THE DOG DAYS ARE UPON US ! Yoga Bitches, My Expensive Soap Fetish and a Frozen Pet

| July 12, 2014 | Comments (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My not posting a blog these past ten months has led some of my readers to inquire, gingerly, whether I have lost my writer’s juice or if I am simply losing my mind. I will not address either of these  conditions, deflecting such accusations with Elaine Stritch’s famous croak, “I’m still here!”

So let’s get down to business !

This past winter was grim. Not because of the weather which was globally-warmed mild or due to ill health. Quite the contrary; I have never felt better and I don’t think I shoveled snow more than three times between December and March. But sad events were in the air on East 140th Street. First, there was my Puerto Rican friend, Jorge, and his dead dog. Jorge is an animal lover with a kindness and devotion that surpasses any human’s love for pets that I have ever seen. He has, in his tiny basement apartment, nine cats and eight dogs. I might add that the apartment is spotless clean and nary a whiff of “pet store funk” hits the visitor’s nostrils when one visits him. About a year ago, when he was walking his rat-killing Yorkies (those tiny dogs have the BIGGEST teeth) one evening, he spotted a mangy mutt careening down the street in a dis-oriented manner. Risking attack by a rabid dog, Jorge rescued the poor creature and brought her home. It turns out that Linda (he gave her that name) was blind and deaf, hence the unusual, unbalanced behavior. Linda became a beloved fixture in Jorge’s household, integrating well with his large animal family. A lovely survivor, a real canine Helen Keller, her sense of smell and talent for body contact allowed her to know that she was loved. Never has a fiercely wagging tail conveyed so much joy and emotion as did Linda’s. But, in the middle of winter Linda passed away. Jorge always buries his  deceased pets in a grassy meadow in Pelham Bay Park. The problem with Linda’s interment was that the ground was frozen solid and hard as concrete. What do do? Grief stricken, Jorge wrapped Linda in a beautiful batik sarong I had given him and placed her gently in the back seat of his car. He then turned on the air-conditioner and drove the streets of the South Bronx for hours with tears in his eyes as snow fell and ice formed on his windshield, Linda cool and nearly embalmed in the rear of the vehicle.

Several weeks later, the temperatures still hovering near freezing, I passed my neighbor Margie’s house. Bundled and wailing on the stoop was 85 year-old Margie. rocking back and forth clutching herself, moaning “Mijo, Mijo !” Her beloved husband of 60 years had gone to his Maker and in typical South Bronx fashion, all of  life’s joys and sadnesses were playing out on Margie’s stoop, the public arena for our emotions in this community. Struck by this pathetic scene, I stopped to inquire what was wrong and Margie through her sobs and tears said something to me that, filtered through my bad hearing, came across as “My dog died.” When I tried to comfort her assuring her that after a proper period of mourning she could get another pet, her neighbor, who has disliked me since I moved to the block  sixteen years ago, hissed at me, “Stupid, her HUSBAND just died !”  Two days before I had seen Roberto, her meek husband, walking their dog, Oreo. Stunned, I stood speechless, seized by the sad but moronically comic aspect of the encounter and burst into what was a crazed combination of laughter and tears. Margie was so shocked by my reaction that her sadness left her for a moment as she gazed on me, this mad creature, her neighbor.

Now that Spring has sprung and passed into Summer,  Winter’s woes seem a bit more distant though they still haunt me when shadows lengthen as summer’s twilight descends. Margie has been evacuated to a nursing home in Virginia and her lovely, well-tended brownstone consumed in a tangle of liens and legal complications; squatters have taken over the property. Another step backward for our struggling block.

No doubt these events have pushed me into a pattern of emotionally compensating behavior. One of my unusual actions is the purchase of expensive soap. I mean really pricey soap. Let me explain. In the trendy SOHO neighborhood of New York City is a perfumery called Santa Maria di Novella. It is the American branch of the venerable Florentine institution of the same name, purveyor of fine scents and potions to the nobility of Italy for centuries (casa fondata en 1612!). Housed in a fortress-like pile on Lafayette Street, the shop is presided over by an intense Roman lady clad totally in black who weighs 95 pounds, if that. She is wearing at least that same amount of weight in heavy jewelry. Her conversation and body language are so animated and delightfully out of control that she is apt to do what she did to me – grab my whole cheek with her fingers and practically lift me off the ground. I am hooked and totally powerless and Gabriela knows it in an instant. That’s why, when I express interest in soap, she leads me to a dark corner of the store, and with a slightly loony smile on her face lifts a little box, it must be three by four inches in dimension, and brings it to the level of my nose. The odor is more than mesmerizing. It is a trip back in time. A mingle of musk, sweat, cloves and other delicate strains – have your ever smelt iris  – that plunk me down in Florence four hundred years ago, where courtiers come to see and be seen, to do and be undone. When I recover sufficiently from my time travel, I tell Gabriela, ” I will take it” and she smiles knowingly to herself. “This one is in my power” is going through her mind,  her immense bracelets clanking as she rings up $57 for my tiny bar of soap. Now when I go to the gym, I skip the exercise and have what some of us call an “executive work-out.” It consists of a 30-minute shower with my Renaissance bar of soap. I lather and rinse so many times that I positively reek with Santa Maria di Novella when I hit the streets. On the crowded subway people give me glances and I know they are thinking as they whiff my body odor, ” Now there’s a real gentleman!”

Pet peeves always come last and my “peeve du jour” is people practicing yoga and meditation who, under their rama lama ding-dong peace and love surface, are basically nasty pieces of work and split personality, uptight shits. The peerless author Ruth Pravar Jhabala has skewered them beautifully and repeatedly in her writing; now let me add my two cents. Three examples will suffice, I hope, to put these whey-faced, tight-lipped, humorless creatures in their place. One “friend”, whom I have now down-graded to “an acquaintance” is an ashram regular and carries a sanskrit name, Bodhi Jaya. A perpetual half-smile is always plastered on his face. He recently queued  six hours to get a hug from Amma, she of generous corporal proportions who travels the world hugging people. In an online conversation with Bodhi, I apparently, and unwittingly, incurred his displeasure with an innocent question that caused him to lash out at me and tell me I was “passive-aggressive.”  Not being familiar with the term, but sensing it had an ominous tone to it, I hurried to Google, only to be informed that I had a “psychological disorder.”  The only way to cleanse myself was to rush to the gym for an extended Santa Maria di Novella purging. Let me tell you folks, that little $57, three-ounce rectangle from the Italian Middle Ages was worth EVERY penny I paid for it. And you thought I was a crazy spendthrift ! Another ashram regular whom I have known for decades and from whose tongue I have suffered periodic lashings if his bubble is disturbed, recently invited a mutual friend who was in an advanced state of decline from Parkinson’s Disease to come to his ashram for an attempt at being cured or at least to experience palliative relief from this condition. The ashram environment was indeed severe and spartan and our stricken friend could not hold up. For one thing, Parkinson’s victims cannot perspire adequately and the ashram with its hundred degree heat and no air-conditioning was oppressive and unbearable; indeed life-threatening. His host’s reaction was impatience and anger (are these advanced practitioners supposed to experience such negative emotions?) and told our ill friend that he was not following the program and was being stubborn ! So much for loving kindness and understanding ! Finally, a third acquaintance who is also a card-carrying ashram member, repeatedly talked to me about a woman he had been traveling with, one Anne Lamotte. When I innocently asked him “WHO is Anne Lamotte?”, he snapped at me saying, “She is MORE famous than YOU !” Apparently this woman is a writer of some repute who has gained critical acclaim for her writing about the travails of being an upper middle-class person in Orange County California. What is famous ? I would much rather be infamous !

So on that note, Dear Readers, I am back on these pages after nearly a year in the wilderness. I hope my next post will not be similarly delayed and that I can afford to keep buying Santa Maria di Novella ! Namaste, You Yoga Bitches ! Get some expensive soap. And I won’t tell you what you can do with it !

 

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  1. John Hardwick says:

    Sam, I’m sure that I speak for your many readers. I read your two books because I lived many of the stories that you told because we lived 7 doors from you, Liz, and your parents. I wish that you would tell us when you might start writing again since your stories are so good. I hope you are well. I am receiving radiation for exposure to Agent Orange from my time in Vietnam and I hope you are well.

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