San Bernardino, California, USA
October 23
Former Beatnik, former hippie, always bohemian and joyfully married and retired in San Bernardino, California.


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MARCH 15, 2011 9:38PM


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subwayMy subway stop. 

In 1994, Thomas decided to quit his job as photo editor at the Village Voice amidst frequent and sometimes unfriendly shifts of editorial personnel and the need to devote more time to his personal work.  It didn’t seem like a rash move at the time as my income could carry us if needed and he was doing well as a freelancing at the New York Times, and other New York papers and magazines.  He also taught a course at ICP (International Center for Photography) and subbed several times at the School for Visual Arts.  Still, had we known about my upcoming unemployment he might not have quit when he did.  

It didn’t take me very long to find a job with another physician whom I knew by reputation and who specialized in treating people with HIV.  Family members had previously run his office and I was the first non-family person he had ever hired.  He seemed nice enough and had a good reputation as far as I knew so in spite of the fact the office was on the upper West Side, a time consuming and awkward commute from my Brooklyn home, I was glad to accept his offer.

When I got to work on the first day I beheld something that I never thought I would see in a medical office.  It was filthy dirty.  Apparently the family members who had worked there also had been in charge of cleaning and their standard was appalling.  There was a private one-room apartment in the rear that was kept locked and that was where I was meant to eat lunch and use the bathroom.  The stench of rotten garbage from the one overflowing trash can competed with the reek of unwashed linen coming from the bathroom where some grubby towels evidently had been in use for a very long time.  The main space resembled pictures I have seen of hoarders homes where “stuff” was everywhere.  There was a huge bookcase that had collapsed spilling books all over the floor surrounding a ratty old couch that could only be gotten to by climbing over the books.  The little kitchen area was unusable as there was no clear access to it and the half open cabinets spewed what must have been every take-out container and plastic bag they had ever gotten.  When I was interviewed I had not seen this room (now I knew why) nor had I seen the doctor dressed for work.  On that first appalling day as we were getting ready to begin, he put on the grungiest lab coat I have ever seen.  I could only stare at the grime on the pockets.  When he caught my look, he asked what the matter was and I could not help but point out the dirt on his coat.  He looked down, shrugged and said, “Yeah, I guess I need a clean one” and did indeed get one.  I couldn’t believe I had to say that to him on the first day of my job and that he didn’t even seem to mind all that much. 

If that was not bad enough, I soon discovered that besides being oblivious to dirt, he was incredibly cheap about everything.  Even though in those years drug company reps could not give us enough pens and note pads, in this office I was never to discard a piece of paper on which there was even a speck of space to write anything.  Consequently I found I had a desk full of scraps covered with unrelated notes and messages all over both sides of them.  I was not allowed to give our fax number to anyone without permission since someone might actually send an unwanted fax and we would have to pay for the paper and ink that it used.  All our equipment including the computer I used for appointments and word processing was ancient and painfully slow.  In between keeping the desk and office running it was also my job to do EKG’s and blood pressures and, as I had never done this before, the family member who was my predecessor taught me how to use the most antique EKG machine I had ever seen.  It had little pads that required glue to stick on the poor patient and a stuttering, creaking machine to hold the paper that would jam almost every time not to mention that the ink would run out just when I was trying to get some poor soul finished and off the table. All the while the phones were ringing and people were coming in needing attention.  It was total madness for one person to try to do all of that simultaneously.  It took some convincing to be allowed to change the trash liners at least once a day even when they were not full to overflowing as that was seen as an extravagant excess.  This was not looking good. I could not get myself to go into the little apartment in the back and preferred to use the patient rest room and try to eat at my desk instead.  I fondly remembered how our cleaning person, the lovely drag queen Dora Flame in her work-a-day male persona would come to clean Dr. Js office every morning, fastidiously scrubbing everything from top to bottom.  The family member who had had my job previously came in two times a week to clean and did a very perfunctory job and nothing at all about the private space. At least patients were always treated with gloved hands, the gloves being provided for free by the lab we worked with. Every morning I would wake up dreading the trip that required a subway ride on two different trains and a walk of several long cross town blocks to get to my awful filthy office.

Six weeks was what it took to for me to give notice and the doctor seemed shocked when I told him how uncomfortable his standard of hygiene made me not to mention the terrible equipment I had to work with.  He seemed genuinely befuddled and that surprised me more than the fact that he wasn’t thinking about letting me go.  I thought I was doing a terrible job of running his practice and he didn’t notice ?  Weird but true. 

Now I was back to where I had started. I was fifty-eight years old, unemployed and suffering from a chronic gastrointestinal condition that was starting to make life really stressful.  I decided to try to find some temporary work to tide me over till I could figure out where to go from there.  I got a few jobs as a receptionist in various offices and most of it was just awful and boring.  I was getting tired and I think Thomas was too.  He was working really hard on his book and wasn’t making much progress in terms of getting it published.  There were interested parties but they all required a big financial contribution to the publishing costs that we just did not have. I decided the time had come to apply for disability. 

olgaOur beloved dog, Olga.

As so often in my lucky life when events turned against me, I found great solace not only from my relationship with Thomas and my friends and children, but also from my animals.  At one point my dear sweet hound dog Olga developed a tumor on her paw and the vet gave us the sad news that it was malignant. The next step would be to either amputate the leg or to put her down since she was suffering.  The vet felt that amputation was not a happy choice for a leggy hound like our sweet Olga.  While little dogs did well enough on three legs he advised, large long limbed hounds like ours did not fare well.  We sadly agreed and had to let her go.  It was very painful to say goodbye to my loving protector and friend.


 Saying goodbye to our dear Olga


 We also had a little comic of a cat named Harry that we lost to a common enough male cat urinary tract disease that struck so fast that he died in my arms at the vet’s office. Poor old Harry the cat who clowned for us and gave us so much warmth and pleasure was the first of our pets that Thomas and I selected for our family together and now he broke our hearts with his passing.


Harry  shoe1

 Our sweet new rescue: Shoe

I found I couldn’t do without a dog and Thomas and I started to look for a dog in need of a home.  It was at the wonderful no kill Bide-a-Wee shelter that we found “Shoe”. I suspect she was actually in her earlier life called “Shoo” for obvious pesky puppy reasons but I preferred the nonsense of naming her for one of my favorite articles of clothing.  As with Olga, Shoe was not a puppy when we adopted her and blessedly came to us as had Olga, fully housebroken.  I liked the idea that I wouldn’t have to deal with all of that puppy stuff in addition to the fact that older dogs are so much less likely to be adopted and needed us more.  Shoe was a very handsome Shepard mix, a little smaller than a full breed Shepard making her perfect for us. 

shoeShoe in Fire Island

We had moved from our loft apartment after the kids had gone and now lived in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn in a brownstone garden space so Shoe and Harry both had great outdoor space in which to live their lives.  It was in this garden apartment that after Harry’s death we started to notice mice.  Every night we could hear the little paw taps of mice seemingly running relay races across our kitchen floor after lights out.  Actually I find mice sweet little creatures and thought it would be better to get another cat to keep them away rather than to trap and kill them.  This was when son John convinced me to take in a cat that he had rescued from the street and was desperately trying to find a home for.  He already had two cats and it was becomming urgent. 


   Mikey the mouser.

I still missed my sweet funny Harry and I felt nothing much for this cat but in the end, logic dictated that I needed a mouser and this young cat needed a home.  I decided that I didn’t need to love him, just to give him a good home and care in exchange for his dealing with the rodent situation, I thought of it as giving him a job.  Obviously, it didn’t take long for young Mickey to steal our hearts and rid our home of mice as well. Mickey grew into a nice big old tough guy who never forgot his early beginnings and Brooklyn street smarts, and so he joined our good dog Shoe to make us happy, safe and rodent free.

shoenmeShoe in our backyard in Carroll Gardens 

palsShoe and Mickey

During his time as photo editor at the Village Voice Thomas had accumulated a Rolodex of names of photographers from all over the country to whom he could assign shoots. It was one of these photographers from the Albany, New York area who invited Thomas to do a presentation of slides of his photographs for his AIDS book at Union College in Schenectady, New York where he taught photography.  Later that year he invited Thomas to interview for a position as his one-year sabbatical replacement.  After teaching a sample class he was offered the position that came with many perks and benefits including moving expenses and most importantly, medical benefits that we now no longer had not to mention a very decent salary. The kids were on their own, my father was in his assisted living apartment in New Jersey so accepting was an easy but bittersweet decision to make as we had very little keeping us in Brooklyn.

bklngdnSt. Anthony in Carroll Gardens front yard.


flamMadonna with flamingo.



 Madonna with wagon wheels


With my building neighbors on the stoop, Carroll Gardens.

With the realization that we were going to leave Brooklyn I started to think about Brooklyn in a new light.  Brooklyn had become my new hometown and was the place where I lived as I turned my life around after my divorce as well as where Thomas and I began our lives together.  It had become a haven where we had friends and neighbors who had become important to us.  Our little neighborhood of Carroll Gardens was the antithesis of every harsh tale of uncaring New Yorkers ever falsely perpetrated.  We were a little village of a neighborhood where shopkeepers ran tabs, knew your name, and aimed to please.  We had been extremely happy in this little world that was home to a mixed demographic in which all sorts were comfortable with one another.  In the days following our decision to accept the Union College offer, I ran around with my camera and tried to capture the essence of our home and the people with whom we had lived so happily in Brooklyn. 


Vito who cut my hair was actually in Manhattan on Astor Place


rdrsOur favorite neighborhood restaurant.



Esposito Pork Store, where they sold amazing home made sauages.



The Esposito brothers.


A very good place to shop.  key  The supermarket was part of the neighborhood.


 The pet supply store.


The bodega across the street from our building.


 The place for the best pastries. pastry

 On holidays people would line up all the way down the block for the canollies.


Cosmo whose deli was on the corner and a frequent stop on the way home from the subway.


 Dedicated to all my friends and neighbors in Carroll Gardens who made our time in Brooklyn so special.

Author tags:

dogs, cats, brooklyn, carroll gardens

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What a poignant story!
I, too, have a tabby cat, Ms. Miryam Gumdrops, a Fighter & a Biter. My wife & son got her from a shelter to keep me company when I retired from teaching. I never realised how much I'd adore her.
This was very beautiful. I know how hard it is to leave a place you love, and you have portrayed it very well here. I also enjoyed the pictures and I thought this is a place I would have been comfortable in. Great story.
Another touching chapter of your life -- more amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing!
Rosy...I just love your stories...this is so always find the light inside the shadow...xox
This makes me homesick, Rosy. Havn't heard the word "stoop" in decades. What a wonderful neighborhood it sounds like.
Loved this Rosie. I have walked by that hair place on Astor Place many times. I loved your pets and this glorious blog.
Rated with hugs
Beautiful, Rosy. And bittersweet. The whole having to leave a place/community you feel part of -- it's tough. It's a matter of the heart, in a way. Been there.

It's even tougher having to put down pets. As an animal lover I've had to do that one as well. It never gets easier, even when it's the right thing to do.

Thanks again for this poignant piece, and great pics as usual.
Wonderful detail, strong emotions, and, as a former Brooklynite a bit of poignant memory of a place I knew as a kid and the America I regret losing. I have had the pleasure of knowing many animals and I know how important they can be.
Memorabilia and nostalgia for things past...
Even though I only lived there for two years, Brooklyn is a big part of who I am. My mom grew up in Brooklyn and I still have cousins living in Sheepshead Bay. I have fond memories of Brighton Beach (before the Russians took over). Thanks for sharing your photos.
Rated Highly
A wonderful story about life as it goes on. It's always the small stories and pictures which show us the big picture of our lives.
Good one!!
Nicely written and beautifully presented

I want to visit your Brooklyn neighborhood after reading this love letter to your stomping grounds. The photo of you saying goodbye to Olga was gut wrenching. I held my beautiful 14 year old golden retriever Chelsea as the vet delivered that final shot to release her from her pain. So hard to say goodbye ...
Love all your tales and wait for them avidly. And love your smile, Rosie.
That was a much nicer section of Brooklyn than where I live now but it's gotten expensive. I wish Lady Lucia and I could afford to move there. Thanks for sharing the animal memories and pictures, too. For the info of OS readers; Olga was also "my" dog, as a teenager. I still lived at home when Rosy adpoted her and I loved her lots, even though I'm much more of a "cat person." She was a good friend and protector to me.
This was such an interesting and touching read. I'm glad you'll always have fond memories of your time in Brooklyn. I hope life in a new place suits you just as well.
This is so deserved.
OMG. I was stunned by the filth in the doctor's office. I could smell it. I loved the flavour of the neighbourhood however. Great chronicle.

Harry looks like my cat, Easter.
We'll miss you in Brooklyn. Good luck to both of you in Schenectady.
I hope your health's improved.
I love this, as usual--I will visit this story and pictures more than once. I love that the neighborhoods in Brooklyn are just like small towns.
Another great story to brighten my day. Good work Rosy.
Rosy~ Letting go of the past is hard, but you do it with such lovely documentation and clear-eyed sentiment, it's a pleasure to be guided by you. Carroll Gardens is wonderful. As is your journey.(r)
To you who have traveled this amazing road that is my life with me from the start I can only repeat the words of gratitude for your company and generous praise that I have already used. To those of you who are new to my post, I welcome you and invite you to continue on with me as I journey on towards the present. As always I treasure your comments all the more for reading your works and words and knowing how good you all are gives real meaning and weight to your praise. Forgive me this time for not answering you each individually but it seems OS is having a slow time and I do want to express my thanks before this day is over.
I loved it all! I couldn't decide between being hungry over the canollis or Cosmo! ;)

What a treasure to have spent such a lovely duration of your life surrounded by love, beauty, caring and friends (furry and otherwise). Beautiful!
Oh Yeah, that Cosmo was one hot cutie.
I never thought I'd envy people who live in Brooklyn - until I read this.
Such an evocative and bittersweet post. Loved the photos. And bless the animals -- they give so much and ask for so little.
Your story touched my heart
losing your loving friends
then losing your loving neighbors
moving on in life
sad and yet exciting
your photos show
all the love you lost
and all the love you have
rated with love
Everyone who reads this will be home-sick for their Brooklyn home, even though they never really lived there! Rated for pet hugs and that dirty rotten Dr.
Is there life after NYC?
Sarah Cavanaugh:
Our old hood has gotten so chi chi these days that we could never afford to live there now. It's now known as "restaurant row" among other things.

stellaa: I'd like to think that too....

emma peel 2:
ah yes, the little beasties whose only fault is that they are never ours for long enough.

Romantic Poetess:
Love won and love lost, that's life. I have been very lucky in love though.

maduhuri: YES ! there is indeed life after NYC.......I can't wait to tell about it, stay tuned........
Enjoyed thoroughly. I never lived in the city, although I have always worked there. Not sure if I will but your neighborhood, the friendships and ease in the way life there make it very appealing.
Very nicely done, as per your other installments, thanks for this.
As always, I thank you Rita for your comments. I find that there are times and places that come together and fit. These days, I live in a simple sort of place and find that at "an age" this fits well although it would not have at the time I was in Brooklyn. May you always live in a place that suits you.
I've lived in the East Village since '67. Mostly on 10th and 3rd. I dread more with each passing day when I may have to go. My wife said they'd have to take her out feet first and they did.

I knew Vito.

The first job I applied for was at the Village Voice. They never hired me, they still won't.

Now that the Honorable Fuji Yama San is dead the mice play like toy trucks in the living room at night and no attempt to catch them has succeeded. After all, they are East Village mice.

The thing I miss most is smelling the earth, but I get to do that every once and awhile when I visit Central Park or my family home in Michigan. I'll also get to do it more when I'm dead.

Meanwhile, my sweet Cuban girlfriend comes over every other weekend for lovemaking and my wife has nothing to say about it. That's the closest I've ever come to peace.
Oh here's another one I've been thinking about lately. I saw a fellow I hadn't seen since high school last christmas. I told him he was one of the funniest guys I ever knew (he was). He said, "So you were you, but nobody could understand your jokes."

I said, "They still say that about me all the time." (and they do) Why I don't give up is the question.

See what you did Doc.