Hermitage: An Interview with David Rosasco
Monday, December 23, 2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Nelson Mandela and Nepal
Not many people affect the entire world in a great and positive way, but Nelson Mandela was surely one of very few people who did in recent years. Nepal is far from South Africa, but his influence was no less resonant there as this article makes clear.
The following article posted on Ibtimes by Gopi Chandra Kharel has tried to link connection of Nelson Mandela with Nepal, a country 5725 miles away from South Africa, and show how he have influenced Nepalese people and leaders.
Please click the link below to read the article.
Please click the link below to read the article.
DAVID’S MISSION IN WOODSIDE
|David Rosasco. Photo by Indra Tamang|
By Indra Tamang
For fifteen years I have lived with my family in the neighborhood of Woodside, Queens, and for the last nine years, on 63rd Street, up the hillside from the train station. For quite some time I’ve been curious about one of my neighbors, a big friendly man with a beard whom I see at all hours of the day making things look good. He trims hedges in people’s yards; he paints over graffiti tags on walls and garage doors; he picks trash up off the street, and he never seems to be doing it for any reason other than to make things look better. I got to know him and found out his name: David Rosasco. He is married to a Japanese lady and has a daughter about the age of my daughter Zina. In 2012, he was part of an effort to save a very old beech tree on 63rd Street, which is believed to have been planted before the Revolutionary War. Recently, I asked him if I could interview him about this occupation he’s taken upon himself—a big job he does for no pay—and last week he invited me to visit. His house is the same age and style as mine, part of the same row of attached houses built in the early 1930s with the original light fixtures and molding. Sitting in his living room, I asked him some of the questions I’d been wondering about.
David, what inspired you to do all this community work?
I lived in Japan for a very long time and the Japanese are not talkers, they’re doers. In twelve years in Japan, I never saw a public garbage can. They don’t need them. Everything is perfectly clean. I want to compete with that. When our streets are dirty it’s an embarrassment for us. I’ve never met a person from any country who likes dirty streets. There may be places where the streets are dirty, but nobody makes that a goal. Everybody can rally around that, so right away you have a coalition, and that has helped. That led to the tree planting and the repainting of public fixtures, and it’s brought a lot of people into it, with good cheer.
So you do have other people helping you?
Oh, sure. On the weekends I have my crew. We have people from the Lutheran church, we got the Mormons, we got the Muslim masjid over here, the St. Sebastian Catholic School kids, PS 11, and the odd variety of citizens and residents, all working together.
Do people donate paint?
For sure. A lot of individuals will donate paint, and the paint store over here on 65th Street and Roosevelt Ave., they donate a lot of paint. And we use our own money. And the thing with the garbage—a lot of times it’s a few people making a lot of mess. But if they see me removing it repeatedly, almost to the point of daily, there is a psychological effect. I think there’s a duty to show good examples.
When did you start doing this?
I started in July of 2006. I started by sweeping under the train station at 61st Street and Roosevelt Avenue. And that evolved in such a way that I started doing all these projects, and doing them happily. I have a map and I decided, for example, that in this zip code there would be no graffiti.
What if the graffiti is up high?
Well, I’m not going to kill myself for it, but I usually knock on the door and tell the superintendent that they should remove the graffiti. They can actually get a fine for that, even though they didn’t put it there. On the ground level I think we’ve eliminated all the graffiti at this point. I’m so invested in Woodside now.
So you started as a one-man crusade to keep Woodside beautiful?
Yeah. I believe that everybody in life has a mission. Our community is going to be in good order—so that everybody can walk safely from point A to point B, it will be clean, we’ll have more trees—and the graffiti will be gone.
Where do you find the time for all this?
You have to make the time.
Do you not have to work a regular job?
My job is irregular. I’m a translator by trade. I translate from Japanese into English. And my wife works, so that helps. My job has weeks when there’s lots of work and others where there isn’t, and that’s allowed me to do this. I don’t know what the future holds but I’ve made a commitment to this community, to give it a little bit of extra boost.
You said you started by sweeping under the train station. Didn’t the city have anyone doing it already?
No. Years ago there was sanitation management but those days are gone. Nobody wants to take responsibility. I thought the best example would be to just pick up trash and keep picking it up.
In Jackson Heights, council member Daniel Dromm occasionally has a community street cleaning event. Has any government official recognized your work?
No. But you know what? I’d rather they don’t. Because once they start recognizing it, they own it. And it’s not about them, it’s about us. My greatest fear is the government knocking on the door and saying, “Thank you for this, we’ll pay you for it!” Luckily it hasn’t happened. But different agencies of the government—not elected officials—they appreciate the effort we’re making. They see what we’re trying to do, and it’s actually a fairly large project.
Since you grew up in Queens you must have seen so much diversity in the last twenty/ thirty years.
Sure! And the best is yet to come! A lot of people look to the days gone by and say it was better then. But I think things have never been better.
You like to believe the future is better than the past?
Oh, absolutely! I’m convinced of it. I see the young kids out with me, all different races and creeds, and I’m convinced that tomorrow will be better. I don’t think Woodside has ever been as clean, to be honest with you. And I grew up here!
Did you grow up in this neighborhood?
Right on this street. My family is here. My father Anthony and my mother Louise, my brothers Anthony, Michael and Steven. When you have longstanding ties to a community, which I do, you want people to stay. And how do you get them to stay? If the streets are clean and hopefully the rents stay reasonable, people will stay. I’ve only been two places in my life; Woodside and Saitama City, Japan. That’s all I know.
Will you tell the story about the big tree that was saved from the developer’s axe?
The tree down the street. 41-52 63rd Street is the address. There used to be a house there that was knocked down. That tree has been dated to before the Revolutionary times, and it’s also a species that was not native to the Americas. They believe it was brought over by the Dutch or the British, who planted it there about 200 years ago. The developer wanted to chop the tree down. A lot of the residents protested, including my mother. See? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She fought pretty hard for the tree and they kept it. The owner of the development worked around the tree.
They were building a condominium and redesigned it, right?
Yes, they redesigned it based upon that tree. That was one little success story.
After the interview we went outside and I took a portrait of David for this post. Usually he wears work clothes and a kerchief tied around his head, but for this he wore a tie and a beret. Many thanks to David for all of his hard work for Woodside and its residents.
December 10th, 2013
Transcribed and edited by Romy Ashby
Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.
Friday, September 27, 2013
ON ELEVEN YEARS SINCE THE PASSING OF
Today, September 27th, marks the 11th anniversary of Charles’s passing. A few days ago, while I sat opening mails in Apartment 103 at the Dakota, I thought about what I might say to pay tribute on this day. I had a visit that afternoon from a man named Tate Swindell who came to talk about his friend Ronnie Burk, who I also knew for quite a long time. Ronnie first came in about 1979 to meet Charles, and Charles introduced him to many other poets and artists. He was someone who Charles took a particular liking to. His surrealistic writing style and his collages appealed to Charles, and Ronnie was a frequent visitor to the Dakota whenever he was in New York. Mr. Swindell told me that he and his brother Todd have been collecting as much by and about Ronnie as possible in order to preserve and publish it. I showed him some photographs I took of Ronnie years ago in Montauk, probably around 1996 or 1997, and he recalled an interview with Charles that Ronnie had conducted, as well as a little film Ronnie made in Apartment 103, which is on youtube now. I will post it below, and you’ll see me flash in and out of it, too.
Ronnie died not long after Charles, in 2003, and I’m thinking that there is a paper fan that Ronnie made with Greta Garbo’s face on it in one of the boxes I’ve yet to go through. I told Mr. Swindell that I would keep a lookout for anything related to Ronnie in Charles’s papers, and mine too, and after he left I came across another paper fan, large-sized, that Ray Johnson once sent to Charles with the stamps affixed right to the wood. Then my attention was caught by an article from an old issue of the Soho Weekly News, and I sat down to read it. (This is why cataloging everything takes so long.) The article, by Gregory Battcok, was about a tea Charles gave in the 1976 for Leonora Carrington right here in the same room. I remember the party well. All kinds of interesting people came and I was introduced as ‘Indra of Nepal.’ Mr. Edward Weisberger was kind enough to help me with serving the crowd. It was crowded, and I remember that Tennessee Williams didn’t want tea so I found him some vodka.
It occurred to me, while sitting there at the table where Charles sat with so many visitors over the years, that people still want to come and sit and talk about him and about art and other artists, and I can’t think of a better tribute to him than this. But there is one other thing I did that afternoon that I think Charles might appreciate: I had his phone turned back on, with the same number that always went with Apartment 103 in the Dakota. Because after Ruth died in 2009, both her telephone line and Charles’s telephone line (which had been kept on after he passed) were allowed to lapse. I had heard lately that it is very difficult now to get a '212' number in New York City, but on the off chance that it had not been taken, I called the telephone company to ask about the number. As luck would have it, the number was still available. So I grabbed it, and as of this week, there is new life for the old number.
You won’t be forgotten, Charles, and the phone will keep on ringing.
CHARLES HENRI FORD
Feb. 10, 1908 - Sept. 27 2002
|Charles Henri Ford on Full Moon Party hosted at his House in Gyaneshowr, Kathmandu. Late 1970s. Photo by Indra Tamang|
A Short Silent Film by Ronnie Burk at Apt 103, The Dakota.
Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.
Monday, September 16, 2013
COMING BACK FROM HELL
|Few days after the surgery. Photo by Zina Tamang|
There’s a saying, “If the sky falls , we shall catch larks," but for me, when the sky suddenly fell on the night of May 3rd, I caught a prostate problem. A lark would have been much nicer. My mother was leaving for Nepal on the 6th, and she was worried about me. I felt a little sorry that she’d have one more thing to worry about on the airplane.
Anyone who has experienced an enlarged prostate knows how painful it is to not be unable to urinate. It was a sudden onset for me, and once the trouble started, I went through countless visits to the urologist and three times to the emergency room. My first ER visit was to Elmhurst Hospital where I went in a car service. Usually the emergency room means a long wait but a nurse helped me quickly, and I was very relieved thanks to a catheter bag. In the following days I saw a private urologist, who said I must wear the bag for about ten days. When it finally came out, I was okay for a couple of days but then the trouble returned. My second ER visit was to Mount Sinai Hospital in upper Manhattan, which I didn’t find any better than Elmhurst. In fact, Elmhurst was even a bit more efficient, so when it came time for the third ER visit, that’s where I went, back to Elmhurst. By the time of my second visit to the ER, I was also constipated, and nothing helped relieve that until I tried regular old prune juice, which did help some. But the doctor told me later that constipation was related to my prostate problem.
Eventually, I started getting a little more used to wearing the annoying catheter bag, but I made fewer public appearances than I usually do, and only in loose trousers or athletic training wear. Then I had an examination called a cystoscopy, which needless to say was very unpleasant, and following that the doctor decided I would need surgery. The surgery itself is done in the same way as the cystoscopy exam: not with an incision but through the pee-hole. Sorry to have to say it, but that’s what it was. Some people may find this unpleasant, and I certainly did too.
Throughout all of this, because I was still able to walk and do normal things, I didn’t feel completely sick. But then, when so many people started coming to pay me visits, bringing fruit and juices and bouquets of flowers, I started thinking, "Oh, I guess I really must be sick!".
Before the surgery, Karin Gustafson arranged through colleagues for me to get a second opinion from another urology specialist in Flushing. He examined me, and he gave me the green light to go ahead and have the surgery. I had it at Elmhurst Hospital on June 24th. We left home at 8:30 in the morning, and after endless visits to various nurses’ stations, they put me on a gurney with straps everywhere and wires and tubes, and my actual operation happened at about 1:00. I didn’t have to stay the night, but I didn’t get home until 9:00 or 10:00 that evening. The operation itself only took about an hour or so, but the anesthesiologist gave me a spinal epidural, which made me feel dead from the waist down. In my head I felt that I was moving my feet, but they were like stones. It took all afternoon for the effects to wear off. When we left the hospital I had no pain, because I was still numb, but a while after coming home, I started to feel it.
Most people know that the prostate is the size of a walnut when it’s normal. But when it gets enlarged to the size of a lemon, the urine gets blocked. Everyone has been telling me to drink lots of water. I try to drink more water than I used to, and lots of cranberry juice, too.
I decided to write this little piece and post it on my blog, not to publicize my health issues, but to offer awareness of this problem, to tell what I went through and finally—especially—to thank all concerned family members, friends far and near and the doctors and nurses at the hospital and clinics who healed me. My problem was no major thing like heart surgery or brain surgery, but by the same token, even a relatively small, non-life-threatening operation can feel like going through hell.
Before I knew for sure what it was, naturally the possibility of cancer crossed my mind, and how if that were what it was I’d have to accept it. I thought of former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, for example, who went through prostate cancer and beat it. As it turned out, I was very fortunate and my problem was no fun, but it wasn’t cancer. And anyone wondering should know that I’m back to normal now. I’ll try to be vigilant in the future, and I would encourage all men, to have their prostate checkup regularly starting at age 50. And I encourage all the younger men to start drinking more water! And above all, if you have any indications that something is not right, such as difficulty peeing, do not ignore it. Be brave and go to the doctor.
Indra B. Tamang
Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.