My Old Band! Manhattan Samba!

I used to drum with this band. We’d play every weekend at S.O.B’s and at every parade. It was great fun!! But I got tired of the late nights. I could really participate in gigs like this though. Except I’m very rusty. I’d have to get back into drumming shape.

Trying to Sleep In When You Have Cats

Anyone with cats will recognize the following scenario. It’s from my book Waiting For My Cats to Die, and it was written about my cats at the time, Veets and Beamers.

6:30AM. Beamers jumps up on my chest and wakes me up.
6:33AM. Veets bats my face with a paw, nails extended.
6:38AM. Beams sits behind my head and starts treadling.
6:43AM. Beamers jumps up on my chest again.
6:44AM. Beamers drools on my arm.
6:49AM. One of them digs, continuously, for five minutes straight, in the kitty litter.
6:49AM. I can smell it.
6:50AM. Beamers jumps up on the coffee table, lands on a magazine, and slides off the other
6:52AM. Veets jumps on my chest from across the livingroom floor.
6:53AM. I think I slept for a minute.
6:54AM. Veets jumps on my chest, misses, digs his nails into my chest to stop from falling, falls anyway, dragging his nails down my chest.
6:55AM. Veets starts eating from the garbage. I try to remember if I threw out anything poisonous.
6:56 AM. Beamers picks up a ping pong ball and cries with the ping pong ball stuck in his mouth and I think it’s because it’s too big for his mouth and he’s crying for me to help him get it out before he chokes to death and I have to rush him to the hospital but then he drops it.
6:57AM. Veets and Beams charge up to my desk. (Pigeon in the window.)
6:57AM. I watch them because what if they get cut to ribbons crashing through the window to get the pigeon and I have to rush them to the hospital.
6:59AM. Veets starts gagging. I watch him to see if it’s just a furball or something worse and I have to rush him to the hospital but it turns out to be a furball. “Gack. Gack. Gack.” (Their furball throwing-up noise.)
6:59AM. Beams starts eating the leaves from a plant, which makes him vomit.
6:59AM. I push him away from the plant.
6:59AM. Now Veets is eating a leaf.
7:00AM. When is someone going to love me who isn’t a cat? I get up.

This is a picture of Bali when he was a kitten, sitting in a dish on my shelf. To his left is a picture of Veets and Beams, and to his right is a picture of Veets. Yes, I am insane.

Qualifications for Nurses on Blackwell’s Island

Blackwell's Island
I write and talk a lot about the fact that convicts from the Workhouse were used as nurses and attendants over at the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island (with predictably bad results).

But in 1875, a Training School for Nurses was launched on the island. The idea of professional, educated nurses was still a very novel development, although nursing schools had already been in operation since 1873 at Bellevue and other hospitals in New England. The two year program at Blackwell’s was open to women between twenty and thirty-five years old, who could present certificates affirming their moral character and health.

Apparently looks were as important as moral character and health (intelligence was not mentioned). From the 1875 Department of Public Charities and Correction Annual Report:

“The sensitiveness of many patients requires that nurses should have nothing disagreeable or repulsive in their outward appearance. (Any facial skin disease or defect is a sufficient cause for disqualification.) A hoarse or screechy voice, offensive breath and perspiration, may also cause much annoyance to patients.”

The entrance to the hospital, taken later, in the 20th century.

Blackwell's Island

Haunting Faces of Blackwell’s Island

Blackwell's Island Faces
I spent an afternoon browsing images in the Municipal Archives collections, and hitting +++ on all the pictures of Blackwell’s Island which had people in them. This is a picture of a man in one of the hospitals.

It makes me think of Father Herman Blumensaat’s comments about Almshouse inmates from the Woodstock Letters (the Almshouse was the last resort for homeless paupers.)

“Poor creatures, as a rule, they are lost for this world … They walk listless to their grave, for it is their only hope and even the desire of many. Often do I hear, ‘Father, I want to die.’”