Those Punches, Those Lines

14 Feb

Today I was listening to a Long Island radio station playing back-to-back love songs in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Ode to the lovers of the day, what a symbolic day to be a couple, to offer sweets to your sweet and perfumed red roses for the – hopefully – blazing passion you share with the object of your affection.

I can’t recall the last time I spent a Valentine’s Day with someone, but hey, I’m not without a romantic heart. And when in love – well, at least this is what I tell myself, I am pretty romantic. But this blog is about songs, well, lines from songs, meaningful lines that really leave a punch.

Remember “having a song,” one that you shared with your lover that was, “your song.” There was probably a song that came out when you started dating or a song that really seemed to amplify your experience as a couple in some way.

I’m listening to Sade’s, By Your Side remembering where I was when that song came out. I know it was winter. That February I had just broken up with a woman from Vermont (there’s a lot of breakups this time of the year. Seems like people hook up around October and then go through the holidays, and right after Valentine’s break up.)

Anyway, one of the line’s in By Your Side is, “Think I’d leave your side, baby, you know me better than that.” What a good line. How reassuring to tell someone to stop worrying, that I’m with you, that I’m loyal, that you’ll be there for them. We all once  said similar words.

If I can’t remember how a song starts, there’s always one line that sticks. Maybe that’s the idea. The “Hook.” I associate songs to events, or think of people who liked a particular song. My friend, Mike, always sings Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” at karaoke.

There’s the irony of love and the bittersweet. “I’ll Never Fall in Love” sung by Dionne Warwick, is still a kicker. Just kick someone’s heart to the curb. And, because of  its, “lies, and pain and sorrow,” she’s never falling in love again. I can’t blame her. But wait, and here’s the irony, she finishes with a defining inspiration, “So for at least until tomorrow I’ll never fall in love again.” Dionne may not have been lying about the hurt one feels when love fails, but she was definitely giving it one more try.

Remember “Crying” by Roy Orbison? I don’t remember how it starts, but I know the hook, “Cry I – I – I n –g…over you… Cry I – I – I n –g…over you.” It’s so sad a line. Given Orbison’s powerful voice and the complexity of his range, when he sings Crying, I simply melt. He IS crying in the song. I can’t imagine leaving someone so alone, so broken down, that they’re standing on a doorstep crying their eyes out. Who has the heart to do such a thing? Plenty of people, that’s who.

When Brook Benton’s song, “A Rainy Night in Georgia” came out in July of 1969, I was a teenager. I can still remember reeling from the pain and agony I heard in his voice as he sang the line, “I feel like it’s raining all over the world.” To be that distressed and troubled is no easy place to be. If you listen closely you can hear the rain.

By the same token, you can also hear the joy of cymbals and flutes in Oliver’s, “Good Morning Starshine,” such a happy, good-feeling song, with the unforgettable chorus, “The Earth Says Hello!” But I somehow feel like I should be sucking deeply on a bong somewhere in flowered pajamas when I hear it.

Off the top of my head I can’t recall how all songs start – who could – but the following one lines come to mind:

Roxanne! You don’t have to put out the red light

Welcome to the Hotel California!

A Whole Lotta Love

Sittin’ in the morning sun, I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

Billie Jean’s not my lover

Rhiannon rings like a bell in the night and wouldn’t you love to love her

Little diddy about Jack and Diane…

Mrs. Jones….we got a thing…going on…..

You’re getting the idea right? I figured as much.

When Edie and I met, our song was, I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. It was big and splashy and it exemplified the two of us in some meaningful way. I guess we were big and splashy. It went like this:

Now I’ve had the time of my life

No I never felt like this before

Yes I swear it’s the truth

And I owe it all to you

‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life And I owe it all to you!

We were young, exciting, in love, and we owned the streets we walked. What a team – her, blonde-haired, green-eyed, leggy, smart. An Anglo-Saxon, All-American with a “pirate smile” as Elton John wrote and sang in Tiny Dancer. And her counterpart, a dark-eyed, mysterious, wild, a double-dare persona – me, bordering on crazy with a mane of unruly black hair.

Later she gave me the breakup song by Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Whenever I hear that song I still feel an ache somewhere in my heart. It’s true: I had the time of my life with Edie.

I know Justin Timberlake’s, “Mirror” saved this one lesbian couple who was on the verge of breaking up their marriage. That song brought them back together while the other woman – uh, that would be me, was left holding the proverbial “bag.”

Show me how to fight for now

And I’ll tell you baby,

it was easy Comin’ back into you once I figured it out

You were right here all along It’s like you’re my mirror

I’ve just thought of something. It’s a song by Don Henley of the Eagles where he talks about “Forgiveness.” It’s the “Heart of the Matter,” and it goes something like,

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter

but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter

but I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.

Tonight on Valentine’s Day, there won’t be any chocolates or roses, no weekend getaway, no heart-shaped tub to jump into, and no special dinner planned.  There isn’t a lover, a date, or an Internet chat.

So why live now without love, when I once loved so deeply and so well? Why choose to be alone?

Oh, that’s easy, “Cause I couldn’t stand the pain, and I would be sad if our new love was in vain.”  

Come on, I know you know that line.

A Different Road

4 Feb

I am moving again. Back to NJ.
LI is no longer me. Funny how it is, funny how where you came from may not always welcome you.

I’ve got wanderlust and I can’t seem to find “Home.”
It’s probably my wandering, searching soul… always a page in me to explore, to somehow be rewritten, to unlock something else.

I admire people who settle down, born and raised in their town, high school chums, have a family, buy a house… Proliferate, promulgate, fruitful and fortified fortresses of all you have worked hard for.

I chose a different road. My choices have surely been different, free; I walk out of meetings that make no sense; I flip the middle finger nicely – and yes, there is a certain way to do it – and I surely am my own woman.

But all this freedom has come at a cost.

So what’s the better path?

I do believe I couldn’t have done it, this life, any other way except for the way I’ve already done it.

No regrets. I have loved and have been deeply loved. Money will never count for the love I have enjoyed in this one life I own.

I have traveled around enough to know that, in the end, all that matters is Love. …and then Lynora came.

The Push

24 Aug

The Push


I walked the Airport road, three miles at least, passing hillsides and rambling meadows, scents of honeysuckle and clematis filled the air, and I was as far away from an airport as you could be. It’s a good road to walk, without a light or a stop sign, and if you’re on horseback, you can come up on a racing horse very fast, and then suddenly, you would stop to meet a main road. But by the time you reached it, you would have already had your thrill. The main road is not that big or busy, it’s just another way to get into town. But back roads going north to south are different, they’re less busy, and with the day’s casting overhead and a misty morning, it was a good time to walk on.

I came upon a railroad crossing and looked down the rails. Grey gravel, tightly bound and unmoving, flanked the rails. Stepping into the gravel, I tried my footing. I could walk on it and follow the length of the rail. Walking on the gravel for a time would be good, I thought. I could easily turn back and would not get lost, as I often do. I tried walking on the gravel. Because I was not in shoes, but only sneakers, I walked slowly. It was a bad idea. I could not walk for long and turned back to reach the road.

Standing in the middle of the crossing with my dog beside me, I looked to her, and she was looking down the rails, too. Sitting between two large cornfields facing east to west, until the rails touched the horizon, and the gravel looked flat, and I could no longer see where it ended, where both rail and gravel looked as one, it was there, at that vast expanse of rail, silver and straight, and the gray muted gravel, stark and supporting, that I thought of Paul.

Paul walked the gravel every day, checking railroad cars. “Paul, just how long is a railroad car?” I asked him one day. When he told me the cars he inspected were over a mile long and that he walked the parked cars, each one of them, every night in the Albany freight yard, and that was his job; he was a railroad car checker, an inspector, I was surprised. He always blamed the railroad and that darn gravel for pushing him into an early retirement.

I thought of Paul as I walked up the last hill and down the next. I called for my dog to hurry; the rain had picked up. I wore a white cotton shirt and I knew it would not hold up for long. I reached the car; my dog was wet as she jumped into the hatch. I toweled her off. I got into the driver’s seat, adjusted the mirror, and opened the window to get some air into the car. I wiped the rain from my face and the fog from my glasses. I had come clean and nothing else on my mind.


©Terry Rachel, 2014


Candy When

10 Aug

Candy When


When my first dog, Candy, a Schnauzer, Grand Dame of three litters of pure-bred, silver pups, passed away after sixteen years, she was cremated and interned in a majestic bronze urn emblazoned with her full name and dates, Candy Girl, born September 1964 – died, November 1980.

She lived a long time. Candy was given to me as a present for my ninth birthday; I was thrilled. I named her after the Four Seasons’ hit song, after the same name. Candy Girl was a simple pop song, without harm, just about a love, charming just enough, my parents agreed to the name.

But Candy didn’t stay my dog; she became my mother’s dog instead. When my mother passed, she took Candy’s remains to the family plot.


Like I do every weekend, I try to spend the most time with my dog. Because of my daily hours, where I’m out of the house 10 to 12 hours each day, it’s a long time for my dog, Gem, to go without company, so on weekends, I dedicate a few hours on Saturday and Sunday for special walks, long walks, hikes to state parks, and trails that I know she will like. It makes up for the time, I think, for when she endures the lost time from me during the week. And for myself, too, as I miss my friend, Gem, when I can’t see her. I would love to take her to work, but that’s another story for another day.  

Yesterday, as I was walking Gem, I thought about Candy, and it only dawned on me at that precise moment, while stepping over a small stream of water in Point Mountain Park, as I watched my adventurous, happy dog, take laps from the cool and refreshing water, that when Gem dies, what will I do with her ashes?

I don’t think I want her boxed away, taken down into the earth; no. I don’t think I want that at all. She’s been too free, her makeup is that of courage, loyalty; she’s a good hunter, she’s strong and agile, and smart. She knows who likes her and who doesn’t like her, and so she’ll shy away, and go about her business. She doesn’t push, she knows better.

So what do I do, as I know my dog is exceptional in behavior, she must have an exceptional going out, how do I keep it in line?


In 2008, I lost two of my cats, 7 months apart. I had those cats for seventeen years. I trained my cats, as much as cats could be trained. They didn’t go on counters, and they didn’t stain anywhere except their litter box. I changed the litter often, as I knew the behavior of cats, and I knew my own cats well. They were friendly cats, outgoing, not shy, not spiteful, they enjoyed seeing others, and readily greeted new faces. And of all things not akin to the feline, they allowed me to take a brush to them.

One time, I brought Angelo out for a walk on a leash. He didn’t like it, and we didn’t do it again. But over the course of those 17 years, both Romeo and Angelo hung out with me, and came with me on many a move. Romeo didn’t do well in the car. He always threw up, but Angelo, was hardy. Both were brave, both good mousers. They didn’t cough the hairballs too much, thanks to the brushing.


So when they passed away, I cried for several days. And then one day I stopped crying. It just happened. It was like the flow of emotion just settled. Where all that emotion went, I don’t know. Two months had passed, and it was lonely without my cats, those chatty little bastards, how I missed them. But I found composure, accepting the Circle, as they say, The Circle of Life.


Coming out of a hot shower, I lay on my back naked in the hallway of my home, staring up at the ceiling, I thought about my cats. It was late winter, a quiet day, a Sunday in March. I sat up and stared at the bookcase that flanked both bedrooms, here were the boxes that held the remains of Angelo and Romeo. They were on the second shelf, next to their pictures. They was a stuffed play mouse between the two pictures. They liked being outdoors, lying in the hot sun. How long do I keep them on display on this bookcase?

My mind shifted to the day, and I dressed quickly. I gently brought down their remains from the shelf, placing them in a shoebox, and then taped the shoebox all around. I opened the car door, and placed the shoebox on the back seat floor. I drove to Durant Nature Park in Raleigh, North Carolina.

There’s a section to the nature park where a house once stood, but no one knows it. No one ever walks that trail because it’s closed off for what the park calls, ‘sensitive feeding area.’ So no one goes through the trail. But I do because I am horrible at obeying rules. So, I walked that part of the secluded trail, and when I reached the stone chimney (that’s all that remained), I opened up the shoebox, and then opened their boxes. I was staring at a palm-full of each cat’s remains, asking myself, How do I do this? Do I sprinkle here and there, under a tree over there, where? I decided just the way my cats had lived a frisky and eager life, to let their ashes spring to life, and then, without a thought, threw their ashes like a bouncing ball. Once, twice, three times, and then watched them settle. They were free.


It’s a Sunday, it’s bright summer, and I am headed for the Delaware Water Gap. I will hike again today with Gem. And I will remember each and every blessed day I have with my dog, while my dog is with me. But she isn’t coming with me to the family plot, no. Just as in life, she was raised and trained to be a fighter, a courageous dog, a smart dog, never beaten, never caged, she will always be free, never encased on a shelf or a bookstand.

 Copyright Terry Rachel, August 2014


That’s No Group

3 Aug

Today was a Meet Up group for hikers, hikers with their dogs. This isn’t the first time for me. I’m a long-standing hiker. I’ve hiked for years, I love trails. I love being in the dirt. And I like mud. A lot of people go around mud, I don’t really avoid it. I’ve gone to a few group outings with them before, taking Gem, my six-year old Border Collie mix, but I’m not really all that sure you could call them a group.

I did go up to the top of Point Mountain, I did make, it’s just that the group was way ahead of me. Kids, nah, not really, they really weren’t. Just people, men and women in their 30s, some were in their 40s, one guy was older than me, he was about, I don’t know, I’m thinking sixty-two? He coughed a lot, I know that and it annoyed me. He had very thin ankles, not normal for a guy.

One girl, she was watching my tattoos, I knew it, I saw it, her name was Ellen. I don’t like that name too much. It’s like a very bland name. I have never gone out with an Ellen. It’s a very Jewey name. How about Naomi, huh? That’s a very Jewey name. Anyway, Ellen darts her eyes, diverted to my arms. She wants to ask about my tattoos, I could just hear it in her brain going, “This woman is old, what the fuck is she doing with these tattoos, and look at her with her cut-off shirt, showing her stomach, omygawd.”

I wanted to like tell her I could read her mind at that point. But it’s not a big deal. She was all right. I was better looking at her age. Forty-two? Forget it. She didn’t do nothing, nothing for me, but her brain was sizzling, dying to ask, “Are you seriously going to walk up this mountain?

Yes, you snobby little bitch, I am.

The guys in this group, all of them in this group, are like the losers from high school, the left-behinds, the rejects, the ones no girl in her right mind would go out with. And now they’re all here, with tight underwear and too tight-wearing pants so you can see, kinda’ if you look, glance, don’t make it obvious, but you could see the outline of their penis in their pants! It’s not good; it was never a cool look.

I disregard of all these and I head up the mountain. Look it had rained the night before, so the bugs were out, it was muddy, and the rocks were slick. I hate these conditions for hiking, they’re my least favorite conditions, but I go.

The other four girls practically ran passed me, the guys were ahead too. It was a straight shot up the mountain, almost at a 90 degree plane; it wasn’t easy, and the big drops and spaces between the rocks to traverse the trail was difficult since the rocks, like I mentioned, were slick. I was dressed well, with good boots, so I thought. But the boots sucked, and I was slipping everywhere. Thank God for my walking stick that helped.  I was last in this hike, and the only guy in front of me was the guy with the skinny ankles.

About an hour into the hike, I lost the group, every one of them had pushed themselves so far ahead of me, I couldn’t even hear them anymore, and for the last hour I was alone with Gem.

Knowing that I came with a group, and now no one was around, was a little unsettling. But see, I knew this park, I had been there several times, and so I wasn’t lost. I knew when I got down, I’d come to meadow, a big cornfield, and then from there, the river. At the lower part of the trail, the Musconetcong runs 46 miles and right where I’d meet it was where the trout fishermen fish. So I wasn’t lost and I felt fine with that. This group didn’t turn back to see how I was, and I thought that was really shitty.

When I reached the river, I reached the group and reunited with the group. I pat my dog. She was tired and wet. Her fur had picked up summer prickers and they had settled on her hind legs and withers. She looked at me as if to say, “I’ve had enough.” She doesn’t swim, and doesn’t really like the water except to get her pads wet. The other dog owners have your typical labs and beagles who like the water; they were there. There were the treat givers, giving treats, dogs begging. But not Gem. Gem doesn’t beg, although I knew she was hungry. She hadn’t eaten her breakfast. I needed to get her home.

I walked ahead, I knew where I was going, I pulled out some speed on the flat land part of the trail, and pushed ahead of the group. I heard them yelling for their dogs to come. Most of the time the dogs are on leads and don’t know when to come when called. I pushed on knowing the road would soon unveil itself. I had less than 200 feet to go.

I reached my car, letting Gem in the hatchback where her fleece bed awaited, and having cleaned her towels in advance of the walk, toweled her off good and dry, picking the prickers out from her fur where I could. I got in the car, too, adjusting the mirror, I made sure Gem was settled before taking off.

I heard the voices of the group in the parking lot of Point Mountain making plans for the lunch at Jake and Riley’s. I passed them, I didn’t wave goodbye or say thanks. And I didn’t goodbye to anyone, but instead headed back home, home with Gem, where we both could find a sense of belonging.

Copyright Terry Rachel, August 2014

 Point Mountain

But there’s…

15 Jul

There’s never been anything that’s ever been easy.

I just walk around, bike, try to talk to people, and try to make new friends. I bring my dog wherever I go, it’s just that this moving around isn’t easy. I miss certain things, I think I miss the friends I made – I know I miss the beach. I use to know the one pizza place I liked the most, but it’s certainly far away now. I tell people here, strangers that I do know a good pizzeria, but it’s not here in Reston, Virginia. Nope. No, it’s in New Jersey. Then I think about my home, the one in Raleigh. I wonder how long it will be before I move back there. Or will I ever? Really. Seriously. Why am I keeping this house? Will I ever move back to Raleigh, North Carolina? Oh, I don’t know. There’s so much…

I used to live in Colorado – don’t know a soul from there – a long time ago. I must’ve been 18 when I hitchhiked out there, lived there for a summer. I fell in love with a boy there, or I should say, he fell for me and I just went along. Never saw him when I returned to New York. In 2001, a visit to Vermont turned into a move to finish my last semester in college. I took away one friend from there who I still speak with – well, kind of – we ‘talk’ on Facebook. In 2007, Atlanta was a completely bad move – I moved there for a contract, thought it was going to be great. Boy, ha! What a joke that was. Get a load of this: in the course of six weeks I was robbed 3 times. Yeah, no kidding. But you know, I took away one friend from there who helped me out of a jam, and I still speak with her on occasion, not a lot, but that’s okay. Look at these towns: Brooklyn, Uniondale, Long Island, Albany, Schenectady, New Rochelle, New York, Stockton, New Jersey, and Trenton. Now I’m in Reston, Virginia. I’m going to tell you why I move so much, but first I want to tell you this:

I was watching this reality show about Long Islanders, how they can’t make it now, how they lost their jobs, how their homes are facing foreclosure. The show profiled these once all working people, how they use to pay their bills, how they use to have a lifestyle where they saw their goals for retirement and the foundation for getting there, and, unbelievably, all three couples were now lost financially on Long Island. Come to think of it, I think that was the name of the show. And Long Island’s not cheap, I mean you have to have money to live there – the taxes are crazy. People there have weird-ass accents.

I moved out of Long Island when I was twenty-nine. I knew the place was gonna’ get crazy. It was nice in the 1960s, 70s, even 80s, but then it got crowded, too crowded for me, so I moved 160 miles north of there and landed in Albany.

This friend of mine just passed away. She was 83. She lived in Albany in the same house since, I don’t know, I want to say at least 50 years. Fifty years! Fifty years in one house. Never had a foreclosure.

Now, personally, I would die. There is no way I could live in the same place that long. Granted, I don’t have kids, and, sure, children make you grounded because of school, friends and friends of theirs; you don’t want to upset the routine they’re in and so on. I get it. But I am a lesbian and I’m a single lesbian and because I am, I can move around and pretty much move, and that’s what I do.

And let me tell you why I love to move: there are so many places and people to see. There’s a completely different culture out here. Take the accents, take the Long Island accent – NO ONE speaks like that in any other part of New York. It’s strictly a Long Island Accent. Albany people don’t sound like Long Islanders and people from New Jersey sound nothing like New Yorkers. I could go on and on about the accents, but you’re getting the picture.

I love to move because, I have to work, and I’m older, and I don’t want to be without work while I’m still young enough to work, and not quite old enough to retire. I get bored easily. Yes, and this is a big one. Last winter I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette, it was right after the New Year, and all of a sudden, after glimpsing the white snow, cresting on a pine bough, I saw my stretched out dog through the pane glass, and said, “it’s time to go.” I guess those are the right words, well, they’re familiar, that’s for certain.

When I lost my last contract – and I did so damn well, I thought they would offer me a full-time gig but they didn’t. I was like, “Fuck it.” I’m moving again. It came as a surprise to everyone. I just got so sick of so much.  Being let go again. What the fuck? Talk about silent age discrimination. It sucks and it’s alive and well. But like I said, I get bored easily. But one thing I knew, one thing I had going for me was that, even through all my adventuring, I knew my word was good, that I was honorable. I knew that if the corporate sector didn’t appreciate my background, I’d pull out my ace in the sleeve – saving it for my older years, so to speak, and that was when I decided to apply for a Secret Clearance job with the government. The government liked that I never cheated on the government and didn’t have a rap sheet.

I’m there five months, right, and guess what I told my boss? I’m like sitting in his office, and he’s giving me my 3 month review (which I did very well; I got a 3% raise – hey it’s something), and I say to him, “You know, I’d be open for relocation.”

There are just no words, there’s only action for me. Because there’s so much more to do.

I think about those people from the reality show, those people on Long Island who are sinking – they don’t want to move. I think if they moved, opened up their mileage and scope for looking for a job – they could keep their house – rent it out, but move around in order to survive. In the olden days people moved all their shit in covered wagons, leaving the rocky roads of Maine, for example, forging into wild, unchartered land because they heard about the California Gold Rush. Americans have always been pioneering. I could go on about how the lazy counter of time can be a killer when you’re looking for work and not finding anything – I’ve been there, I know the trouble, but nothing’s ever been easy.

When the Wine Left

15 Jan

This morning I went through an old wine box made of wood.  One time, a long time ago, I received a trio of wines before I even knew how to drink wine, and received this trio as a Christmas gift. The wine was shared – and was good to drink, but I couldn’t part with the box. And so it remained.

For a long time I didn’t know how I would use it, this simple pine box, but it was of a good design, with a sliding door, but then slowly  I found myself storing birthday cards and letters from my grandmother and brother, and kept the concert stubs and the movie stubs, the cut-outs of favorite editors that sparked my interests; Haley’s Comet – I made it to Jones Beach on a cold November at 3 a.m to watch that one; the day JFK Jr died – I was on Block Island, the same body of water his plane went down in, his watery grave, the same ocean I swam in only the day before, covered the news. I kept that clipping.

Over the years the box grew larger and larger with news clippings, birthday cards,  love letters, more movie stubs, pictures were now tossed in of my friend’s children, my nieces and nephews graduation announcements, the death notices I’d collected. I could hardly pick up the box, it had grown that much.

Since the beginning of the year I have thought about going through it – the stuff I’d collected since 1979, way before my collective spirit and the events that shaped me and made me, out of pure survival, become so hard; me, then, a lamb, a cognitive and curious soul, an innocent – but I was prepared to face my past, and my past was in that box.

In that box were dead things from people who were dead and their wishes were long gone and I was wrong to keep their memories in a box. It was time they be set free. If I could get rid of their vanished thoughts, I’d be better now to face them rather than have their well wishes wind up in some Ephemera show at a sports arena in some strange and faraway place.

I didn’t read everything, and I went through it quite clinically, saying aloud, “You’re not in my life…you’re not in my life…” flip, throw out the card; “You’re dead….you’re re-involved…” flip, throw out the card. Some memories failed me and I found myself asking, ‘Who did I see that concert with?’ I couldn’t remember.

Then there were Brian’s letters, several of them. He was an old friend – best friend. We had been friends since we were 10. He died in 1996 of AIDS, I was by his side. He loved me.  I kept his cards, all his letters. I remember when he died I couldn’t travel from St. Vincent’s in New York, and so returned to his apartment for one last look, one last time. On his kitchen table, he’d written on a simple tablet, his own hand, and put down these thoughts, “Oh, Dear God, why? Why, why, why?” I took the letter from the tablet – it was very personal and I know I should not have, but I did. I stored the letter (it was much lengthier and charged with emotional turmoil than I can say here), but I folded the letter and threw it away. It was his talk with God and I had no business in keeping it.

Then there were the love letters. ..I kept some of those to help remind me how I once believed in love. I saved all my old driver’s licenses – it’s amazing how I’ve aged, and I find it curious that the ID’s really show the timeline. I came across a picture of my brother Victor and I – I was happy about that, and I will get that picture framed (I’d forgotten about it). The cards and letters from my old friend Elaine, were kept. I read those today, not all, but some, and I realize how much she once cared about me. But people change and you can’t hold them to the person they want to be now. In some letters she talked about her husband, “Big and Ugly” Gary, before we even knew he would die within 10 years.

Inside the box I’ve made room for the people who are in my life now, for the events, for the new news of my life, for whatever new challenges I face, whatever new concerts I may attend.  But in the bottom corner of the box, I had folded away an old calendar page (I remembered keeping it). It spoke about my love of nature, because I always loved nature far more than anything I could ever love and admire, was a poem by Joyce Kilmer and inside of this  was the hair clippings of my cat Angelo of 17 years. And because he loved outside as much as me, I gave him this poem:  “I think that I shall never see A poem as lovely as a tree. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree”

Some things should never be thrown away.

copyright, Terry Rachel 2012

Some Things Should Never Been Thrown Away

Too Much To Hold

24 Dec

I once had  a family.

In this holiday spirit I lasso the lessons I learned about loyalty, love and kindness. In these values there is a generosity of heart, of spirit, the willingness of giving, that I take forward.

Someone taught me that if I were to give, I should never expect. I learned that lesson well.

There’s been times that I did expect, that my complaints resounded with the words “I wish.”  Now I rely on my absolute right-brain knowledge, but oftentimes my heart gets in the way.

I was brought up to believe that everyone would welcome me. How hard that brain muscle had to work to find out that wasn’t the case. But I press on.

As I grew, as I came into the world, my own woman (gee, I was forty-something),  I called upon the values I received as a young girl because these were the values my family members gave to me.

I held onto them like a dog on a bone.

In 2012 “it’s all about me.”  See, I bought a couple of good bars of soap; I didn’t eat the pizza pie alone; I bought a new pair of hiking boots and gave the old ones to charity; I told the lady next door, “Look, if you hurt my dog, I’m not going to say hello to you anymore – you gotta’ like my dog.”

I once had a family.

My family,  in the short time we had,  taught me the lessons of giving, of giving with your heart.  In conversation, time – time of listening – to welcome friends over, to cherish their time, I love the people in my life. I have developed my friendships  – but I’m nobody’s fool.

In 2012, I know exactly what to do:

because I have too much to hold, because I’ve learned the lessons of humility, because I thank God for giving me everything I have –  my cup runneth over, because I’m older and without the guidelines of mortality, but moreso the timeline of mortality –

I give you my love, but I can’t give so much time.

The Fruits of Labor – Paulie and the Blueberry Letter Part 1

10 Dec

Paulie Arcevita is a nineteen year-old out of Brooklyn, a rogue and a ruffian, he got chops from the “school of hard knocks.”  Cut fresh and edgy, with an attitude as sharp as a butcher’s knife, he’s still got a heart of gold under that metallic hard surface. Everything Paulie does he does the hard way.


Every time I walk somewhere I look at the ground, but there is no money on the ground. I know for a fact people lose money, but I walk everywhere and I never see any lost money – and forget about a wallet. Man, how I’d love to see a wallet with some money. Or a bag with some money. I’d be crazy with excitement if I ever found a bag of money.

I’m walking like I do on some avenue that’s kind of dirty with houses that don’t turn on their lights at night and during the day their blinds are shut. They gotta’ keep it out, you know. I know behind those blinds is some kind of dysfunctional shit going on. People who leave the door open, lights on, they seem more normal.

Several months, you know, after this, like what I’m telling you, I’m walking – again – and one day, I’m walking, right, and I pass near a forgotten lot and these bushes are enormous like no one, and I mean no one –  has ever trimmed them or taken care of them in any way, right. So in the bushes is a bag. The bag is small and it’s ripped just a little so I pick it up. The rip in the bag reveals a little piece of paper with a paisley design and, at its end, where the white creamy border is, is curled just a little so you know it’s packed tightly. I’m thinking, Oh, Jesus, it’s money, Oh, Jesus, it’s money!  My balls are itching with excitement. I ignore the marsh-like mud that creamed one of my boots, and I grab the bag. I’m excited and I wipe the mud off my boot on the back of my other leg and get my jean leg dirty, but I don’t care. So I’m holding this bag and then all of a sudden I feel angst! Now I feel kind of criminal and figure it’s normal and I begin to walk with the bag detouring my original destination. I go behind the bakery and sit way back behind the garbage and I open the bag. Sure enough, there’s a roll of twenty dollar bills wrapped in a rubber band and a deposit slip for $2500.00. The address on the deposit slip reads “Van Vranken Avenue Garage.”

I keep the money in the bag and take out two twenties. I go into the local DVD store – one still left that hasn’t been hit by Netflix and Blockbuster. Don’t ask me how this guy is still making it.  Anyway, I’m taking my time, spinning through the store, and I feel like the clerk is rushing me.  He knows me as a customer who usually goes to the back room where all the porn is and where the kids aren’t aloud in.  Today he’s surprised when I pull out cash and pay for two movies instead of renting them.

At the counter he says to me, “Popcorn?” like he knows I always take the popcorn, and I could see he’s wondering how come I didn’t get no popcorn for free.

“Because, man,” I wanted to say, “I don’t eat your lousy heat lamp popcorn no more. Only when I got these shit-ass movies for rent did I want your heat-lamp popcorn because I felt like that was part of the deal. But now, now, I’ve got no deals to make with anybody because I’ve got money on me!” But I don’t say anything, no. I just tell him, “No, thanks.”

Then I pass George the mechanic. He hasn’t seen me in a while. I never pass that way, that street, whatever way you want to say it. And I like George and all, and him and I get along good and he’s a good mechanic. He’s surprised to see me and we shake hands.

“Man,” he says after I hand him the money I owed him from, God knows how long ago. “What? Did you hit the lotto, Paul?” he tells me.

George got a greasy face and greasy hands and grease under his fingernails.  I like George, but George knows a lot of people, and he’ll stand around in his shop for hours talking about people and I’ll probably be one of them. I don’t need that.  George fixed my car almost a year ago right before I got hit with a DUI and lost my license. Then I had to park my car and that’s when I owed George money.  “No, George. I’m working now, and I’m doing good. I didn’t hit no Lotto.”  That’s what I told him.

It was good to pay off George.  It was an old debt – $150.00 bucks.  Now I can walk on this street again.  When I said goodbye to George he was standing under the shop’s sign: Van Vranken Avenue Garage.

This one guy I know parked his Miata in a garage and somebody broke into the garage and stole his freakin’ hard top. That’s lousy. So even though my car’s in a garage and I can’t drive it for another three months –  and it kills me, because it’s gonna’ be summer soon and I won’t get to the beach, and I won’t get to show up for softball practice because the park is way out of the way, and I’m gonna’ have to hoof it everywhere, even with this freakin’ money – and me, like a jerk, gives it to the video guy, and then back to George.  Shit man, what am I gonna’ do? What if George catches on? Holy shit. I’m gonna’ be in so much freakin’ trouble it’s not funny.

So I keep walking and I know I got to be home. I got to feel safe. I feel uptight. I want to watch the movies. The bus is coming, that’s good. I get on the bus, and I could tell it’s a new driver but I can’t tell if this driver is a man or a woman. The black girls are sitting way in the back. The same girls – I’ve seen them before; they go up to the community college and take the bus pretty regularly. The three of them, here they go, whenever they see, they start singing.

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Money in my Pocket

4 Dec

            I needed a job and I needed one yesterday.  So I put out an ad in a local Pennysaver and this is how it read:

            “Woman, $10/hr.  Can do computer work, clean, landscape, help you with groceries.  Anything, really, for $10/hr.  I am going to be unemployed soon and just wish to parlay my income.”

When I met Heather she walked me into her formal living room, and in her living room was a wooden cross – no lie, it was 10 x 3 feet – the biggest cross I’d ever seen.  Heather said it was a replica of the cross Jesus carried before His crucifixion.

So I’m sitting there with Heather, in Heather’s living room, with this big cross, wondering how I’m going to make $10 bucks an hour from her and she offers me a cup of tea. I drink the tea and then she tells me she needs help with her files, her church files to be exact, and I’m to come back in a week and organize all her client files because she’s very unorganized with the congregation material and for a pastor of a local church, Pastor Heather, found that to be a “sin in the eyes of God.”  In my own odd way I liked Pastor Heather and told her I’d take the job.

Meanwhile, another call comes into voicemail from a guy who says, “My wife travels a lot. And I want to surprise her, so she doesn’t have to cook. Can you make lasagna?”

I call the guy back, tells me he’s a paraplegic. I feel bad for him so I made the lasagna at my place and took it to him at his place. That dish cost me $24 dollars to make. When I delivered the lasagna, he rang me in. Sure enough he couldn’t get up. There he was in bed, wheelchair beside him. He said, “Put it in the downstairs refrigerator!” And I did. At first I couldn’t find the downstairs frig, but then I did. Inside the refrigerator was like 60 cans of beer. So I shoved the beer around and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Jesus, you need a party.” But I suppose before his accident he entertained a lot. I guess no more.

He paid me $45 dollars for my time and said, “Thank you so very much.” I never thought about it after that but I wonder if they liked the lasagna.

            I got another call from a guy who wanted a blow job, another guy wanted to know if I could take care of medical insurance, and write letters on behalf of his aging mother. I said no to both of them.  The Pennysaver ad had its ups and downs but I was making money, and maintaining my car and my rental.

One day, about a week into the ad, a call came in from a very elderly man and his wife. They were living in a house that was their first and only home and they had lived there since being newly wedded. They raised their children there and were now great-great grandparents. The house was three miles from my apartment and I thought what the hell. With the winters being so tough in the northeast, three miles was a cinch.

I arrived on a sunny, crisp morning and I could see the driveway and walk needed shoveling badly and I thought, ‘Well here’s twenty bucks right here.’

The guy answers the door and he’s old. He’s the oldest old man I’d every seen. His wife is sitting on the couch.  She’s old, too. Come to find out, he’s 96 and she’s 94. And the first thought I get is, ‘Wow, these people need a nursing home.’ She can’t see, she’s blind; he can see and is the peppier of the two.

My first assignment was to scrub the kitchen floor and take out the garbage. The woman says, “Can you give me a manicure?”

There are photographs of them on the mantel and on bookshelves and I’d taken a peak. So I give her a manicure and do the best I can, but because she’s so frail, I don’t clip close, I just tone it up a little bit. The old lady had her nails polished in every picture on that mantel. So I polished her nails–just with clear polish, and told her she had pretty nails. She smiled and I smiled back.

The guy talked about his years at General Electric. He was there nearly fifty years, started out of high school. GE was huge employer in Schenectady, New York and a lifeline for many old-timers. I was listening as he went on and on about his time at GE.

“Is there anything else I can do? Do you need me to go to the store? Have you got groceries?  I gotta’ get going.”

He said, “Thank you, no. We’ll be in touch.” He paid me $15 dollars for exactly an hour and half of my time and I went home.

Five days later he called me and said his wife passed away, that he needed a ride to the bank.  He needed to take care of monies and his mortgage, change a few things.

I drove his car to the bank because he was too nervous. I waited in the bank’s lobby. Afterwards I drove him home and spoke with him a little while at his house. Before leaving a phone call came in from his great-granddaughter.  I tried not to overhear thinking thoughts of the old lady, his wife, and wondered if the funeral parlor repainted her nails, or did they look good enough by my doing, and  that maybe I really was the last person who had polished her nails.

He said, “Here,” as he handed me the phone, “my great-granddaughter wants to speak with you.”

The great-granddaughter was nice. She was just checking on me to see if I was normal, and if I really had her great-grandfather’s best interest at mind. “Of course,” I assured her, “I’m just trying to make a little money.”

Three days after taking him to the bank he called again. He said he’d like a ride to the cemetery to see his wife. I drove him to the cemetery all the while thinking about my phone conversation with his great-granddaughter.

She lived in California and she was friendly in that laid-back, California way. She said she appreciated my time and that many of her aunts had passed on, and that she wished to be there, spend more time with her grandfather, but she had a family of her own, and she just couldn’t. I told her it was okay and she said if I needed anything I should call her.  I was to let her know how her great-grandfather was doing. We exchanged e-mails.

After he visited the cemetery I drove him back home. While there he said he hadn’t bathed for a week and could I give him a bath. So I got out a bucket of very hot water and sponged him down. I handed him fresh clothing, and helped him get dressed. I said, “Well, that’s it, I have to get going.” He said – before paying me, “You know, if you treat me right, I’ll treat you right.” I laughed and said, “For the bath I want $50 dollars.” He paid me readily.

After that he called several times but I didn’t call him back.

About one week later his great-granddaughter e-mailed asking if I’d been to see her grandfather because he wasn’t picking up the phone. I replied that her grandfather was a ‘dirty old man’ and signed off with an LOL! She called me right then and asked me what my e-mail meant, why I could no longer visit with her great-grandfather.

After relaying what happened with the bath and how, for about five straight days he was calling and leaving dirty messages on my voicemail, there was a silence between her voice and mine.  When she spoke she sounded mortified and apologized for him. I told her, “It’s no big deal. I just don’t want to deal with him anymore.”

Who knows what happened with him after that. Maybe he did get legitimate nursing care. Maybe he got a nurse who was buxom and blonde; I hope he did. But I’ll never forget the willingness of his frail and skinny body trying to get a hard-on, wanting his testicles played with, when he said the words, “You treat me right and I’ll treat you right.”

I had to find a legitimate job.


            Working part-time for Pastor Heather, working in her office filing her files, helping her organize things, she asked, “Are you a Christian?”

I said “I went to Catholic school; I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church.”

“Do you go to church now?”


It was the truth. I hadn’t been to mass in years. My family was dead and I was pissed off at the world. I’d been working these weird $10 buck an hour jobs and my former employer was contesting my unemployment. I was now out of work two months with a monthly income of maybe, eight hundred dollars, maybe; but nowhere near the $1,000 or even $1,200 I really needed to live. Half of that eight hundred went to rent. I was eating boxed macaroni and cheese and meatloaf. By the 7th day of eating meatloaf I forced myself to throw up.

Pastor Heather said, “I don’t understand why a woman like you doesn’t have a good job.  I will pray for you.”

I was aggravated myself, wondering why with having just graduated with my four-year degree in English, I wasn’t working a professional job. “Come on, Heather,” I said, “It’s just the way it is. Things will change. They will. They have to.”

She said, “That’s good, because God loves you. Ask Him for the things you need.”

I said, “Heather, when I pray, I don’t pray for me, I pray for others.”

She said, “You have to ask. Have you ever asked?”

I said, “Listen” as I’m filing her files, “Jesus Christ came to me once, blessed me over my bed. He rose from the foot of my bed and blessed me. It was the most perfect morning of my life. I was blessed in a dream and I’ve never slept so peacefully. I guess you could say I’ve seen Jesus Christ.”

After I told her about my visit from Jesus in a dream, she got really preachy. One day she  tried doing something called tongues on me – freaked me out.  I figured I’d get scarce for a couple of weeks.

I was so broke and so ashamed of my life. Where I was once hanging with all these women and feeling pretty high on myself, I was now living in such a shit-ass apartment with, of all things, mice. Thank God for my two cats at the time, they were good mousers. I was looking for work on Monster, on all the Web career boards, but still couldn’t find a full-time job and working at $10 dollars an hour off the books. My unemployment never went through. The employer won saying I was not eligible because when I was offered a job for $8 dollars an hour, I lied and said I was sick. But I wasn’t sick. It’s just that I was making $18 dollars an hour before I lost my contract and his offer was an insult. So I filed a claim and when they asked if I’d turned down work, I said I hadn’t and it all came back and unemployment called the employer and said that they’d offered me work, but because I lied, the claim was disqualified.

Two weeks later I called Pastor Heather begging for work.

I painted both the men and women bathrooms at the church and cleaned the church toilets and urinals. Then Heather asked if I could take care of her parents when she went to a religious conference in Las Vegas. I took care of her parents for three days. I changed her mother’s sheets, cleaned her father’s bedroom, vacuumed and cleaned their house and cleaned their separate bathrooms. One bathroom toilet had over spilled and created a big mess and was running down into the basement and I cleaned that. I made them dinners and gave them their separate medications before tucking them in and saying a goodnight prayer.

It was April and I couldn’t make my rent. I bargained with the landlord to sell my refrigerator. He said, “Okay, how much?’ I said, “I’ll pay you one hundred fifty cash and the frig cost me three hundred. Keep it and we’ll call it square.” I had $1800 in savings, that was all I had, and I wasn’t touching it. I was waiting for my way out.


            When Heather returned from Las Vegas she thanked me and paid me $140 dollars for taking care of her parents and $200 dollars for painting the church bathrooms. I was so grateful. I filled up my truck with gas and I bought groceries and food for my cats and new litter. It was Sunday morning and I was going to church with Heather.

Heather said, “Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ into your life?”

I said, “Yeah, but what do you mean? He’s already in my life.”

“That’s not exactly true.”

I didn’t know what she was getting at and I must have sounded like a fool when I asked her,

“He’s not in my life everyday, I guess, but He’s kind of busy, don’t you think.”  She started to laugh, but not laugh at me and I could tell the difference. She said,

“Oh, I see.” And with that she stood from the couch in her living room and came across to where I was sitting and knelt before me. She took her hands in mine and said,

“Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord?”

“Yes,” I said, and she blessed me. She prayed for several moments and then she handed me a box.

“Open it up,” she said, “it’s for you.”

It was a Bible and she’d inscribed it, ‘Jo Battle, Reborn, December 4, 2011.’


            At mass, at Heather’s church, it was so different from what I’d known. Everyone was singing and raising their hands and holding hands and a couple of people knelt before the pastor asking, in some way, divinity of grace, and I remember thinking,        ‘Oh, man. I just need a confessional booth,’ I just wanted a priest. Evangelical Christianity was unknown to me.

But I’d sang the songs and found myself crying at one point because I was stunned by the faces of those who believed. I felt sinful, selfish in my wants and desires, having hurt others in my life, looking across at the faces of those who were so believing, those who may have had less than I had and yet who were still rejoicing, where I still sat brooding, I’d felt like a heel. I thought, “Is this my ‘born again’? Is this what Heather meant?”

At the time I was volunteering for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and I’d asked Heather if Yvonne, my ‘little’ could come along to mass. Yvonne was so pretty in her blue dress the color of a robin’s egg.  I was Yvonne’s ‘big’ for four months during the time I’d lost my job and working these odd jobs. She agreed wholeheartedly and invited us to breakfast after mass.

I hadn’t been out to eat anywhere in weeks and I ordered a big breakfast of eggs and bacon and sausage and the breakfast plate was big and delicious and, being self-conscience not to gobble my food, I slowed down waiting for Heather and Yvonne to catch up, but Heather still noticed my hunger. She said,

“Jo, I don’t understand why a woman like you doesn’t have a good job. If you don’t ask for it, then I will.’

I smiled and looked into Heather’s eyes but I felt ashamed and looked away and turned to Yvonne instead.

“Yvonne, do you think I need a good job?”

Heather stood, paid for breakfast and said, “Yes, just say yes, Yvonne.”

Yvonne smiled a toothy smile and hunched her shoulders, “Yes,” she giggled, “but I’ll miss you.”


            I had $1800 in the bank and I kept an eye on it. It was now May. I had been out of work for five months, still working odd part-time jobs, trying to meet routine expenses. I didn’t have credit card bills; it was just the lights, a basic cable hook-up, my phone, car insurance, my car loan and my rent. I was extremely careful about spending. Thank God the cats didn’t get sick during that time.

My buddy Nan, an Internet pal, contacted me. I told her things were tight, that I couldn’t find work as a tech writer in Upstate. The entire upstate area was depressed. If you didn’t work for the state in Albany, NY or GE, as a contractor, you weren’t working. There was little technology opportunity.

I asked Nan, “Hey what do you think if I use your Kannapolis address and put it on my resume? Would that be okay?” Nan liked me and we had had a little phone sex.  We’d never met and she said, “That would be fine, darlin’!” She was real sweet-talking. She’d sometimes call me ‘sugar’. That’s so southern. I’d chuckle every time she’d use expressions like that. God knew I wasn’t sweet as sugar, but Nan thought I was.

As soon as we hung up I went back into the job boards and I prayed to God as I was changing my address from Albany, NY to Kannapolis, NC, “Please help me, God. I need work. I’m dying over here.”

I finally asked God for help.


          That Memorial Day weekend, flying into Raleigh, I looked out the airplane window and thought of all the people I’d met working for $10 per hour and how only five days before today, I received a call from Brian Adamson of Luxen who liked my resume and needed a tech writer and was delighted I lived in Kannapolis, NC. It would be a short commute, I might hit some traffic, and could I be there the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend started.

‘See, Jo, this is what you get for lying, ‘a voice came over me as a stewardess handed me pretzels and a glass of seltzer water. I’ll just have to tell Brian the truth if I got the job,

I had a sister in Kannapolis, and that I really only stayed at my sister’s once a month and that’s why my resume said NC and not NY and that I was actually living in NY, twelve hours by car, and could the company possibly relocate me?

I wore a tight top, uncharacteristic for me, but it looked sharp, with its different shades of green and it enhanced my breasts, under a beige well-tailored suit. The suit was too much money, but it looked good off the rack and it fit. I got my portfolio together three days before the interview and when I arrived in Raleigh, I rented a car right away. Until that day I hadn’t used my credit card in nearly seven months.

Before July’s rent was due, I packed up my things, called my friend Carl, and he got his buddy Chris, and they helped to move me. By leasing a truck through a non-popular trucking company, I spent $300 dollars because the truck was being returned to Albany. I secured an apartment on line and made arrangements over the phone, taking a virtual tour and sending off a check for $700 dollars to secure the place. I gave Carl $200 and Chris $150 dollars for helping. Some odds and ends like gas, food, and a cheap hotel, cost me a little over $200. I spent less than $1800.00 to move and to secure an apartment. On Monday, June 28, 2004, I reported for work at Luxen. On that first Friday at the job, I filled out an expense report and two months later received a check for $1,500 for my relocation expenses. No one asked about Kannapolis, NC.  I never called to thank Nan.


            Those days marked my character, those days when I couldn’t rub two nickels together but learned about people in ways than I would have never learned had I not received the lesson of grace and humility. During that time my faith was there but hidden. And I remember how, in my desperation, in my most absolute most desperate of pleas, and with all my heart, I asked God for help.