”
“He just does it. He’s Santa Claus.”
“Let’s get real. There is no Santa Claus, is there?” Laila asked, clicking her tongue.
Sandy’s heart skipped a beat. Her daughter was too young to reject the magic of childhood. Sandy felt like a failure as a mother, the type of parent to be scorned on the internet.
“Of course there’s a Santa Claus,” said Sandy. “I mean it’s not the guy at Macy’s. That is just an actor. But the real Santa Claus is out there, with his white beard, living in the North Pole. coming on Christmas to make children happy.”
“Mom, I think I need a second opinion.”
Laila saw an older black man sitting on the bench under the poster for the new Supergirl TV show. He was reading the New York Times, about the latest terrorist attack in Europe.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Laila, and the man looked up from his newspaper.
“Yes?” he asked, glancing over at Sandy for her permission to talk to he daughter.
“Could you tell me if there is really a Santa Claus?” asked Laila
“Ah, Santa Claus,” said the man on the bench, crossing his legs. “Are you having your doubts about Santa Claus?”
“Yes. My mother said there is a real Santa Claus. What do you think?”
“Hell no. It’s all made up nonsense. There is no Santa Claus. Only little children believe in that stuff.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Laila.
“I’m glad to help.” said the man.
Laila returned to her mother, who was checking Tinder.
“Did your date get back to you?” Laila asked her mother.
“Nah, he’s a loser.”
“Yeah. Maybe this dating site is not the best place for you.”
“You’re right,” Sandy sighed. It’s so superficial. I’ll try Match.com next.”
“Good idea,” said Laila, caressing her mother’s arm.
“So, did you get your second opinion?” asked Sandy. “What did the man have to say ?”
“He said that there IS a real Santa Claus who lives in the North Pole and flies out with his reindeer on Christmas to make children happy.”
“I told you!” said Sandy, relieved.
It started out innocently. A message on Twitter. A meeting in Central Park. Lunch at a kosher restaurant on 38th Street. I had never expected to see my brother, Avram, again. When he left the Yeshiva and moved to California, he was considered dead, and my older brother, Shimon, prohibited me from having any contact. Now Avram was married and back in town, living in Long Island with his wife and two children.
The first time I saw him in ten years was on a bench near the Great Lawn. He had suggested it as common meeting area, away from our different worlds. I was shocked to see my older brother without his scholarly beard, wearing a shirt that read “LA Dodgers.” It was as if I had never met him. He said that after many years of “hating religion,” as he put it, he was now attending a reform synagogue in Forest Hills. He wanted to reconnect with his family.
“You might as well go to a Catholic Church,” I said. “The reform Jews know nothing. They serve bagels and pork on Shabbat.”
“Well, it’s not that bad. No pork. But they do serve lobster at kid’s bar mitzvahs.”
I frowned, and Avram poked me, saying that he was joking. Avram always had a strange sense of humor.
“And you, Nahum,” he wondered. “Why are you not married yet?”
That was a touchy subject. The whole Rifka incident and the sad ending to their courtship.
“God will bring the One to me.” I said.
“God does nothing, unless you make it so.”
Avram was trying to egg me on, but he wasn’t saying anything so controversial that the Rabbis hadn’t questioned themselves.
“Baruch Hashem,” I said..
Avram suggested that I spent this Shabbat in Long Island, so I could meet his wife and kids, but I told him it was impossible.
“I’ll meet you anyway on Friday.” he said. “Outside the Yeshiva. In case you change your mind.”
I said that I wouldn’t.
During the week, my heart softened. The Torah reading that week spoke of family, of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Was not Avram, despite his wrong path, still my brother?
On Friday afternoon, I approached the Yeshiva, and saw Avram waiting for me. He was smiling, confident of my choice to join him for the weekend. A few feet away, with his arms crossed, was my older brother, Shimon, silent and as stiff as Lot’s wife, waiting to argue against it.