Up So Floating

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Chapter 28

Hi Oma. Yes, I’m okay. I am studying and doing my meditations. Yes, I know it’s only four weeks away that’s why I’m calling. Oma I don’t get any of it. I don’t understand a lot of the meditations, and I don’t know how to be. Besides you and maybe Kiev, I’ve failed at ‘touching’ or being of any good to anyone, and how would I know what truth is? I’m not even devoted to the right thing. This is not going to work Oma. I can’t come home. What am I supposed to do? Okay, I’m breathing slowly. I do know that Saint Anastacia is patient and kind. I do know that I do not have to be perfect, but Oma I’m not even close to being good. Okay, I won’t say that anymore. I will do it for you and my mama, even though she might never…well that’s what my father said. What’s a statue of limitations? What does that have to do with her returning or any of this? Oma, calm down. Now you’re upset. Don’t cry. All will be alright and she will show up, the Saint will bring her back. I’m okay now Oma. Yes. Okay, Beijos, T’amo.”

Aria hung up and began to decipher what had just happened. Did her Oma know where her mother was? Why did she mention statue of limitations? She questioned the possibility, after all this was the kind of story her father had alluded to. She knew stories told over and over again can become truths even if they are myth. Her mother and Oma would not betray her in this way. Her mother left because she was ashamed of Aria, or would have if she knew about the incidence with Herr Rausche. There were too many pieces of ripped up information to glue together. She chose for now to dismiss everything. She needed to get ready for the film open house.

***************

“Hello Aria. It’s nice to see you again. Say, I wanted to ask you about the sculptures and the artist,” said Rochelle, Sheryl’s mother. The lobby of the theater buzzed with excitement from the students and their families.

“Oh, yes, my Uncle Kiev,” Aria sipped from the plastic cup holding apple juice. Her eyes darted around until she found her family and some of their friends. She felt a little more mature or at least felt she wore her fear a little more maturely.

“Does he have a studio where he shows his work?” Rochelle tilted her head to align with Aria’s.

Aria needed to think for a moment. “Yes, you can see his work there.”

“Where is the studio located? I’d like to go visit.”

“That would be great. It’s in Brooklyn on Green Ave. 967 Green Avenue.” One drop of juice rolled around in the bottom of the cup.

“In Bedford-Stuyvesant? Can I plan on coming sometime this week?” Rochelle seemed very interested. This wasn’t small talk.

“Probably Wednesday or Thursday would be best because I’ll be there.”

“Good, you can introduce us.” Rochelle clapped her hands together then embraced Aria’s face with them.

“If everyone could find a seat, we have some very interesting film projects our students have worked on these past four weeks.” Mr. Stokes clapped his hands in the center of the lobby. Aria headed over and sat down with the rest of her film team.

“Are all those people related to you?” Tyrone asked. She looked over at the group. Elias, Rudy, and Darryl gave a wave and a thumbs up.

“Most of them: my four uncles, my uncles’ girlfriend, my friend from the garden and my Uncle Elias’ three friends, Trevor, Karen, and Darryl.” Aria noted that the list didn’t include Trish.

“They seem pretty excited. I hope they like it.”

“Me too,” she said.

“Let’s begin, shall we? Our students have been working on themed projects these past four weeks. We’ve asked them to focus on New York and attach an emotion such as nostalgia, or potential, or melancholy, anger, etc.,” said Mr. Stokes. “What you’ll see is twenty to thirty minutes of film that probably took them twenty to thirty hours to make, condensed down to the final project.”

Mr. Stokes pointed at a person in the booth of the film screening room. The lights dimmed, and the first video started.

“New York Baseball” flashed on the screen, followed by the word, “Nostalgia.”

“Take me out to the ball game” played quietly in the background, as old photos of the original Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, and the Polo Grounds were shown along with faithful fans pouring in during game days.

“I love this kind of stuff,” Elias whispered to Darryl, Trevor, and H-C. Aria turned and winked at him.

A deep resonant voice narrated: “Baseball to New York is like apple pie to America. Baseball has been an integral part of New York culture since the late 1800s. Years ago it was not just a spectator sport, it defined who you were, your neighborhoods,

your conversations, the fabric of your being. Some of the earlier teams included the Babylon Black Panthers, later known as the Cuban Giants, and the Brooklyn Royal Giants. The premier leagues produced such greats as “Smokey” Joe Williams and “Cannon” Dick Redding, and Frank Wickman who defeated Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, twice. Other teams included the New York Yankees, the Mets, the Dodgers and the Giants. Other New York greats include Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. Video flashed on old pictures of baseball players.

It continues to be the most popular spectator sport in the state. New York is one of only two cities to have not one, but two baseball teams.

The footage cut to an interview with a man in his eighties.

It was 1947 and the war had just ended two years earlier. Everybody, including yours truly, that had made it out alive was excited and thankful to come back to family, our lives, and baseball. Youse know how important baseball is to a New Yorker? Like ketchup on a hotdog, like mustard on a knish, like pastrami on rye. Anyways, you get the drift. First thing I did when I came back from the war was headed-out to Ebbets field to see a Dodgers game, ha! I never missed a Dodgers, a Yankees, or a Giants game except during the war. Now let me make myself clear, I was a Brooklyn Dodger when it came down to it, but if the other teams were playing outsiders, well then I’d root for one of thems. Either I was there or we’d go down to watch outside of McClury’s Appliance store. They had televisions in the window, we’d all gather around. Lo and behold, in

1947, I remember, April 15, 1947, a colored man stepped out onto the field. Wow. There were 26, 000 fans and 14,000 of them colored. Dodgers won that game. That was history. Some people weren’t happy. Me, I wasn’t bothered. I’d fought along side colored men. I wasn’t raised like that. I took one look at this Jackie Robinson’s athletic abilities and thought “The Red Sox are in trouble! Good move Rickey.” Rickey, that’s Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers at that time. 1947, what a great year in baseball.

Another fellow about as old as the last man spoke:

Okay, so I heard you kids wants me to tell you the story of Joe DiMaggio and Al Gionfriddo? This must be punishment from God and my sweet wife, God rest her soul, for lying to her about my whereabouts that day. Let’s start from there. I’m from the Bronx, right? A Yankees fan. My buddies had fell into some tickets for game six of the 1947 World Series. The World Series. The Yankees versus the Dodgers, Brooklyn borough. We weren’t rich people and it was the World Series. I drove a cab some back then and was supposed to be picking up a few extra bucks driving that day. So I tell my wife Dotty, ‘I’ll be back by evening.’ She gave me a lunch she packed and off I went. Dodgers were leading the Yankees eight to five going into the bottom of the sixth inning. They brought Gionfriddo in as a defensive. Snuffy Stirnweiss and Yogi Berra were on base and up come DiMaggio. There was electricity in the crowd. We all knows Joe was gonna bring ’em home and tie up the game. He slammed the ball to the 100, 200, 300 and then to the 415 marker. Gionfriddo ran like a bat out of hell, reached his arm up and caught the ball, then he crashed into the bull pen. I saw it. He caught it. Yes. Some Yankee fans said he

didn’t catch it, that he had stolen Joe’s run. But I saw it. He caught mighty Joe’s ball. And I’m a Yankee’s fan, then and now.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game” came on again and the video ended.

A polite flutter of applause popped in the theater before the next film piece started.

A short clip about fashion in New York City vs. Paris, with the emotion of “potential,” seemed to be finished in warp speed.

Jonathan’s group’s video was next. New York architecture: melancholy. Vivaldi played while images of buildings in New York flashed on the screen.

“I think I saw something like this last month on public television. Do you remember, Trevor?” Aria could hear Darryl asking.

The still shots transitioned to footage of different angles of buildings.

“I wonder if there’s going to be any information given? We’re already eighteen minutes into this and nobody has said a thing,” Darryl commented. “And remind me to look up the definition of melancholy.” Trevor shushed him. Aria couldn’t help but grin.

Aria’s group’s piece was up next. The clip started with footage of a busy city block, people coming at the camera like rain-drops in a wild storm, set to a single note that increased in volume.

The musical note stopped and the screen went to black and flashed the word, “Hope,” in white letters, then cut to interviews.

Mr. Samson, the stockbroker, began:

Well I guess what you young people are asking me is if the explosion made us open our eyes and see each other in a different way? That’s a good question. Some of us, maybe. To see others differently means we have to take responsibility for our own prejudices and that’s painful. It’s easier to hate, you know, than to go through that kind of intense pain for most people. So to answer your question, yes, some people did wake up, but I think most people chose to remain asleep.

Next, Mr. Grayson, the fireman, spoke:

Let me put it this way, I was on my way to work one day about a year after the event, see, and I was about to take the stairs to get on a train. People were chattering and pointing to this truck. It had steam coming out of it and it was parked, stationary. People were gettin’ nervous, wondering if this was the next big attack. You know they had us on yellow or orange alert so much we didn’t know which end we were coming from. Anyways, then there was this big sound, like a mini-explosion. People went nuts, I mean nuts! They started rushing the stairs and the train. I said forget about it, and went the opposite way. Turns out it was an old fashion’ water radiator problem. People are scared. They haven’t gotten over the trauma and keep expecting something else to happen. Do they feel safe? Naw, not safe.

Lastly, Ms. Firetag, the teacher, spoke:

“My biggest burden is how am I going to teach my students about what happened? It’s part of history now. I can’t pretend like it didn’t happen – denying children that lost a loved one. But either way I am going to be held responsible to teach something about it. I couldn’t get that song by Marvin Gaye – “Ecology” – out of my head for weeks …Do I focus on whom we should blame, how to move forward, the fear…I still struggle. And what does this matter? Because as New Yorkers, we will never be the same again. This event is part of the fabric of our culture now. You could say our DNA was changed, shaken, rearranged. When deep trauma happens to a person, a country… and the repercussions…well I don’t know. We’ll just have to see what grows from this.

A cello played. A picture of the excavated site was shown and then the camera focused on one of the cavities. A packet of seeds was poured into one of the cavities during the daylight hours. Next it was night, and a rain of light fell into the cavity that coalesced into an illuminated ball. The voice of an Iman began chanting, joined by a Rabbi chanting, then joined by a gospel hymn, and finally joined by Buddist Monks’ chants. The light formed a column which grew and formed a tree. The songs all merged into one beautiful ensemble, the branches and leaves of the tree alive, moving, pulsating, and dancing.

“Man, that was deep,” Darryl proclaimed out loud. “Trevor, can you believe what sophisticated material these young people produced? Bravo, bravo. Nice, Aria!”

Mr. Stokes made his way to the front of the room. “These kids are amazing, aren’t they? Please join me in giving them a hand.”

The room exploded with applause. Some of the kids stood and took a bow, including Jonathan.

“Now, we will be having another workshop in August, if your teens are interested in signing up. We’ll be focusing on editing and critiquing individual pieces.”

Rudy mouthed to Aria, “You want to take that one too, Bird?” with a thumbs up. The rest of her accompanying group beamed and smiled at her.

She smiled and gave him a small thumbs up in return.

“This way your piece is infused with your own unique passion. The point will be to try to convey your passion effectively to your audience.” Aria thought Mr. Stokes was looking at Jonathan and Liann when he said this.

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