The Day After

The Day After  by Elizabeth McLaughlin
easterfourYears ago  I remember when Easter was a day to look forward to renewal. Renewal of the soul and also of wardrobe. My mother sewed grey dress up coats for the three girls, all matching buttons and tailored round collars. It was a lot of fun to shop at Alexanders for a straw hat that was embellished with artificial Spring flowers and black velvet ribbon. The shoes had to be for the most part white patent leather or red leather Mary Jane’s with matching handbags. White gloves were worn and handkerchiefs, small stuffed bunny or doll would become the contents of the bag. Early morning we would wake up to colorful cellophane adorned Easter baskets and stuffed bunnies. Chocolate eggs, jelly beans, a sugar egg that you looked inside to view a pictorial inside, butter cream eggs, all nested in straw. Easter Sunday mass was elegant, white lilies adorned the altar. The kids mass was held downstairs and the adults went upstairs. After mass we usually went to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the beautiful Spring flowers and venture through the wooded trails to the Bronx River where the Saw Mill rest spot was located.  We would try to tower over the gate to capture viewing all the waterfalls  which lined the river bed. During the summer months this spot became a haven for refreshing oneself from the city heat.
selfcaptureToday, the Cycle Trail was quiet. It was a day to reflect on such memories and  spiritual renewal.  It was not traveled this time on Sunday because most gathered around ham or lamb at the dining room table. The silence of the woods became more than gratifying, peaceful with the air-filled up with soft chirping of birds, water gushing down rock lined beds.  On Saturday  I picked up a free ham at that grocery store, those shopping points do add up. The clerk at checkout was nice enough to point this freebie out to me. On Monday I will figure out how to cook it in the crock pot. With an internet search that figuring was easy, all I need is a can of pineapple and maple syrup. The reviews sounded positive so worth a wing, this is nothing like what my mother experienced to create a ham dinner that will last me for a week!
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The ACID JAZZ MAN

The Acid Jazz Man
by Elizabeth McLaughlin
Phillipe studied with the best that Paris had to offer. Dodging from night clubs to smoke-filled lounges, sneaking back stage and performing among the greatest. He had the talent of translating everything into cool and in demand by the coolest entertainment personalities globally. Everyone loved his groovy pitch black dyed goatee and fedora green velvet hat. It added to his intoxicating addicting persona. This Thursday afternoon was practice and after catching the red-eye from London to New York City his hometown, Phillipe was preparing for a special jam. His antiquated warehouse roof top sandwiched in-between brick apartment buildings transformed into a well-known hot spot for musicians to gather and gig. A loud horn honked and door alarm buzzed. Phillipe ran across the wooden loft floor to open up the steel framed window and yelled down to his new band to take the freight elevator over to the left and that he would meet them up on the roof top. The group of  disheveled musicians piled out of a renovated dark grey cargo van, grasping black musical instrument cases and headed for the huge rusted freight door. Phillipe finished his lemon plunge martini over lunch while the band unloaded equipment and then headed for a spiral staircase over by his front door and ascended up to the ceiling and swung open a silver aluminum roof top hatch.
There Yvonne da Bomb Bomb greeted him with a long huge wet kiss on the lips and sultry hug. Yvonne da Bomb Bomb was just that a Bomb and known for her smooth vocal tones, tribal linguistics and animal tones to blues, funk and soul. Her afro bounced up and down along with every mechanism a woman would love to achieve developing at a local spa. Yes, Yvonne, capital “Y” for short possessed it all, therefore, her stage name. The “Y” was from Nairobi, Africa and very gifted by ancestry. Aiko another vocalist but from Japan, known as “love child”, smiled and gently tugged on Phillipes ear and whispered something wild but quiet. Lucca shouted over to Phillipe, “hey man when you can break away, show me where to set up the drums, we gotta get this beat going.” Phillipe dislodged his grip on both girls and joyfully flipped his arms upward and said, “man, over by the water tower stage, is where we will be setting up.” Skinny Bean, a clarinet player offered to assist Lucca with the bulky drum set-up. Skinny Bean was known at his home town, London, as Skinny and in the New York City jazz circles, Bean. Hence, the combination suited his physical appearance as well as geographic playing location perfectly. Skinny Bean and Phillipe go back many years meeting at the .famous Blue Note Club in London. Skinnies  parents originated from the Caribbean, he grew up on the ghetto streets and as a young boy would street play for tourist dollars over at Piccadilly Circus. He performed at the best under-ground jazz club caverns where it was quite common for famous musicians to make surprise appearances. Some clubs even closed, its doors but Skinny would never take a closing for granted. Skinny would stand outside the padlocked doors and still perform for undying clubbies and fans, collecting tips all night long until the club reopened under new management.
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A one two, a one two, three, four, and with a nod of his head Phillipe pursed his narrow lips up to his horn. The rest of the band chimed in as neighboring pigeons began to take roof top flight and circle above the stage. That is until there was an abrupt door slam and out shuffled Pete, late as usual, rolling his keyboards along his side. Phillipe turned and fingered for Pete to come to the stage, “hey man, don’t ever do this to me again or your out.” Pete travelled from New Orleans, Louisiana, and his resume offered a one time musician for the great Elvis Presley. After the Presley experience Las Vegas was usually his gig town but he never fit in with the country band scene and longed to do more free style creative work. Phillipe met Pete while performing at a Las Vegas lounge, found him stooped over a whiskey filled glass and the rest is history. They somehow bonded as musicians do and Pete was offered to show off his stuff and then to play in a new upcoming acid jazz band. It was the break that Pete needed, especially after a turbulent divorce from his wife,  and business associates.  The two girls did a dagger glare stare at Pete as he approached them to set up, side stage. Phillipe once again signaled for a start and the band harmoniously clicked as if apart but one. “Y” – opened up with soothing bird noises and the roof top was transformed with a following of flute, horns, base, and drums.
It became a ritual for the neighborhood and as word got out on the street that a gig was in place., people of all ages began to fill up the roof top with heads bobbing, clapping and break dancing bodies spinning against the polished wooden dance floor. Legs and arms tightened and contorted to the beats. Sweat began to pour from Phillipes face as he blew his horn, thoughts wandered into a different emotional plane that transformed into the perfect blend of music. It was the genre of music, calling him to transform, distort, reach, familiar notes into something quite unique. Notes repeated and then glided off into a higher extreme, the crowd loved it and Phillipe then knew that his band was in the gold. Skinny grabbed the mike, de, bop, de, de de, bop, bop, bop as “Y” wrapped her long legs onto the silo stairs and snaked up to the top of the air conditioning units. In the distance old iron fire escapes offered groupies the perfect balcony view.  Lucca looked up at “Y” and repeatedly sang, “hey babe I’m gonna kiss you tonight, hey babe, hey babe” “Y” pointed down to him and teasingly responded with, “hey babe, who do you think you are, come on over and try.” And then she screeched out a loud leopard noise. Everyone cheered  and laughed while continuing to hold the beat. Then the melody changed very quickly as it first started. The beat changed and so did the vocals,  In a high-pitched voice, Aiko proceeded to anchor the crowd in harmony singing “Sisters, Brothers, we are all together.” Scratching noises were produced from a turntable, as “Y” took to the cowbell. Horns blared in the background. Phillipe yelled, “It’s all about the beat babes, the beat, the beat…” (to be continued)

Alley Cat

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Alley Cat by Elizabeth McLaughlin
He usually hung out perched on top of a worn white washed wooden fence in the backyard facing a kitchen window, crying every morning. Until one day that old man Flanigan picked up his hard worn leather shoe and threw it at Alley. The cat was owned by Marcy, a young woman who rented a room in the downstairs basement apartment. It was a foreign environment for Alley because he was used to being a barn yard cat and living on a prestigious horse farm. One day the feed truck pulled up to the stately designed colonial to drop off the paperwork for final delivery and the driver left his side door wide open. Alley jumped in and the metal door slammed shut and life was never the same. The truck zoomed away down the long topiary tree-lined driveway, onto the main highway, and headed back to the processing facility. Feeling very much alone, Alley started to cry which prompted the delivery man to toss the poor cat out the door and onto a cold damp city street. Nothing looked familiar to Alley cat, even the noises were frightening so he ran very fast to the nearest shelter found under a pile of lumber in an alley-way.
Marcy loved to paint and this is what attracted her to SoHo in the city of New York. The room was expensive but affordable, close to museums, trendy cafe, chic boutiques, transit and the bartending job at Mercer Kitchen on Prince Street. It was a go to restaurant by affluent hipsters for drinks and eats, they tipped heavily and helped support her main objective, creating art. catphotoSunday was usually a light day for Marcy because she worked the brunch shift. This made it possible to meet up with a friend she met from work at MOMA. Chad was also a struggling artist, but a musician at night, he generally performed in the neighborhood circuit. A highly talented and an extremely likeable personality attracted Marcy to Chad. After a short yellow cab ride to Mid Town, Chad could be seen standing at the modern stylized entry. Quickly they approached the museum collection of cubism, Henri Matisse, and Claude Monet’s Water Lilies that enhanced the blank white museum walls. The day passed like a flash and this was a good sign that it was a mutually exceptional time. Thunder could be heard in the distance as the brief bouts of lightning flickered and danced against the tall skyscrapers architectural facade. Marcy decided to save the cab fare and take the long walk back to SoHo. The street lights reflected off of rain slicked streets and the intervals of awnings from construction projects helped to keep her dry. She approached a funky violet tiled concrete entry and a painted red wrought iron gate which led to the stair-well of her basement residence. All of a sudden a faint unsettling cry could be heard coming from the dim alley-way.
Alley was a tough cat, could take on the fiercest raccoons and muskrats that invaded the barn. However, he was now in a new surroundings and for many weeks trembled with fear. His aging nerves prevented him from movement, afraid to venture from the pile of lumber because of intense police sirens, discharging buses and booming music.  Weak from lack of food, Alley remained helpless and lost. Marcy ventured over to the cries, stooped to the ground, and pried apart a wooden board to find Alley near death. She quickly took off her rain coat and gently pushed Alley onto it and slid him out from the rubble of wood. After many weeks of care Marcy decided to give Alley his famous name. They became close and even Chad upon his first visit commented on her cool find. Chad gifted Marcy with an antique bell to adorn the old cats neck. Alley inspired Marcy to paint his portrait, depicting a grumpy old cat. As time went by the painting faded, tattered and torn, lives grew, flourished and ended but his picture remains.

From the Bronx to Wichita Lineman

I remember the days when Sunday was church day. As kids the ritual would be to get all dressed up for mass and then take a walk at the Botanical Gardens or the Bronx Zoo. It was a break from school and focus on the nature surrounding our community. All of that slipped us by when families in droves exited the city life for the suburbs. Childhood friendships abruptly changed and lost connections became the new norm. It also meant going to public school for the first time and starting high school in the ninth grade at second semester. I remember not having a friend for a year and at a difficult teen age. That period of lack of friendships passed when Cindy invited me to her weekend party house bash. The parents went to Florida leaving trending Cindy to fend for herself. I believe that I was invited only because of my cool clothes that my parents purchased for me. No longer did my school wardrobe have to consist of a plaid skirt, white starched shirt and brown Oxford’s. I remember my mother taking me to Wanamaker’s at the Cross County Shopping Center and the Grand Concourse, Alexander’s. This was a really big event for me. I came home with a pair of brown leather boots, English rider style, orange long woolen skirt that buttoned down the front, a blue, black long skirt, turtle neck sweaters. And of course I did have my landlubber hip hugging denim jeans, striped and black bell bottoms. On my trip back to the Bronx, I met my sister for a shopping day and had purchased a pair of brown suede lace up boots and leather two-tone brown leather platform shoes. So I totally fit in with Cindy’s group that frequented the Bedford Village Green. The kids packed the house and it was overwhelming. A few of us squeezed into the kitchen half bath and this is where I met my best friend in high school, Susan and a boy named Todd. As we talked there was a huge calamity going on outside that bathroom door and kids started evacuating out onto the street. There was a major motorcycle accident and rumor quickly spread that it was a student from school. This party abruptly ended and the house emptied very fast as it had become quickly full. On Sunday, I sat in my small bedroom, looking out the window, gazing at the fall trees and dreamed of my friends at the Bronx, the park hangout and felt as if in a prison. I played on my record player over and over again a favorite Glen Campbell song, Wichita Lineman wondering why we ever left the Bronx.

‘Down To The Core’

One of a series titled ‘Things I Find On the Side Of the Road’

Photo Capture: ‘Down To The Core’

Whenever I come across a apple it reminds me of New York City. The big Apple!  This particular apple eaten down to the core is symbolic to me of how all the politicians such as Cuomo and DeBlasio, Bloomberg have taken all that the apple has to offer. They ate it down to its core.

thingsifindonroad7applecoreThe past few days brought warmth and patches of greenery. The fallen leaves of last season became a rich fertilizer and spring showers will replenish the earth. No one notices the details of every day living. All driving with speeding importance going nowhere. Music could be heard blaring out the silver SUV window as it worked its way through  traffic. Cars were also slowing down to a stop. The sounds of the busy route could now be heard … I stopped to listen …
No don’t throw that apple out the window! Robert,  I told you NOT TO THROW THAT APPLE out the window.

This is what happened to the apple at the side of the road.