So Moved

I didn’t want to move; and yet, Annie had a point. She’s often right about these things. But at my age the idea of packing up and moving half way across the country was anything but a pleasant thought.

Annie persisted, and the long and short of it was, her daughter from a previous marriage, Jan, she moved out to the city and got pregnant, and then there were twins on the way.

Of course the guy, what’s his name, he took off the second he got wind of it. What a cad!

“She needs us,” Annie insisted.

Jan was 22 and didn’t always make the best decisions. But Annie was right, she did need us; and there was nothing really keeping us there anyway. So Annie and me decided to move to the city and lend a hand.

I’d spent the better part of my life living amongst the corn, in central Kansas, in a small town called Ottawa. There isn’t much there, nor much to do. But it was my home and I’d scarcely left it before. All that nonsense about Y2K and then that crazy election … it got me thinking. Hell, no good could come of it.

That was in the past now, but people were still acting crazy, like they were the most shocking things that ever happened. It was time to move on. We were both pushing 50 – not getting any younger – and then there was Jan’s situation. That lit a fire in Annie’s pants – mine too, I guess.

I let Annie pack most of the kitchen stuff. It was mostly her’s anyhow. She loves to cook, and damn if she doesn’t bake the best pecan pie. We were hoping the new place would have a bigger kitchen, but no such luck. I guess in the city people just do without.

The movers came and man, did they have their hands full. A leather couch Annie and me got right after we were married, and a coffee table to match. Not really nice stuff, but you know how it is, you get used to it, and we couldn’t afford new stuff anyway.

We moved once before – our first place was even smaller – and the movers were complete idiots. When they loaded our oversized chair into the back of the moving van it came tumbling back out like a bull out of a rodeo stall. Landed right on the asphalt and tore the shit out of it. The company made good, though, and we got a new one. I learned an important lesson that day: never take the cheap rout when you hire movers!

Hard to believe that first move was almost 20 years ago. It was only across town, but even that seemed like too much work. This time we moved almost 1,500 miles and Annie said it would change our whole lives, but man, we didn’t know the half of it.

The day after Labor Day we finally got on the road, breaking up the two-day journey with an overnight in Cincinnati. We caught our first glimpse of the city just before sunset the following day. As we approached from the northwest the Empire State was majestic the way it dominated the skyline. I wondered what it must’ve been like when it was the skyline of Manhattan.

We arranged for a tiny, two-room apartment in Brooklyn and it took us a couple days to get settled in. I can’t say I liked it, but Annie said I’d better get used to it.

Jan’s contractions began just after dawn. Annie snagged a cab and went to meet Jan at the hospital. I fumbled around for my keys, dragged on my jeans and then I was out the door. It’d been only a few days but I could navigate the subway like a native. I jumped the ‘F’ at Jay St. and headed for the Village.

Twenty minutes later I exited the subway at 14th and walked up a block to St. Vincent’s. I found Jan’s room but I was too late. The nurses wouldn’t let me in, so I headed back down for coffee.

It wasn’t five minutes before I heard the most hellish CRASH! – so devastating that several near me literally stopped in their tracks. I can still see 8:46 on the wall clock as if it was yesterday.

Sixty seconds later people were rushing in every direction, and I saw a policeman heading for the exit.

“What the hell’s going on,” I screamed at him.

“Airplane! Hit the WTC,” the man gasp excitedly as he hurried off.

“WHAT?”

“What’s going on,” someone said behind me.

For a moment we both just stood there, paralyzed.

Suddenly, all I could think of was Jan’s twins. Scaling the steps three at a time I raced back to maternity. I ran down the hallway and, nearly out of breath, I took a hard left into Jan’s room.

I’d missed everything. The nurses were cleaning up while Jan and Annie, looking exhausted, were beaming. Soon two perfect babies were resting in their arms.

Excited and emotionally drained, I was instantly in the moment, like nothing else in the world was happening. Jan and Annie were content, unaware of the outside world.

Then came the second impact – CRASH! It was worse than the first, and this time it nearly took the wind out of me. Annie and Jan instinctively coward over the twins before looking up, expecting me to explain it to them, but I couldn’t.

The truth is, I really didn’t know. Some said we’d never forget, but for me it’s just a blur of confusion, associated with moving to New York. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but from that point on all I knew, all I cared about, was that we had two infants in the house, and they were pretty much all that mattered.

Memories Are The Essence Of A Caricature

Our memories of friends and family come from looking at their faces. We’ll always remember our grandmother’s laugh lines around the corners of her eyes. We’ll never forget the big bushy eyebrows and mustache of our childhood neighbor from three doors down. It’s almost impossible to think of a certain niece without her signature glossy red lipstick. A caricature is a humorous tribute to all our individual and unique features.

The caricature artist takes those dominate first impressions and translates them into a look and a portrait we’ll remember forever. A good caricature has a definite playfulness to it. The artist takes his pencils and markers to purposely exaggerate certain striking characteristics in order to create a humorous effect.  He is allowed to take liberties and say things with his keen eye, fast hands and sardonic wit that we dare not.  He recognizes Uncle Nick’s large and bulbous nose and Aunt Ethyl’s eyebrows that she draws on every morning are fair game. Unlike a formal portrait sitting, a caricature is a snapshot in time. It may be drawn at a graduation, a birthday party, a wedding reception or an amusement park. The caricature is sketched quickly and to the point. Bold splashy colors quickly fill the paper. There’s no do overs or embellishments.  The audience giggles and laughs as they watch the details come together. When it’s complete, we all weigh-in on how it looks. “It doesn’t look like me,” says the subject, but we all know better.

A caricature more than just a fun portrait done quickly.  It’s a flashback to that special occasion several summers ago.  It hangs on a refrigerator door, bedroom wall or bulletin board to remind us that we had fun on that specific day in time.