Nuns had created a haven for children with polio at this institution. A "fun" trek with visitors was to explore the old sections of the hospital - an amphitheater, iron beds, an iron lung and narrow inclined passages. Another place with the odor of history.
Crows over the dome in full view from my bed did not fit my idyllic image - they'd fly over the cross cackling away as storm clouds rolled, portending to the advent of a cold winter. Still paralyzed, my daughter initiated plans for us to go south.
Another rehab would take me as an inpatient. It was in West Miami, Florida.
Quite a shock to arrive in Miami. Fortunately my daughter decided to stay in South Beach.
It appeared that the majority of the help and patients at this rehab spoke Spanish, and only Spanish. The rest were from Haiti and spoke to each other in French or Creole!
Seventy appeared to be the median age. Quite a miserable dining situation. Chicken and rice or chicken and beans. All table conversations in Spanish. High school language classes did not help!
Christmas handouts from local volunteers. Soap and body lotion. Very thoughtful.
Fortunately there were many young therapists. Two were brilliant. They had honed their skills on the bomb scarred streets of Israel. One invited me to her home; we enjoyed our conversations aside from the injury related sessions.
Two Mexican sisters worked within the rehab and tried bio feed back. A Cuban shrink...hypnosis. Duds.
My last boyfriend was also living in Ft. Lauderdale with plans to open a pizzeria. He had lost almost all his money in the restaurant up North. We went out for rides and to eat on occasion. Quite a distance between those two cities. Our relationship was politely caring.
There was little to do after workouts, I rolled down stairs and sat outside the rehab's entrance. Sometimes visitors would push me across the parking lot to the Cuban restaurant for very black coffee. What a simple pleasure.
My daughter and I bought a BMW from an employee there. What a stupid mistake. My mind was definitely half cocked. Problems with it almost immediately with no warrantee.
Insurance obligations were fulfilled for in-patient care. So many days filled with sickness and sorrow. Time to find a residence. Can't say I felt sorry about leaving.
Mom, Dad and Dylan
son, Dylan, was born on March 11th.
The hospital gave me a private room. I had a cold and couldn't come in contact with any other patients, their babies or my baby! Especially trying when everyone told me how wonderful he looked and I couldn't see him or start breast feeding until going home three days later.
His namesakes: Dylan Thomas and Egon Schiele. Quite a combination.
Our next apartment was in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn. Five flights up with a baby carriage, groceries and dog. Ethnically rich: Hassidic and Orthodox Jews, Russian immigrants, Haitians, and Afro-Americans. No artists.
We had visits from Eddie's friends from his days at New Paltz State College. Lots of music and art; Michael Steiner, Adrian Guillery, Dick Hogle, Phil Paratore.
I would take long walks to the Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Museum, Library and Zoo. A photo (of the baby carriage, Babe our dog, and me drawing from a perch on a large limb of a flowering Japanese Cherry Tree) appeared on the first page of the second section of The New York Times. Sakura Matsuri 19
Tried sewing as a means to make money; I put a couple of designs in a shop on Nostrand Avenue. Sold one dress.
Staying home was new to me, Eddie and I shared a room as a studio with Dylan sleeping in our bedroom. Paintings of all those that entered my daily life became my subject matter. Except for a construction with auto fiberglass that was quite toxic. Never finished it.
Vilma (1964) was a wonderfully classic Brooklyn woman. She taught me all about Jewish cooking and had a motherly air that preserved me when I had questions regarding a newborn and as a good neighbor she watched Dylan when we needed to go out!
I worked on a large painting of Dylan lying naked on the black Victorian horsehair couch. He moved constantly of course but not enough to fall off! It was a way to keep him amused while I kept creative. Two loves in tandem.
Carl (Sharky) and Bill came up with a proposition. Would we live in their renovated townhouse in Savannah, Georgia? Free.
There was no stopping me. Once again on the road. I drove a car to our new home with a trailer full of our belongings towed behind. Dropped the car and U-Haul off in Atlanta and a train back into Savannah.
Sensory over load; smells of damp bogs with hanging moss, paper mills, river alleys and parks filled with vibrant and exotic flowers. Our home was a two story over a rental apartment that used to be the slaves quarters. Main rooms 30' x 30' with fireplaces and a large modern kitchen. Below us a central courtyard for the ground level tenants. We had a gracious front stairway to the first floor. It seemed the whole center city was undergoing renewal with an historical eye for perfection. Every other block was a park; we lived on the corner of Lincoln and President Streets. Not a good omen.
That ideal ended when I took my first walk to the laundromat about five blocks from that center! People dressed in rags, shoeless, some searching any bin or box for clothes and/or food stuff. I hired a young woman to clean, do laundry and baby sit for $5 on Wednesdays. When I sat down for lunch beside her on her first day, she jumped up in horror.
What happened to our stars and stripes? The war was still on as far as this part of the South was concerned. The State of Georgia and Confederate flags flew everywhere.
Christmas was simple, art supplies hung on the tree with fake fruits and handmade ornaments. For presents, I made portfolios, journals, organizers and calendars covered with handmade and Italian papers.
We used the living room to paint in. This time I used local children, the housekeeper, and Dylan as models. I tried a large allegorical painting with a white horse. Ripped it up. Covered the baby painting of Dylan. Our lives were centered on art and the three of us as family. We didn't go out, shop or really entertain very often.
An artist, Augusta, lived in a waterfront factory where she created very feminist collage/assemblages. No one else lived over there; it was not thought of as livable! She was a great solace to me when I became sick with a fever and couldn't move. Rub downs with alcohol brought me out of the chills.
For fun I explored cemeteries; decaying marble and granite Victorian era effigies with rusting wrought iron gateways. Spanish moss everywhere. Reminded me of the emotionally wrenching statues in Genoa, Italy. I was privy to a dumpsite where women friends and I collected hundreds of old bottles. This took digging with pitch forks and shovels and gloves to sift through the debris of a hundred years ago.
Close by, a moving and storage warehouse became our favorite haunt to purchase antiques. A full set for twelve of red glass giftware including juice and water glasses, cups and saucers, soup bowls and dinner plates...only $25. Two oriental rugs, china cabinet, an oak office 6' high filing system with brass fittings, sliding doors covering storage slots were our best finds. For money I tried caning and refinishing - a Hitchcock and another, a Bentwood chair. After completing both, one sold for $6. Money was tight in the South.
Dylan accompanied me on outdoor watercolor sessions. The rundown 18th and 19th century buildings were perfect subjects; sold all of those immediately.
Suddenly we were asked to leave. It appears some neighbors told my NYC friends that I was cohabiting with "Niggers." In truth we had joined an integrated church and my watercolor portraits were of Dylan's young friends who were also "black."
Eddie didn't want to leave, he had just been offered a job in Charleston and it would have meant a decent income. I had enough of below the Dixie Line...New York again.