30 May 2010

Companions on Longtime Journeys

Today I did a brief bike ride along the industrial waterfront of Long Island City and Greenpoint and through back streets almost devoid of vehicular traffic.  One of them--named Rust Street--parallels railroad tracks that cut through silent factories and cling to the banks of Newtown Creek, which has been called the most polluted body of water in the United States.

Actually, I had a specific reason for riding that way:  On my way back, I stopped at Russo's bakery in Maspeth, which has--to my tastes, anyway--the best sfogliatelle you can get without taking the next flight to Rome.  I wanted to pick up a small box of the miniature ones and bring them to the barbecue at Millie's house.  Alas, they had only a couple of the larger ones left:  not enough to fill a small pastry dish.  Instead, I bought one and ate it right then and there.  I also purchased a small cheesecake topped with fresh fruit (strawberries, grapes and slices of apple and cantaloupe) drizzled with a light glaze.  Everyone loved it; I thought it was the best cheesecake I'd eaten in a long time.

Millie's friend Catherine came to the barbecue.  I like her very much, but I wouldn't call her a friend simply because I see her only at Millie's barbecues and lunches and dinners.  On the other hand, she and Millie have known each other since they were five years old.  I don't have a friend like that; I met Bruce, my longest-standing friend, during my senior year at Rutgers.  Then we fell out of touch for a couple of years and bumped into each other near Cooper Union late one summer afternoon.  That was in 1984:  I remember that because it was during the first year since my childhood that I was living in New York.  I also recall that I was leaving work, which at that time was at the old American Youth Hostels headquarters on Spring Street.  

Honestly, there are only a couple of non-family members whom I can remember from my early childhood.  Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have remained friends with a childhood friend.  I suppose that in one way, at least, it would have been like other longtime relationships:  Knowing that person for so long could have been the very reason why such a person would have remained friends with me--or for wanting nothing to do with me--after I "came out."

Millie and her husband John knew me for less than a year before I started to live full-time as Justine.  Sometimes I think it's the reason why they accepted my change as readily as they did:  After all, they couldn't feel the same sense of loss that some members of my family and other people who knew me for a long time might have felt.  Plus, almost immediately upon meeting me, Millie decided that she liked me, and she tends not to change her mind about that.  

She reminded me that very soon, a year will have passed since my surgery.  Already!  And tomorrow I'm going for another bike ride.  Destination and itinerary are to be determined.