Closing Doors

I moved to New York City in 1986 and worked in a building in Times Square that still employed elevator operators. Old style elevators, like freight elevators, had two doors: an outer door and an inner heavy metal accordion gate that had to be opened manually from the inside.
The elevator operator's name was Abe. I didn't know his age but I suspect he was younger than he looked. His frown lines were so deep he must have been born that way. He wore a faded navy blue custodian uniform that needed hemming and his hair had a pomade sheen reminiscent of the 1960s. It was obvious he lived alone. No one would let him leave the house like that. 
Abe had a demeanor steeped in anger and resentment. He flung the metal gate open with such determined concentration its hinges screamed in protest. He closed it the same way. He was vindictive. He made you run for his elevator. If you didn't get there soon enough, he'd slam the door on you in spite. If he allowed you to slip in, he'd act disgruntled and make sure you knew it.
Everyone was afraid of Abe.
I don't know what happened to Abe but it probably wasn't good. He had one thing going for him though - he was memorable.


Hate at the Intersection of Bdwy & 12th


It was May 1987 and a man was navigating his way down the middle of Broadway in Lower Manhattan. He looked like a Roly-Poly doll, wobbling about on either side of the line in the road, trying to find his equilibrium. City drivers and yellow cabs bobbed and weaved around him like bumper cars without the bumping. It didn't seem to phase him. Either he was fearless or he just didn't care. The man had a scowl on his face and the kind of eyes you don't want to make eye contact with. His pants were falling down and he kept grabbing at them, pulling them up, grabbing at them . . .  like he had a tic. His shoes were missing laces.
I was in front of Strand Books browsing through the used book racks, but it took only one light speed glance to know that if he made one slight pivot towards me, I'd shift the other way. Or, maybe run. All New Yorkers had two sets of eyes in those days. One for seeing. One for parsing.
The man made a full stop at the intersection of 12th and Broadway. Smack in the center, like he was there to direct traffic. Instead, he spun around, like a top at the end of its spin, and bellowed, "you know what I hate?" so loud people hurrying on the sidewalks turned their heads, but only for one harried moment. New Yorkers rarely linger if they have a destination. You need a reason to stand still in this City.
"You know what I hate?" No one answered but it didn't matter. He had a prepared response.
"You know what I hate?" he yelled again and launched into a stream of complaints: garbage on the street, taxis, someone named Flossie, pigeon shit, some bitch who dissed him, cops, etc. Each had its own run-up: "You know what I hate?" It was a public display of self-interrogation but what seemed to matter most was the question. He threw it out there like a clarion call to arms.
"You know what I hate?"
On and on he yammered giving voice to an unremitting laundry list of all the unfair, rotten and trivial things that rubbed him the wrong way. He was hell-bent on serving all of New York City a mouthful. He rarely paused for breath, racking up his grievances even while his voice turned hoarse. 
He had a lot of hate in him.
I stood there and, for a few fleeting moments, ruminated running out in traffic to join him.
We all hate something. 

Be About Peace?


It was 2002. My brother was overseas fighting in the Iraq war so I tied a yellow ribbon around the dogwood tree in my front yard. Numerous yellow ribbons adorned trees on the other side of town where the houses were smaller and nestled closer together. My side favored "Be About Peace" lawn placards, displayed for guaranteed visibility in the middle of large, perfectly landscaped yards. There was a certain smugness behind the fact of these signs, as if the owners thought they were above all this violence nonsense. 
“Be About Peace” is for people who let others fight their battles for them.
We are violence innate and there are times I wonder how the world — how people — keep it together as well as we do. We're all hanging by a dangling thread with a scissor within snipping distance intent on cutting through our lifelines.
I think it’s because we all want to be right. We cozy up with our beliefs and opinions and, before we know it, we're so comfortable they become our personal easy chair. Lean back, put your feet up, turn on the telly and you never have to think again.
It's my way or the highway.
I love peace. I work towards peace even when I'm driving and somebody screams an obscenity at me for cutting in after I realize I'm not in the right lane. I don't scream back. It was my mistake for God's sake. And, we all make them.
When you figure out it's okay to be wrong, you can be right and keep it to yourself.
However, moments arise when my fight-or-flight instinct overpowers me. When I stow peace under the seat where it's out of sight. Hidden from view. Like that time, must have been around 1990, when I was walking down 3rd Avenue in the East Village in New York City and a random man called me an asshole for bumping into him. Peace may have urged me to ignore him but peace was under the seat so I shot back, "you're the asshole" to which he volleyed, "no, you're the asshole" and I screamed, "no, man, YOU are the asshole," and so on. 
We were both hell-bent on having the last word. He stayed put. I kept walking. It was a long block but sound can only travel so far.