Friday, November 25, 1977

Greta's Birthday (b. 1975)
Psalm 29
Day 8

Got up medium. Dressed. Mom went and called Miss S_. Pops went to the laundromat. Ate breakfast. Went downstairs. S_ came. Pops put the clothes away, then S_+our family went to Macy's (Pops went on to 14th St.) Shopped. I got crochet thread. We met a little Italian boy about 4, who said he was "The Fonz". Ate lunch. Went to Ms. ?'s house. Came back. Ate soup. Put on pj's, went to bag. Thank you, Mr. O.
I ate:
  • Breakfast: 1 bowl oatmeal+honey porridge
  • 1 hamburger+mustard+ketchup+onion, home fried potatoes, 1/4 glass tab, 1/2 glass coca cola.
  • Snack: 1 glass grape juice, 1 glass Hawaiian Punch, 1/2 glass apple juice, grapes, sunflower seeds
  • Supper: 1 bowl Maltex+honey
Amusing food thing: Hamburgers have to be a certain way for me, or I just don't get the same enjoyment out of them. And that hamburger is SO NOT how I eat them these days. I wonder when that changed? I guess I hadn't had them that often to have a preference. Although, when we lived on 38 Montgomery, every Thursday was "Party Day" and Poppy would make either hamburgers or chili with "Nana J_ rice" which was a red rice with chopped veggies. These days, a hamburger MUST be medium-well, MUST have mayo and ketchup (sometimes BBQ sauce, but ALWAYS mayo), and lettuce and tomato. Sometimes relish or a sweet pickle, particularly if I make them myself. I get annoyed when there's no mayo. It's like my coffee... it MUST have half and half or I get really grumpy (which reminds me that I don't have any half-and-half in the house, dammit). Another thing that amuses me is that I hate Maltex now, and Wheatina, but back then we ate it cuz it was Poppy's comfort food--cereal he ate when he was a kid. And my cereal has to have butter and brown sugar.

We learned to crochet in Jamaica, but seeing as how there was nothing to do in our new apartment, I started crocheting again. Eventually, I got really good at making Kufi's and in the late '70's very early '80's when Kufi's were HUGE in Harlem, Bigbear, the Professor and I would sit outside the Tree of Life on Lenox Avenue with a table, and sell them. The Kufi's we made looked a lot like this lady's, but the style back then was to add a long tassel. Sometimes two. We made decent money doing that, as the Kufi's ran between $7-$10 a piece, especially if they were custom ordered (which they usually were).

The Tree of Life was an interesting atmosphere, to say the least. I always liked Dr. Kanya (on the right in this picture); he was a nice guy and totally bought into what he was selling, but he had some STRANGE bedfellows. The building itself was pretty derelict, and often had no heat in the winter. I remember there being murals, and lots of incense in the air. But the people who came to the Tree were in search of spiritual enlightenment and inner peace, and it made the atmosphere very positive.

One of the people who hung around there and taught there was this younger, lightskinned brother name Yusuf. I always thought he was a bit of a flirt, but he ran meditation classes there. Ladies loved him. I think I had a crush on him for about a minute, till I figured out he was kind of a jerk.

Another guy who hung out there was Brother B, who went off and tried to start his own bookstore after the Tree was dismantled. His wife was a serious astrologer and claimed to be African American but boy did she look Cherokee. Brother B was *extremely* obnoxious, and the Professor and I, along with two friends of ours (who's lives were about as strange as ours... they were "squatting" in a building along with their mom and their mom's boyfriend who was a Vietnam Vet and um, was a little weird) took great pleasure in being as rude and disrespectful to Brother B as we possibly could. The thing was, Brother B usually took it in stride, which I guess is to his credit. He never got mad, never told on us, never did anything mean or underhanded. Actually, he treated us like he treated anybody else, which entailed him trying to convince anybody who would listen that polygamy was a good thing (but he himself only had one wife) and that Astrology would solve all your problems. To this day, I still avoid him like the plague. I just never could tolerate him.

They tore the Tree down in like 1980 or so, and it sat empty for years, with a parking lot there on the corner. It was such an insult to the community... but had we really been paying attention I guess we would have realized that it was a foreshadowing of times to come, when the Borg invaded and we lost Harlem for good. Now there's a tall, brown building on that corner that houses Marshalls, Staples, Dunkin' Donuts and CVS. I bet most people that pass through those stores have no knowledge that the Tree of Life was ever there.


Fat Lady said…
Now see, while I will concede that perhaps living in a small apartment without heat or electricity is problematic - this aspect of your upbringing is enviable.

That you were regularly in contact with people who were examining their lives - looking for new ways of living, of finding fulfillment, of expressing themselves - that's stuff I would have killed for.

I grew up in a world where no one questioned what they did at all. Or at least didn't appear to. They did what their parents did, what others around them did, what they were expected to do and what was accepted.

No one could answer the questions I started having about spirituality as a kid - the best they could do was take me to church (Episcopal) and I found no answers there. No one ate unusual or different foods or even thought about trying them. We ate foods cooked from recipes passed down for generations.

Even in my mother's home where astrology might have been discussed - it was more of a fad, because everything for her was all about what was in, hot, cool. That people sought to do things for anything other than surface appeal was something I rarely saw, and thought I was a little strange for thinking so much about things other people had no interest in.
The Bear Maiden said…
Sometimes I wonder though, if being able to accept what you know and never question anything is better. Of course, my heart screams "NO!"... but then again... asking questions gets to be so *torturous*. I've had people ask me, "MUST you ALWAYS question me???" Uh, yeah, I *must*. But it doesn't make anything easier... in fact it makes life damn painful. But much more enjoyable :) And you tend to meet many others like you...
Fat Lady said…
But I think that questioning is in your nature - rather than the result of your upbringing. Imagine having that nature and growing up in an environment where no one questioned anything. Those same people who ask if you must always question as an adult, would be inclined to tell a child to never question.

I think there's a confidence that comes from KNOWING that you must question and that there are others who must question as well.

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