The Bayside Blues

When I was a kid on the Lower East Side libraries were very important to me. There was one on East Broadway and I went there on Saturdays for their children’s hour activities. I was a big reader. I always took out the maximum books allowed each time I went. I’d read them all and bring them back.

My friend Florence was from Poland. The loved the library too! Her mother was out Super and cleaned for us. Florence was my best friend and she and I were the smartest kids in our class. We did homework together. When I had to babysit my brother, she would come up to keep me company and we would watch our TV. We were one of the first families to have a TV. We would watch The Show of Shows.  We loved it! They had dancers and comedians.

One Saturday night we had been watching TV and babysitting. Florence and I started wrestling! I threw Florence and she fell on the coffee table and broke one of the legs. I put one of the legs back and balanced it so my mother wouldn’t notice it. My parents came home that night and I went to bed.

The next morning I snuck into my parents bedroom and got my father. He was always saving me from my mothers anger. By the time my mother woke up he had fixed it and she never knew. My mother never hit me, but my mother would get loud. I don’t blame her though, because she really allowed me to do what I wanted. Sometimes that would backfire. Like with the coffee table. And I’m pretty sure even though she let me do what I want she never wanted me to break her furniture.

We moved to Bayside in the summer of my 14th year.My friend Barbara Kivel lived in Bayside. I knew her from Camp Cejwyn. I mentioned Bayside to my parents which got them moving in that direction. My mother’s sister bought a ranch home next to ours. We were very busy unpacking and settling in. I cried every day because I missed the Lower East Side and all of my friends at my school. I started at Bayside High that year. They gave us a lot of work to do and tested us every 6 months. They gave the same test to everyone! It was a lot of pressure and a big step for me. I learned a lot though.

Diane Russo was my first good friend at Bayside High. I met her on the public bus to school one day. We started talking on the bus. She was wonderful! She had a big mouth when it came to dealing with other kids who gave me a hard time. She protected me. I was picked on by a few girls who were jealous of me for dating my boyfriend at the time, Dick. He was super good-looking and they all had crushes on him. They would follow me and make fun of me for being Jewish. One day on the bus one of them tried to get in a fight with me. She said, “Go ahead and push me!” and I would turn to Diane and say, “Go ahead Diane!” And she would fight them for me.

My love for books shifted when I was reading required books for school. Dostoevsky was one of my favorites. He wrote about relationships and people who were trying to love each other. There was a lot of politics but I really enjoyed the strong women characters he wrote about. I’ve always loved stories about women I could relate to.

When I was 16 I dated a soda jerk. He wasn’t Jewish which was a big no-no in my family. SO he became my secret boyfriend. His name was Bob. His parents liked me so we would spend time at his house. Id also stop by the candy store where he worked every day after school. As it turns out, my mother suspected I was dating Bob and she was sitting outside the candy in her car one day. I walked out of the store with Bob and she followed us in her car. So the cat was out of the bag and she told me I had to stop seeing him.  I’d been dating him for 3 years but I stopped. Bob and I were very upset.

So looking back now, Id say even though I didn’t want to move Bayside was a part of my journey.  It was a whole new life for my family.  Bayside is where I was a teenager and adult. The Lower East Side was where I was a kid. If we’d stayed there I don’t know if there would’ve been a downside, but I would’ve missed out on the celebration of my parents being able to buy a house.My parents worked very hard to get that piece of the American Dream and I’m gad they did. It allowed me to think of the future more and to see outside the box of where I was brought up.




Another Level of Lifes Conversation

Yesva Model was a wonderful bohemian artist. He was very intelligent. He taught his students how to breathe life into their work. I began working with him at my shrinks recommendation. I loved my shrink. He always had good ideas.

Yesva and his wife lived in the basement of a 6 story apartment building. I stepped through the iron gates and walked past some planted flowers to their doorstep. It was very charming. I knocked on the door and Yesva, a thin man with wild gray hair and sparkley eyes,  opened to door into their livingroom. Many benches lined the perimeter of the room which is where we would set ourselves up for class. Many of my friends also took the class each week.

He would set up flowers, fruit and different objects. But the one thing he wanted us to focus on was bringing light into our paintings. It took me awhile to relax and get into this kind of painting. But I did eventually and it turns out my work was pretty good!

I took my work to Columbia University and a professor there LOVED it! But then I took my abstract paintings to Pratt’s architecture department. I didn’t have any designs or anything! I was nervous to meet with them, but confident enough that my work was good…even if it wasn’t blueprints.

Many of the applicants were men and many of those men went to Brooklyn Tech High School and had years of preparatory training before even stepping into Pratt. But my artwork got me in.

There were only 8 women in a class of 180. I felt like a stranger in a strange world. They were talking a language that I hadn’t heard before.  It was another level of life’s conversation. I didn’t feel out of place for being a woman. I was too busy diving into the work head first. This was a new world for me and i was hungry for it.

The second day at school a boy named Ford sat down next to me under a tree. He was a Freshman too. He and I became amazing friends and pulled a lot of all nighter’s doing architecture projects. One night a floor monitor caught me in his dorm after hours and kicked me out! Ford died from AIDS years later. I miss him.

Looking back on it, this was a very exciting time for me. Only one of the women and I became friends. Madeline. The first time we met she came over to me in class while I was drawing and said , “Your lines are too thick.” She was direct, that’s for sure. She as also very tall, beautiful and from France.  We became great friends. After we graduated she went home to France and was killed in a car accident shortly after.

I felt like the world was not the same for me anymore. It wasnt bad. Just different. It strikes me that life is fleeting and I might never meet anyone again like those two. So far.  But there are more wonderful people in my life everyday. And many twists and turns. And at 78 I’m  still open for change!




Trying to Be Brave

This guy from the bereavement group seems intent on getting in touch with me to start a new bereavement group. I cant help but think that this guy wants to date me. I suppose Id date him, but I’m very self-conscious about how my boobs look. They’re basically two saline bumps which are ok. I had breast cancer in my left breast, years ago.  I was in my livingroom and felt a lump and I asked Don (my husband ) to come over and feel it. He was never comfortable with things like that. He was Catholic and even though he was Irish and made lot s of sex jokes, feeling my breast to check for a lump made him feel very uncomfortable. Anyway, he finally felt it and he agreed I had a lump.

Fast forward to the operation. They took the lump out and sent it to the lab immediately. Suddenly on the loudspeaker which was amplified to the entire hospital for some reason, they confirmed it was cancer. SO she took out the whole breast. Once that was done, a year later the other breast got lumps and bumps and I decided to get that one-off too. It was scary.

So to treat myself I decided I would ask the doctor to put in some big bazungas.  But the doctor felt it wouldn’t be proportional with my frame, so sadly I got A’s. No fun.

So today, theres scar tissue across each breast and even though they are small, but they’ve dropped! Some nerve they’ve got. SO I have a flat chest and tony bumps somewhere around my knees. Not that low, I’m just kidding. They rest nicely on my hips.

My roommate took me out bra shopping. The goal was to lift up my boobs. We went to the Bra Smith on Broadway.  This is like an old-fashioned bra store where they measure you and actually know what they’re doing. They gave me a few options to try on. They made me look normal. Not huge, but normal. That seemed ok so I bought 3. Then I never wore them because they squeezed me too much and hurt the area where I had the mastectomy.

So now I’m thinking of getting new boobs. Higher, better ones. I often think operations will solve all of my problems. Like Id love to have my eyes done. But Im allergic to painkillers, so that makes me take pause. Morphine seems to work though…so I don’t know.

Anyway, breasts were a thing in my family. Big boobs were what you wanted and I never had them. So here I am with these tiny breasts and I am worried about dating.I don’t know if I want to date. Not just because of my breasts.  Theres something about starting all over again with someone. Particularly having sex with them! It’s scary because I don’t think I could handle rejection on any level. I don’t want more depression, I want more fun.

So this guy could really just want to start a bereavement group with me.  But I’m hesitant. Trying new things without Don around is very hard. I want to join a gym. I want to take classes. But its hard.

There’s all of this “new” around me. Lots of opportunity is sitting right outside my door and I’m hesitant to take it. At this moment I have no idea if I will do any of these things. But who knows? Maybe tomorrow will be different. I sure never thought I’d write stories like this in a blog.

I know what you’re thinking. Be brave, Judy. Be brave. I’m sitting here thinking I should change the word “bereavement” at the beginning of this story so the guy calling me wont be offended or weirded out. But I don’t think this story is about him calling me. It’s about me trying to do what my mother told me to do as a kid:

” Judy, anything you want to do in life YOU can do!”

Ok, Mom. I’ll try.




When Don Walked Out

In East Hampton we did a lot of things, as you can imagine. But we all played baseball.  I chose to play baseball- as opposed to volleyball- because I wore “falsies” and they would fall out when I played volleyball. So I wanted to avoid that.

One weekend I brought my boyfriend Don out to have a fun weekend. He was an actor and a writer and Irish Catholic. He had been to several writers colonies, which were pretty focused, but I’d go to see him there. So I figured it would be fun to have him out to East Hampton.

He had a car and drove us out there. Usually I wold drive myself, but when I was with Don he preferred to drive. I was a good driver but this was back when female drivers were thought of as…well, not good drivers I suppose.

So Friday night we had a dinner party in our house. I shared a house with my friends Brin, Margaret, Wayne, Mike and whole slew of people. It was a 4 bedroom house and we packed us in to those, plus we had a porch a couple could sleep on. We shared expenses and alternated weekends so it was really affordable.

Don lived and worked as a super in Greenwich Village.He found out about the Sullivanian’s from a group of friends he had in the city. Many of these friends of his went to the same therapist he did and apparently his therapist spread some rumors about the Sullivainian’s. Mostly the same rumours everyone else spread which were that they were a cult and had group sex and stuff. It was envy, more than anything else and people felt a need to paint a terrible picture of people learning to live a free and independent life.  This is how people become Yentas.

So I didn’t know that Don even knew about the Sullivanian’s when I took him to East Hampton. And Don made a mistake and sat next to a woman at the party that was  a little nuts. Not only did she was a Sullivanian, but she said I was and so was everyone else at the party!

Next thing I know, Don stood up, walked out the door and drove home. That was it. No discussion. Nothing.

After a couple of therapy sessions and some thinking I called him. Even though he was very judgmental I felt like there was something there. We started to see each other off and on for 3 months. It was friendly and very slow….

I’m very independent and so is my thinking. Im open minded and this was something Don needed to learn about me, and he did. Good thing because I married him.