Friday, February 24, 2012

2-24-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #52 (Elder Care -- Part Two, Working Eldercare in Greenwich Village)

(photo is actually one of my grandma, Ethel, circa 1925. The fashion and hairstyle is typical of women from that time; there are none of Nadya Olyanova that I could find online . . . )

I presume you’ve returned to the blogsite for a continuation of survival job #52 (perhaps -- I’m not great at keeping track of how many actual different jobs, though if each Nervus Rex gig counts, there’d be lots).

Welcome back to “Working Eldercare in Greenwich Village.” Those “wild young things” of the flapper era in the roaring twenties were growing old and demented by the early ‘80’s. One of them, a woman named Nadya Olyanova Carruthers (the latter, her deceased husband’s name), was in need of somebody to look in on her for a few hours a day, take her to the grocery store, on walks, etc. Some light housekeeping and cooking was a part of the deal -- and at the time, I was fine with the “light” side of cleaning house (and a tolerably good cook, actually).

Older generations (those born before the nineteen forties, say) were much enamored of alcohol and tobacco. I can’t say that’s what made their bodies break down or their minds susceptible to more of the geriatric health risks. . . but I somehow think the “bathtub gin” and suspicious blends of spirits from the Prohibition era, along with chainsmoking, might have not been the best thing, long term, for people like Nadya.

Like I mentioned previously, when we met (through my friend, Jack B.), she had me write a page in longhand as a sample for her to analyze before deigning to hire me as a part time helper. She lived in the West Village, off of Hudson Street, maybe on Horatio Street.

When she was napping or otherwise engaged, I’d read through her handwriting analysis books, enjoying the additional pointers she made about specific handwriting traits. Cool stuff. She didn’t tell me that she’d analyzed Hitler’s hand. . . or had a big radio audience for her work back in the heyday of radio. She never mentioned studying with Alfred Adler, either -- but perhaps she didn’t think that’d be interesting to me!

Anyhow, in the day-to-day of working with her, I’d arrive in the morning with my own set of keys at, say, nine o’clock. Usually, Nadya would be up, and would act kind of cranky. I’d have to make sure she’d eaten something for breakfast, then clean up a little. I’d ask where we’d be walking today -- to which she’d usually balk and say she’d rather stay in. Having been given instructions to take a daily walk with my charge, I’d cajole and try to reason, I’d joke and play the toughie. I reckon she liked the attention, and that she also liked to argue. Almost every day, we did wind up going out after a session of major cajoling etc.. The usual destination was to the neighborhood grocery store or to the supermarket, the D’Agostino’s, probably. “D’Ag’s” was a pricier place to buy food than my local Grand Union on Bleecker and LaGuardia Place, so I felt a slight annoyance that we had to spend more money in the West Village (but it IS a pricier neighborhood, anyway).

More often than not, Nadya would buy flavored yogurts or stuff that wasn’t super nutritious, but tolerable to her digestion and tastebuds. Even though I offered to cook more complex dishes (ones that required actual cooking), Nadya refused anything that required a fuss.

I mentioned that I was seeing Dr. Anna Manska, a village fixture, an aged General Practitioner who was especially sympathetic to women and women’s problems (psychological as well as physical). It was well known downtown that Dr. Manska was an easy touch for valium prescriptions and renewals. I liked her brusque candor and willingness to help get to the heart of the matter when I was sick (not too often!). Dr. Manska also charged very little for office visits, a good thing because so few of us had any kind of health insurance (leading the thrilling bohemian life in Greenwich Village!).

At the mention of Anna Manska, Nadya sniffed, “I knew her,” and said she was also in medical school -- as if there were some sort of competition. In fact, back in the nineteen thirties, so few women went to medical school (and hailed from Mother Russia, like Manska and Olyanova), so probably Nadya did feel a little competitive.

One day, when she seemed pretty lucid and in a good mood, I asked her about the old days in the village, and if people back then ran around and fooled around a lot -- you know, had sexual relationships like they had in modern days.

“Oh yes, but it was on the Q-T.”

Um, huh? What was that? “Nadya, what’s a Q-T?”

She smiled mischievously. “It was on the quiet -- on the Q-T.” I was given to understand that people ran around and acted every bit as wildly as they did in the writings of Dorothy Parker. How cool was that?

But as cool as Nadya Olyanova Carruthers could at times be to hang out with, there were also the days that you wish had never happened. . .

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