MAY 1999 - 2/4

[Part 3/4]
Wednesday the 19th (cont'd):

Outside the courtroom MacFarlane wants to speak to me. A sudden thought occurs to me and I say: "I know what you are doing: you nag me, you harass me, you exasperate me because you're trying to push me over the edge, so that when I lose my cool and get angry you can say that I am mentally ill! But don't you know that there is a difference between being upset and being mentally ill? You know that it's not the same thing don't you? I am upset, I am very upset, and I'm considering suing the land- lord's attorney and you for defamation, because he goes around telling everybody that you are my guardian and that I'm crazy, and you don't do anything to stop him! Every time people hear that I have a guardian they treat me like I'm retarded!" "Come on Ms Picart, they don't treat you like you are retarded," she replies in the soft voice that one reserves for dangerous luna- tics.

"Besides," I say in a quiet, reasonable voice, "you say that you want to help me and what do you propose? You propose me to commit fraud on the system by pretending to be mentally ill so that I can receive benefits from PSA. You have to understand that there are a lot of people who don't want government bureaucracies to get involved in their affairs. Is that what you call helping me?" "You would not have to pretend to be mentally ill," she replies. I hold my breath. "All that's needed is for you to make an appointment with a PSA caseworker," she continues, "you don't even need to go through another mental evaluation, and they'll make a different determination that will allow you to receive their services." First I thought that she was saying that I didn't have to pretend to be nuts because I already was, but no!

She just acknowledged that I am indeed mentally sane and that an evaluation by PSA saying that I was not would actually be a fraud committed with the complicity of PSA itself!

And she expects me to believe that she would make me commit a crime to help me!

"And have a record of mental illness that will follow me for the rest of my life! Thank you very much," I say. She tries another tack. "Look, what the landlord is offering you is pretty good. If you leave within thirty days you don't owe him anything, and with the money that your mother sent you you find another place to live." "But twenty thousand francs is about five thou- sand dollars, and that's not enough to to move out and find a new place. Besides, to lease an apartment you need a credit record and you need to prove that you are working and I can't prove that! I have no income. I already told you that I'm starving. How could I find an apartment when I don't even have money to eat enough? I have lost fifteen pounds in the last three months. My breasts have melted from a C cup to a B cup! Do you know what it feels like to be hungry ALL THE TIME? Anyway, nobody will rent me an apartment without all the papers they ask for, unless maybe I can pay one or two years rent in advance. And one month! One month to move out and find a place! That's not enough time!" "And how do you support yourself?" she asks. "I told you already. I have a friend who gives me a little money. About thirty dollars a week."

"Then," she continues as if I had not objected, "after you've moved to a new place, you could speak to an expert." I know what she's driving at. "What kind of expert are you talking about?" I ask. "A psychologist, to whom you could talk about your prob- lems." "It's not a psychologist I need, it's a district attor- ney." I feel lightheaded and hungry. I don't want to talk any more. This woman has me exhausted. I tell her I've had enough talking for today and ask her to write me. As I pick up my bag and my raincoat from a bench, I repeat in disbelief: "One month and five thousand dollars to leave my apartment!" and shake my head sadly. Before turning the corner to the elevator I look at MacFarlane in the now empty hallway. She hasn't moved and has a forlorn look on her face.

Thursday the 20th:

I call her the next day and tell her to ask my mother to send me the money by Wester Union. She says that she will. She also says that she has checked with the Bar Association and they have confirmed that she has the power to make decisions and sign papers that concern me even if I don't agree. Judge Milin had said the opposite just the day before. I reply that it would be a gross usurpation for her to do that.

After hanging up I reflect that my mother will probably not send me the money. She did not want me to have it in the first place, otherwise she would have checked with me first, then she would not have sent it to a closed account. And I'm positive that through the building staff who must have noticed that I did not receive any bank statements anymore, she knew that my account was closed. I also check the exchange rate and realize that I had been wrong in my mental calculation that FF20,000 = $5,000. At the rate of FF5.00 to the dollar, it would have been $4,000, not 5,000. But the actual rate of exchange is around FF6.18 to the dollar, which would give me a meager $3,200 to find a new place to live and move out in thirty days, and eat!

I also check MacFarlane's credentials because when I checked her name at the American Bar Association's website, she was not listed as a lawyer. After calling the NY Bar Association I am directed to the Office of Court Administration. I spell her name twice for the operator, who draws a blank. "Are you sure?" I ask. She says that she's going to check another list and draws another blank. I ask her to confirm this by e-mail because it is very important that I have a written record of this. She says that she does not have the capability to send e-mail and would need an authorization from some higher-up. I only wanted to save time for chrissake! I give her my street address. Finally, just when the voice in the pay phone asks me to add five cents for the next three minutes and I have run out of change, it appears that the woman had misunderstood the spelling. "I thought you were saying MASCARLANE," she says. Maybe she never heard of MacDonald or MacIntosh. "Please deposit five cents for the next three minutes or your call will be discontinued." "MacFarlane, Mina: admitted to the Bar in 1997," the woman cuts in, and the phone call is cut off.

Later I reflect that MacFarlane, Judge Milin and Judge Klein had all addressed different issues that I raised in my motion of May 17 for the recusal of Judge Milin and in my motion of Novem- ber 27, 1998 to amend my Answer, but they had addressed the issues in an oblique manner, in an effort to convince me that my motions were unfounded and in an attempt to make me withdraw them.

My boyfriend Felix says that he has no exclusive rights on me because he's already married and that, as long as I use a condom, I am free to have sex with other men. It's not the first time he makes this suggestion. Last winter he had suggested that I get some condoms and find some men in Central Park. I had answered: "Para que me maten!" (So they can kill me!) I protest that he starves me to force me into prostitution and that he acts jealous when I speak with Mike.

Friday the 21st:
A white Puerto Rican man has arrived in the neighborhood a few days ago. He seems to be homeless and spends all his time sitting in front of the bodega where my thirty-dollars-a-week sugar daddy works as a stock clerk, or in the storage room. One day I see one of the beer drinking hangers-out (Julio) holding a string instru- ment that does not look like a guitar. He does not know how to play it. I ask who owns it and he tells me that Mike, ("Mikee" in Spanish) the new man on the block is the owner and that he can play it.

The next time I see Mikee I talk to him about Puerto Rican folk music and my particular liking for "musica jibara", the music played by the Puerto Rican peasants. He says that that's what he plays. I say that I am very fond of what they call the "decimas", which is an improvised form of poetry on ten-lines stanzas practiced by Puerto Ricans as well as Cubans. I say that I studied Jazz guitar for six years and that the more I know about music the more I like "musica tipica" with its fresh- sounding acoustic instruments and the raw voice of its singers. He says that he has a group on the East Side, I say that I want to go listen to him and that sort of things. All this exchange takes place in Spanish.

So on this Friday, around 6:30 PM Mikee takes out his cuatro, starts tuning it (a long-drawn affairs because each of the six strings is double in unison like a twelve-string guitar but with a different tuning) and tells me to bring my guitar, which I do. When he's satisfied with his tuning he asks me to tune my guitar to his cuatro. I ask for an A but for some reason he doesn't give it to me. I ask him to play an E minor chord and from that I tune my guitar, about a half-tone higher than the tuning I had done with a tuning fork in my room. He positions himself in front of me and close enough that I can hear his cuatro right into my ears, and he starts with a fast tempo on a simple three-chord harmony. I play rhythm to his melody, which he enriches with vicious syncopations but he doesn't throw me, I have a lot of fun and we finish the tune with a soft landing. A little crowd has gathered around us and they are all watching and listening. I'm exhilarated and want to do another one but Mikee disappears into the bodega and does not return for a good fifteen minutes, so I play and sing some Latin tunes that I had pulled out of my dusty music files and revised the past few days. One of my favorites is a bolero called "Cosas del Alma" from Eddie Palmieri's record "Adoracion". I learned the lyrics back in France in 1982 or so, the late pianist Jorge Dalto wrote down the chords for me in New York in 1983, then my guitar teacher Pat Fleming gave me the guitar chords in 1988. I had never sung that tune in front of anybody and now one man in the audience crushed a tear and said "Ella sabe tocar." (She can play) which I took as an understated compliment. Most of the tunes I played were widely popular and the look of recognition in the audience's eyes was pleasant to behold. Some even sang along.

I had run out of Latin tunes when Mohammed, the grocery store owner whom I've been cutting dead these past few months entered the bodega, then left in the direction of the park. Our eyes met briefly. Then Mikee returned and we played one or two more tunes when a man with a guitar appeared standing motionless and straight as a stick in front of me with a totally blank expres- sion on his face and Mikee asked me to cede him my place. I picked up the maracas and accompanied them until the bodega closed at 11PM.

Saturday the 22nd
I write a letter to Nat Hentoff but do not send it, since I haven't yet written my account of my day in court of May 19th.

Mikee and I started playing around 6 and I enjoyed it although I regretted not knowing the tunes, which would have avoided some wrong chords here and there. Mohammed passed in the street again and at 7 the guitarist was again standing in front of me like an apparition and I gave up my seat. I sang "Inolvidable" while playing the maracas while Pepin, the guitarist and Mikee accompa- nied me, and I played the maracas the rest of the evening.

Felix, my sugar daddy, gives me a hard time because I spend time with Mikee. I say that I'm only interested in playing music with him and that I don't see anything wrong in making people feel happy, besides I have nothing else to do and I'm tired of spending all my time in my apartment. He says that this guy is "basura" (trash).

Tuesday the 25th:
I was in the bodega buying a cigar when the PSA caseworker who did a mental evaluation of me last december approached me. I recognized him immediately and felt angry right away because I had told MacFarlane that I would not subject myself to a second round. I told him that I knew what he wanted to do and that I didn't want to speak to him. He wanted us to go out of the bodega to talk because this was not the proper place to discuss my affairs but I said again that I had no intention of speaking of my affairs with him and that if his supervisor asked him, he could say that I had refused to speak with him. I said that one interview was enough, that he had found that I was mentally competent, that I could take care of myself and that I wanted to leave it at that. He replied that somebody else from his office would come to see me. I said that that person would get the same kind of welcome. He asked me if I was aware that I had a guardian ad litem. I said that this guardian had not been lawfully ap- pointed. He waited for me outside the bodega for a while, while inside the bodega I waited for him to leave. Finally he left. I explained to the counter woman who this man was, that he was from a city agency that I didn't want to be involved with.

Later I saw Mikee. I told him, stupid me, that I had been busy writing a 26 page document and that was why I had not been around the past few days. I also told him about the PSA man, and said that with all the homosexuals, transvestites, transexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes who populate the building, it was ironic that I should be targeted by mental health people.

I took it for granted that I had passed his test with flying colors and that from now on he considered me a capable musician, and since I allowed him to play his tunes, which he could not do with Pepin who played his own repertory, I assumed that Mikee would look forward to playing with me. So I behaved towards him with warm comradry. I told him that Felix acted jealous because of him and he said indignantly "Es un sucio!" (He's dirty-mind- ed). I told him Felix was so cheap that I had to beg him for money every day, that he gave me two or three dollars a day and that it drove me crazy, that my landlord did not let me work otherwise I would not go with Felix, then I asked him if he would object to passing around a hat when we played and he said that was ok. [Part 3/4] [ToC]

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