Tag Archives: New York City

..and then the crazy lady entered

Just like moons and like suns,         
With the certainty of tides,                                           
Just like hope  springing high,                                                                                                             Still I’ll rise.

                                 Maya Angelou        

I have ruminated on the things that I once loved about being me, just me. More than anything, it was a spirit of adventure, of following the journey wherever it led….and it led to some amazing places.

When I left that little town  back east, roaring into the night on a 1942 Indian  motorcycle  in which  I had  been at least halfway responsible for rebuilding and restoring with my own  small sixteen year-old hands, I never looked back. We rode hard for New Hampshire, a child’s romantic teen dream of escape from a world in decline and into a marriage about which I’d no concept. Small town New England held no charm for me. I was a high school drop-out with a mechanic husband and a little second floor flat in an old duplex. It was comfortable enough and I tried to teach myself the rudimentary tasks of being a housewife. I was a far better mechanic. The town itself was picturesque, with little squares, a diner where the locals held court and the fresh mountain air was foreign to my New York and New Jersey nostrils and lungs. I actually missed the smell of bus exhaust, the noise of traffic and the anonymous hustle by which I’d survived. I was not accustomed to being Mrs. (fill in the blank), the friendly and all-too-familiar local charm. It was 6 months before I demanded that we return to the world I preferred…not that dreadful little town that my parents chose but something more familiar. We again embarked on a night’s journey, this time towing the vintage bike behind a newly restored vintage car. My husband…a term so ridiculous in retrospect, considering my age, obliged me in every way possible. Three months later, a friend of his introduced me to pot…in my mind, akin to heroin! It was not.  It was good and I began to look at the world around me and realize that it was 1968 and everything was changing. There was an excitement in the air that had never been and I wanted to know , to be part of it. I did the only thing I could..I called my mother and her fiancé and requested refuge. My mother was delighted to accommodate me and sent Charlie, her soon-to-be husband, to get me quickly, lest I change my mind. It didn’t take long to realize that I had no forgiveness in my heart for the past and the situation with my mother grew untenable. My step-father was the only buffer in a simmering war between us. I had no money, no prospects, no aim but I left.

I wandered back into New York where I found everything imaginable happening! Being born in Brooklyn, it was always home to me and my love affair with New York has never waned. I love the noise, the people, the 24/7 life that I’ve never found anywhere else. At that time, movements of all sorts were afoot: civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war and everything in-between. I attended the first Earth Day in Central Park! I still look at old news footage of marches, so many in New York, knowing that I was among the thousands of faces in the crowds. The reality, though, was that I needed money of some kind, so I found a receptionist position in a county office, which led not to the drudgery I feared but to more freedom. I worked for brief periods but most of my time was spent on activism, hanging around college campuses, experimenting with minor drugs and living on and off in a commune. When I grew restless, as was my habit, I would hit the open road with my thumb out and off to parts unknown. During one of my trips to see my family for the holidays, I happened into a store where I met a Puerto Rican conga drum player, all looks and charm, living in Hoboken,, N.J. and there I was again. I had a great apartment on the first floor of a brownstone, the park featured in “On the Waterfront” across the street. I took a job in the garment district and spent six months in a crazy life of playing it straight by day and spending nights in Latin clubs with my heroin addict and barely English-speaking lover. Then I woke up. He disdained my politics, my commune past and my feminist ways and I abhorred his drug-addicted, womanizing failures. Again, I left. Back to the farm in Canada, to heal my wounds, regain my wits and grow restless for more travel…and yearning to be free of the sub-zero temperatures and hip-deep snow. The farm was spectacular in other seasons but winter was brutal and I was not made for that…nor am I a farmer. So, I rolled some cigarettes, a little weed, donned my hiking boots and layers of clothing and headed to the Trans-Canadian Highway with the first person willing to drive me the 15 miles out. On it went…

More trails than I could have imagined, more people who became friends, still fondly remembered, more impulsive but priceless experiences. I met another love: he on his post-college summer and me with my thumb out. We married in Los Angeles and, lo and behold, I once again ended up in suburban New Jersey! What were the odds? I tried my best to be a suburban working wife, converted to Judaism and had cocktail parties for people who I considered vapid and annoying. I lied my way into a management position at a chain bookstore, where I worked for several years…my respite from the Short Hills Mall women by whom I was surrounded. I soon found a guru fresh from India and that, along with my ongoing consumption of pot, kept me there for six years before the dam broke. It was an emotionally wrenching time: I was leaving a man I did not want to hurt but staying was worse; my father was dying a long and slow death from a broken heart which he drowned in alcohol and my company had me under pressure for transfer to the second largest store in the chain…in Los Angeles! My divorce was final in March, my father passed away in May and I took my transfer in July. I left all I knew to begin again. Success was short-lived. I was still grieving, trying to fix a business that I was sent to troubleshoot and one day, I tossed it all. I ended up living in the desert, trying my hand at alcohol. The party didn’t last long and I did get and stay sober for many years. Life settled into a pleasant groove.

I figured it was time for that G.E.D., followed by college and an Engineering degree. I acquired a nice vintage (of course) restored Mercedes, had a townhouse at the beach  and , best of all, a great group of people in a 12-Step program. I married again, moved to Oregon where I found love at first sight in Portland. It was the first place since childhood that felt like home to me. My marriage didn’t last but life in Portland did.

I made wonderful friends, took up activism on other fronts, returned to college and then university. I majored in Political Science, minored in Journalism and Creative Writing; transferred on to another school and left to work full-time on a major political campaign, followed by a stint in the Senate Majority Office. When I left, I went to an art school.I was independent, outrageous, self-appointed “Hostess at the Party of Life”. I worked and lived among many dear people who were at the center of the HIV/AIDS crisis and lost many friends to this still ongoing plague. I still thrived until I made one last, really bad choice.

I returned to my family of origin, thinking I had a place at the table. The results of that have been recounted in earlier posts. I am back in my beloved Portland now, blessed with an exceptional man who loves me as I am, a cat and a companion dog round out our little family. As I’ve noted before, it has been a decade if curses and blessings, about evenly split. I am still healing, the emotional and physical toll remains and while my spirit rises, my body has taken on the burden of the trauma. My material possessions are few and I teeter on bankruptcy, living below the poverty levels, but I am alive and blessed. I have regained extended family that I believed lost to me forever and these things buoy my spirits on the days when I think I cannot face another sunrise under these circumstances. Gradually, in spirit anyway, I am re-entering my own. I try not to look too far ahead, but stay close to present. It is what I must do if I am to succeed.

Oh yes, and laugh..more at myself than others, often irreverently, sometimes sardonically, but laugh nonetheless. If I lost that capacity, I would truly be mad. The jury is still  out on that.


Are we the Sob Sisters…or is it really just being Celtic?

Harry, the 4 lb. bada**                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                     K.M.                                Mumford

My darling cousin E and I speak at least every two weeks and, almost every time, one or both of us cries. She called a few days ago to tell me that the last post I’d written had made her cry as it brought back such great memories of the great times of childhood. As is usual, we were both crying by time we were done. It is rarely based on negativity  or sadness but, rather, on a shared memory of our childhoods among our huge and somewhat eccentric Celtic clan. As I’ve written in earlier posts, removed from my family through circumstances not of my choosing, reunion was decades to come. One evening, about 8 years ago, I happened on a genealogy website with one little query including the names of my paternal grandparents. I was so excited, my heart was racing…after all these years! It was E and she was looking for family members. I responded and soon we were talking and we grew to be four of us woring on it.

Before the Brooklyn Navy Yard closed,  2 generations of family had lived & worked in Red Hook. Our paternal grnadmother was a strong woman. She was the mother of 18, 12 of whom made it to adulthood,  8 of those being boys. Each served in one or both wars and in every branch of the military. My grandmother became well-known on her own right at home.  She donated more blood than anyone in NY; collected infinite amounts of silk hosiery, rubber and whatever else needed. We never knew these things about her growing up. Just like we never realized how hard our Dads worked at the Navy Yard…I still cannot see “On the Waterfront” without heartache. I never heard complaints or saw a hint of what each day was like for my Dad or uncles. No one complained, it was just life on life’s terms.

E’s dad was among my favorite uncles, incredibly hilarious and the entertainment for all the kids. When we were young, there would be an annual gathering at an aunt & uncle’s in New Jersey…they had a huge piece of property that could accommodate the entire brood. It was in sharing these fond memories as well as re-connecting with one cousin after the next that brought up the concept of the reunion. E & I, along with a couple of others, began tracking down names and addresses or whatever contacts we could. She & I are alike in that we both seem predisposed to organizing, planning, playing Nancy Drew…or in her case, Lois Lane…The Golden Age Lois Lane and Superman, from th...

and getting the task done. I did it in politics where she’s done it in life on a grand scale and , I suspect, we love it equally well. Unfortunately, we can only control so much. I knew before we began that I could not attend due to personal constraints. Many others were enthusiastic until it was a reality and then, one by one, they begged off until there were just a handful. E is the most optimistic and upbeat person I know &, God knows, she’s gotten me through some storms, but I know what family means to her and I knew this was a big disappointment. As always, she made the best of it but I was incensed! Most lived within driving distance, a couple a day or so by car and then one in the mid-West and me in Oregon.A stitched panorama of downtown Portland, OR a...

I pray that next year, I will have the resources and that others will show a legitimate effort to attend. Our parents are gone and I hate to see the family history of certain animosities and pettiness be carried on. Most of us who have spoken have talked about the little family feuds and skirmishes and spoke of gratitude that we would not travel that path. I would like to believe it sincere. In the meantime, E has demonstrated reaping what we sow. Although I don’t know  her family, their devotion to each other and the bonds that exist are amazing. It is an almost abstract concept to me as I didn’t grow up with it and have spent most of my life seeking. Unconditional love came from one person and all animals. E & her husband have worked hard and earned all that they have,no one takes anything for granted…neither the people in their lives nor the comforts with which they are blessed. E is a person of optimism, commitment to those around her, generosity and kindness to all with whom she comes in contact and an unfailing faith and spirituality. She never fails to inspire me at every turn and has seen me through these last dark & challenging years. I retain a certain  amount of N.Y. cynicism, sarcasm  and snide comment when I consider it necessary. I aspire to that which seems innate to Elaine. I do have a soft heart and a spirituality of my own, but if I wanted to catch up to her, I’d better hurry….I’m not getting any younger, I just look that way!

Clan Tartans:

Kilt (or Dress) Tartan

Casual Tartan      Hunting Tartan

The Warrior Morrigan, one of the three incarnations of the ancient Celtic Goddess. She is usually accompanied by three ravens. The warrior version that I have tattooed on me is different and I’ve not gotten the third one.

Fate smiled upon me..in a weird way…when I moved into this building. I had a reclusive neighbor who spoke to no one and grumbled at everyone. One day, he deigned to strike up a conversation and I discovered that it was the flags of Scotland & Irelamd, along with our family crest, that drew him. As I leanred, he was a writer, historian & fact-checker who freelanced his services. He moved away 2 years ago and passed suddenly but before he did, he presented me with a gift. Unbeknownst to me, he had spent countless hours documenting, annotating and gathering over 900 years of family history! I was speechless…how rare. I could not believe he had done all this and the details were amazing and , so far, proving to be accurate. I passed them on to E to distribute. Unbelievalby, it is the last 3 generations that are the hardest to sort out. In Journalism, I first learned the who,what,when where and why. With our combined research and educations, it is hard to believe that those basics are the stumpers. That, however, is for another day.

It has been an emotional roller coaster in recent weeks and last week ended on a sad note. My cousin (more like my brother)Ralph, on the maternal side of the family passed away a few years ago & I always miss him. About three or four years ago, I found his childhood best friend on FB and we began sporadic contact. He remembered me as the bratty five-years younger girl with whom they were often stuck. I remembered their 45 vinyl records and learning the words to all their late 50’s early 60’s music and my natural flair for dance.

I received an email from a mutual childhood friend telling me of Pat’s sudden death and found myself overwrought as my mind  flooded with memories and of missing my cousin. I wrote to Pat’s family though they’d no idea of me and they were appreciative of the memories I shared of his youth. Then I called E…as always, it started out tearful but ended with laughter.

There are a small number of people who can bring that kind of  bond to our lives; give us laughter and tears in the same few moments; have compassion for our difficulties and true joy for our happiness. I don’t know how many anyone gets nor do I know who they’re supposed to be…parents, friends, lovers, extended family? For me, there have been a very rare few and almost none related by blood…then there’s my cousin, E. I am more than blessed.


What Would “Auntie Mame” Do? Aunt Sissy knew best….

My Aunt Sissy, the most beloved & enduring women in my life…beautiful,,independent, loving, kind, fierce, hilarious,,a survivor, an inspiration & , of course, my personal “Auntie Mame“!

Last Wednesday began with a rude awakening:  stirred from sleep by my landlord’s son shouting, “Hello? Hello?”. I stumbled sleepily into my living room, stepping over a gaming device, laptop & various dvd’s strewn across the floor. In my fog, the back of my brain noted the oddity, but I focused on the wide open front door & my landlord’s son standing there with a strange look on his face. I was abruptly brought to full consciousness by the scene….

I went to bed, my living room in the tidy chaos that is normal. Like any good former Brooklyn, NY‘er, I had locked everything up & felt the safety of not only the lock but the safety & tight-knit environment of my little Portland neighborhood (also called Brooklyn)…

Sometime, in the wee hours, we were robbed! Not only had we been robbed but it happened as we slept! I remembered my anti-social cat,Mumford, shouting in the night & me shushing him. I know my usual 4 alarms (I am not good at wake-ups) & coffee maker were set & went off at 5:45 a.m., at which time I chose to roll over & sleep in, skipping my early morning meeting. This may have been a blessing as I may have met some unsavory person(s) mid-burglary or a curse, since we did lose some valuables & the few precious funds of someone living on SSD. Who’s to say? Either way, my landlord watched me as shock set in & my mind began racing. I inanely explained to him that things were not this way when I went to bed…..as though this needed explanation. I realized that I must immediately call the police.          

An uniformed officer arrived, after what seemed an eternity, and made his report, advising me not to touch anything as the Forensics person would be following to do whatever it was they do in such cases. Clearly, I am intelligent enough to know this was not a CSI event, no one died in the incident & the case would not be solved in 1 hour. Still, I never thought I would experience an event in my life that would need Forensics. Even when my significant other died suddenly in our home, there was a flurry of activity for a couple of hours, a Coroner’s team, etc, I was too in shock to notice much & went through it robotically. It remains a blur even as the 5th anniversary approaches. But I digress….the Forensics officer arrived, dusted for fingerprints, was given information on who may have touched these items who could be ruled out. He left, advising us that we may hear from detectives in the coming days. That being done, we proceeded to clean up the mess & go about our day. It was not until evening that the reality set in.

My fiancé went to bed & I sat up, not abnormal as I am a “night-bird” & it is also in these quiet hours of night that I am most inspired to write. I planned to write, wanted to write, but the PTSD/Anxiety Disorder reared their ugly heads. I thought through every scenario & examined the facts Logic’s Public Defenders: overworked, underpaid, outgunned) : they’d came, gotten ID‘s, cash & whatever else was of lesser consequence to notice yet. Little could be done, it was over & out of our hands. The only trials at this point were the ones played out in my head…and I was the Judge, Prosecutor, Defense & Victim.

 The Prosecution ( the Anxiety D.A.’s: Ivy League, politically ambitious & win oriented) then entered with their case: the burglars saw what we had, which is not much but easily movable for sale. Perhaps, they would return, disguised & intent on harming us.They had no fear of coming in while we were in bed so what was to stop them from coming back ? I imagined awakening to shadowy figures standing over us, with us being at the disadvantage to defend ourselves.The Public Defender, as most are, was disorganized & without a good strategy.  Needless to say, argued this to the nth degree without a clear goal. I, the victim,  decided to sleep on the sofa; changed my mind, feeling I would be safer in my bed with Toby & my “kids”, Mumford & Harry. After all the arguing, I took my proper medications & retired to my bed, where I lay awake til dawn, meds not being any match for the unending arguments in my brain & the physical fear that left my body in knots. It has been that way since.

I am angry that the acts of strangers, likely drug addicts, had begun disrupting the peace & tranquillity of our little neighborhood. Prior to this, we recently have had spates of car break-ins but, to my knowledge, no home invasions, burglaries or person-on-person crime. Outraged that I am impacted so deeply by this event, my emotions roller-coaster! I recently went through an I.D. theft that is part of an international scam effecting thousands internationally. Another “never thought” moment. Interpol?Yay me! Wreaking havoc in my life for several months & causing me to have to change everything from governmental & financial information down to names/passwords on even the most inane of accounts exceeds mere inconvenience. Violation upon violation! Helplessness is the greatest sense here. Helplessness that I’ve not felt in over 40 years. Helplessness that brings up another topic that I’d planned to write about eventually, but now will be sooner than later.

Does helplessness trump my commitment to the year of FEARLESSNESS? I will not permit that! It may override it momentarily but I will not give up a commitment so vital to me to become the Agoraphobic & fear-filled person I slipped into years ago as I have struggled mightily to get this far on the road back to the adventurous, excited, loving-kindness woman I once was. In fact, I will use this to make an even better me than I was before life caught me unawares and overwhelmed that proud woman. I made decisions & choices that I thought were long overdue only to find that they were best left alone. This is not to say I did not find some blessings in them because I did…new friends, family members who’d thought I disappeared years ago & knew only black-sheep myths….but  the abuse, shame & bitter disappointment came first &  won out, proving stronger than the woman of power I believed could recognize & use all of my hard-won wisdom, healing and power to not only deflect it away from me but imbue those around me with some sense of peace & healing. WRONG!! Not only had I evolved for the better but somewhere along the way developed a sense of super-powers to change others (insert Serenity Prayer here).  Against instinct & better judgement, I stayed on. I ignored the flashing red lights, the sirens and all warnings. Rather than deflect the negativity directed at me, I absorbed it. Not only did I absorb it, I began to merit it…I became judgemental, bitchy and, worst of all, threw away more than a decade of sobriety & drug-free years….all in an effort at acceptance. It earned me not only further disdain from those who shall remain unnamed but from myself. Until I checked in to a posh treatment facility, exited to find my employer selling my division ( was the benefit of the aforementioned “posh”  facility the prep for the coming loss?) &  faced with unemployment;invested then lost all in a small business partnership &  ended up in a homeless shelter for women on a defunct military base, did my loss of self  become Priority One.

Permit me to digress once again and point out that none of this is part of the 45+ year old  trauma to which I referred. I’d yet to realize that I had my beloved extended family on the East Coast, who’d not abandoned me,as I believed, but never knew what became of me! I have since reconnected, told the stories they didn’t know & found that some bonds can never be broken. That will come soon enough…but it does tie in. Eventually, I’ve learned, all things circle around & relate to something past.

At last, the Universe smiled upon me…an investment (which I’d forgotten) check from my former employer appeared in the shelter mail. It was enough to start over there or….return to Oregon, the only other place outside of NY that ever felt like home….from Brooklyn (NY) to Brooklyn (PDX) . Portland,the place where I found  love, acceptance, my power and  been blessed with extraordinary experiences over my years there…and more to come, I’ve no doubt.  And this is where the question came in:

What would Auntie Mame do? Auntie Mame (as portrayed by Rosalind Russell) was a heroine of mine…she reminded me in some ways of my dearly beloved late Aunt Sissy and represented the kind of woman I aspired to: a flamboyant, free-thinking, open to adventure, fly in the face of convention & never give up woman. In many ways, I have succeeded. To come full circle, in the face of home invasion or anything else life throws at you: What would Auntie Mame do?  ” LIVE, LIVE, LIVE! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”           

A real “dame” & my partial inspiration for who I wanted to be as a woman!

   A real “dame” & my other partial inspiration for who I aspired to be as a woman!

So, I will live in my home, not giving up my power to the fear of some small little pathetic people whose only power lies in taking from others. I will return to the banquet…and when I get scared away, it will be only briefly. I will return to the banquet until I’ve had my fill….and that, I hope, will be when I draw my last breath and leave for the next plane. Oh yeah… and remember to keep laughing because if I didn’t I’d go mad! Sometime laughter may seem irreverent, out-of-place or plain crazy….it is often the sanest and only thing one can do.