Archive for the ‘New York Life’ Category

The Old Days

November 6, 2017

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I love to eavesdrop on conversations in public places. I immediately get out my pen and start scribbling. The quartet of old timers contributing to the conversation I heard below in a coffee shop was composed of three guys and a woman. Lifers in the neighborhood.

“…and this is the killer. On each table they have a container of chocolate syrup and a bottle of seltzer!”

“And then you get the chopped liver and the schmaltz.”

“Ya know, I went to the doctor today. I picked up two containers of coffee. One was for the receptionist…”

“Did you use your coupon?”

“Yeah. I had to wait two hours. The doctor overbooked the appointments.”

“I remember this doctor down on Mulberry St. He weighed about 270. At the end of each day, he would go into those restaurants like he was going to the electric chair. And he smoked Camels! He lived to be 90 years old.”

“He was a two dollar-three dollar doctor. If you didn’t have money, he wouldn’t ask for any. But his wife was the receptionist! She wouldn’t let you out of the office unless you paid.”

“I remember this doctor who used rusty needles. He dipped them in alcohol. If the Health Department ever walked in, fuggettaboutit!”

“I remember when ice cream sundaes was 15 cents. With real strawberries in there.”

“In the theater, nickel candy was a dime, so you brought your own.”

“I remember when I saw that movie Avatar.”

“You gotta be sick to see that. Space ships flying all over the place. 3-D glasses!”

” If you take them off, you can’t see the movie. It’s blurry.”

“What a racket!”

“I hear a lot of people are running away from Scientology.”

“John Travolta…I seen that place they have in L.A. Tom Cruise…”

“Did you see a rabbi molested that kid yesterday? He got pinched.”

“Did you hear a rabbi said that lox is not kosher? That was in the Second Avenue Deli. They were slicing it. I was getting hungry just watching it.”

“On Tirdy-Tird Street?”

“I said to him, ‘See that good looking guy walk in? Sheyna boychik.’ ” And he said to me, “Shyena maidela.”

“My blood pressure is 103 over 70.”

“That’s too low.”

“When I exercise, it goes down to 98.”

“Whoa. That’s too low!”

“You seen Gladys lately?”

“She’s a pretty bright woman. You can’t screw around with her. She knows where it’s at.”

“She had her little dog in a carriage with a Santa suit on.”

“What about that guy whose car crashed into a crowd of people at 90 miles an hour? He’s been in jail for two years.”

“Remember in the old days? The handbrake? Now, I wouldn’t be able to find it.”

“Mine’s on the left on the floor.”

“Mine’s in the middle. It’s a foreign car.”

 

 

Checking out

October 27, 2017

Walgreens

I was standing on line at the Duane Reade/Walgreens on 57th St. and 6th Avenue during lunchtime. An expensive Business Suit reeking of finance was ready to check out his purchases with the cashier, a 60-something Asian male with a bowl haircut.

“Hey,” said the Suit to the cashier, brandishing a Visa card. “Someone left their credit card! Look! She’s leaving the store. Go stop her and give her the card!”

As the cashier took off, the Suit remained immobile, reveling in save-the-day mode, and overseeing as the poor cashier abandoned his post and sprinted to the front door, frantically semaphore-ing the plastic card and pleading, “Excuse me! Excuse me!”

The woman stopped abruptly (for the record, she resembled Susie Essman from Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiam), her face a frozen rictus of Who the hell and why are you chasing after me, you maniac? One of her feet was already planted on the sidewalk.

“You forget your card? You forget your card?” the desperate cashier called out.

A mere glance at the neon-blue color of the small plastic rectangle revealed the answer. “No!” she rasped. “That’s not my card!” She stormed out.

The cashier trotted dutifully back to his post.

The Suit would not be dissuaded from his humanitarian mission. “Who was your last customer?” he demanded.

“Someone else,” said the cashier.

 

 

Memories are Motionless

June 2, 2016

“Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are.” – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

tribeca $1900 300sqft

Earlier today, taking a break from painting, I googled studio prices in NYC to check out the going rate. The above studio is on the market in Tribeca. For 300 sq. ft. you will pay $1875.00/month!

Once upon a time, I rented a painting studio of my own. The space was larger than the the space above. For 400 sq. ft. I paid $400.00/month. Situated above a clock store in Williston Park on Long Island, a decidedly unhip but affordable and convenient location at the time,  northern light flooded my studio all day long. I was in heaven.

Excited to have a dedicated workspace I could get as dirty as I wanted, I laid down a roll of cheap linoleum, moved in my work table and supplies and got to work.

One morning as I arrived, the proprietor of the store below me was standing amidst a forest of chiming grandfather clocks, front door open. He introduced himself right away and asked me what I was up to, mentioning he always heard music playing. He then said he enjoyed (rather than objected to) the music and seemed a bit tickled to find out that someone was making art in the space above him instead of preparing tax returns or teaching traffic school.

I fondly recalled my studio days as I stepped back from the easel this afternoon to assess the progress of a new painting. My studio is the second bedroom of the two bedroom apartment we rent in Queens. I never did put down linoleum, but I guess I should have.

It’s fun to fantasize about the days when I painted full time as I spend my days off from a dreadful office job. I’m not complaining, per se, but occasionally on days like these I enjoy torturing myself by thumbing through an artist book I own called Studios by the Sea. 

To refer back to Bachelard in Poetics of Space, he writes: “…even when we no longer have a garret, when the attic room is lost and gone, there remains the fact that we once loved a garret, once lived in an attic. We return to them in our night dreams.”

This is so true. At heart, I’m a romantic. A big part of me loves to dream and yearn. Loves the yearning part more than the actual getting. The aroma of coffee beans in the grinder more delicious than drinking the brew. As I flipped through Studios by the Sea I wished and imagined. Sometimes walking around NYC, I will find myself gazing longingly at a 19th century townhouse on the Upper East Side — yearning to live there. And enjoying every minute of yearning.

During my recovery from a broken ankle last summer, I would pass a particular townhouse on East 63rd St. on the way to physical therapy. A painting hanging on the wall by artist Caio Fonseca was visible through the expansive front window. It held my eye each time I passed by. His work is a favorite of mine. As I stopped to gaze, I conjured an entire fantasy scenario based upon seeing his work hanging in that space. On the landing beneath the painting an elegant ebony grand piano, keyboard exposed, was poised to be played. Above hung a glittering crystal chandelier. Aware Fonseca played the piano, I was convinced it was a Steinway and that Fonseca lived in the townhouse.

But he didn’t live in the townhouse as I would come to find out. The scene – his painting, the piano, the splendor of the decor  – had been staged by a real estate agent, likely another “romantic” like myself. That agent, through his or her design, had gifted me many evenings of yearning and pleasurable wanderings.

Fantasy is better than the reality. I suppose people who invest in their “dream house” spend the rest of their lives “making it even better than they imagined” with continual remodeling because intrinsically they know that dreams are never realized. Otherwise, they would no longer be dreams.

…the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” – Bachelard

 

Six Degress of Something

June 16, 2015

As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.

– Proverbs 27:8

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Sky over Keeseville, NY 

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you probably know about the intense manhunt going on in upstate New York. Specifically, the two escaped convicted murderers on the lam from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

The dramatic events at Dannemora cannot help but bring to mind the road trip I took in October 2014 in upstate New York.

A brilliant blue sky and skein of geese dappling the sheer of cirrus clouds is how I would prefer to remember the out-of-time, carefree days of our drive through the Adirondack Park Preserve, Champlain Islands, and state of Vermont.

But my recollections of abundant waterfalls, Slippery Elms and rolling acres of emerald green have been darkened by the you-can-run-but-you-cannot-hide reality of the escapees in upstate N.Y. and sorry fate of the sad-faced woman who aided and abetted them in their escape.

Below is a map pinpointing Keeseville, NY in Clinton County (see the southeast corner of the white area), where I photographed the heavenly sky above in an open field. Notice its proximity to Dannemora.

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Our itinerant getaway took us all around the Adirondack Park Preserve. Through Elizabethville going north, through Keeseville, Schyler Falls, Eagle Bay, Lake Placid, visiting all the lakes (and there are many), and spending two nights in Saranac Lake, which we used as a departure point. Old school paper map spread across my lap (my favorite way to travel — I’m an explorer/navigator at heart), we covered practically all of the backroads — north, south, east and west inside the park.

AdirondacksField

On one particular day, riding Rte. 3 on the way to Plattsburgh, we passed to our left a sign for Rte. 374, the road that leads to Dannemora. Which, if you’ll notice, rhymes with Gomorra.

I was no stranger Dannemora. Not in memory, anyway. In my 20’s, I worked in a business office in Queens, NY teeming with crazy people. One Friday afternoon, Grace, our supervisor, a gum snapper from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, confided a secret to me, totally unbidden. We were neither office friends nor friends on any level. I didn’t know why she chose me as her confidant. Truth be told, her spidery, lacquered fingernails; formidable presence; jet black, Morticia-like hair (her best feature); and “moldy elbows” kind of spooked me.

She told me that she and her boyfriend, a guy from her neighborhood who was doing a stretch in Dannemora for armed robbery, were getting married that very weekend. In prison. She swore me to secrecy.

Dannemora

How romantic!

During my 4-year employment in that office, her secret spouse had been sprung from prison. Immediately after his release, Grace began planning thei wedding reception, which would be held in Bensonhurst. I was invited.

There would be no redundant ceremony, only a reception. About 100 guests convened at a catering hall (which resembled a reimagined high school auditorium). At one end of the vast space was an elevated stage. The carmine velvet curtains fronting the stage were closed. Tables were set up where rows of auditorium seats used to be.

After cocktails, the guests were seated at their tables. The wedding band played a what passed for fanfare as the curtains slowly parted. The newlyweds, Grace and her shifty-eyed, ants-in-the-pants husband, were seated onstage in separate thrones, kingly and queenly. The house lights dimmed. Pinpricked with theatrical stars, the backlit domed ceiling flickered above our heads.

Grace’s husband looked like a gangster. If you squinted, he sort of resembled the older of the two escaped convicts from Dannemora; namely, Richard Matt, in his younger days — just another James Dean, Clyde Barrow, Pretty Boy Floyd wannabe — except, he was the real thing.

MATT

A couple of weeks after the reception, Grace’s father telephoned her at work. In keeping with the time-honored Italian tradition of families and their offspring living in close proximity, sometimes under the same roof forever and ever, Grace’s father lived right next door to her.

Grace yelled into the phone. She swore into the receiver. “What!” she said. “I’m gonna f*ckin’ kill him!”

We figured out from Grace’s responses that she had been informed by her papa that Mr. Romance had arrived home with another woman on his arm. Both of them were now inside of her house.

“Son if a bitch!” she screamed and slammed down the phone.

She grabbed her enormous purse and brass ring of a hundred keys and a rabbit’s foot and jangled out of the office a muderous rage.

Guess what happened next. D-I-V-O-R-C-E. What a surprise.

Not too long after that, I quit this mind numbing job when our married general manager, who was about 30 years older than I and who, when I was first hired, called me on my office phone and offered to buy me an expensive new wardrobe if I would only go out with him (to which I declined, mortified), was arrested and convicted of mail fraud.

Ha ha.

 

 

How To Break Your Ankle

April 13, 2015

FrozenPathCPGo for an early morning walk in Central Park on the first warmish morning of almost-Spring weather (low 40’s on February 21st).

Gingerly walking along a dirty frozen path (with just a hint of melt) will imbue you with the false sense of invincibility.

Life is beautiful (or soon will be).

GeesePoliceWave to the Geese Police in his van. He will wave back and hide his face (with shame). Not a good omen, crossing his path,  especially with respect to the warning on the back fender: Get the Flock Out.

LastSnow3.21.15

Rejoice on March 21st over what will be the final snowfall of winter in Jackson Heights. Extoll the wondrous snow covered trees, their enchanting beauty. Believe with cautious optimism you will not likely witness this snow globe for at least another 6 or 7 months (and that the use of a shovel in order to move your car will be banished for same).

Celebrate by taking a drive to the east end of Long Island with your S.O. Specifically, to Watermill.

View the work of east end artists at the Parish Museum, as in the work of the wonderful Fairfield Porter, an artist with a deep understanding of color.

Ooh and aah. Love life.

FPorterParish

GreenApplesPorter

PorterTablejpg

Prolong the feeling of unfettered bliss that viewing art invokes. Enjoy the escape into nature so far from the city. Traverse the snow-covered grounds of the museum (where sirens;  honking horns and thumping car stereos are long out of earshot).

Regard a tree standing upright before  a deep blue sky of puffy clouds. Take a photo.

SoloTree

Notice the quartet of misshapen trees.

CrookedTrees(Take note of the red arrow on the left, above)

Heed the scrawny Charlie Brown tree beckoning to you (“culprit”).  Scale a low guard rail with your right foot to photograph sad little tree. Lose your footing. Skid down backwards into a ditch at a 45-degree angle. Try to brake the fall with your heel. Wrench your foot severely. Sharply descend toward the inverted point of a triangular trough, deceptively masked by snow cover.

Twist your ankle unnaturally. Succumb to immobilizing pain.

Break your ankle in not 1, but 2, places. Proceed to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead (ominously, where S.O. and I were transported by ambulance after a car accident in September 2012).

Welcome with gratitude the splint administered to foot and leg by caring staff; accept a gift of crutches and excellent pain killers. Elevate bad foot on the dashboard of car on the ride home.

Stop at Starbucks for chai latte and much needed sugar fix. Request to your S.O. for no sudden stops is duly noted.

Visit orthopedist in Manhattan on March 23. No plaster cast for you! Instead, foot is installed in heavy black foam and plastic boot (lint magnet), misnomered as “walking cast.” (Due to sharp pain when boot touches ground; legs now at unequal lengths due to heavy, thick unstable rocker sole rendering boot impossible to “walk” in).

Secure boot to leg with 5 strips of velcro threaded through their respective rectangular hardware.

You must sleep in this boot. It weighs a ton. You must elevate your leg all day. You must remove boot for intermittent icing of the ankle and foot. You must continue this regimen at daily intervals until next doctor visit.

You must continue navigating the apartment on crutches.

Das Boot

BigBoot

Revisit orthopedist on April 6. Continue with daily regimen. Plan on 6-8 weeks to heal.

To stave off cabin fever:

You will read cover-to-cover January, February and March back issues of The New Yorker  (N.B., in March 9th issue – powerful story by Toni Morrison).

You will read Skeletons of the Zahara a tome by Dean King (unputdownable, true story of survival that ends well for the main character).

You will continue with obsessively readable essay collection called Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio.

You will begin reading We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (set in your current environs of Woodside and Jackson Heights).

You will finish reading back issues of Poets & Writers magazine.

You will watch art films lasting over 3 hours (mostly Russian, Turkish and Scandinavian). You will watch Trip to Italy twice.

You will re-watch Swan Lake ballet DVD for the umpteenth time.

You will plan a to visit orthopedist on April 27 for a new x-ray.

Fingers crossed.

GOOD THINGS COME IN FOURS

February 15, 2015

This is a “meme” I found on the web. Adding my answers to a list of suggestions seemed like a painless way to re-enter the blog after a long hiatus. Nice to be back…

FOUR NAMES THAT PEOPLE HAVE CALLED ME OTHER THAN MY REAL NAME: 

1. Miss Mermaid

2. La Suzz

3. Lightning

redBolts

4. Soozie Doozie

FOUR JOBS I’VE HAD:

1. Newspaper columnist

2. Professional sales rep

3. Legal Secretary

4. Teacher

images         artteacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR MOVIES I’VE WATCHED MORE THAN ONCE:

1. Chinatown

2. The Birds

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3. All About Eve

 

4. Rosemary’s Baby

220px-Rosemarys_baby_poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR BOOKS I’D RECOMMEND:

1. Into the Wild

2. Any novel by Elizabeth Strout (Amy and Elizabeth; Abide With Me; Olive Kitteridge; The Burgess Boys)

3. Wild

4. Anna Karenina

FOUR PLACES I’VE LIVED:

1. Brooklyn, NY

2. Hicksville, NY

3. Sag Harbor, NY

4. Sierra Madre, CA

FOUR MEMORABLE PLACES I’VE VISITED:

1. Florence, Italy

2. Grand Canyon, AZ

4. Moscow and Leningrad, Soviet Union

5. Katmandu, Nepal

FOUR THINGS I PREFER NOT TO EAT:

1. Meat

2. Nutella

3. Tofu

4. Tomato sauce that comes in a jar

FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS:

1. Pasta

2. Fish Lemongrass

Thai-style Steamed Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Potato Rajas Tacos (ala Border Grill in Santa Monica, CA)

4. Homemade soups (best minestrone ever)

FOUR SHOWS I WATCH:

1. BBC TV

2. Downton Abbey

3. Portlandia

4. Wolf Hall

FOUR THINGS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR:

1. Spring!!!!

 CherryblossomsTree

 2. David Vann’s new novel, Aquarium (March 2015).

3. To fully exploit the Merlin bird app on my iPhone

4. Updating my website with new art work

FOUR THINGS I’M ALWAYS SAYING:

1. Okay, whatever

2. There is nowhere affordable to live!

3. Are you kidding me?

4. Have you ever heard of a tissue??! Would you please cover your mouth when you cough??! (muttered to myself on the subway)

FOUR THINGS I DON’T REALLY WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ANYMORE: 

1. Cartoons depicting the prophet who shall remain nameless. Time to make fun of something else and call it art.

2. Snarky, clueless tweeters and their pathological lack of empathy and social conscience.

3. Shootings; guns; murdered people

4. Bruce Jenner

Zombie Commute

August 29, 2014

FTrainZombiesZOMBIE OBLIVION

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YankeeFanUNDEAD YANKEE FAN

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 ZombieLoveZOMBIE LOVE

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ZombieAndGhostHOW MUCH IS THAT ZOMBIE IN THE WINDOW?

A Cubicle Is A Cubicle Is A Cubicle

July 13, 2014

CubicleLife

My Work Space

“…the room where the walls come together…”

– E..A. Poe, The Pit and the Pendulum

No matter how management attempts to aggrandize their decision to relocate a hardworking, dedicated employee (moi) from 3 long years in a strangulating cubicle; to a 3-month tease in a vast open space; and back again to a strangulating cubicle, the end result is exactly as Bela Lugosi described it, above, in The Raven. 

Torture. Delicious torture.

In a Q&A appearing in the Business Section of the Times today, Paula Antonelli, Sr. Curator at MOMA, is asked about her office. Her response is the best description about life inside a cubicle I have encountered, outside of Poe’s and Lugosi’s.

This is what she says:

“I have my own office, and I am lucky to have it. It is better to have privacy, but if I were to choose between a cubicle and completely open space, I would choose open space.

The illusion of privacy is worse than no privacy. It bothers you; [whereas] a conversation between two people wouldn’t bother you at all.”

This is the 21st Century. You would never know it the majority of offices. Only in New York? Even in New York.

 

Where have all the employees gone?

Gone to cubicles, everyone.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

Cosmic Joke

June 13, 2014

HotDog

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WHAT DID THE BUDDHIST MONK SAY TO THE HOT DOG VENDOR?

monk“MAKE ME ONE WITH EVERYTHING.”

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THE VENDOR PREPARES THE HOTDOG AND HANDS IT TO THE MONK.  THE MONK GIVES HIM A TWENTY.

THE VENDOR POCKETS THE MONEY AND TURNS TO HELP THE NEXT CUSTOMER.

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monk “BUT WHERE IS MY CHANGE?” says the monk.

 

HotDogBank “CHANGE,” says the vendor, “MUST COME FROM WITHIN.”

Looking for a fantasy place to live?

May 26, 2014

BoicevilleYellow

BOICEVILLE, NEW YORK

Earlier this month, on an extended weekend away in Tompkins County, we drove by a cluster of brightly painted cottages nestled in this make believe setting. The brilliant hues seemed more at home in the Caribbean than upstate New York. Someone less jaded than I, at first glance, might think: how charming, how cute.

My initial reaction was CULT. Or extremist Mormons.

VioletHouses

I googled Boiceville, NY to find out what this settlement was all about. The results yielded the following information:

Inspired by the Barbara Cooney illustrations in “Miss Rumphius,” a children’s book he read to his daughters, Bruno Schickel designed and built Boiceville Cottages beginning in 1996. Bruno utilized his experience with Schickel Construction, a company he founded in 1985 and continues to run, to design an interior that was complementary to the charming illustrations of seaside cottages that inspired the exterior shape of the Boiceville Cottages.

Okay, it’s a little scary to re-imagine real life as a storybook…

I must confess, the amenities offered by this too-close-for-comfort housing set up are envy-inducing.

The cottages are furnished with a washer/dryer (what I wouldn’t give to have my own washing machine again); fridge; stove; even a dishwasher for goodness sake — not to mention a 5′ x 10′ garden box to plant your own organic vegetables.

And if you attend Cornell, the university is 15 minutes away. However, there is no partying in Boiceville, where even pets are well behaved. Boiceville is life in the Quiet Car.

By the way, rental rates are not listed on their website. So it may be a case of if you need to ask, you can’t afford it.

Yet the other amenities: no fire truck horns blaring at the traffic light (no traffic lights!), no ambulance sirens (no hospitals nearby!), no mega bus engines (no subway stations to commute to!), no thumping car stereos to disturb your sleep…are also very attractive.

My present state of mind could be described as one of longing. Longing for the peace and quiet of Rosebarb Farm, where we stayed in Caroline, NY, earlier this month, about a 10 minute drive from the mythical Boiceville.

Wouldn’t I love to be sitting in the gazebo at the farm right now…listening to bird songs and sonorous ringing of wind chimes…horses whinnying in the barn…drone of spring peepers (teeny little frogs) from the fields…

ViewGazebo

View from the gazebo

…and later on take a drive up to Trumansburg for NYC pizza…

Trumansburg

…and chill out.

Ahhh. Next October…