Doctors are Not Gods

There was a doctor that my family used in Bayside. He always looked like a doctor. He wore a lot of tan linen in the summer. So I was 16 and was getting pains in my stomach. We went to this doctor and he came in to examine me. My mother left the room. Right out of the gate he says, “Have you been having very hard sex?” I was a virgin. I said no but inside i was going “What!??”

In my 20’s my first husband and I were on a road trip to Texas. I had to go to the bathroom and he would never pull over for me to do so. The same pains came. When we got there I was in agony and he finally called an ambulance. Well, it was my appendix. It was a very close call. Those doctors saved my life. Mr. Linen not so much.

My family looked at doctors like they were Gods, so they never doubted any of them. But when my appendix almost burst because the doctor in linen thought I was having rough sex instead of an inflamed appendix, it opened my eyes a little.

Now almost 80 years old, here I am dealing with more doctors than I’ve ever known. Recently I was having migraines and my doctor prescribed BUTALB-ACETEMIN-CAFF. So I started taking it and found my migraines were gone but so was part of my brain! Suddenly my memory was really having problems. I would be working (yes i still work). I sell real estate and of course design architecture for apartments. Retirement is not my middle name.  So I took a client to an Open House in an apartment I hadn’t remembered seeing before! Well the broker hosting the Open House remembered me. That’s when I realized my brain was being effected. Thanks a lot doc!

So I called the doctor and asked him about the memory loss. I told him he mentioned I shouldn’t take too much if the BUTALB-ACETEMIN-CAFF or my memory would go to “moosh”. Well he denied ever having said that. Trust me , he did. My problem isn’t changing history. Its memory and very soon my problem  will be finding a new neurologist.

 

 

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Pushing Forward

When I was studying Architecture I had to study math. Math was not my thing and I really struggled at it. One day a fellow female classmate of mine let me know she didn’t need to study for math anymore.

” Judy I don’t have to study for the test tomorrow, but thanks anyway.”

“Really? You already studied?”

She smiled.

“Oh, you had sex with him?”

“Yes”

So there it was. Two ways to become an Architect. Work your ass off or work your ass off. I was one of 8 women in this school, and some of them used sex to pass. I felt very sorry for her. I thought the teacher was garbage. One day he told me was going to pass me because I walked and talked with confidence. He said he believed I could be an architect. The irony is he passed me for reasons that had nothing to do with trigonometry. He passed me for my confidence. That would have never happened for the men in our class.

There was a design teacher who used to make all of the students cry. Men and women, it didn’t matter. He used to take his long nails and scratch our work, which was on tracing paper, and exclaim, “THIS is not architecture”. He told one man he should be a baker. This teacher gave me an F on my first project. He gave another guy an A. Then he gave me a D on my next project. But on the 3rd project I got an A and the other guy got a F.  The teacher explained why. He said because I had to fight for a good grade my work improve and changed exponentially. The guy with the A off the bat didn’t improve at all. It was quite a manipulation, but it worked.

If it wasn’t for my therapist, I would’ve quit architecture school my first year. It was really hard and humiliating at times. Tony, my therapist, gave me perspective. He helped me see that people like this exist everywhere. The trick is to plug away and don’t listen to the words that try to tear me down.

Years later I was designing a library for the city. I made the mens bathroom with pink tile and the woman’s bathroom with blue. I was trying to make a statement and my supervisor (who was a woman) approved it. When the contractor began building he said I made a mistake and reversed the colors. I was furious. I wanted them to change it. My supervisor understood, but said this was very expensive for the city. She said I should focus on continuing to work and do what I do. Basically, this fight wasn’t worth it. Looking back, I agree. I had a lot of good work to do in my future.

It’s interesting the people who pushed me through and how. As I look back nobody every really told me no. They just pushed me forward and I was a better architect for it. My mother never told me no either. Funny.

When you are on your path it’s not always easy, but I guess I can say that the signs are clear when its right. My husband Don used to quote an old Irish Blessing. I think it’s appropriate here:

May the road rise to meet youMay the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand

Running Naked

When I was married to my first husband, Elliot, he waited tables. He said this was a way not to be a part of the system. Living off the grid. He worked at a Kosher restaurant on Delancey Street. We were living in the East Village then and this was the second wind of an already tumultuous relationship.

So Elliot became friends with the busboy, Raphael. Raphael didn’t speak English that well. He came over from Puerto Rico and also worked in restaurants so he didn’t have to declare his income. Two guys avoiding “the man”.

Anyway Raphael’s living situation was pretty cramped so Elliott asked me if he could come stay with us.  There was no end date discussed, but Raphael was pretty cute so I didn’t mind.

When Raphael lost his job he continued to stay with us. We spent most days together while Elliot was at work. One day we went to the San Genaro festival, and that’s when it happened – he held my hand. I didn’t think much of it, but then we were kissing. And then we went home-made love.

A few weeks later he moved out but we continued our affair. It was during the Cuban Crisis and Raphael wanted to go to Cuba and fight against the United States and support the people of Cuba. So off he went. He called me once for money – which I happily sent to him –  but I never saw him again.

Eventually I told Elliot about Raphael and about being pregnant. I knew it was Elliot’s baby because enough time had passed.  You would think the affair would’ve been the bad news, but he freaked out about the baby. So he ran away from home to apparently run naked in the woods. I took that opportunity to move out. I moved into a nearby apartment so I could stay in the East Village.

During this time, I would’ve done ANYTHING to have a role model. But my liberated, activist lifestyle didn’t have a lot of role models at that point. I tried to go to a friend of the family for advice but he told me to move back in with my mother! Some help he was.

So you’re probably wondering about the baby. So there I was, alone. My husband was unreliable and I couldn’t both support myself and take care of a baby. The only other option was to move home and leave the baby with my parents while I worked all day. So there would be a baby without me most of the time and with a crazy father. I could see how unhappy this child would be. I also would never be able to go back to school. Both the baby and I would have no shot at happiness. None. So I made my choice.

My friend Rita and her husband took me to Queens for an illegal abortion. I was late and made the mistake of calling ahead to let him know. The doctor was worried he would get caught so we rescheduled and came back. The doctor put me under and did the procedure. Afterwards he told me he was a 3 month old boy.

It was 1962. It was not yet a progressive time but I was a progressive and among a lot of women who were forging new territory. People were communicating more and sharing stories of their past. We were intent on growing up and away of everything we knew. We had no role models for this, only the support of each other. It was a fearless and very brave time. Anything was possible, and for women like me, there was no turning back.

When I look back, I think about how my mother inspired me to rebel in so many ways. Not only by driving me crazy, but by leading by example. My mother started working at 14. She lived a life and worked very hard. She backed me up and paid for me to go to  Architectural School. In many ways she was my role model.

Each generation moves forward. It’s our nature. To grow. No matter what. We also seem to accept each other more and more. I wonder if this next generation will continue to be independent and living lives where they feel productive and happier. Many say technology brings us together, and I agree with that. But in the 60’s we came together to talk, we didn’t text. We created group after group with the purpose of rallying each other through life’s hurdles. I hope people keep rallying. It changed me, and for that I am very grateful.

 

 

 

Hanging Up on A Ghost

My mother never wanted me to go to a funeral. She thought I wouldn’t understand it. She thought they were too sad. The one funeral I did go to was my Grandmothers. I wasn’t close with her so I wasn’t terribly sad. I sat in a car with my mother and  a few of my other relatives, and while they all cried and mourned I didn’t really.

When we arrived we piled out of the car and walked to her gravesite. It was like looking into a fishbowl from the outside in, and for the first time I really felt like I was alone in my lack of sadness. It was weird, but like I said, we weren’t close.

When my husband died, his brother was the MC at the memorial service. He had everyone laughing. There were about 100 people there, friends and family. At the memorial I felt like I was in a dream. It was sort of how I felt when I was helping him in the end of his life.  It was hard, but I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

When he was gone I often felt like he wasn’t actually dead. I have his ashes in my apartment, but I still feel like he’s around. So I called information to see if I could find someone with his name anywhere in the 5 boroughs.  I found his name in Staten Island. Don had written a play about a man in Staten Island, so I was very surprised. I called the number and it rang and rang and then I hung up. I didn’t know what I’d do if I heard his voice pick up on the other end.

I went to a memorial a few weeks ago. I go to a lot of them lately. I really should go to the movies instead. But a few weeks ago a friends husband passed. I went to the church and my friend was a wreck. I think it always take human beings awhile to get used to something, and her husband was diagnosed and had died within 2 weeks of the memorial. I would’ve much rather taken her to dinner, but there we were and it was very sad.

If I were ever to speak as someones funeral I would want to make people laugh. It releases the tightness and the bad memories. I’ve even been making a lot of people laugh lately. So I’m prepared! Live your life to the last-minute. But when you laugh, you have more fun. So do it. Do it all the time! Make people laugh.

 

Gold Lined the Streets of NYC

My Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother lived in Russia in the late 1800’s. One day my Great Grandfather said “The streets are lined with gold in NYC. I’m going to go there and we will be rich!”. He left my Great Grandmother who was pregnant at the time. She never heard from him so two years later she decided to follow him to NYC with a two-year old to find him!

When they arrived they stayed with some family and eventually found an apartment. To make money my Great Grandmother bought a push cart and sold vegetables every day. This was common on Hester Street. Women would line up and sell all sorts of things. And at the end of the day if there was anything left, there would be a trade with all of the vendors so they could feed their families.

She never found my Great Grandfather. I wonder if he died on the boat going over there. The part of the family that likes to talk, were certain he had just left her. They also claimed that she wasn’t married and had a child out-of-wedlock. This version of the story really upset my Mother and my Aunt. It was also ridiculous because my Great Grandmother was very religious.

Her name was Bella Rubinsky. She had long red hair, big blue eyes and a tiny nose. Her patience was worn by the time I showed up. I was a troublemaker and she had lived a hard life. I remember when she was mad at me at the table she would reach across the table with her long nails to pull my hair and face, but I was too fast. She never got me.

Her daughter Lillian married Thomas Kanaplue. He worked int he navy yard and was a big strong guy who unloaded things from trucks to the boats. He was so strong, it wasn’t uncommon for him to help people lug ice boxes up several flights of stairs to their apartments. He would strap them to his back! He also took care of a whole bird pen on the roof of his building. He was a gentle giant.

Bella thought Thomas wasnt good enough for Lillian. Unfortunately, they all lived together from the start of their marriage. He came in to support both of them, but Bella would NEVER speak to him. He was also never allowed in her room. This worked to my benefit later on when my Grandfather would try to reprimand me as a child after my Grandmother worked him over. He would chase me with a broom and I would run into my Great Grandmothers room and I was safe! He would try to poke me in the room with a long broom and Bella always backed me up. Eventually he would give up.

Thomas died when he was 63. When I was in my teens my Grandmother moved in with us. Most days she would be cooking her spicy spaghetti sauce when I came home after school. One day  she said to me, “You know you don’t look like your mother! You look like your father’s family cuz you’re hairy!” I guess I was hairy, for a girl. But I’ve always had a complex I looked like my father. Resembling your father is one thing, but LOOKING like you father is another! So she would say this and then force me to eat her spaghetti sauce, even though it turned my stomach.

When I think about my Great Grandfather leaving my Great Grandmother and Grandma Lillian to go find gold in NYC, it sounds both awful and exciting. I feel bad he left, but happy to know that his adventurous and optimistic spirit is in my family tree. Mostly, Im glad it lead my Great  Grandmother here with Lillian in tow. What a couple of characters.

I turned 79 two days ago and still live here in NYC. The streets still aren’t lined with gold , but if it wasn’t for my Great Grandfather thinking they were I would probably be in Russia right now. I’m not sure if I would like that or not, but at least I’d still have my fathers face.

 

 

It’s About Time

In the mid-sixties I took a bus to Washington DC to protest the Vietnam war. We all chipped in and  loaded up on a bus on Central Park West and 100th street. The bus was full of life and singing the songs of Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary. The long drive seemed like minutes and we poured out of the bus near the Reflecting Pool and joined thousands of others protesting.

I squirmed through the crowds to find a good place to stand. It was one of the first times I was with a giant group of people who were doing something so positive. Their politics matched mine and they felt the same about human nature. They had American flags, all of us did. We all sang, “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land!”  The love was palpable.

The police were everywhere. Under the guise of protecting us, we knew they were their to protect other people from whatever we did.  But all we wanted was peace. We knew we weren’t going to storm the White House.

We had signs protesting the war. Abbie Hoffman spoke. This lead to a string of protests I attended. Be it Women’s Rights, the War, anti-Semitism or sit ins wrapped in American flags – I did it!  It was an incredible time when huge masses of people forced society forward, and I was one of them.

The one thing I didn’t attend was Woodstock. I was really focused on my studies and activism at Pratt at the time. We were protesting to have our curriculum changed and as architects we drew structures all over the streets. We sang, we marched and we won. The people I knew who went to Woodstock were on a lot of drugs and alcohol and I felt much more comfortable with people I had more in common with. Basically I didn’t think it was going to be anything but a big drug fest, which I think its sort of was. But in the end we all were breaking barriers and fighting our rights. Even at Woodstock!

I am proud our country has the opportunity to vote for a Woman President today. Whether she wins or looses, I’m part of the reason she is able to run at all and I’m proud of that. I’m only 78, but it’s about time!

 

A Beatnik in Mexico

In the 60’s I was a Beatnik in El Paso with my first husband. It was a crazy time. We had this large calendar on the wall where we would put the dates until we could leave. We hated El Paso and spent our days listening to a lot of Lenny Bruce. I loved him!  I also witnessed the Freedom riders getting dragged out of restaurants in Texts and it deeply effected me. So much so, I volunteered to wait for the busses in the hopes that I could interfere with the violence, as a demonstrator. But there wasn’t much I could do without getting beaten up myself.

Lack of respect for people in general was all around me. I was teaching for the first time in my life. My days were filled with trying to help people, however when I was interviewed by the Principal she said, “Now Judy! I don’t want you bringing in your New York Jewish ways!” She said I smelled of sex. I had a moment where I could have said, “Go fuck yourself”” But I realized this was where I was needed the most. And while the other teachers called their Mexican student Wetbacks, I did my job. Teach.

Many of the Mexican students were learning English for the first time. Getting past the language hurdle was the first step to getting to know who they were as people. I had a couple of students who were cousins; Matthew and Catalina Gonzalez. They knew more English than the others and ended up being the brightest kids in the class. They were very smart and eager to learn. The Mexican kids were so thirsty for information I could do no wrong. I taught them as much as I could fit into my days and they absorbed everything like a sponge.

I met the parents of a lot of the students on parents day and they were lovely. The other teachers treated them with disdain, but I told them all of the wonderful things about those kids.

To see Mexicans in any way besides with respect is purely prejudiced. Back then they were productive and had a growing middle class.  I remember feeling safe and inspired by their creativity. And regardless of how much money they have they made beautiful things and sold them in the streets. They were driven to get out of poverty and educate their children. And they have.

I haven’t been there in years, but I often think of my students and their parents. I wonder what they think about Trumps plan to build a wall. They were forward thinking like I was and I know I don’t like the idea of it at all. If one goes up, I plan to help tear it down. Maybe they’ll help me.

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC’s of Fake Boobs

I started dating when I was 14. His name was Michael. He asked me to go row-boating in a park near my house in Queens. I had a nice time, but apparently my mother thought I would date more if I had bigger boobs and blonde hair. She was in a competition with her sister who also had girls. It was  competition to have he most beautiful daughter.

So there I was 15 and flat chested. My mother suggested I get something called “falsies”. Back then falsies were rubber boob shaped cups you put in your bra. On a warm day they were awful and you always had to have your bra on really tight or they would slip out. I didn’t really want them but I agreed not only to the falsies but to also get my hair dyed blonde..

My mother took me to the beauty parlor. Back then they used a lot of chemicals. Bleach was the main ingredient. I passed out on the chair on one particular hot day and I told my mother I didn’t want to do that anymore. She agreed but suggested I get streaks instead. I agreed becauseI knew how much it meant to her.She wanted me ready for the world!

One day my mother brought home my new falsies. I put them in  and thought I looked good, but again it wasn’t really important to me. The focus on breasts in my family dated back to my Grandmother. She was famous for feeling my friends boobs to see how great they were. Her boobs were tremendously huge and hung to her knee caps. In my family big boobs meant a better husband in the long run, richer, more handsome, the whole thing.

So a week later my fake boobs got to go to a party. My friend Barbara Kivel had a birthday party in her basement. She invited boys and girls and we danced! I loved to dance and my friend Barry and I hit the dance floor. We danced the Lindy with my fake boobs bopping in my too loose bra. After that we went into a slow dance and I looked down and there was my fake boob on the floor. My eyes widened as Barry swayed me back and forth. I said excuse me to Barry and in one sweeping motion I stooped down and scooped the boob and disappeared into the bathroom.

The next hot rage in fake boobs was inflated boobs. I was 17 and the word around Bayside High was that these boobs were much better than the rubber cups we’d all been wearing. My mother was eager to take me to her Bra and Girdle store in Brooklyn to get me a pair. They pumped them up like car tires to a nice round B cup. Way bigger than my natural size. S0 I bought a bra that would “house” them and they fit perfectly inside. They were very durable and lasted several years until I was at a Bullfight in Mexico with my first husband. I was sitting and watching when suddenly I felt someone brush by, when normally my balloon bra would buffer that. One of them had popped and that was the end of that. No more fake boobs for me.

Since that time I’ve always been natural. My husband Don always told me I had a world class ass, which to me compensated for no boobs. He never complained. My advice to my sisters lacking in he boob department, find an ass guy.

On My Own Two Feet

Growing up in the city doesn’t give you a lot of exposure to the country. And somehow living in the city makes country living look really easy. I was lucky enough to go to camps and away with my parents occasionally, and my father would rent a rowboat in Central Park. So naturally I thought I knew it all.

When I was 12 or 13, my parents went to the Berkshires one year and we stayed at this hotel called The Berkshire Hotel. Go figure. It had a series of cabins we could stay in.  But that year I got very sick. The doctor came and gave be an unusual number of shots in my butt. I swear it’s why I’m allergic to penicillin today.  Anyway, I was bored to tears and saw they had horses there and that was it! I was determined to get on a horse. I didn’t care how sick I was.

So my parents got me lessons. The horse was much bigger than I imagined. I was secretly frightened I would get hurt but I put those thoughts away and rode every day. They called the horse Judy, after me.

One day the horse slid and bucked on some ice and fell and I fell off the horse. We were both ok, thank goodness.

Even though Id been thrown I loved horseback riding. So my parents to me to horseback ride in Cunningham Park in Queens. It was across the park from us and I got on another horse. But this one bucked too! It was very hungry and kept pulling in things to chew on from the side of the rode until it tripped and bucked and I fell off again!

After that I was done with horses. People make it look so easy, but it isn’t.

Another time I got into a rowboat with a couple of kids. I was the rower. Well we got out in the middle of the lake and wouldn’t you know, I lost my oars. We were stranded for 2 hours in the Lake before someone came out and saved us.

Another time I thought Id give a bike a try. In the city this time. I was again, determined to get really good at biking. It was Autumn and started to get dark earlier. I was on the road with a bunch of cars all of a sudden. I got very nervous as the cars got closer and closer. Eventually I swerved and fell off my bike and the handle cut into my thigh to the bone!

Well I took myself to the hospital and got patched up. It was ridiculous. Every time I try to be mobile on a horse, a bicycle…one time I went on a motorcycle with my ex-husband. You know where this is going right? I have scars on my legs TODAY from my calves burning on the motor! Who does that?

I seem to do ok on elevators. Escalators. Busses. But risky steps for me were hard and I usually fell flat on my back if something else other than myself was moving me forward. I have to go at my own pace. On my own two legs. I’ve learned that at and 78 event tough I want to, I promise not to go roller skating. I’ve learned my lesson.

Judy Looks Up

I would like to find times in my life when I look up and not down. When I look at my life, so much of it was comical. Like when I played basketball. I was almost 14 and my whole team was Jewish. One day we had to play another team from Harlem. They were all twice as tall as I was. We lost that day. We won the second game because they never showed up.

Our team was created as part of a league The Mirror put together. The Mirror was a NYC newspaper. They put together several teams and we all competed for college scholarships. We lost.

One time in kindergarten I painted a cloudy sky. My teacher was concerned. She thought I was disturbed. She called my mother in to talk. My mother was a very good-looking woman. Needless to state, my mother didn’t agree with my teacher. She showed the teacher what I painted. My mother asked me why I painted it and I said it was because the paints were too watery. They were! I wanted to paint a circus.

In life I find its easy to find my failures or criticisms. One of my teachers, Mrs. Powers, looked like Norman Bates mother in a rocking chair. I wasn’t scared of her, but she gave spelling bees and I always won. But I focused on the fact she gave me bad marks for chatting with my friends.

These days I usually blame myself for almost anything that happens. I always look at myself first, which is a good quality, but I take it too far. I blame myself for things OTHER people do! If I make mistakes in speaking I’m always worried people will think Im stupid.  I guess I had relatives when I was young who resented me which made me think things were my fault. Im realizing now things aren’t my fault, necessarily. But I could waste a whole day worrying.

I find when I talk about it stops me from this cycle. I work with a lovely group of women in a small real estate office. They have confronted me about choices I’ve made because they were concerned for me and thank goodness! So I’ve been going there more, even though I could work from home. People are good for me.

Back in the day, my therapist Tony helped me realize my passion for architecture. At the time I was really confused about what to do. Teaching was making me miserable. I thought interior design but he pointed out I didn’t have a big hat and interior designers had big hats and limousines. I finally had a dream about a slide rule and Tony said, “Well I guess we know you’ve decided.” I get goosebumps remembering it. Talking these choices out with someone helped me stay clear and listen to the signs. When I talk to people I look up.  I have to remember that.