Friday, August 26, 2016


I had a lot to learn, and it was
staring me in the face  -  blazing
down on me like hot sunshine.
A new kid, landing on the moon,
couldn't have been much different.
You may remember, somewhere
back along the line here, I
mentioned those two girls,
over on Avenue B, who took
my cat  -  Blake  -  from me;
after I'd realized, of course.
none of that was going to
work and I'd probably made
a dumb mistake bringing
the cat along, into this mess.
So, they took it off my hands
and, in my sadness, it was all
I could do to just vow to never
ask about the cat again, or,
hopefully, never even see 
them again. Before that, 
though there really was a 
funny episode, or a NY 
curious episode anyway. 
They had some friends in 
Brooklyn, and I one day went
with them to visit. We went by
train, and we walked to this
place the two girls were living.
I had a friend out that way too,
on I think it was 3rd Street,
Brooklyn  - as I recall not too
far off from where we were 
going. Back then, Brooklyn 
was still just then 'Brooklyn',
hard-case of broken-dreams,
old wicked families, and
stalled lives. Generally, I 
mean. And not like today at
all, when every two-bit hipster
and sacrificial young-kid with
tattoos and a beard gets their
ass over to there. And guys 
too (that's a joke, and when I
say 'that's a joke' it just means
like 'leave me alone on this 
one, OK?' Or try laughing!).
We got there. It was a railroad
apartment (that means, long,
narrow, with all the rooms in
a row and, usually, a kitchen 
at the rear room, and the 
bathroom). It was in a former
funeral home, a place that had
been decommissioned, or
whatever you do to guarantee 
to others that the building is
no longer a funeral home, no
labs or blood-pumps and/or
stiffs laying around unclaimed 
or anything. It had been 
transformed and reworked 
since then but somehow I
could still tell. Something 
was weird. A lot of work 
had been done but you 
could still tell that these 
had been maybe rooms
where dead people had 
been laid out in caskets. 
Viewings, little sad 
crowds. It was all probably
imagining and the powers 
of suggestion. The two 
girls we were visiting,
and with whom we wound
up having tea and coffee 
and sitting around a bit 
with, were named Zipporah 
Laz, and Sarah Henley.
They were both art teachers 
just starting out with the 
NY school system  -  
Zipporah, as I recall 
in Harlem, P.S.161,
and Sara  at a new place 
called 'Beginning With 
Children'. I guess it was
pre-schooling or something. 
One thing here jumps out - 
Until then, I had never before 
seen the name 'Zipporah'  
and it turned out to be a very
biblical name, Moses' wife,
not a particularly nice lady,
apparently, in Exodus (2:21,
et al). It means 'little bird' 
or sparrow, and is a Midian
name, one of thee 7 daughters
of Jethro. She's also, through
that name, known as 'The 
woman who wrongly 
oppressed her husband.' 
Whatever. I knew nothing 
of it, and really wasn't up 
on Bible or Jewish stuff.
It was just an intriguing
name. And Sarah was just,
well, Sarah, What did I 
know? Being in the 
ex-funeral home, in fifteen
 minutes, had become
paramount in my mind 
anyway. The first thing I
thought of was all those
mourners, and all the energies
of that group-prayer and
shared sorrow  -  energy,
still flying about. 'Pray for
the dead, and the dead will
pray for you.' How weird. 
Abut it being former funeral
home and what it meant to 
them, and if they ever felt any
spirits and stuff - the apartment
used to be the viewing room
area, and embalming and all
that was done in the basement.
It had old-syle 'torchere' lamps
for decoration and we started
talking about how right in the 
room here, the bereaved would
be staring at their dearly departed;
mobster, murdered, nasty rich 
guy, but more likely just some 
regular dead Brooklyn stiff, 
with what Sarah called, 'a 
bratty widow sobbing away 
in spite of it all.'
I made the mistake of asking
about something that was
hanging on the wall, what 
was it?  That was all they
needed : 'It's a traditional
Mayan men's shawl,' Sarah
said, 'I got it in this town in
Chiapas where every man
was wearing one. I travel 
a lot, you see.' And then
Zipporah said : 'Sarah and
I met in college where we
were both in Pratt for art 
[Pratt Institute is a Brooklyn 
Art School] and I though she
was really cool and a fellow 
traveler.'  And Sarah said :
'We used to have a map 
above the kitchen table
but we took it down 
because we just kept 
talking about  where we 
wanted to go all the time.'
And then Zipporah (you can
see here how they finished
each other's sentences and
did go on) said : 'The map
sucked us in too much.'
And Sarah said : 'I want to
go back to mexico for a 
year to become bilingual.' 
The other girls were talking
some too, but I wasn't as apt
about that  -  these two new
girls had all my attention, and
I realized, just then too, that I
was flabbergasted by lesbians
here, and they didn't much care.
Old ground to them was way 
new shit to me. And, yeah, I
found myself checking then out.
Zipporah was a little too dark 
and moustache-hairy for my 
type, but Sarah was right there,
in my eyes. Too bad, sorta', 
thought I. Whatever. It wasn't 
my place to be doing that, and
they'd probably bean me too.
I asked if it was 'important to 
them to know a place deeply,'
for if not wasn't one just 
skimming surfaces and 
winding up merely having 
long discussions as a girl with 
bellhops and busboys? And 
they agreed, in their way, but
then said that as females they 
were 'always attuned to that 
stuff' anyway and service guys
were always hitting on them or
trying to start discussions too. 
Sarah said : 'None of that mattered,
for when you travel you're going
to be able to keep away from 80
percent of bothersome types, and
you're either sharp or then probably
20 percent of the time the next
morning you'll wake up in some
guy's bed or with some guy and
only a pale remembrance of what 
went on, but as lesbians they 
could  figure to avoid all that, 
whether they had to tell guys 
or the guys would soon surmise
what was up, and they just traveled
for the experience anyway.
Normally, I get all cramped and
stuffy after about an hour in places
or situations like this, but this one
was going OK. Some nearby local
churchbell started bonging its three
o'clock thing, and everyone just 
stopped for a minute to listen, and 
Karen (one of the other girls I'd 
come with) said 'I love that, 
churchbells like that are so 
bewitching to hear, in the middle 
of any situation. It always reminds
me of watching The Third Man. I
didn't know what that was right
then, but later, over time, I found it
was actually a pretty cool Orson
Welles movie with a long, weird
post-war, crumbling Europe plot
and some doctor killing kids with
bad, fake medicine or something
he was peddling and making tons 
of money from doing so, over the
sad backs of all those miserable
Europeans, and the police catch 
up to him barely, after some 
touching betrayals, and a cool 
chase through the sewers of 
Paris, and his Harry Lime guy 
is just right, and some American 
western-adventure writer
on a lecture tour, and this 
Harry Lime guy, atop a Ferris 
Wheel says something 
memorable like, 'France, (or
 England, or something), and
all its wars and grief and 
killings has given us the 
Renaissance and Leonardo 
and Michaelangelo and all,
while Switzerland, pure, 
neutral, honorable Switzerland, 
what have they ever given us 
 -  the cuckoo cock?' And then,
soon enough, beneath the streets,
he gets shot. Or I think that was 
it. Church bells, bah.
Sarah said she was from San Louis
Obispo, California, and her parents
had met coming back from India 
where her dad had gone on a 
spiritual journey but the guru had
turned him away and he and mom
were on a ferry from Belgium to
England and her dad didn't have
the money for the fare so he was
trying to sell some beads and he
at first though her mother was just
another snotty American and she
(Sarah) had been born in Scotland
when her mom was 19. She then
said, oddly, 'When I was 19, I was
taking that same ferry and I looked
around while on it and said 'Where's
my future husband? But it never
happened.' And then Karen pointed
to all the beads Sarah was wearing, 
and she asked her if by wearing them
wasn't she preparing for a man? And
Sarah said: 'No, not at all, in fact
Zipporah calls these my art-teacher
jewels.' And then Zipporah said :'My
parents met on a kibbutz in Israel but
they came back to Miami where I
grew up and Sarah's and my stories
are very similar and Sarah is like 
my 5th roomate in this apartment. 
I moved here about 4 years ago 
after I found out that my own 
grandparents had once lived
right near by, a few doors down.
In fact, my grandmother was
Mr. Farber's secretary at the
Farberware factory.' And then
Sarah said: 'My dad grew up on
the grounds of Broadmoor, which
is England's largest hospital for h
criminally insane.' And Zipporah
said: 'Your dad's so sunny and airy.'
and then Sarah said: 'He's been in
California a long time now.' And
when Karen's other friend asked
about all the knotty pine in the
apartment, Sarah answered, 'It's
our 'potbelly aesthetic'. (I'd never
heard that use of 'aesthetic' before)
And Zippoah went on about how the
landlord did a lot of this Alpine Ski
Lodge stuff when he remodeled from
the funeral home use and there used
to be 'little antlers on the fireplace.'
The landlord had told her 'you can
tell we like the country', when she
was looking at the place and she
told how that had made her laugh
because 'it's funny how people
who like the country always seem
to wind up having a particular
fascination with killing things, or
shooting the native habitat all up
whether by guns or plowing or
cutting or whatever. So these
little antlers around proved he 
loved the country so much he had
to kill defenseless animals to
prove it and then cut off their 
body parts and leave them 
around to show what they've 
Sarah said she'd moved in with
only three suitcases and most of
that was pictures; and that when
Zipporah first offered her the 
place to live in Sarah thought to
say no but had said yes anyway;
because she so much liked 
Zipporah, and wanted her to 
know that. Zipporah said; 
'Oh, Sarah, everyone wants
you to live with them, I wonder
who will be next. And Sarah
said back: 'I do have someone
waiting doe me in Mexico!'
and the two girls began to
break up with uncontrollable
laughter as Zipporah said,'
Forever, he said! He sent her
a birthday card that sings!'
and at that point all there 
was was laughter, and it was
a miserable 5 o'clock by 
by time we left.

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