Be Nice

That local art and design market we went to a few weekends ago? The hat people weren’t there. So I’m still wearing the ratty old hat for the time being. When we left the show I wasn’t even thinking about hats because I was so excited to have found this:

work hard

Eventually Z will have a spare moment to make a frame and it will hang in my kitchen, the room I spend the most time in. In five little words it expresses exactly what I want to teach my sons about life. The beauty of local events like Salt Market is finding that perfect something you didn’t even know was missing from your life and supporting a local maker at the same time. Who cares that I didn’t find a hat when I did find a print that makes me ridiculously happy.

The print has had me thinking about being nice. I try to be nice in my life, but I could do better. A lot better. Last night Z and I went out for dinner after our therapy session. Yes, our big date night once every couple of weeks involves couples therapy. Whatever works, right? We finished our sushi more than half an hour before the babysitter expected us home so we popped over to the bar next door for a quick drink.

beer

Dude. They had Narragansett on tap. Are you not familiar with the great state of Rhode Island? First of all, you are missing out. Get familiar, people. RI might be the smallest state, but it is mighty where it counts-it has tons of heart. A fact made more complicated and strangely more delightful by the wicked chip most Rhodies have on their shoulders. It is a magical place with beer that is “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit”.

Z and I were shooting the shit and an old friend and bandmate of Z’s came up. Talk about a nice guy and one who can play the living crap out of a harmonica. Z made him a banjo last year and E accidently left it on a subway platform a while back. Z told me that E offered to come up for a weekend if Z would make him another and I was all for it. I got the warm fuzzies thinking about E, like I always do. For some reason I decided to tell Z what I always think of when I hear E’s name.

Z and E were in a band called the Brooklyn Jugs in the early to mid oughts. They had built up a little following and often played in the garden of a sprawling bar in Red Hook called Lillie’s. The place is long closed, but it was cool back then. Cooler than Williamsburg cool. The kind of place that Norah Jones would play some Saturday night with her side project all girl punk band. The kind of place where the NYC smoking ban didn’t mean much. The kind of beat up dive that managed to transcend the hipster holier-than-thou malaise to just be a shitload of fun.

I remember getting trashed with Lillie herself and some other dude I called my nemesis for reasons that are no longer clear to me one night at Moonshine in Red Hook. Is Moonshine still there over on Columbia Street? That was one hell of a bar. No idea how I got home that night or where Z was.

Sorry, getting lost in old Brooklyn nostalgia. We did managed to have a lot of fun in those messy years.

So this one Sunday afternoon back in either the summer of ’04 or ’05 the Jugs were rocking in the garden of Lillie’s while barbeque was being served out of the kitchen they didn’t have a permit to use. I was late getting there. It was a rough time for me. I was slowly emerging from my rather extravagant mental breakdown. Z and I basically hated each other and he desperately wanted out of the marriage. I put on 60 pounds because of my meds. I was disgusted with myself and hated being in public. I wanted the earth to swallow me. I wanted to be ignored. Because if people noticed me I was sure they would be filled with pity and revulsion.

I walked through the door from the hazy bar into the light of the afternoon. Sunday barbeque was a big deal at Lillie’s and the garden was packed. As I stood in the doorway for a moment, trying to figure out where I could hide myself, I looked at the stage and caught E’s eye. He was in the middle of a song, but he stopped singing and called out, “Hey look! Karen’s here!” Everyone turned at once to look at me.

The guy singing, the coolest guy in the room, took a moment to make me feel like I belonged. E didn’t know the extend of my mental illness. He might not have known that Z and I were struggling in our marriage. He didn’t know that kind of attention would usually embarrass the hell out of me. He was just being himself. In that moment close to a decade ago he was nice. He was working hard (if you heard him play the harmonica you’d know what I was talking about) and he was being nice. 

I wish I was more like him.

piano C

Maybe this guy will be in a band someday. He sure likes to play the piano with his feet.

photo (21)

This stained and stretched out hat might just make it through one more winter.

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4 thoughts on “Be Nice

  1. I loved this post. Somehow you wrote it in such a way that I really felt like I could see what was happening. Maybe it’s because I’m drinking wine, but I felt like I was right there with you. I love that Be Nice and Work Hard motto!

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