My Friend Moses

On the day that we commemorate the words and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I find myself remembering the first African-American who captured my admiration, our handyman Moses.

During those years that Dr. King led marches and boycotts, gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, and won the Nobel Peace Prize, I was a toddler with no social awareness beyond the small circle of my immediate family and those who visited our home.

Of all the non-family guests, I loved Moses the best.  I would run after him on the landing outside of our apartment and we would walk back together hand in hand.

Moses was the star of one of my earliest memories.  He was sitting at our kitchen table talking with my mother.  I crawled under the table and was tugging at the cuff of his pants.  My mother was horrified: “Jaclyn!  What are you doing?”  Of course, I just wanted to see if his legs were the same brown color as his hands and face.

One day Moses asked my mother to get him some cream from the drug store to treat his acne.  He told her that he wanted his skin to look nice for me.  It already did.  Although I was too young to learn about racial equality from Dr. King, I was fortunate to learn that brown skin is just as fine as white skin from my friend Moses.

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Tenement Life

The Tenement Museum in New York is dedicated to preserving immigrant life on the Lower East Side during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The highlight is to tour the restored apartments and businesses of past residents and merchants.

Normally, I would be very excited to visit such a landmark.  It is my favorite historical period and location.  My grandparents, Jewish immigrants who came to America from Europe with very little money and even less English, worked in the New York sweatshops.  This is the story of my people.

Now, you may know how quickly I get bored to look at great artworks or ancient artifacts.  But, to explore a house museum is a completely different thing.  I really enjoy to see how the people lived and worked.  Especially the Jewish people in turn-of-the-century New York.

But, I do not need to visit a museum to experience tenement life.  I do not need to leave the “comfort” of my own home.

All through the summer and fall, I had a termite infestation inside my apartment.  Now that it is winter, I have not had hot water in over a month.  And when it rains outside, also it rains in my living room.

Who needs a museum?  Already I am living the tenement life.

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Do the Right Thing

Five days on, one day off, I go to the gym.  So long as I can stand, I go to the gym.  Notice I say “stand”.  I do not say “walk”.  Even I am on crutches, I go to the gym.  It’s a disease.  Actually, you want to be technical, it’s a disorder.

But this morning, I dawdled and dawdled.  I dreaded the three block walk because it is so cold outside.  I kept telling myself that every minute I delay is an opportunity for the temperature to rise another micro-degree.

Usually I guzzle my morning latte, emptying the glass while the brown beverage is still scalding.  But today, I protracted the ritual until the coffee was quite cold.

Likewise, I took my time reading the news, even stories of no interest.  Verily, I do not care at all whether Kaley Cuoco is now — or has ever been — a feminist.  But now I know.

Finally, there were no more excuses and it was time to go.  I trudged down the stairs and as soon as I descended the stoop, a homeless man asked me to drive his wheelchair to the Starbucks.

I did not hesitate.  A few blocks is a small thing to help someone in need.  I am not a saint.  I admit that the man’s presence was not pleasant.  He had not recently bathed.  His clothes were ragged, fllthy, and smelly.  He was slumped over, drooling, and I could hardly understand his words.

This man should not have been outside by himself this cold morning or any other morning, for that matter.  Of course, I could not fix society’s ills, but I could take him to the Starbucks.  And so I did not hesitate.

As soon as I tried to push, I realized this would not be an easy task.  The wheelchair was very old, it was very low tech.  I could barely make it budge.  No wonder he needed help.  Though I gave it my all, we made very little progress, not half a block.

Suddenly, he could hold himself upright no longer and he slipped out of the chair and onto the sidewalk.

I tried to help him up, back into the chair, but I could not lift him even an inch from the ground.  Fortunately, a kind gentleman rushed over to help and got him rearranged, seemingly no worse for the wear.

The homeless man said he was hungry.  We were right outside La Boulange and offered to buy him breakfast.  But the homeless man said he wanted to go to the Starbucks.  So we started to move down the street.

Then the homeless man cried out that he wanted to eat now, at La Boulange.  So we backtracked toward the entrance.  And again, the homeless man said he wanted to go to the Starbucks.  This cycle repeated several more times.

At last, the kind gentleman made an executive decision to take the homeless man to La Boulange and sent me to go about my business.  There really wasn’t any way for me to help.  I couldn’t even power the wheelchair.  I wanted to be respectful, I wanted to be kind, but my good intentions were of no consequence whatsoever.

So I turned and headed to the gym.  The homeless man called out to me, but I just kept limping down the avenue.  What else could I do?

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Staying Frosty

My thermostat’s busted.  It’s a medical thing.  Always I am cold.  Three hundred and sixty five days a year I am cold.  But today I am especially cold.  Exceptionally cold.

Never mind that it is sunny and 56° outside.  This information, it doesn’t make me to feel any warmer.

I am wearing four layers.  It is not enough.  So I get into bed, adding three more — flannel sheet, Polartec blanket, feather comforter.  It is still not enough.

So I get the portable space heater.  I fumble both knobs to the maximum and I aim it directly it at my core.  But even this is not enough.

So I take the space heater and I put it on the bed.  Then I think better and I put it under the covers.  Finally, a hint of relief.

It would be at least ten minutes before I could hope to fully feel my fingers or toes, much less make them bend, wiggle, or grasp.  Still, the shivering soon ceases and I feel grateful to have averted a full-blown attack.

The crazy thing is that an article in the latest edition of The Atlantic describes people who make themselves cold in an effort to lose weight.  They make themselves cold.  On purpose, they make themselves cold!

They wear ice vests.  Can you imagine?  Ice vests!

The idea is that in order to maintain a normal temperature, the body would need to expend more energy and therefore burn more calories.  The inventor claims 250 calories an hour.  Compared to the 2,500 calories burned for running an entire marathon —

That doesn’t seem right.  An entire marathon and you don’t even lose one pound?  Clearly I am wasting my time at the gym.

Anyway, I am thinking maybe to design a heated vest.  But then I remember the dreaded incident of the heated mattress pad.  All over my body, third-degree burns in the double helix pattern of the heating coils.

Frostbite or contact burns?  Hmm.

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.