Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SOLTuesday: Demonstration

            There was a demonstration in Union Square today in support of Roe v. Wade, from 4:30 to 6. But I had a physical therapy appointment at 2 and had to go to the gym afterwards. I could get there, but I’d be late. Christie was off today and she planned to be there, too.
            I was able to leave the gym by 5 and walked to the Q train. When I got out at Union Square, the first thing I saw was a table and big signs from the group that uses Refuse Fascism as its slogan. It’s a group that’s part of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which some people (like me) think is a cult. Beyond them, however, I could see women with signs proclaiming “Our Body, Our Choice” and other reproductive freedom slogans.
            I got out my phone to text Christie, but saw a voicemail from her 45 minutes earlier. She had just arrived, she said, and it looked dubious (she had also seen the Refuse Fascism table before seeing the women's rally). I texted her that I had arrived, but was sure from her voicemail that she’s gone home—it was hot, after all.
            I walked around the rally of at least 100 people and sat on the steps to get myself some shade. The speakers I heard talked more about voting, both locally and nationally, which got rousing chants from the crowd.
            Then I recognized Christie’s hair, and her distinctive pants, which she got on one of her international travels. She was among a group of women holding signs and standing behind the speakers. I was proud of her for staying and being more than just a bystander.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Essay #6: Cockroaches, 2

            I saw my first cockroach in a New York City apartment when I was 19. Having grown up in the country and the suburbs, I was acquainted with insects: a praying mantis, aka “walking stick,” in the schoolyard when I was 10 (so big, and so oddly human-like); crickets everywhere, with their nighttime trills; fireflies, who we chased and collected in glass jars and mysteriously were gone the next morning, even though we’d screwed on the top. Ants, mosquitos, ordinary flies, deer flies at college.
            The cockroach in my kitchen was ugly. And its reputation was ugly as well. I only knew about them from books, where they were stand-ins for poverty, filth, nastiness. “Is that a cockroach?” I asked my roommates, though they were suburban kids themselves, how would they know? But they knew. In my first apartment a few years later with Jack, we’d leave glasses with the dregs of Coca-Cola or gin and tonic in the living room; in the morning, there would be a jumble of dead roaches who’d gone for the sugar.
            One day Jack was home and decided to exterminate the buggers. He called me at work in the middle of the task; “Call in the air force,” he said. He’d taken the books out of the bookcase between living room and kitchen and disturbed a nation of roaches, who fled in many directions. We didn’t know that cockroaches liked paper.
            I visited a friend one evening after work. As we sat in the kitchen, roaches ran up and down the wall just inches from my head. I pretended I didn’t see them, and my friend pretended she didn’t notice me pretending not to see them.
            One day in another apartment, I was reading a book while lying on the bed. Feeling a prickly feeling on my thigh, I looked down and was horrified to see a cockroach crawling along my leg. I brushed it away, but couldn’t help the creepy sense that the roach thought I was a dead thing.
            Cockroaches are really, really ancient. They’ve been on Earth for 320 million years, while Homo erectus appeared around two million years ago. We’re the newcomers to this planet. But we still try to eradicate them. Sprays, traps, folk remedies, we’ll try anything. It took quite a while for us to try the cleanliness route, making sure we washed the dishes every night and wiped off the counters. In our current apartment, Jack would wake up in the middle of the night and go to the kitchen to get water. Turning on the light caused the brown creatures to run for the walls, where they slipped through invisible-to-humans openings.
            One evening I noticed a large bug (cockroach? waterbug?) meander toward the couch I was on. I dropped a heavy book on it, smashed it dead. But I couldn’t get rid of it. It seemed almost a tiny animal. I called Jack to take it away. We had a succession of cats, but only played with cockroaches, didn’t eat them. Perhaps they had a bad taste.
            Did we get cleaner or neater? Or did our building staff do a better job at extermination? For many years now, cockroach sightings have become rare. Mostly when there is work being done on nearby apartments, anything that disturbs the natural ecology of the building. I did see a cockroach crawl out of a hole atop the bathtub where grout had come loose; it was easy to make sure its family stayed inside the wall. 
This year there is another essay a week challenge, 52EssaysNextWave. If you’d like to try it, go to the Facebook page for 52EssaysNextWave and sign up. Or just read some of the essays that will be linked to there.

Essay #5: Cockroaches, 1

            Okay, it’s week 28, and I’ve not written anything in this essay challenge since January. It’s time to get going.
            Why start with cockroaches, you may wonder. Maybe it’s because I saw one of the big ones, the American cockroach (brown, about an inch and a half long), in my bathroom, huddled by the toilet. Naturally, since it’s July, I was barefoot. When I returned, sandaled, it was no longer visible, but was it still in the room? I walked in slowly, eyeing the area around the toilet, nudged the basket of magazines next to the toilet—and it came slithering out. I tried to stomp on it, but it zigged and zagged too quickly for my slowing reflexes, and dashed back behind the toilet. I needed a weapon.
            All I had, though, was a sponge mop. I got it from the cleaning closet and went back to the bathroom. It was still in hiding. I pushed at the basket with the mop, out raced the cockroach. I bashed at it with the mop, but again, it escaped. The mop was no good.
            Now I remembered a folk roachacide I’d read about: rubbing alcohol. So I filled my little sprayer bottle and returned to the bathroom. This time the cockroach was nowhere. I nudged the basket; nothing. Looked all around the white floor; nothing. Got into the bathtub so I could peer behind the toilet; nothing. It had either squeezed into whatever hole it had sneaked out of, or it was roaming the apartment.
            I gingerly used the toilet and went to bed—and put my slippers at bedside for when I’d have to get up in the middle of the night.
            Cockroach memories to come...

This year there is another essay a week challenge, 52EssaysNextWave. If you’d like to try it, go to the Facebook page for 52EssaysNextWave and sign up. Or just read some of the essays that will be linked to there.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SOLTuesday: Becoming Old

            I’m 76. I have no major ailments, take very few drugs. Twenty years ago I started a women’s group on the general theme of women, aging, and sex. When people started offering me seats on the subway, I usually declined: I was fine. I didn’t need a seat. I wasn’t old.
            A few years ago I developed a spinal stenosis, which causes me sciatic pain in my leg. I’ve been going to physical therapy off and on since, and have so far managed to keep the pain under control through stretches and exercise. It’s not continuous, it doesn’t always bother me. Until a few months ago.
            In mid-April I had a bad cold, very low energy, and a lot of work. I stopped the exercises and stretches. Once I recovered, I was in the midst of a heavy freelance workload (which happens every April and May) and couldn’t get back into the stretches-and-exercise regimen. By mid-June, the leg pain had become severe. Back to physical therapy. Back to gym.
            This week I’m working at an office, and had to bring my laptop, which now is much easier via a wheeled backpack. People recently have offered to help me with the wheeled backpack when I have to go up stairs. Today rain was threatened, so I brought my umbrella. On my way to the gym, I came out of the subway to rain. So I’d have to go up the stairs carrying the wheelie AND carrying my umbrella. I looked at the stairs. I paused. And a young woman behind me asked if I needed help with the wheelie. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes! Thank you.”
            I walked up the stairs. The young woman carried the wheelie. I thanked her again at the top of the stairs. But as I continued along to the gym, I felt old