Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for February, 2015|Monthly archive page

Judith’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, The worst of times, Who, where, how? on February 26, 2015 at 7:21 pm

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Judith, a 47-year-old New Yorker, has been a guest at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for over five years.

Before falling on hard times, Judith worked for the Parks Department and before then as a nurse’s aide.  But in 2010, when she and her husband both lost their jobs, they were no longer able to keep up with the rent, and evicted from their apartment.  Judith’s husband spiraled into a deep depression which led to a crack cocaine addiction. Eventually, he left Judith on her own.

Homeless and alone, Judith turned to the shelter system for help. But finding her meager possessions lost or stolen at the end of each day —  even when she had locked them up — became too much and she felt that sleeping at the airport was safer. By using a rolling suitcase that makes her look like any other traveler, Judith has been able to make JFK her home for the past three years.

Judith is grateful for the two-to-three days each week when she is able to get to the soup kitchen, where she relies on a meal that’s not only hot and appetizing, but healthy and well-balanced.  “It’s hard to find meals that include fruits and vegetables,” she says — a sentiment echoed by many of the women and men we serve.  The day she spoke to us, Judith and all of our guests enjoyed pasta with meat sauce, mixed vegetables, salad, apples, milk and juice.

Judith also appreciates the compassion and kindness of staff and volunteers alike.  “Everyone is so good here.  They treat you like they care.  They go out of their way to help.

Recently, that help has included a voucher for the warm winter coat Judith wears on these bitterly cold days.  Help has also come in the form of her participation in the Writers’ Workshop where she has been able to access her own creativity for the first time since childhood and to find a way to break out of isolation by connecting with others.

Along with all the help and support that she gets from the soup kitchen, Judith loves the music and the musicians who share their talent and time.  The Thursday we spoke to Judith, Karen Taborn was at the grand piano.  As she played Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing” for a few moments on a cold February day — and thanks to our donors and volunteers — the soup kitchen was able to ease the worries and burdens of our all guests, including Judith.

A Time I Should Have Been Angry

In employment, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Poetry on February 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

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by Fred D. Street

An occasion some time ago, I
lost my Job, yes, I should have
been angry, but I went looking
for employment.

I arrive at New York State Lottery office for employments.

I was hired on that day,

My duties were to hand out
flyers on the street­-

Saying Play New York State Lottery
Pick Six Numbers in each
game, for a dollar-
New York State Lottery started,
I think, 1976-new game
in town-

The opportunity to have
a Job at that time
was rewarding and appreciated.

To choose to be Angry
is a choice.

A Brief Bit of Nature

In Guest stories, Prose on February 25, 2015 at 8:13 pm

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by George Cousins

This morning when I opened my eyes, I thought to myself, today is going to be a great day. I walked a couple of blocks and came to a block that was completely brand new with a 40 floor office building all steel and glass. The sidewalk was completely repaved. There was a building maintenance man washing the sidewalk. The air around smelled fresh. The sky was blue…it feels like heaven. Then I looked down and saw a plant of some kind growing out from between the square on the sidewalk…not a crack, just one of the squares. So I wondered how did it get there – maybe a bird carrying a twig for his new home and a seed fell from the twig or maybe some junkie sitting on the building’s fire hydrant nodded off and dropped his joint and the seed from that joint fell in the crack and started to grow. I stood there for a while and was admiring nature at work. Just then a voice from behind me said, “Are you going to stand there with your cart staring at nothing?” I was thinking all that foot traffic passing that plant and not destroying it. I turned around to look at the person for a second before I said anything. I finally bent down, pulled up the plant root and threw it at him. It landed on his shirt. He said, “My new expensive dress shirt from Pink. What did you do that for? Are you crazy? This is an expensive shirt.” I went close to him and said, “You were in a hurry and I am merely showing you what I saw staring at nature among the steel and glass…so tomorrow I will be in a hurry like you are today and not stop to admire nature because you wanted to see what I was staring at and holding you up. Now you be sure to have a nice day…but as the kids saying goes…. “Don’t step on any cracks or you’ll break your mama’s back…”

Spring Makes Me Feel Young

In Guest stories, Prose on February 25, 2015 at 8:09 pm

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by Charles Borges

Spring makes me feel young – it is like being born again. You want to smile and hug everybody you meet in the street. You are full of love and compassion. It’s like your first love in school – your heart goes like “di-di-dah”; it’s a wonderful feeling.

Let me tell you a story…

It happened on a spring day last year as I was crossing the street at 22nd and 7th Avenue. I saw a young couple with their groceries crossing the street. Just when the traffic light changed to green, they dropped all their groceries in the middle of the street. Then, out of nowhere, people came to help them, and the traffic stopped. I gave a hug to the young man and said: “It’s ok.”

The Bruise

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2015 at 8:42 pm

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by Michael Welch

I regained consciousness on the floor of a subway car. I tried to pick up my head but it felt awfully heavy, and as I peeked out of what I could feel was a very puffy eye of mine (the other one seemed to be lost in a fog) I could see a large puddle of fresh blood flowing away from me and growing in size. Was it from me?

My right cheek felt sticky and cool laying against the subway floor.

I could see a ring of people around me, they seemed to be subway riders and then they were backing away. Then a policeman was breaking through the crowd and then he backed away, and I could tell now I was the center of attention and this wasn’t good.

I scooted my legs up under me in preparation of getting up, but the policeman stepped forward placing a strong hand on my shoulder telling me to stay down.

“Don’t move.”

It seemed to me a reasonable order, much as I don’t like cops bossing me around.

I ran my tongue along the inside of my teeth, everything tasted of blood but I seemed to have all my teeth. I groggily started to make sense of how I ended up down on the floor, shakily remembering a big dark fist coming at my face. Everything smelled like blood, that’s all I could smell and taste, then the cop cleared a hole on the platform; everyone seemed to be out of the subway car and I thought I heard an announcement that the train was out of service and then a guy in blue and green scrubs, and a woman following behind him rushed through the hole of people and then everything smelled like alcohol, hospital alcohol and then I could taste the alcohol as the man in the scrubs roughly wiped my face with a cold wet cloth and pinched my nose and Jesus, that hurt, and I let out a shaky groan and he said it is going to hurt and we have to stop the bleeding, and then I thought “OK” but  can’t be sure and then I forgot what happened.

The next thing I realize, I am in a bed, a hospital bed, as I slowly, cautiously, glance around me, realizing my surroundings and I knew I had to go the bathroom and I sure as hell was not going to add insult to obvious injury and piss myself and who knows what else in this bed.

I tentatively edged my legs over to the side of the bed – OK they worked. I dropped them over to the floor and I slowly lifted my heavy head, letting the dizzy light headiness pass and with some cautious intention shuffled over to where I figured, hoped, the bathroom might be.

I passed through the door, flipped on the light, and was facing into a mirror unfortunately directly in my line of sight. My entire head was bruised and bloodied, black and blue – an over swollen bloody basketball. The rosy, blossomed, lumpy bruise on the bridge of my nose was framed by two red, black and blue crescents, each one topping each cheek, giving me a raccoon sensibility, except for my two nostrils which had flared in size and expanded their openings to resemble an angry hog.

As ugly as the vision was of my bruised face, now I was becoming more concerned over the growing and perhaps more long lasting bruise to my delicate manly ego. And in my mouth I am tasting the metallic resentful scourge of fear mixing with the blood still dripping from the roof of my mouth.

I can smell the bitter scent of anxious fright rising off my bruised face, powerful vapors inundating and clearing, for a moment, my blood clogged nostrils; would I ever be free of this new fear, riding the subway?

I lay in that hospital bed for two weeks watching my bruised balloon head slowly subside, watching Law & Order day after day and every time the nurse came in she complained

“Law and order! Law and Order! Not Law & Order again!”

I suggested perhaps we could do with a bit more law and order.

A Smile (Mouth)

In Keeping hope alive, Love, Poetry, Stories, secrets & dreams on February 23, 2015 at 7:03 pm

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by Fred Street

When you smile
it means your heart
has been touched,
the feeling-gladness, sorrow love.

I was a bit dreary, sad, empty.

Then I thought of my Joy
of being alive-
to know in my heart
that I’m the life of a life.

Once a smile begins to formulate
in the inner landscapes of your being,
it radiates into warmth and roundness
of your lovely red lips – a round dimple is noted, round
when you smile.

Edward’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, The worst of times, Uncategorized on February 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

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“My problem’s unemployment,” says Edward, who’s been coming to the soup kitchen for the past three years.  “I don’t have a drug problem or a disability, it’s just really hard to find a job.”

Edward, who says he’s close to turning 50, goes to job fairs regularly where he “sees the same people [applying for jobs] over and over again. It’s disheartening.”

Having grown up in Harlem, Edward spent several years in Mexico after spending some time with his extended family in San Diego.  It was in Tijuana where he bought a small restaurant. Thinking he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a chef, he was thrilled with the idea that he could afford this investment after overhearing the seller pitch the restaurant to another potential buyer. “It was only $279.00 a month, and that other person couldn’t afford it.” Edward seized on what he thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.

But things didn’t go so smoothly for Edward once his business was up and running.  After failing to complete the local business permit processes he ended up getting a visit from the “Federales”, the Mexican equivalent of the FBI.  Without adequate legal counsel, Edward  found himself in jail  –  followed by deportation back  to the U.S.A. He had lost everything.

Edward made his way back to New York where he knew he would be facing homelessness and unemployment. During those first few months of transition, he noticed the line outside of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. He got to talking with the people waiting in line and found out that not only did the soup kitchen provide a meal, it offered its guests necessities  like clothes and razors.

Edward has spent most of the last three years balancing his time between looking for regular, full time employment and getting  temporary, part time jobs.  He says, “You know, I could get a job today that would pay a lot of money but, you know that would involve crime. I’m almost 50 years old! It’s not the time to go start getting into the prison system.”

He muses about the people he’s known who’ve made money illegally through drugs or prostitution, spending their lives  in and out of jail.  He then makes an interesting point, “You can have dreams and ideals and high ethical standards for yourself and you don’t think you’ll ever do stuff like that. Lots of people with a lot of money don’t think they’d ever do that kind of stuff. But when your stomach is kicking your back out, that’s not so easy.”

Today, Edward is living in a small place in Brooklyn. He comes into Manhattan to  continue  his search for steady, full time employment and to stop by the soup kitchen so his own stomach doesn’t kick his back out.

“I remember being a kid and seeing the lines outside soup kitchens and thinking that everyone in there was lazy. But a lot of days, just having a meal, or getting a razor, stops me from making the wrong decisions. When you have nothing, a hot meal is a blessing.”  Coming from a former restaurateur, that means something!

 

Among the Stars

In humor, Prose, Stories, secrets & dreams on February 13, 2015 at 9:12 pm

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by Annie Quintano

“I am so sick and tired of this,” Rosemary blurted out, slamming the plate on the counter and spilling the galloping, wild meatballs off the spaghetti so they were sent racing along the Formica counter. She knew such outbursts were bound to get her in trouble. She had run into that before – Sam Feeter had almost fired her. But she had glared at him with her sharp blue eyes narrowed to a slit defying his power and authority. He had backed off mumbling and equivocating and she had thrown her dirty dish rag toward him when she turned and walked away.

But there were more and more mo0ments like this for Rosemary: the pressure of readying plates of food, or taking orders or having to be courteous to those aloof, arrogant and rude customers. Their air of superiority and entitlement left her spent and angry. Her strength was wearing thin.

She had taken to stepping away from the counter, away from the din of the lower level food court where now even the smell of foods sickened her and had begun walking up the rap by the Oyster Bar to circle around into the center of the terminal. She would walk toward the famous Grand Central clock, one of the dishtowels still hanging around rom her left hand, her hair net clinging tenaciously to her sweaty forehead and there she would lean her head far back and raise her eyes to the ceiling.

There the sky would reveal itself: the blues, the tiny lights of the constellations, the life of stars made real, come alive on a painted ceiling.

When she first began these excursions from the food court to the blue sky of Grand central, they were brief and infrequent. But now the smell of garlic and hot oil, or the smell of simmering spices or the stale smell of beer from the nearby bar all began to nauseate her. They rose as such violently offensive odors that they often triggered a migraine. She began to flee to the upper level now just to avoid becoming sick. But it wasn’t just the smells that began to repulse her, but also the sights. The soft whiteness of Junior’s cheesecake, the glossy bright red of the strawberries dripping a thick red syrup from the top down its sides, or the plump round or oblong loaves of bread at Zaro’s… any of the colors and textures began to disturb her, left her feeling off balance and distressed.

But mostly, it was the people. Short tempered, sometimes impatient and belligerent customers. Demanding, dictating, dismissive. She felt a revolution inside her. A refusal to put up with this shit any longer.

So her treks to the upper level became more frequent, abandoning customers un-served, ranting down there for service, agitated, swearing, disagreeable customers. Rosemary simply thought: ‘to hell with them.’

She began now to traipse up the stairs to the main rotunda before Sam Feeter could find her, come after her to fire her. Once there in the rotunda, she would lie down on the floor in the center of Grand Central so that she might better view the sky, count the stars, set her mind and heart to dance upon the constellations.

The always came, of course. The Grand Central Police. The same ones who drove the people who were homeless from the terminal’s warmth to the violent cold of the streets. The same ones puffed up in blue uniforms as if in Halloween costumes making believe they were people of consequence, people of power. They would circle her. One red haired, plump-faced cop tapping his baton against his left palm impatiently as if indicating the enormous restraint eh was exercising in not smacking her with it instead. They would help her to her feet as the demanded but she would pull her arm away from them angrily. Who were they, after all, to own the sky, the stars, the dancing constellations? Who were they to cast her back down into the dungeon of bowls of spaghetti and tight-assed blonds in grey suits or stuffy white men with fanciful silk ties racing in and out of the city in their commute and demanding her to attend to their needs?

She knew she had to walk away from it all. Take that dirty towel of hers and roll up that soiled apron and matted hair net and toss it all into the dungeon and leave while she still had her sanity, still had her soul intact.

She walked with purpose and intent and speed. And she just kept walking. Away from the smells, the sights, the sounds, the people of that infernal terminal.

She walked until the lowering afternoon sun cast long shadows from the buildings and from her own body. Until the day’s dampness built up into the chill of an early evening, the air sharp and cold but clear. The city darkened as she walked and wove her way through the small pathways of Central park. Now the darkness was thick and palpable and it was the night of no moon when it had run its course in the heavens and would return tomorrow in the slim silver of a new moon. Nothing now but darkness. How perfect, Rosemary thought. She lay herself down on the soft grass of the park in the night chill and gazed lovingly skyward. No ceiling. No tiny lights – just pure sky. And there they came one after another. The glow of the stars sent off on their way thousands and thousands of years ago arriving here before her eyes now. That starlight, those dancing constellations and she, able to be alone with them at last.

First Love

In Love, Poetry, Stories, secrets & dreams on February 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

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by Norman Clayton

Eve, the trees itch, they always do
Grounded fruit calling to you,
Always to you, to lonely you,
Woman who had no choice,
I climb down almost the first time.

It is still not too late to get lost.
Let me sip you with a cup of wine,
White wine me, white wine you
Always longing and calling
Moonless always lovelorn you.

The Long Winter

In Prose, Stories, secrets & dreams on February 2, 2015 at 7:28 pm

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by Walter L. Schubert

Goethe said that for a man’s life to be successful it must be lived as an allegory. A beat poet of the ‘50s compared life to coasting down a hill, mindless of the fact that, eventually, the free ride will come to an end.

I do not see my life this way. Rather, looking back and looking ahead, I see life as a long winter journey. Every so often one sees a blade of dried grass or a nesting place under a shelter. For the most part one ought not to expect that life will be rosy. Doing so will breed complacency and vulnerability.

There are paths one might pursue to make the pain more tolerable. The stories of Greek antiquity have had much to say about this, but too I find that today’s “stories” are ascetic and unable to enjoy themselves during periods when we are blessed with plenty.

Yes, prayer has been practiced throughout the ages as a way to deal with hardship. But in a predominantly secular world, resorting to prayer can be misunderstood as an escape from what is popularly regarded as ‘reality.”

Some see hope and resignation as the only two ways to deal with difficulties. There is doubt as to what we ought to love, and whether resignation would be appropriate were we to learn that we had hoped for the wrong thing.

At the close of Die Winterreise, Franz Schubert’s lieder cycle about a long winter’s journey, the singer stumbles into the final passage of the cycle. What was it that sustained him for this trip? The answer: “Think not on my words, for words can always be used to tell a lie. Think instead about my music, for with music one can only say what is there.” It was only with my music that I told the truth.