I found out about Sammy last Friday.  Isaiah and I were doing our running drill to the park.  We took turns doing short sprint races to different markers.  Friday was our day together.  I was half awake, and the grey windy morning didn’t help my dazed condition.  I wanted to have fun with Isaiah, but I also wanted a nap.

I saw the flowers from a distance as we got closer to Prospect Park.  There was the usual metal blockade at the entrance that was placed to keep cars out of the running and biking loop, but all around it, there were pictures, bouquets, stuffed animals and candles.

Shit, Isaiah is going to ask why they are there, was my first thought.  I was more scared by the idea that I have to explain to him that someone died there, then the fact that someone died.  As we got closer, I felt a severe reality slap on my face, waking me up from my zombie state.

I was looking at a tragedy.

Sammy Eckstein’s twelve-year-old dimpled face was starring at me with bright beautiful eyes from one of the pictures.  I didn’t know what happened to Sammy, but I knew that this beautiful boy was gone way too soon.

“What happened?” Isaiah asked me, watching me examine this urban funeral, and hearing my worried, sad eyes.

“I don’t know, Isaiah.”  I usually told him the truth, but that time, I didn’t have it in me.  This was too much.

I thought about Sammy all morning.  I imagined the pain of his family.  I cried.  There was something so familiar to me about Sammy’s face.  Like, he was a relative, likeI have seen this boy on his scooter in Park Slope.  He was just another Park Slope kid, like Isaiah.

The next morning, we went back to the park.  This time, there were a few people around the memorial.

“What happened to him?”  I said to an older woman, who was reading the little notes that the kids have written and taped all around.

“He was my grandson.” She said, looking up at me for second through her sunglasses, “they don’t know exactly how it happened but he was hit by a van and he died.  He lived right there across the street,” she pointed at a building on Prospect Park West.

“Oh no, I am so sorry.”  I said, and tears came to my eyes.  I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to say more.  I patted her arm and repeated that I was sorry.  So, so sorry.
“He was a good boy,” she said, “you never think this could happen to you,” she said.

“Be very careful,” she turned to Isaiah. “It happened so quickly.  You have to be careful.”  Her warning filled me with fear and pain.  It was one moment that they could never take back, never fix, never rewind.

After that, I had to explain to Isaiah that the boy died.  I explained to him how careful we have to be around cars.  I explained that we should never even come close to an intersection.  I held his little hand and thanked god that he was still alive and I prayed for Sammy.  And I wept for his family.



Status Check

3:18 PM

I stated taking comedy improv at the People’s Imvrov Theater about six years ago.  Then Zuki was born, and I stopped.  The fire came back and I took a few more classes.  Now I am at the Magnet Theater, Improv Level two class and I feel hooked again.

Improv has become a form of therapy to me.  I forget to laugh sometimes for days, or maybe months.  I am not counting a giggle-sigh at a joke.  I wanted full body laughter, so I re-inserted three hours of mandatory laughs to my weekly schedule.  I was scared of therapy, when I started thirteen years ago.  Now I run to it.  I was also scared of improv, now I am starting to understand it.

Last week we did an exercise on status.  Two characters silently come on stage.  One has to take low or high status position, and whatever she takes, the other player has to take the opposite.  One has her shoulders back.  So the other one, slouches low to the ground.  It is instantly assumed by this language we speak, which one is which higher status and which one is of lower.  But status is tricky.  The one with shoulders back is reading the paper, NYT, probably.  She has her nose up in the air.  The other one is washing a window at a bus stop.  But she keeps getting too close to the other player, making her move about the stage.   The status has turned.  It is the slouching player who has regained status.  Our status is the ability to stay unaffected.  If I don’t care what you are doing to me, I have higher status.  If you are affecting me and making me crazy, you have higher status.

There is one guy in Park Slope who catches me off guard, each time.  I don’t know him well, but I have to say hello because we have mutual friends.  Our hellos have become a small chit chat about life and kids.  I force a few questions out of myself to make small talk, and he does the same.  After each time, I feel my lower status.  Each time, I have to shake it off to regain my balance.

I saw him walking down the street toward me today.  It was unavoidable, I saw him and he saw me.  He had his usual, self-assured stride.  I was sitting on a bench with my iPhone in hand.  In my Food Cooperitive vest, to add to the situation.  I was the working class of Park Slope in my outfit and he was merely shopping.  How higher class of him.  In fact, I have never caught him doing a shift at the Coop.

I will be unaffected by him, I thought to myself.  He asked questions and I sat calmly in the same position, undisturbed by him.

“Blah Blah Blah.  Ps 321.  Blah Blah Blah.”

“Have a good day.”

“You too.”

I looked at him while he was talking, into his eyes, into his soul and asked, what is your deal?  I saw fear in his eyes at one point, and I was surprised.  At another point, I understood him and he understood me, just a little.  For an instant, we liked each other.

It had nothing to do with status.  I had nothing in common with him and the effort to meet him each other, made me aggravated.

Maybe after learning this lesson, I won’t run into him again.


Car Ride


Few weeks ago, Isaiah and I were driving to my sister’s house in Pennsylvania.  It has become our car tradition to listen to music.


“Make it louder, Mama,” he says from the backseat until the music is blasting in the car.

“Who sings this?  Who else is in the band?”  he asks about each song.

“Isaiah, this is John Lennon, after the Beatles,” I told him on that ride, when we were listening to Look at me, one of my favorite John Lennon songs.  

“Is John Lennon still alive?”  It has become a curiosity to him, since he found out that a lot of music that we listen to are by dead musicians.  It has been one of the first questions Isaiah asks these days when finding a new singer he likes.   

“Well, no.”  I said.  “John Lennon died about thirty years ago, but his son, Shawn Lennon is alive.”  I added, hoping to change the subject.

“How did he die?”  Isaiah kept on.

Shit, I thought.  I can’t lie, but how do I tell a four-year-old the tragedy that was John Lennon’s death.  How do you explain to a child the horrors of our life.  How can it make sense to him that a musician can be shot by a crazy fan or perhaps be set up to be assassinated.

“Well, Zuki.  It’s not a nice story, probably not good for kids to hear.  He was killed by someone.  It was very sad.  After his death, all the people who loved him around the world gathered together to mourn his death.  They were very sad and cried.”  And just telling the story, made tears come to my eyes.  I can’t talk about the death of John Lennon without crying.  How unfortunate for the world that he was not around longer.  

Isaiah pressed on.  Asking me specifics of how he was killed.  It must have disturbed him too.  Jealous Guy came on and I sang it loudly with the recording, as I do every time it comes on.

I was dreaming of the past

And my heart was beating fast

I began to loose control

I began to loose control

I didn’t mean to hurt you

I am sorry that I made you cry

I didn’t mean to hurt you

I am just a jealous guy


Isaiah just stared at me from the back seat with big eyes, listening to the music of my soul. 


Leap and a net will appear.  What a silly saying.  It’s something you tell someone when you are trying to kill them.

All good things must come to an end

All good things come to he who waits

So first you wait and wait, and then they come. And then they end.

Hello Sorrow

Today I cried a lot.  I didn’t know where it came from, at first.  It was sudden thunderstorms.  The forecast said, not a cloud in the sky but suddenly the rain came down.  It hit the ground loudly at first.  It startled me.  When the ground was wet, it continued to pour and pour making drum beats on the pavement.  It was unpleasant and cold.  I felt alone and ashamed of my loneliness, drowning in the water of my sorrows.  Sorrows, that were nicely buried when the climate was dry.  But the rain moved through the dirt and the sand, and the sorrows shook off their old faces and climbed out to face me.  I had no choice but to say hello.