Beck’s Diary – Cleaning Woman

July, 23 2019

She arrives every Tuesday. She smells like cigarette smoke, wears a red jacket, has wide-spaced yellow feet, and looks like she’s seen everything since the beginning of time. She one of two cleaning women.

The first time I saw her was in the “garden” which is a square at ground level in the middle of the Castle. It is the most peaceful spot around. You are surrounded by high rise buildings, but not so close that you feel closed in.

And people who can barely breathe, some who can’t walk, some who are crippled in various ways that I won’t describe, go out for a smoke.

One spanish guy, I can understand every other word, gets trough this heavy glass door to the garden on his walker (I would have that door automated if I were King of the Castle) and breaks up a loose cigarette that he get’s for 25 cents somewhere and puts it into a pipe and sits down and smokes it.

He keeps the pipe with him all the time, and draws on the empty pipe wherever he is. We smile at each other when passing.

Another guy that looks like the old Hemingway, smokes half a long cigarette. He reeks of tobacco. And walks with a cane, not a wheeler which is rare here.

And then there’s the cleaning woman in her red utility coat with a pack of Salem longs, and some singles hanging out of her pocket. I liked her immediately I suppose because she still had a twinkle in her blue eyes, and she told it like it was (as we used to say).

I would call her by her name, but I can’t remember it. When I first arrived, I associated names with familiar touchstones so I could remember them. And some were easy enough, like Melody the Nurse, and Patsy the ex-banker, and Ike that I turned into Spike. Sometimes I used their real names when writing about them, now that I’ve removed this diary from just about everywhere, and I can see how few views it is getting (which was my original goal), I may as well use real names when I can. If I know them.

For now, I’ll call her Kelly. I have no idea why.

So as I say, Kelly will be in today to vacuum and clean the toilet and wash the dishes and silverware. I guess you’d call her a housecleaner.

We usually gab about the latest Castle news.

But it is very important not to leave any dirty coffee cups or silverware in the sink before she arrives because she takes a dirty rag from her red suit, and goes through the dishes or whatever with it, and I have no idea if she uses dishwashing soap or what but if you had coffee residue at the bottom of a cup, it’s still there when she’s turned it upside down (if you’re lucky) to drain.

Silverware remains encrusted.

So before she arrives, if you are smart, wash those dishes and cups well and put them somewhere that she can’t get near them.

Other that that, she does a great job.

And she reminds me of my late and great paternal grandmother: Fannie, who was notorious in the family for serving dinner on dirty plates. She wore thick glasses and had cataracts but I believe she always ate off dirty plates, and the theory amongst the grandchildren was that she lived into her hundreds because she had immunity against every sort of crud in the world, having eaten it for years and years.

My fondest memory of Grandma Fanny: she lived at that time on Burnside Avenue, in the Bronx. We weren’t far away, on University. When we kids arrived, there was a window on the ground floor where you could peek into the men’s bathroom of an Italian restaurant. We’d just throw things to rattle the men and then run inside the building, which was always dark and cavernous and had two sets of stairs which took you to the same place.

My Grandfather Max, who I later learned some nasty things about, was a perfect Grandfather. He loved to do card tricks for the kids. And if you pleaded with him he’d take a newspaper, roll it into a tube, pull some strips of paper, and then presto chango unfold it into a tree.

My Grandmother always kept schmaltz (chicken fat) in the fridge and would feed us the part of the chicken that we later learned gave you high cholesterol. Nobody knew what cholesterols were n the mid-50’s.

And on top of that, they had the real seltzer delivered in a wooden crate, 6 glass bottles. My father would never spring for that. He spent years buying seltzer making machines which were never as good as the real thing.

To the point Beck: Sorry to say, Grandma was a terrible dish washer but not much of a cook. When we were leaving she had to make sure we wouldn’t starve, and gave us the leftovers from dinner in a brown bag. She wanted to know when we were coming again.

My father would say, we were just here. Don’t worry we’ll be back.

When we got downstairs the leftovers were promptly thrown in that trash can on the corner.

We did keep a pastry she made. Little crescents of dough, lard, and possibly raisons. They were hard and crispy and not exactly tasty, through some of the cousins liked them. But the thing was, you could measure their shelf life in centuries.

I remember taking a bag of them off to college in Buffalo, and still eating them years later when I had graduated (sort of) and was living on Allerton Avenue (little Italy) in the Bronx.

Oops, here comes Kelly.