Before I continue with the present situation, I have to recount a few more details concerning what happened the first day I visited New York, this last time.
I remembered thinking my third visit to New York would be exciting. First, I had to pack my clothes and toiletries. Most people would not think twice about such a thing but I was feeling older. My weight was not what it used to be when I felt young. Even small achievements, like putting deodorant, toothbrushes and soap in a plastic bag and packing it in with my clothes in luggage, reminded me of my frustrations in California.
The trip to New York was going to be different than a trip visiting my natural relatives, all of whom were nowhere near natural when they were alive, in my opinion. I would be visiting my sister, Sara, from my adoptive family, whom I regarded as my real family, and her husband, Gordon. She was the last living relative of that crew. My parents, Malcom and Marianne Tagg, were far from being normal and they had a lot of problems of which caused me a lot of stress growing up, but at least they ate meals considered healthy, at least compared to my other family, and lived in an area where people were generally healthy-looking and pleasant to talk with. I had what I considered a satisfactory upbringing, at least more than those of some of my friends. They stayed married and worked. Some of my friends were living with single parents on disability money.
My birth mother, Lynn Ridl, had me when she was a teenager and the amount of men who could have been my father was eleven, according to her count. Her parents, Adam and Marie Ridl, had divorced and her mother married another man, David Clifford, who did not want to support her and a baby so Lynn agreed to go in the foster care system where she lived with foster parents for a while. She left eventually and the reason changed according to who said what. They claimed she decided she could not handle staying in foster care anymore. Lynn said they told her to leave and not visit me anymore. The truth was more along the lines of the foster care system thought she was an unfit mother. They suggested she move back in with her mother and stepfather who probably had something to do with reporting her to social services. Lynn’s sister, Joyce, had visited Lynn when she lived with who became my adoptive family. Joyce was considered the bitch of her family because she complained to everyone about everything. Her father, Adam Ridl – not step father David Clifford – visited Lynn and I, also. He loved me. He would play “Anchors Away” on the accordion for me. But he died when I was a baby.
Lynn and Joyce also had a brother, Gary, who may or may not even have known Lynn had a son. Gary was away working at Job Core for several years. When he finally returned home, David and Marie were not the most conscientious people on the issue of telling the truth. As far as they were concerned, I was in foster care with competent people and Lynn was home where she belonged, baby-free. They were the type of people who thought that a bill would not need paying if no one opened the envelope to see if it was a bill or not.
I eventually decided to contact Lynn and her relatives after my friend, Herbert Berman, suggested constantly I do so. I played and recorded Herbert’s music on paid gigs. Herbert said he wanted to know more about my family because I was talented and the talent had to come from somewhere. Malcolm wanted to write an opera based on the Ridl’s. Finally, I agreed to contact them. That was five years ago.
During the time I got to know them, I was told everything about the family. They had disturbing lives and there was not even one week free from any kind of situation gone horribly. They were kind people who loved me but I could not get past some of their disgusting living habits and their overall stupidity on how the world worked. Thank goodness I did not grow up with Lynn.
I was still recovering from when I spent time knowing them. I had agreed to visit them at least once a week and let them cook birthday dinners for me. I would visit them for holidays when they made meals and, more often than not, they yelled and complained to each other. Holidays were not for family cheer, apparently.
As I packed my bags to go to New York, I felt a little less old and a little less overweight. The food the Ridl’s fed me had taken its toll but now some of that toll would be returned to me as I thought about the campus of Columbia University again, where there was never a shortage of a variety of good looking women walking around. The energy from the campus itself was enough to inspire me to write. For me to think of how people dressing well was nothing unusual went against my California experience where the main issue was whether or not someone dressed at all. That was an exaggeration but I was hoping the upcoming trip would bring about a new set of experiences that would help me feel younger and healthier. I would be there only a week but I would try to make the experience last longer in my mind.
When I was all packed and went to the airport, the ride on the plane was longer than I would have appreciated. Two gay men were seated next to me. The male flight attendant had continuously bumped my arm whenever the man walked by. My seat hurt my back after four hours. When I got off the plane, I saw good looking women.
Sara was going to pick me up at the airport but she had a class that night so she called me and suggested I arrive via taxi, which I did. The seat hurt my back even more and the ride was uncomfortably bumpy. When I arrived on Morningside Drive and saw Sara waiting for me, I felt that my vacation was just starting.
She said, “Hi, brother. How was your trip?”
I said, “Now, it will be good. The flight was a bit long but I just thought about how fun it would be once I got off the damn plane.”
She laughed. “I know. Whenever I have to fly somewhere, I tell myself, ‘Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.’ Have you ever tried that?”
“In a different way, I’ve tried it. I’ve said, ‘Don’t think about the crappy flight. Don’t think about the crappy flight.’ But, right away, that makes me think about the crappy flight.”
We laughed and went in her apartment. Her husband, my brother-in-law, was not home yet. We ate Mexican food from a take-out place. The food was mild. I liked hot and spicy food a lot but my stomach, aside from being overweight, was causing me to feel a burning pain similar to drinking cold acidic juice. I was relieved she ordered mild food. Perhaps she remembered when I told her earlier about my stomach issues.
She smiled. “Well, happy birthday! And, welcome to New York! Have you thought about what you wanted to do while you’re here?”
I said, “I remember how much I liked strolling around Columbia University. I’d like to do that again and go in the café.”
“Oh, okay; which café?”
“The one that is by the philosophy department…”
“That sounds nice. I was thinking you might also like to hang out in my summer house in Pennsylvania. You could see a real farm stand there. It’s nothing like Manhattan but it’s beautiful in the country. Not much to do there. They have a general store and a café about an hour drive from my place but, on the way there, we could go to the café. I know how much you like that sort of thing.”
“I like the female cashiers at the cafes. That’s why I go there.”
“Okay. Maybe you wouldn’t like Joe’s Café. Joe owns it. He’s from Hungary and he cooks good Hungarian food.”
“Well, I also like food so maybe I would enjoy going there. The smell of good food is also like a good cup of coffee.”
She nodded. “The coffee is good there.”
“I’ll sort of wing it and see what transpires. I’m not going to want to assume too much. I’ll just want to have things flow. That’s how I had a good time last year. It’s very different than Antioch in California. Over there, the population comes in only two types, unimaginative and upset.”
“Really…? That’s a shame. How’s your cousin, by the way?”
“Alexandra? She messaged me and wished me a happy birthday. I think she’s better off in the group house. The neighborhood there is gorgeous. But she doesn’t like the rules. She has to report exactly when she leaves, even to get coffee or a sandwich. They don’t allow visitors in the house. If I visit her, I have to wait outside and she and I can go to a café.”
“Well, from what you told me about her upbringing, she never really knew anything about survival skills. Her parents never taught her anything.”
“Her dad spent most of the time riding in his electronic wheelchair, going to shop for cheap food at the dollar stores and bumping into cars with his wheelchair. I often saw him bruised on his face and arms. Most people have tragedies rarely. They had tragedies twice a week.”
She nodded. “How do you feel about off al them no longer alive? They all died relatively close to each other, right?”
“Within a couple of years; first, my uncle’s wife, Bridget, then my uncle himself, Gary, and then my aunt Joyce and then my birth mother, Lynn. They didn’t like doctors and didn’t want to listen to any health advice. Lynn kept smoking and eventually got emphysema and had to breathe through a tube in her nose and even then she continued smoking.”
“Do you think your cousin is going on the same path as them?”
“Most definitely… She’s only thirty one and she’s never been slim. At least now she has a place to go in the morning. She does drawing in art class that’s a part of the day school she’s in.”
“Does she like it?”
“She likes to draw.”
“So, she’s artistic. That’s a good sign. She might like to take classes at the college in her area.”
“Los Medanos College is one of the most barren places I’ve ever seen. I’ve only ever noticed one or two people walking around during any time and they look like janitors.”
“Wow. How does the campus look?”
“The whole thing looks like utility buildings. It’s hard to believe it’s a college.”
“Maybe the classes are good. They might have a great teacher for art. Your cousin might have a lot of talent and she needs someone to bring it out.”
“That could be. On the other hand, I do think there’s something to be said for people who take care of themselves.”
We finished eating. She said, “I don’t want to be a party pooper because you just got here and I’d love to talk some more tonight but it is getting late and we have a cool day ahead of us tomorrow. I think I want to get to bed.”
“That’s fine with me. I did every little sleeping yesterday night. I was excited about the trip. I’m tired, too.”
“Okay. Let me show you where you’ll sleep.” She showed me the guest bedroom.
He entered the room. “Thank you again, sister. I really appreciate you letting me visit.”
“It’s my pleasure. I know how much you’ve been through with your birth mother passing away just recently and you having to help your cousin find a place to live. You deserve a time of escape.”
“So true… Good night.”