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breathegirlIt’s relatively quiet. The droning helicopters have taken a rest and all that’s left is the chirping of birds. Quiet lasting only a minute. The phone rings with calls from relatives having spats that are historic in nature but exacerbated by the tensions surrounding and within us all. I try to pacify them while at the same time adhering to my code of tell ‘no lies.’ The moral ambiguities about what truth is necessary and what is protective aside, I try my best, most often failing on a huge scale. These days we have to be friends, shrinks, pacifiers and if possible, joke tellers. I’m sharpening my skills but have far to go.

My pooch cost me a wallet full what with being told she needed a harness and not a leash. She’s 13 and never used a harness. I felt like it was putting her into a corset. But now that she’s had so much of me 24/7, that she rules the roost and takes more than a slight tug when walking the New York streets, I must do something. Her fascination with everything disgusting on the ground has grown to such proportions that I am left with only one alternative to just saying NO– a slight yank of her beaded leash. She has also started to do ‘old man’s cough’ throughout the day, and so after getting a clean bill of heart health from the vet, Joe at Whiskers, convinced me that her trachea would benefit from getting off leash/collar. So, too many dollars later she is sporting a harness that isn’t an exact fit…her circumference changes dependent on fur growth and now that she’s looking like a chia plant, there is plenty of fuzz to fill out the harness.

As taxing as everyday life issues are, it’s a relief to take the mind off, even temporarily, the State of the Nation. I thought my mind couldn’t be boggled any more than it has been, but this week really takes the cake. Who could write a screenplay more surreal and horrific than this week in America?  Murder at the hands of police, peaceful demonstrators being hit with rubber bullets and a so-called leader taking photo op suggestions from the original clueless girl, his daughter. We are truly a nation at shame and yes, we must take the knee as well as realizing that we are brought to our knees by years of persecution and injustice of People of Color by government sanctions, privileged white men and perhaps, worse yet, our lesser human nature. The good thing is that all of this can change when we are willing to see it first, wake up second, and do something, third.

I started these thoughts with an image of the harness. It is time to take the emotional harness off of Black people who must have the right to speak of their pain, even if it makes others in this country uncomfortable. And it is time to put a harness on governmental unspoken and spoken strategies that continue to keep this country cruel, non-compassionate, unjust, imbalanced and not what we can be.

Here is a clip from the great Richie Havens.

richie havens

Written by nancykoan

June 3, 2020 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Working Woman is All Our Story

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Some films stay with you.  That could be said for …Working Woman, a new film by director Michal Aviad.

It’s a simple story. A beautiful  Israeli mother of three, Orna, (Liron Ben Shlush of “Next to Her”) is offered a job by a man who used to be her captain in the army. He’s now a big shot in real estate and promises her a lucrative career with advancements. She loves her husband who has just opened a restaurant and realizes the extra money could really help. Plus, she’s ambitious for herself and to prove she can do it.

When the developer Benny (Menashe Noyhen) tries to kiss her after a successful real estate negotiation, she is shocked, scared and disappointed. But he apologies profusely and says it won’t happen again. But it happens without sex, like when he keeps her working late with the prospect of ‘already ordered sushi’ and keeps turning the lights off and on. It is sick and childish, but she is doing so well in bringing in her own business, that she makes herself ignore it.

Her husband, Ofer (Oshri Cohen) is very good at sharing family chores, gets upset when he receives a special business license thanks to Benny’s interference. Something doesn’t smell kosher, but he respects his wife and holds his tongue. They even attend a party at Benny’s palatial home and it is clear to all that Orna and Ofer are tight.

But what happens in Paris can’t stay in Paris. After a celebratory dinner in Paris, selling homes to French Jews, both Benny and Ofra are feeling good about their work and are slightly tipsy, Benny pulls a fast one…the old, can’t get my door open trick…and ugliness takes over. It’s a very well done scene…Ofra struggles but both in shock and awe resigns herself to the drunken abuse because she has little choice.

Back in Israel, her otherwise terrific mother doesn’t want to know and Ofer starts blaming her for allowing it.

Orna is sensitive but fiercely protective of her family and needs a recommendation to get future work.She must garner all her strength and at the same time accept her own complicity in ignoring what she didn’t want to see.

She resolves the problem with great courage handling Benny in front of his wife to get what she needs. He tells her how lucky she was to learn so much with him, and she agrees. But we know what she learned in the loss of innocence is a far greater lesson than selling a condo at the beach.

Whether the director used Harvey Weinstein as a template for Benny, is hard to say…but this is a wonderful film dealing with the strains that women suffer in the workplace especially when one person holds all the power. In Working Woman, the lead takes her power back.

Written by nancykoan

April 3, 2019 at 1:18 am

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Pinter by Sands by nancy cohen-koan

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ImageMy first memory of Howard Pinter was sitting next to Sandy Mandel in a London theater and watching her head bounce up and down on her long neck during the Birthday Party. It was the same head that struggled to stay erect in front of the Trevi Fountain and at the opera at the Baths of Caracalla. We were young, it was our first trip to Europe and we hadn’t gotten much rest. And Pinter was probably way too sophisticated for our backpacking sensibilities. A few years later, I was living in London in a flat with a guy who was great friends with the actress Vivian Merchant and was regaled with gruesome stories about her difficult marriage to Pinter. But I still wasn’t tackling his material. In fact, it took me a long time to appreciate his nuanced style and even then I had to get over the fact that  I read  he hated Americans  — for the government’s policies…unfair, considering  how Thatcher’s actions in Grenada, had little effect on my lifelong Anglophilia.

But a few years back I participated in a workshop at Cuny with Harry Burton that dealt with Pinter’s work with actors and my respect and admiration was deepened. And It was revived last night at a one man show at The Irish Rep called a Celebration of Harold Pinter, directed by John Malkovich and starring Julian Sands. Sands  is truly a romantic actor… I loved him in Impromptu and A Room With A View, and have assiduously avoided seeing him in things like Warshlock . My gut feeling is that his comedic skills have yet to be exploited, though in this show, his improvisatory moments are very funny as well as his vulnerability.

Clearly Sands loves Pinter’s poetry and does it proud. When he is Pinter, his voice lowers to a gruffy basso and brings the outspoken man right back to life. Celebration covers many aspects of Pinter’s career, personality, politics and his very committed relationship to author Lady Antonia Fraser.  Sands  is so tight with Pinter that he was asked to read at the funeral ceremony in 2008, after Pinter succumbed to cancer. It is this kind of intimacy, both with the man and the material,  that Mr. Sands brings to this show. Death is ever present in this show and Sands begins with a short poem that is equally cool and warm in its scope. Pinter emotionally takes no prisoners…his  bold, raw style wouldn’t support Broadway, but had its birth in a country where art has been traditionally more supported.  It is such a pleasure to have a better understanding on “the curse of the Pinter pauses” and beats in his writing… I would like a sequel…. Perhaps with even more silence to fully take in everything that he says.  Generously, Mr. Sands mentioned that Rufus Sewell will be playing Pinter in the West End next year.  Hopefully, Mr. Sands will carry on with this show as he has done since 2011.

Written by nancykoan

November 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

In honor of unsung 9/11 heros

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By Nancy Cohen koan

written originally a month after 9/11 commissioned for a magazine…never published as I needed more time to incorporate all the dogs.

As the statues for the dogs are ready to be unveiled, I admit to having always loved them. Dogs love unconditionally and unless they’re owned by lawyers in San Francisco, ( make for wonderful friends and neighbors. But it wasn’t until the tragedy of the WTC that I understood just how loving they really can be.

My introduction to the rescue dogs first came at the Javits Center where I along with hundreds of others was awaiting instructions on what to do as a volunteer. I had already met a cute French fireman and was really ready to do some work.  Most of us had been standing around for ages and except for an occasional flirtation, were feeling like crap and basically in shock. There was plenty of free food and sun, but not enough to do to fill up the hours of disbelief and confusion.

 I think it was about five thirty when a work shift was finishing and the people started coming back from downtown.  Everyone was looking for signs of hope but all we saw were exhausted, saddened faces.  Then, suddenly, a police captain walked by with a worn-out German Shepherd at his side. Perhaps as much for himself as for the anxious volunteers, he turned to the crowd and announced that his dog had made eight “finds” that day.  At that point in the rescue effort, no one knew precisely what “finds” meant, but we understood that something good had happened and that the dog was a big part of it. We gave them both a standing ovation, just as we had done for the returning rescue fireman.  The dog wagged his tail and off they went. It was the beginning of many such moments.

Porkchop, Max, Molly, Senta and Daisy, just a few of the names from the heroic group of rescue dogs who came to New York to help the fallen on September 11th. They poured in from everywhere: California, Florida, Arkansas Chicago, France – the world. They were mostly work dogs, shepherds, collies, a bloodhound, a few rottweilers, some labs and yes, even one part poodle. Some of them belonged to FEMA, some to the police department, and some to just ordinary civilians, many who paid their own way to New York to offer their skills in what instantly became known as Ground Zero.

Dr. Garvey of the Animal Medical Center in New York said that he had never seen anything like it. “These dogs worked in the most adverse conditions. In the beginning of the search there was a great amount of dust, which got into their ears, nose and eyes. Wuss, a Belgian Malinois from St. Louis fell face first into a hole and had to be treated for asphyxiation. Ammo, a German shepherd, who had had 200 saves, collapsed from dehydration, but they both went home in good condition,” he reported. Clearly, these were not games being played on a field. Ground Zero was a true test of the canines’ rescue skills and their loyalty to the handlers.

These pooches worked longer hours than most of my friends. Each day was a 12- hour shift with a few breaks for ear cleaning and a bath.  They had to walk on jagged material, teetering on shaky debris in the hopes of picking up a scent that would lead them to a living or dead body.  Dr. Glenn Anderson, working at the Triage center in Tribeca said that the circumstances under which the dogs and handlers worked were unimaginable, and he was even more amazed by the camaraderie and cooperation.

Rescue dogs are trained in two ways: live finds and cadavers.  For live, they often learn by searching for their handler who is hidden in a forest or hole, invisible to the human eye. The dogs sniff them out. Their reward is finding the person they love. For human remains, they practice with products that give off the scent of a corpse.  Sometimes they work with actual dead bodies.  Their sense of smell is so powerful that they can pick up scents through asphalt.  In the case of the World Trade Center, finding cadavers has been an important element for families desperately in need of closure.

Not surprisingly, these dogs experienced a kind of stress and depression at what they found. Unlike us, they are not usually prescribed Prozac.  But like the best in us, they kept on looking and hoping. 

All of these wonderful dogs and their handlers have a story. Here are just a few of them:


Senta is a 5-year-old German Shepherd who works with veterinarian Dr. Dan Bacalaglu, from Lakehurst, New Jersey. He was adopted from a shelter and trained at the Naval base, OEM.  September 11th was his first real job. The two of them came to help at 2 p.m. on the Tuesday of the attack and had been working for more than a week when we met.

“Of the dogs trained, 70% make it through wilderness search training, and 30% urban training, said Dr. Bacalaglu. Senta, like many of the dogs, is cross-trained — he finds live bodies and uses an air scenting technique to locate cadavers which may be deeply under rubble.  Senta barks when he finds something live and digs with his feet when the body is dead.

“Communication between the handler and the dog is very important as often only the most subtle signs can indicate whether a body has been spotted,” said Dr. Bacalaglu.  Senta searches for children and to my surprise and relief, Alzheimer patients. As the two of them strolled up the West Side Highway after a grueling 12-hour shift, it was clear that their friendship was more than that of work partners. Does the dog sleep in the house? Yes, but not in the bed.


Daisy, big –eyed bloodhound with draping ears, the picture of a young girl out for her first real job.  Prior to this assignment, handler Gary Curdiff of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, had done lots of repetitive tracking in wooded areas. He felt that Daisy was ready for this work and was confident she would succeed. Daisy was adopted from the Allige Foundation, founded by a father in memory of his abducted daughter.  Daisy was extremely affectionate, washing my face salty repeatedly with her soft tongue.  The last I spotted them was when they boarded the van for their first visit to Ground Zero, Daisy’s till spinning as she furiously licked her handler’s hand.


I bumped into Rookie when he was having his paws checked for cuts at the Triage center. Joaquin Guerrero, of the Saginaw Police in Michigan fell in love with German Shepherd Rookie when he was just a pup in 1996 and they’ve patrolled the streets of Saginaw ever since.  As Guerrero’s partner, Rookie is considered a full-fledged police officer.  He is trained as a “full utility” dog.  Rookie can search, track, do SWAT team work, evidence searches, narcotic detection and K-9 therapy.  Sorry Scoobie Doo, this is not therapy for other dogs, but for people.  Rookie seems to specialize in nursing homes where he simply sits and allows the residents to pet him. My kind of job.

Rookie and Guerrero created a program in Michigan called PRECINCT 131 where they educate elementary school children on the harmful effects of cigarettes and other drugs, along with the dangers of guns, gangs and violence.  It’s been such a great success that they’re adding a Rookie look-alike puppet to help teach the kids when Rookie is out on the beat.

While Rookie was getting his paws looked after, Guerrero confided to me that he owes his happy marriage to his dog. Listen up, girls. According to him, his wife Cari originally first met Rookie and was smitten by the dog. Then she met Guerrero.  Apparently to be closer to Rookie, she married Guerrero, joined the PRECINCT 131 and adopted Rookie’s little sister for her own.  They’re a police family so they wanted to give Cari’s dog an appropriate name, but his brothers had already taken Misdemeanor and Miranda. By default, she called her dog, Felony. In Saginaw they do “ride a longs” together, but in New York they were pure search and rescue.

Guerrero couldn’t praise these dogs enough. “The dog’s ability to discern scents is so acute that they can be trained for narcotics as well as poison. Yorkies can even walk around a patient and find where the cancer is”, he assured me.  Wow.  That would be some TV show.

Rookie is so well loved in his hometown, that the children have been raising funds to have a bullet proof vest made just for their hero.  They then hope to provide them for all the rescue dogs.


Max, a Shepherd, also made an appearance at the Triage center where he was getting fluids for dehydration and Tagamet for an upset stomach.  His handler, Jasmine Fraleigh of Fort Smith, Arkansas had come with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team.  Jasmine said that Max, a four-year-old Sagittarius (meaning he likes to travel), could never have been prepared for anything of this nature.  One time back home though, she said, Max picked up a scent after 18 hours of a lost thirteen-year-old.” She felt that Max was definitely suffering depression from the lack of live finds, but at least was able to give comfort therapy to the fireman on site where they “could cry onto his broad furry back.”

Fraleigh thinks a mask and goggle would be great for the dogs in an environment like Ground Zero, if they could only still catch scents through it. She said that rescue dogs are so sensitive they can even warn an epileptic of an oncoming attack. Max not only sleeps in her house, he sleeps at the foot of the bed, though my suspicion is he sometimes climbs in.


Another hero, Kermit, a German Shepherd working with Merlin Durkman, a volunteer from Colorado, pulled in for medical attention from the Veterinary Assistance Medical Team known as VMAT. Everyone seemed to know Kermit, a bright and friendly, though totally pooped dog. Merlin and Kermit had been in New York since the day after the attack.

Kermit, who trained with Durkman under master trainer Joe Cligan of the US Police Canine Association is trained to find human scent, blood, fluid, bodies, and clothing. He has an extremely sensitive nose but was because of the dust, was experiencing some difficulty because of the great amount of dust.


The international response to the tragedy had been no less than the national.  A rescue team from France arrived on Sunday, anxious to put their hounds to the test. They were from C.I.C.R.S. or Group Intervention Cinophile Rescue Search.  Their Belgian Malinois is like a Shepherd but shorter haired.  He is intelligent, understands rapidly and “has a very good nose” said trainer/handler Lancelot Fabrice.  Fabrice believes it takes two to three years of training before they are ready for search and rescue. When they find someone alive, the dogs jump up and yelp; when they find a dead body, they drop down and look sad.  Ah, the French technique. Their dogs are especially adept at finding lost children.  They once found a little girl in Armonje, France after ten days.

They team was anxious to start working and had to wait for a diplomatic release before joining the search. If my college French served me correctly, I believe Fabrice saw the moment as a first for people worldwide to unite. Again, I asked about the sleeping arrangements, them being French and all, but alas the dog doesn’t share the bed. When the volunteers offered snacks for the handlers and food for the canines, they men took the candy but refused the dog food.  Their dogs eat only a French food called Royal Canal.


Search dogs do a variety of different jobs. Hedges, a 3 1/2-year-old black and tan German Shepherd, is part of the New York State Police explosives detection and K-9 unit. He and his handler, Neil Dow of Troop F in Orange County, New York specialize in bomb searches.

Hedges, named after an officer Richard Hedges who died in the line of duty in 1942, trains three times a year for a full week.  He and Dow do tactical maneuvers and are observed as a team. Bomb dogs go on a fifteen- foot lead and are trained to detect 17 different types of bombs, from TNT to dynamite.

They were brought into the World Trade Center scene to do “bomb sweeps” ensuring that there were no planted bombs in public places. At that point there had been 90 threats and they had just “swept” JFK, La Guardia and the Javits Center.

Officer Dow uses hand gestures with Hedges for commands like sit, stay and come. “The three key words with dogs are patience, repetition and praise.” he says.  “Also, they like to be spoken to in a high-pitched voice when training. “I was personally thrilled to hear that.  I have always spoken to my animal companions in a “girly” voice that has driven many of my human friends crazy.

 Watching Hedges and Dow together almost made me yearn for a relationship as sweet as theirs, their bond is so tight.  Dow says “if a perpetrator gives off a “vibe” that the dog mistrusts, the dog will react to protect his handler.”  This includes subtle energies that are only picked up by the dog. “Dogs have jumped through car windows to protect their handlers”, Dow said.

“Patrol dogs’ lives are quite stressful. They have a career span of six to eight years”, Dow said, because of the climbing up and down, which can be hard on their hips.” But even when Hedges retires, he will continue to live with Dow.  They are a real team.



“Moses led people out of Egypt” said Chief Rabiela as a way of explaining his German Shepherd’s name. They came from Chicago, from the Fellowship of Christian Firefighers, thus further explaining the nomenclature. “Moses has zero aggression and he does therapy work, too”, said the Chief proudly.   Moses had to have three stitches on his paw after he cut it while climbing on a wire. But like Moses, he was back out in the field the very next day.


Certainly, one of the volunteer stars of the rescue effort and my personal fav is a sweet little Australian Shepherd with a pinkish nose named Porkchop.  Porkchop was trained in live scent and cadaver work with the California Rescue Dog Association and spends his days in Oakhurst, California with handsome handler Eric Robertson.  They’ve been together since Porkchop was 10 weeks old. The breed is apparently good for avalanche work, able to work long, hard shifts with great find success.  They train regularly every day for four hours.

The two of them travel with a second handler Mark Lagerquist.  “With rescue dogs, it’s wise to have a second, so that one can be in the lead, and the other can help push the dog from behind on steep inclines”, said Mark.

 Assigned to the New York Police Department canine unit, Porkchop and Robertson were considered the confirmation team.  FEMA people would go in first, then Porkchop would go in and confirm. According to Robertson, Porkchop made recoveries every day, often within the first thirty minutes of starting the shift.  His technique is to bark three times when he makes a “live find” and to sneeze when he finds a cadaver. There were no survivors found, but everyday remains were discovered.

Porkchop was the first dog I saw with little booties. . Some of the dogs wear booties to help protect the soft pads of their feet from the rubble. Many sets of booties had been donated.

“But, when his vest is off, he’s just like a regular dog”, insisted Robertson.  “He loves to carry everything,” he says.  I saw this in action when he tried to carry my notepad right out of my hands.  “He loves to please, and doesn’t mind wearing the booties.” added Robertson.  He was certainly an endearing picture with sparkling eyes, bright vest and slippers.  It was all I could do not to fawn all over either of him.  

 “And how did he get such a goofy name?” I asked.  “When he was a puppy, we put him in the shopping cart at a grocery store and when we went to the checkout line, the sticker from the pork chops was stuck to his butt,” answered Robertson. Lucky it wasn’t the leg of lamb. And why can’t we take our dogs into grocery stores in New York?

Even after returning to California, Eric was anxious to come back to do more work with Porkchop in New York.

There were so many more canine workers: MOLLY, the yellow lab; MORGAN, and BIGFOOT and the Siberian husky from New Jersey who came daily to volunteer, but wasn’t qualified as a certified rescue dog.  There came from all over this country and the world, but they had one thing in common – they shared a love for their handlers. We New Yorkers were fortunate, for with that love came incredible skill, training, loyalty and devotion.  Qualities that this city so desperately needed and will continue to need as we heal.  The statues that are being erected are a nice touch … a reminder to us all that these shaggy heroes are truly loving friends.

Written by nancykoan

September 8, 2021 at 12:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

April is national poetry month

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Oye, is she Jewish, they all asked in a mob,
secretly sizing her nose as a job.

No, said Yonkel, she’s much too faire,
I’m sure she’s a shiksa,.I swear, I swear..

Still, for Kabballah, she fought and fought.,
Zoom calls with Moses from her kosher yacht.

Her Talmudic humor, not lost on her fans,
with opinions on everything, just like a man..

As the mom of Jesus, she commits no sin,
Still as a Jew, there’s no room at the inn.

Restricted hotels never made her pout,
She buys the ones that throw her out.

Does that make her Jewish, this Babylonian whore,
One more test and, we’ll know for sure.

Madonna, Madonna, me thinks you’re a fake.
Look at your arms, my heart it doth break.

No real Yenta has muscles so taut,
Their arms drip and dangle, not a little, a lot.

The furious rolling of rugelach and challah,
Arms loose and flappy, like dancing the hora.

So sorry Ms.Mad, you ain’t the real deal.
Till you guilt trip your kids, and make a Passover meal.

Written by nancykoan

April 30, 2021 at 12:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Chronicles of Covid, 444, I’m back.

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I ‘m finally sticking my head out of the parapet to breathe. The saga of my seclusion now must include my television binging, which to be fair, only happens after first doing a full day’s work of mouse chasing, online vitamin browsing and contemplation of my meal plans. By the time that is all finished, I sit down to join my family. This family is abundant, unlike my own, crazy in ways much different from family of origin, and on the whole good looking enough to captivate. What is different about this family is that they are imbalanced, one man for three wives, and for the most part, people of faith. My own father had faith, but I go in and out with my struggle. I suppose being near-sighted I have skeptical, fuzzy faith, not entirely blind.. I like wearing my glasses. And as far as being one of many wives, I’m much more interested in polyandry as practiced in Nepal…two husbands for each wife. Hmm, a series idea?

Still, I adore this show. It’s not only their obsession with an after life that is intriguing, but all the sex. Family and sex…two things I’ve been deprived of during this Covid period. So every time Bill Paxton joins one of his three wives in the marital bed, I’m alert. The wives, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin are delightfully cast and very different. They share the sister wife syndrome of petty jealousies and the historic problem of what happens in 3’s. There’s always one other person to gossip about with a third. It’s classic and the show is so well written, you’re never quite sure who’s going to be picked on when.

The perversity of “Big Love’s” Fundamentalist’s “prophet”, Harry Dean Stanton, really keeps the saccharine family life in check…there’s always a spider ready to come down the spout and sting.

I really enjoyed Jon Krankauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven about the LDS and the murders within the fundamentalist, polygamist branch, FLDS. My personal experience with followers of regular Mormonism has been only positive, both on a white river raft trip and the research library in Salt Lake City. But the darker side of what can only be described as an anti-feminist convention is fascinating and has for the moment taken my mind off of this pandemic, so that my nightly dreams are haunted by characters other than Trump and Fauci.

That two of the actors share my birthday cannot be accidental. Paxton deceased way too soon at 61 and Grace Zabriskie are May 17thers and thus I feel a spiritual connection.

Am I living a soap opera fan’s existence? Call it binging, I am devoted to this fiction on a small screen. I’ve become a virtual sister wife and for the time being, they are the family with whom I’ve chosen to hunker down. No masks needed.

Written by nancykoan

August 17, 2020 at 2:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

CHRONICLES OF COVID, episode 2007…setting free

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 As the city is opening up, I’m closing down. The over three months of virtually being a prisoner in my apartment has hit hard. I’m in a tiny space, filled to the brim with the world’s most important items (WMII) that cannot, on any terms, be let go of. Darling my pooch and I have taken to walking backwards from each other, when one of us has to pass through the narrow ravine called ‘the open space.’ My ass, too has become huge from sitting on the one area that isn’t covered in WMII and though I do have to walk up four flights every time I go out, it isn’t enough to keep me in shape. Exercise in the apartment, you ask? Yes, I could possibly do a bit of isometrics on the john…no space required.

But none of this is is my Biggest complaint?  People are. Some of my neighbors to be exact. What happened to all those kumbaya moments that our species is supposed to share during national crisis? Just watch any number of British WW2 films and the spirit of Keep Calm and Carry On shared by the citizens is inspiring. But here in New York, the real estate moguls have destroyed community by making the rents only affordable to Millennials/GenY/Zoomers. (apologies, not sure what’s what) Other people raised with a sense of neighborliness are extant. The new folks are cool, indifferent and undefinable. Not once during these three months did any of the newer tenants ask if I needed something, though I brought up their packages and kept an eye on general door security.

 My friend S. has observed that their generation is so entitled, that they can’t even imagine that a natural disaster will strike them down. Mummy and Daddy will intervene, make a call and they’ll be ok and if you’re not family, who cares? When I argue that I’ve seen many younger people, and white at that, show up at demonstrations, she insists that it’s a social outlet and as soon as bars and restaurants open up, their protest signs will be exchanged for mojitos. . I don’t want to believe that, but the number of selfies being taken at Union Square was indeed troubling. Another friend insists its simply ageism. “They just hate us”, he says. They don’t even want to look at us.”

I had my own version of this phenomena when my Covid 19 -exiled neighbors returned for a week in order to move out of New York for good. They had been sheltering with their families in North Carolina and so I had 3 months of peace.  They were so fresh to city life when they moved in that a water bug crossing through their kitchen, sent them into hysterics. They blamed it on me and my dog. I insisted that I didn’t manufacture such creatures and that they were lucky they didn’t have the mice that visit me. Still, they hated the idea that I lived here before them and probably resented me for paying less rent for my unrenovated space. Playing old school mafia, they dropped their wounded bug upside down at my front door.

When they told me in no uncertain terms that they were going to use the roof (I live right under it) during their week back, I decided not to make a fuss…after all, I’d been meditating for months and they were going to move soon anyway. That they had already broken an Appalachian chair and never made amends was beside the point. They were moving and I was going to go high no matter how low they ventured. Even when I sat on the roof with a masked friend sharing a beer and they came up with blanket, take out and expensive wine, sitting rather too near, I didn’t say a word.

On their final Saturday night, they had a bunch of friends over and were carousing above my head, celebrating their departure. Again, I didn’t say a word. Then at 230 in the morning, they started up their washing machine. My tenement building should not have a washer/dryer unit…the infrastructure doesn’t warrant it. Still, the landlord is greedy and put one in. I had always politely asked the new tenants to use it during legal times as it shakes my entire apartment to the point of knocking books off the shelves. By putting the machine on at such a late hour, they were showing me how unimportant I am to them and how much residual sadism they are capable of. I did not call the police… too much going on in that department to bring them in. Instead, I took a hit of pot, put on two sound machines and slept until 7 am when they started up a second wash before finally moving out.

What is wrong with people? Why are we invisible to each other and what makes for so little respect? I’m in the midst of finishing up a documentary on Woodstock and how much the conviviality and magic of that experience stayed with me. Those were young people…I was young people… despite the adage not to trust anyone over 30…that’s not how it was… there was respect. Maybe because parents were engaged in keeping their kids out of Vietnam… maybe drugs were opening up generational psyches? Maybe money wasn’t yet the God it’s become? Historians may have the answers …I don’t …only the feeling that this generational gap and its behaviors really hurt.

I have already eaten at an opened restaurant on the street and it was fun to see the owners making money and people enjoying the new freedom. But something is still far from open, beyond hair salons and drive- ins and bars.  Something that will take more than legislation to crack. Something that’s a thousand times more important than any US business… something that’s easier to break than to mend…something that’s been closed for way too long now… the U.S. heart.

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June 29, 2020 at 6:54 pm

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I’ve been taking bigger and bigger walks in preparation for an appointment with my pain management doctor whose office is far.  I realize that sounds contradictory, but I’m still holding off on taking public transport and I want to be pain-free. I dragged my pup along on this practice walk. She gets to ride side saddle so we make faster time, and then I let her walk back home with her own four feet.

It was a gorgeous day. The city grimness disappeared in the glorious weather and fine architecture of the West Village. Not like other areas these days that could easily serve as locales for the next zombie film. No, the West Village was alive, like Liz Taylor in Cat on the Hot Tin Roof. The hungry, and horny crowds were dancing around the outdoor barkeeps, who with their rolled-up sleeves, beckoned the thirsty cave dwellers, looking for respite with a real first professionally poured drink.

I haven’t been much of a drinker since hitting my head on a metal toilet paper dispenser a year ago.  I passed on the hard stuff and instead opted for a d scone. I liked the place, especially as there were two chairs available in front and my shoulder needed a break from carrying the pooch.

Inside, a young woman barista encouraged me to have a latte because they also had a bathroom. This is an important detail when you’re practicing walking and indeed it would take a long time to get home. While she was foaming the milk, I remarked on how cool it was that she wrote her name on her mask. That way people could say. Hello…Hello, who, because I couldn’t quite make out the writing where her chin made a crease across the letters. “Bayona, I asked.

She looked at me with wide eyes, like I was an idiot. Breonna, she said, Breonna, it’s for Breonna. Yes, yes, I knew who Breonna Taylor, the 26-year old medical technician who was shot by the Louisville police was, and told her so immediately. I also shared that I march, too, and wasn’t the white privileged coffee drinker with a poodle she might have mistaken me as.  Of course, she wasn’t thinking those things, but I left her a large tip just in case. After all, I have a reputation.

It had been a hard week, so strolling and pretending it was just a normal Sunday seemed to be the right thing to do. But it wasn’t easy. Boarded up shops were as sad as many of the worn-down faces. Of course, there were some happy people, probably tourists. I say tourists because they wore no mask and were laughing like they were in a Prince’s “1999” music video.

Shutting them out, my thoughts went to B-Sister, a member of my writers’ group. Lately, the group was meeting in a garden after months of zooming our sessions. ‘ This would be the first time B was making it to our session, coming in from Brooklyn.

B is hard to describe…fiercely intelligent, big E extroverted and makes delicious fun of herself in her outrageous one woman shows. B- never enters quiet but on this day, she was explosive. She had taken the subway for the first time, and right before had gotten into a tossup with someone over how to make collard greens. That, on top of corona, teaching science on zoom, the BLM movement and her own fine knowledge of black history, was just too much for her soul.  She was pissed. After a bit and some sherry, her rage settled into tears and we reassured her that it was ok to release the pain.  Certainly, each of us could relate; we all had felt versions of persecution, but B is Black and that’s the story of right now. Hell, I didn’t even realize until she shared, that Black people from the Islands think they are superior (must be the British education) to American Blacks from the South. It’s a deep wound, but certainly with her talents, she’ll be able to mine the material and have a new show by the time we can all go to theatres again.  

Leaving the cafe, pooch and me headed home across Washington Square Park. There sitting on a bench sans mask was Elliot, my one-time co-star in a movie. He was offering free readings of special cards he had created and a fake 100-dollar bill to take home. I hadn’t seen him in years; he looked well and apparently has been doing protest art, wearing gigantic masks of political people. The cards laid out, I picked one. “Oh, the duck…that means you’ll be up to your neck in water, and enjoying hydration.” I told him it didn’t seem likely as I didn’t even have a bathtub. “Ah, well then, it’s the other message… you must be careful to duck or you’ll hit your head.” Now that was prophetic.  A year late but still.

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June 21, 2020 at 3:31 am

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One of the new habits I’ve acquired over Covid Time, is succumbing to the IGOS syndrome, known by me and possibly thousands of other homebound folks, as Immediate Gratification Obsessional Shopping. Countless hours spent logging onto Facebook flushes the brain with things you can’t live without…items to awaken one’s deepest security needs rooted out by robots and marketed back to us during the hours better spent sleeping. My niche has been comfy accessories for the nest; anything for the dog (since we’re spending so much time together) and beautification techniques for worldly re-entry. These distractions provide a pleasant change from hospital updates and breaking news of any sort. Since shopping live has been truncated except for hardware and drugs, these little jewels of seduction have established the new fix.

My building has been basically empty for months, so when the delivery person arrives, it is my bell that is rung. I’ve received jars of zinc and vitamin C, an already mentioned Winky Dink kit, and a few books. But the larger items never seem to arrive late and because of theft in these tiny tenements, I’ve taken on the watch dog role. Still, what happened to my special band aids for removing annoying skin tags? I assumed without dermatological visits my back’s mole collection would grow as quickly as my hair, and why not learn to do the job myself?  I have no idea if they would be safe and effective because they never showed up. Then there was the very cheap and special comforter that can be used in the hottest weather and made of naturally breathable fibers. I postponed washing my old comforter in anticipation of the new one, but to my surprise, all I received from China was the world’s ugliest pillowcase, stars and stripes surrounding images of some of the world’s most iconic buildings. Who would want to rest their head on that? I think the design was so old it included the World Trade Towers. The lightweight dog coat bought in March may show up in December, along with the fluffy green summer carpet. But the special fan with a device to pour water into for that extra cool feeling, is lost somewhere between the Black Sea and the East River.

It’s understandable that those ‘third eye’ face masks being produced by indigenous folk for a women’s cooperative in Mexico are late, but where the hell is my copy of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?”

When confronting the sellers, I get the argument that they are very sorry but if I want to send it back (pillow case), I’ll have to pay a 20-dollar return fee.  PayPal hasn’t been so helpful with these things and I suppose the companies take full advantage of that. They are now offering me 20, then 30, then up to 50 per cent back refund on the undelivered order. I’m beginning to wonder if this is a new business model.

There is so much fall out from these times…little mom and pop’s closing all over… I bought a tiny xylophone from a stationary store that’s served the West Village for years… rent too high … and these people won’t retire, they have to look for other jobs.

On the ‘up’ side, there is plenty of free merch. Either people are cleaning out or moving On. I was able to juggle home a meta, pink outdoors chair for the roof. For the last few blocks I was kindly assisted by a newish resident from near Corpus Christie, Texas. He was sweet, strong and optimistic…”just think, if all the one percenters move away, and rents go down, then the artists can return and New York can be what it is stands for… diversity and creativity.”

 I couldn’t have dreamt it better.

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June 16, 2020 at 5:50 pm

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I didn’t think I’d have much to write about for a few days. There are so many planetary positions in retrograde, that I figured it could be quiet. And just when you think it’s safe to come out of the cave, the shadowy side of our collective psyches reminds, not just yet.

My upstate friend had invited me to join her group of artists Art2hrtSoho take 2 painting on the wooden planks used to protect homes and stores from pillaging rioters. Soho had definitely taken a hit and Stefanie was all about turning the violence and criminality into beauty and inspiration.

I had no visual plan in mind, but they supplied acrylics, brushes and boarded up buildings as canvases. So, it was up to me. I grabbed a few colors, something that looked like a sandwich wrapped in foil and went hunting for a space. I’m short so I needed one that I could paint an eye level story upon.

It was fun playing with only 3 colors and I ended up with a profile of a non-gender specific singer. An ice cream truck hovered in the street, playing great rock and roll and I found myself dancing on the step as I brought my painting to life.

Putting on the final touches, the door connected to the board I was working on started to open and I said, “oh please, wait.” I wanted to move the tubes of paint out of the way  A masked Caucasian woman of about 40 came out and started yelling at me…What am I doing there, what right do I have, can’t you see these were already painted, what nerve, out of my  way, and so forth. Firstly, I was so taken aback by her rudeness and dismissal of the good vibes we were all creating, that I stood dumbfounded. When I explained to her my purpose and that I was with a group, she dismissed it and continued to badger and threaten me. I had a mask on that may have slipped during my surprise and she accused me of not having social distance. She was the one unwilling to move and give me space to collect my paints.

I do not see myself as a threatening person. I also understand how the last four months have been emotionally tough on all of us and chose to share with her that, I, too, have been living in isolation and certainly didn’t mean to make her feel unsafe. I might as well have been speaking Latin, for she refused to hear and refused to try and understand. My foil wrapped sandwich also was part of my crime.” And you’re going to have a picnic, here, too? ” she screamed.

I bent down to put the caps tightly on all the paint tubes so I could carry my things back to the control area. The whole time she didn’t stop yelling.

After dropping off the supplies, I looked for an organizer. In general, I’m not a rule breaker and I don’t like confrontation. Perhaps I was in the wrong? NO said Miriam. She assured me that we were only painting on boards and they can be removed. I had actually forgotten that graffiti art ofttimes comes with the challenge of not being wanted. But what we were doing was beautiful –lightning up the neighborhood which had taken quite a hit.

I went back to my painting to take a few photos as was requested. In that short time, the tenant reappeared, and gave me a gift, my day’s Meaning. For at the moment when she started yelling and sticking her cell phone in my face, I was CHRIS COOPER and this was Central Park and she thought she was  vulnerable and I was the threatening African American bird watcher now in the form of a five ft one Jewish woman with a burrito wrapped in tin foil.

She may have said something about calling someone… How did this thing escalate from a picture of a cartoon singing to a frightened and angry woman sticking her camera in my face? If I had been Chris Cooper, I might have done the same to her with my phone…the duel, shoot out on an iPhone and Samsung Note8…  But really, all I wanted was to escape her negativity. As it is, I carried it all the way home, my once beautiful moment of togetherness thrown off my someone’s personal history and  lack of consciousness. Even if she hated my work, this is about something much bigger than her front door …our national  humanity and empathy are in real peril and shouldn’t we note  it, talk about it and change it?

 And besides, who  really knows I’m not Banksy?

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June 12, 2020 at 9:08 pm

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Chronicles of Covid,episode 49

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The weather is spectacular. No matter how much grief and rage are in the air, nature ‘does not betray the heart that loves her’ and this moment is spectacular. Perhaps even healing.

I saw friends this weekend I hadn’t seen for months and months and though we all carried the ‘just out of the bunker glaze’ they looked beautiful to me. We had a street cocktail and I felt the first steps of opening up…the city and my heart.

Earlier, I carefully stood at the circumference of a demonstration in Washington Square Park and felt the beginnings of a sense of community. My friends who had been to same demonstration later noticed that very few of the police people were wearing masks and my pal courageously asked one of the cops,” why not?” His response wasn’t very polite–it’s disappointing because I, too, have seen very few masks on men in blue. But beyond that hitch, it was peaceful. My neighborhood art center PS122, is set up with a protestor crib center, a place to refresh, get safety supplies, chat and eat. They are well organized and welcoming.

I hope that this re opening doesn’t lend itself to more infections. I can see that people and businesses are trying to be careful, but we just don’t know how this thing works. I said to a friend Rena that I believed that all my years of living with mice have given me an immunity to such things as Covid. In case it hasn’t, I went for the test, both for infection and anti-body and can only trust that their labs are good ones.

Deprivation gives you a real appreciation for the simple things and meeting up with friends and sitting outside is a wonderfully simple joy. I always like the Italian piazzas where people hang for the evening, meeting up for chats and a cafe. My city isn’t designed that way… we are grid like with fewer possibilities for piazzas…still, I believe this summer will see more people finding ways to hang and be.

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It’s hard to gauge how much emotion has been bottled up during these four months. But while watching America’s Got Talent, I found myself crying at almost every act. The tiny ten year old girl who sounded like Lady Gaga; the contortionist whose religious parents didn’t permit dancing, getting all four votes of Yes and a call to his mom from Simon Cowell; and even the three sisters whose dream it is to stand on top of each other in Las Vegas…they all had me weeping… weeping for the life force in all of us, the chi that pushes us through obstacle after obstacle, and our own belief that we may all  truly be here for a reason.

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June 8, 2020 at 10:07 pm

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Exhaustion is the word of the day. Last night I had only enough strength to watch a new version of To Tell the Truth. I was thrilled, despite a sleepy brain, to have correctly guessed contestant number 3, the real Ron Stallworth, the police officer hero in Spike Lee’s The Black Klansman on. I don’t know if it was his sincere face or humility but I did less well with the World ‘s Champion Yoyo expert.

Demonstrations for George Floyd took a back seat for a while once the call came in from the hospital. An older friend had been admitted with an infection, and as my name was top on the list, I had to say whether I thought more dramatic actions should take place if her health worsened. I am not the health care proxy, but gave my on the spot opinion, then sat in fear for her life.

One of the ways I’ve gotten myself through these times is with meditation zooms, Shaman meet ups and now breathwork. This process requires the participant to sit or lie down and do deep breathing to a highly evocative soundtrack. It sounds simple and like many simple things, is extremely powerful

After fifty minutes of this, my body is tired, but relaxed.  I had wept audibly for things I wasn’t even aware I was feeling and, of course, for these times and for my poor friend with Covid.

So, with this in mind, I went for the test today. I had only wanted to do the anti-body one, but the good doctor convinced me that the city needs the stats, so I subjected myself to the nasal thing. I know there’s a lot of messed up tests, but it seemed the right time to start opening up. After that I called my haircutter to see when he was opening up. I look like a Yeti by now, but it seems I’ll still have to wait a few weeks more, shaggy and ferocious.

Of course, I’ve seen a lot of news coverage of George Floyd’s murder, but a news show focusing on the sunglasses his killer was sporting stayed a long time on the shot and I kept thinking of Mr. Floyd’s face as he expired. I was at 9/11 and to this day thank the African American uniformed man who stopped me as I was racing towards the buildings where I would have had no choice but to see my fellow New Yorkers jumping to their death. He held me and sent me firmly in another direction. Of course, the television showed images later on, but because of his protection, I do not have that live, indelible moment in my brain. I’m so sorry for the gal who shot the video on her phone. She may never erase that memory.

A week ago, I passed by the lovely William Barnacle Tavern. They were advertising absinthe, made the real way, and though I had no taste for the drink at the moment, figured it would be a good idea to have it in my sheltering spot, just in case. It’s the weekend. It’s the full moon. It’s Absinthe time.

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June 6, 2020 at 1:18 am

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