Monday, December 23, 2013

The weather was the weekend topic

Christmas trees for sale on Broadway and 84th Street. 2:00 PM. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Monday, December 23, 2013. The weather was the weekend topic. It was forecast beforehand that it would be a very warm  weekend for the first day of Winter. The transition began on Friday, an ehh day — sunless, mild, and surprisingly quiet in the City.

I took pictures. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with this kind of thing – pictures of the same site over and over. It’s two, three days before Christmas Eve in New York and it looks like ... this.
Saturday morning on the East River looking south. The man leaning against the fence was taking a photo. The brightness seemed like an introduction to the warmer weekend temperatures that had been forecast.
Saturday afternoon along the avenue; very quiet. Saturday, sundown, the shortest day of the year, looking South toward the pink herd of Magritte clouds.
JH was on the Upper West Side taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather ...
Then there were the refuse entrepreneurs. The man who used to show up across the avenue every Friday at 1 PM wasn’t there. A young woman (Hispanic) has taken over the station. I’m fascinated by these individuals, as you may have read before. They are taking the bull by the horns, and out there and doing what they have to do to get where they need to get. It used to be called “doing what it takes.”

This young woman is, as you can see, well and adequately, and even fashionably  dressed for this (or any other) task. I noticed her sitting on the doorstep of the apartment building with her shopping cart and her plastic bags. She was waiting.

Ten minutes later, the black metal gate of the building next door banged open, and one of the super’s staff started tossing rubbish bags onto the sidewalk. When it was a bag of bottles or cans, he tossed them her way.
She’s wearing gloves. She must be young — in her early twenties maybe — because she moves — and especially “bends”— very quickly and with the automatic agility of youth. She went through each bag with a quickness that articulates focus, very fast, and saving each empty bag with many others in another bag. This went on for almost a half hour.

I went back to my desk for ten minutes and when I returned to the window, she was gone. I was thinking about “where” she was going with her acquisitions — just rubbish, by definition. I had planned go to down and give her a small contribution, in another words, a vote of confidence, but I missed the opportunity.
My mother often had to work on Christmas Eve. This troubled me greatly when I was a little boy. It still gets to me when I think of it. Not only did I want her to be home, but I felt bad that she couldn’t be at home. However, she always came home, of course, and not really at a late hour, and so I was relieved of that particular holiday anticipation angst.

My mother had to be out working wherever she was working, to provide what I was at home and waiting for. I knew that at the time, at a very young age. I never don’t think of my mother when I see these women out there collecting cans and bottles, sheer back-bending labor at all hours of the day and night, eeking (and that is the word for it) out a few dollars to keep the wolves from the door and the mouths fed. And where would I be had not one of them done that for me. And what is Power, and what is Life.
Which brings me to the present. Christmas. It was the night before Christmas and all through the house .... When I was that young boy I knew all those lines and went to bed thinking them, saying them to myself. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. I remember as a four-year-old hearing Santa’s boot hitting the snowy step late in (what must have seemed to the kid like) midnight. Christmas — the time, the day, is really for the spirit of the very young. It is a matter of Refreshment.

For the rest of us it’s a respite if at all possible — and that is a gift. But the children are still fresh in this absorbingly confounding world of ours. Christmas is glory and light and wishes, and dreams are necessary. Children are equipped to give it its all. Watching that rather chicly dressed young woman collecting her booty on Friday afternoon on East End Avenue, I was thinking of how, somehow, she was going to deliver that to her children. Who could ask for anything more.

Except for the animals. They too must be remembered and revered and respected for all the love of Christmas that they provide for us everyday of our lives.
Friday night East End Avenue.

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