Monday, February 21, 2011
In my place of former employment, the office where I spent 35 plus hours a week, had huge windows that allows for a spectacular view of the river named after the explorer, Henry Hudson. I find something magical about bodies of water. Even though I do not know how to swim, this inability does not stop me from stepping into one; especially if this means I can collect some and bring home a bottle of it. However, I never crossed one before with the intentions of not coming back, as I recently did of the one that is shared by both the West Side of Manhattan and parts of the ever developing skyline of New Jersey.
For the love of baseball. At the end of 2009, I made a month by month list of what I wanted to accomplish in 2010. One of those items on that list was to meet Tim Raines, my baseball idol growing up 1980s. Raines would be in his second year managing the Newark Bears. I learned the Brick City was easy to access by public transportation from New York. However, I did not meet him in Newark but rather in Camden, New Jersey where the Bears were the visiting team against the RiverSharks.
My son and I arrived hours before the game and the wait felt like forever. Finally, when the gates opened, we did the obligatory tour of Campbell’s Field. Eventually we found our seats which were right next to the visiting team’s dugout and batting circle. A prime location for fans to either cheer loudly and distract the oppoenents or root for them. I always was the one who swam against the tide. As a youngster, I rooted loudly for my beloved Mets but even louder for my favorites on visiting teams. This no doubt, resulted in being heckled by amazingly enough the few fans in the stands at, Shea Stadium, my home away home. One of those players, was former Montreal Expo, Tim Raines. I would like to think he heard me because with every hit that landed him a base or two or three, he’d respond by stealing another. I can still smell the cigar that hit my shoulder.
When Raines came out of the clubhouse that afternoon, I finally got the opportunity to meet him. I shared how I became his fan (he wore #30, my birthdate), how long (20 plus years) I have been a fan and how far we came from (Queens) to see him. He seemed genuinely interested, graciously signed his autograph on baseball cards and took pictures with and for us. After answering a bunch of questions my son had, he then said, “you should come to games in Newark.” I replied that I would.
Two weeks later I made good on my word, and on Mother’s Day, my son and I finally ventured to Newark. It was announced that Raines, along with other members of the team would be on field before the game to sign autographs. I made my way through the short line and when I reached the table I was greeted with a hug by Raines. He remembered me as did some of the players as one asked, “weren’t you in Camden a couple of weeks ago?” There were some “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings too.
Throughout the season, we’d go to many more home games and became friendly with team who were comprised of players who had stints in the Big Show and/or the minors or just of college. It did not matter what brought these guys there but they all had one thing in common: they were living out their dreams of playing ball. A very powerful feeling took over me when I learned some of their stories and how willing they acknowledged us before, during and after their games whether it was by handing my son a game used bat (he has three) or a simple hello on a social networking site. This is welcoming. as in my experience visiting teams in the big leagues, this reception is more a rarity then an commonality.
Sometime that season, I realized I too had a second chance to change and fulfill my unwritten destiny. Up until that June, I was becoming disenchanted with my professional life at a stalemate partly because I did not have an advanced undergraduate degree and a support system in place to facilitate these goals. I was also becoming disheartened by my growing (and eventual disconnect) from the only family I had. Besides, I had always wanted to give my son an opportunity to live somewhere else other than New York. The lingering questions were how can make this happen? Where?
In previous years, we have visited baseball cities around the country and put our feet in the Pacific Ocean and Lake Michigan, walked along the James and York Rivers, sailed on Tibron Island, crossed The Charles and Chicago Rivers and video taped the sea lions on the docks of San Francisco Bay. However the idea to pick up and move to the center or the other side of the country seemed daunting. Then one midmorning, on our way to another game and while we were walking over The First Street bridge above the Passaic River that carries visitors from Harrison into Newark, New Jersey the thought popped into my head why not here?
However, during the planning stages I also went through one crisis after another. My son, the love of my life was hospitalized twice for severe emotional problems. Each stay was at least two weeks long and over three hours away. I had no less than four court cases as I pursued another item on that list which was a total separation from a second husband. An initial denial from the local housing authority which I fought to overturn but resulted in a long delay of the transfer my paperwork to the new one. Finally, a health scare of my own that brought me into the hospital. It was concluded that I was stressed out and not having a heart attack. I still like to believe, I was also heartbroken.
Gathering all the inner strength I could and a ton of persistence, I finally crossed the Hudson River without knowing a single soul in what would become my new neighborhood. Just as the millions of folks who participated in The Great Migration. They took chances, leaving behind the only life they knew and moved north in anticipation of better (and hopefully humane) opportunities than of what they had in the south. The book The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson gives readers a portrayal of some folk who and why they did and what became of their decisions to do so. I liken their courageanous to a do over. A rebirth. A second chance. Not much unlike the ones who play/manage/coach the Newark Bears or heck even myself.
As of this writing, I have been here four months. It’s been quite an adjustment from living in New York. Neighbors actually greet one another, my apartment and looks more like the home I had always envisioned, and I have plans of returning back to college not only to expand my professional pursuits but to foster my love of learning. My 2011 list is a work in progress but no matter I am going to make the most of this second chance.
Friday, February 4, 2011
I spent the first 19 years of my life in Canarsie, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. A place, I found both boring and interesting at the same time. Canarsie's named for the Native Americans of the same name with a spelling variation Canarsee. This what made the place interesting and that much of the area once had standing one room school houses, farmland, an old burial ground and lots of back alleys of houses centuries old. Rumor has it a pirate even buried his stolen treasure in the backyard of my father and aunt.
Then over the years, the population grew it's newer residents were German, Italian and those who practiced forms of Judaism. I am Polish and Italian American. Not to say, European-American history is boring but it never captured my interest until much later in life when I learned about Polish history--an area left out of history books with a few exceptions besides sadly wars and The Holocaust. Interestingly, I only recently learned Tadeusz Kosciusko helped in the cause for this country to end slavery which make me feel honored and proud to know not all of my ancestry believed what my neighbors did: people of color did not belong in my neighborhood. I could never understand or accept why G-d loving people protested the busing of mostly black and hispanic students to attend our schools, why new homeowners had their houses firebombed or why these long time residents would give up their homes--something they probably worked hard at attaining. Or maybe they didn't and that's why it was easy to let them go. I think however, it was greed and racist attitudes that guided their choices. I responded by writing and getting a letter to the editor published in the Canarsie Courier criticizing the fire bombers and welcoming The Phillip Family to our neighborhood-which incidentally, their piece of the American Dream was located near the Native American burial found.
When I left, I entered a whole new world and faced a discrimination from some family members on both sides who disapproved of my then-marriage to a Puerto Rican American, as well as some neighbors in The Bronx neighborhoods I resided in. Nevertheless, I embraced the "culture shock" by reveling in Hispanic, Latin Caribbean ways peoples by sampling cuisines that satisfied my then dormant taste buds, putting years of Spanish classes to use, trying but never quite mastering Salsa, celebrating Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day and learning to appreciate musical styles that have been influenced by Africa. Where in the 1980s and 1990s Canarsie, had not much of anything similar. Well there was a the time, I had volunteered at a Passover Seder Dinner for senior citizens. It was also when the group including myself danced with then House of Representative Member Charles Schumer.
So as we honor both Black History Month and The 2011 Lunar New Year which celebrates The Year of the Rabbit remember to keep an open min, embrace peace and harmony amongst others because you just never know what delightful surprises may come out of it.