Posts Tagged ‘NY’

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

IMG_0602

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.

 clintoncnty

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.

 

 

Big Rat Invades 37th Avenue

February 4, 2014

The Big Rat has come to Jackson Heights!

BIG_RAT_JH

Welcome to the neighborhood.

This is the most notable event in Jackson Heights since the Thai Restaurant opened for business a couple of weeks ago. The excitement continues on 37th Ave.

Our Excellent Vacation – Day 3

November 16, 2013

MONDAY: BREAKFAST AT BROOKTON’S

BrooktonsOutsideBrookton’s Market

Monday morning meant breakfast at Brookton’s Market. No need to drive. The Rosebarb’s alerted us to a shortcut running through the woods not far from the farm. A steep downward trek on a one-lane incline (so steep, it’s closed in winter) brought us just yards away from Brookton’s.

As soon as we walked inside we fell in love with Brookton’s. We ordered two scrambled eggs sandwiches with Pepperjack cheese on onion bagels.  We sat at a small table up front. Willie Nelson’s voice, relaxing and heartfelt, singing acoustic covers of Kris Kristofferson songs, streamed out of a “boom box” on the counter.

BrooktonsCounterA view of the counter and coffee bar from our table

The nostalgia-inducing songs provided an easy segue into conversation with a woman stocking shelves. She seemed not old enough to know Kristofferson’s songs. But she said loved them and hummed along to the classic “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

Paintings by local artists hung on the walls. If I’d had an extra $250, I would have purchased the painting in the black frame, a glowing river snaking through a surreal forest.

LocalArt

We watched local people come and go. An electrician setting out on the road for work left with coffee and an egg sandwich; a lady farmer, plaited silvery hair hanging down her back, dressed in baggy jeans, fisherman knit sweater and handmade Tyrolean-style hat that rose to a point on top of her head. Helping herself to donut from a tray by the coffee carafes, she was tickled to discover the donut was free (fresh baked, yesterday).

When Mr. NinthHouse asked for a photo of the two women working behind the counter, the cook said, “Sure, so long as you don’t use a flash. I don’t like those bright lights.” Her younger assistant added, “Watch, this’ll probably wind up on a blog!”

2 Women Market_cropCorrecto-mundo.

Directly across the road from Brookton’s was this picturesque stream. We crossed the road to take in the view.

CreekOppositeBrooktonsThe name might be 6-Mile Creek (if I’m remembering it right)

An elderly resident who spotted us taking photos walked over. Six miles down that way, she told us, pointing, we would find the source of the creek. She suggested we hike to it. When we told her where we were from, she said she didn’t think she would ever visit NYC. She had no reason to and, anyway, it might be just too much for her.

(Ditto the hike, for us, without the proper shoes. Later on, we’d get in the car and drive to the mouth of the river).

And when we did, this is what we would see tacked to a shed:

AustiticMasonGot to admire this mason’s individual angle on self-promotion

Leaving the creek behind, we took a leisurely stroll back to Rosebarb Farm. Our last full day, we decided, would be all about the farm. Looking down at our feet, we saw dozens of fuzzy black and copper colored caterpillars inching their way all over the empty road.

woolybearWooly Bear Caterpillar

Ultimately, the Wooly Bear metamorphoses  into a Tiger Moth:

tigermothIsn’t nature wonderful…

Man-made can be wonderful, too. For instance, I’ve read that a boater can depart from Ithaca and cruise the Erie Canal system all the way to New York City and as far as the Atlantic Ocean. Going west, the canal leads boaters into the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and as far as the Gulf of Mexico.

erie_canal_mapThanks to the other DeWitt for this miracle of engineering — DeWitt Clinton.

As we neared the farm, the horses were out grazing near the barn. We trekked up the hill through the high grass to greet them.

The biggest, most massive horse (a Quarter horse) I have ever seen, just a sweetheart of an animal:

MICKMeet MICK

And Mick’s pals, Grace and Brinny:

GRACEandBRINNYGRACE (white) and BRINNY (brown)

I knew enough to pet them on the soft part right above their nostrils because I recently learned that watching a movie!

We also said, “Hey,” to the turkeys. Turkeys are so social and friendly. Too dumb to come out of the rain is what I’ve always heard about turkeys. Alert and  jovial, they don’t seem to fit that description at all.

THE_TURKEYS

Heading for the chicken coop, I spotted this bird flying by:

White-Breated Nuthatch, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Near Fort Rock, OregonI didn’t know it’s name. However, a short time after, while walking with Rita toward the cottage, I would see a painted image of that very same bird on the Rosebarb’s mailbox. I would say, “I just saw that bird. Do you know its name?” And Rita would answer, “It’s a Nuthatch!” excited for me that I saw a live one fly by.

At 3:00 p.m.  the farrier arrived to trim the horses hooves. We were invited to watch!

Farrier 1Basically, it’s a horse pedicure. A hoof, as it was explained to us by Don Barber (Mr. Rosebarb Farm), is essentially a very large toenail. To groom the hoof, the farrier grabs the horse’s leg, gets into a semi-squat and holds the hoof securely between his shins. It is arduous work. With the utmost care, he gouges out the area beneath the hoof. Once that is done, he uses a trimmer (a large set of pliers, but sharp) and cuts away the edge of the hoof. Much like cutting the nails of a pet dog, if you’ve ever done that, it must be done right. If you cut too deep, it causes bleeding and hurts the animal.

It was fascinating to observe. Much like stepping back in time, when you realize trimming hooves been done this way for ages. Horse “shoes” are needed, I learned, only if the horse will be spending time on man-made surfaces, like concrete and asphalt, which can prove injurious to their hooves.

In keeping with the barter system much in evidence in this farm country, the farrier was paid for his work in bales of hay (his family has a horse farm), which was grown and harvested on Rosebarb Farm.

Our last evening was spent with one more run to Brookton’s Market to bring back something for dinner. With regret, we would be leaving for home the next morning — to return to jobs awaiting us and our so-called “real life.” We will miss Rosebarb Farm.

I’d like give to a nod to N.Y. Governor Andy Cuomo, whose TV ads extolling the beauty of upstate New York provided the initial spark for us to make a trip north.

We also delighted in what we are convinced was Governor Cuomo’s brainstorm, to “re-brand,” if you will, the “rest stops” on the New York State thruways by updating the signs:

TextStop

And another nod must go to the exceedingly accomplished and ever so modest, Don Barber (Mr. Rosebarb Farm). I do hope the best man HAS won this election…

VoteForDon

…and that he will continue his successful, untiring efforts to prevent FRACKING by keeping gas and oil companies vultures out of Tompkins County. The unspoiled beauty and tranquility of upstate New York must be preserved.

If it is not, we have too much to lose. As city dwellers, we know very well where our drinking water comes from. Upstate New York is our wellspring.

Our Excellent Vacation – Day 2

November 9, 2013

RosbarbBarnThe Farm

SUNDAY — ROSEBARB FARM, Caroline, New York

What a joy to finally settle in to our homey cottage.

Downstairs: living room/small kitchen/sofa (pullout)/futon/small table and chairs/windows galore/bathroom.

Upstairs: bedroom/bathroom/another sofa/3 walls with windows and views.

Beneath a large picture window in the bedroom, with a panoramic view of grassy fields, rolling hills and the sunrise every morning, was a vintage wood desk. What a perfect spot to write.

A delicious breakfast prepared by our hosts, Rita and Don (the Rosenberg and Barber of “Rosebarb” Farm), in the protected warmth of their delightfully cluttered country kitchen, jumpstarted our first day at the farm. We sat around a large island in the center of the kitchen chatting and drinking our coffee and tea as Rita busily placed before us a bowl of fresh-picked fruit (Don had gotten up early — well, he always gets up early; they both do — to pick raspberries for the fruit medley); pumpkin muffins, made by Rita from scratch; and a tasty baked egg dish, courtesy of Don — and the chickens, of course.

ChickenCircleLook how they formed a circle just for me.

The Rosebarb’s massive antique, gun-metal gray iron wood stove was a marvel. Stoked by Don, and in which Rita baked the delectable butternut-molasses casserole — the surprise dish that capped off our wonderful meal — the stove’s radiating heat kept us warm the chilly morning air.

Equally, the friendliness and warmth of Rita and Don, their interesting life stories, which they shared freely, made for continual lively conversation. They are two of the nicest people on you’d ever want to meet.

Don & Rita House 1Rita and Don’s house

You might be wondering what brought us up to the Ithaca, NY area in the first place. Well, we’ve always wanted to eat at the famous Moosewood Restaurant — which is in downtown Ithaca.

Shortly after our arrival, we picked up the keys from Rita (they were on their way to see a Cornell hockey game), we dropped off our suitcase and headed into downtown Ithaca.

Not long ago, I’d come across an article on the Moosewood in a “new age” publication. Often, it is the only place you will find a feature article on a primarily vegetarian restaurant (which also happens to serve a daily fish special — perfectly okay with me). Reading the article, I thought it would be fun to build our vacation around the Moosewood.

We didn’t want to wall ourselves up in an apartment-style hotel in Ithaca. Googling, I discovered several “cottage” rentals online on the outskirts of Ithaca (one was actually a yurt — intriguing, but, no thank you — I like a nice bathroom). And then, Rosebarb Farm popped up on the iPad.

Cottage 1The Cottage

I searched a bit longer, but kept coming back to Rosebarb Farm. The planets were most definitely in alignment. The only weekend available  in October on Rosebarb’s reservations calendar was very same extended weekend we’d set aside for our vacation. The rest of October at Rosebarb Farm was totally booked. We lucked out.

Following up a sightseeing tip from Rita and Don, our first stop after breakfast was the Farmer’s Market. Outdoors, under the protective covering of a peaked wood canopy, a vast array  of vendors were selling fresh from the farm vegetables, eggs, baked goods, artisan products and so much more. All LOCALLY made. Not local, as in N.Y. State local – but local, as in the next -town-over local.

HoneyVendorWe took away a jar of the local honey. It was a chilly morning as you can see by the honey-maker’s dress.

Our next stop was  Taughannock Falls near lake Cayuga. Talk about breathtaking:

TaughannockFallsFor a perspective on the size of the falls, click on the photo. Look down, near the bridge…

We gazed for a long time at this mesmerizing waterfall.

Our next adventure was a drive up Rte. 153, which runs alongside the Lake Cayuga, east of Rte. 89. On the way, we passed by lovely Sunrise Hill Vineyard:

REISLINGREISLING (as the sign says, if you click on the photo)

We followed the river up to Trumansburg, where we dropped in at the local T-Burg Shur Save supermarket to use the facilities (to which we were kindly directed by a cashier) and pick up a bottle of water. When I first entered the store, I noticed a sign that said: THANK YOU FOR NOT SMOKING WHILE SHOPPING

People actually smoke while pushing their shopping carts around a supermarket? LOL

We looped back and headed into downtown Ithaca to have lunch. Ithaca is a college town with all the smarts and liveliness you’d expect to encounter in the vicinity of Cornell University. We stopped for a “DeWitt Melt” sandwich in the Ithaca Bakery. Lots of laptops on tables, heads swathed in beanies, tattooed people and coffee mugs filled to the brim.

We browsed around the village for a while. Ithaca is smallish and charming with a wealth of lovely Victorian homes. We stopped at Buffalo Street Books, the local independent bookshop located in the DeWitt Mall (also home of The Moosewood). The DeWitt Mall, the eponymous “Melt,” as well as a park and a school also have incorporated DeWitt into their name, in honor of the town’s founder, Simeon DeWitt.

BuffaloSTBuffalo Street Books

The slogan on the bookstore’s website is: “Hundreds of Owners. Thousands of Books. One great bookstore.” The store stocks dozens of local authors (in keeping it “local,” like most Ithacans) and is cooperatively owned and operated with hundreds of owners in the Ithaca community and beyond. I could not leave such a worthy establishment without buying something. So I picked up T.C. Boyle’s latest, San Miguel.

On the way back to the parking garage, we passed this sign on the sidewalk (these signs are ubiquitous downtown):

Smoke_FreeSidewalkPolite and to the point. Another reason to love Ithaca.

Back in the car, we headed to the campus of Cornell University, perched high on a small mountain overlooking downtown. Following the suggested must-sees of Rita and Don, on our list were:

1) the Johnson Museum ofArt, adjacent to Cornell’s “Arts Quad”:

ARTSQUADThe Quad

…with its eclectic collection of Asian art and spectacular views of the Ithaca valley:

Cornell Museum Landscape

and:

Cornell Museum Landscape River

and the visually stunning 2) Sage Chapel:

SAGE_extThe Sage exterior

sage_interiorThe altar 

SageChapelAn apse inside the Sage

Definitely worth seeing. Cornell’s campus is just beautiful. My boss attended Cornell. Lucky guy.

I look forward to returning in Spring to visit Cornell’s botanical garden, waterfall (yes, they have their own) and ornithology center. Since it was Sunday, it was easy to park on campus (although limited visitor parking is available on site during the week).

The clouds had rolled in and it was starting to rain. We were getting hungry. Rather than return to The Moosewood (and thereby wear out the newness of its appeal), we decided to head back downtown for a veggie burrito in a Mexican place. Okay, not as good Los Angeles Mexican (the best Mexican food anywhere, much better then New York), but we were hungry and the burrito fit the bill.

Stay tuned for Day 3: Soaking up the Local Color….

Cheap Thrills At The Plane Park

June 16, 2013

This past Satuday afternoon in Queens, I partied like a 10 year-old. And it didn’t cost a cent. It had been years since I visited the Plane Park near LaGuardia airport.

It’s so easy to do. You drive to 24th Ave. and 82nd St. in Jackson Heights. You park on a neighborhood street. Walk across the overpass arching above Grand Central Parkway. Cross at the traffic light over to the grassy field on the opposite side. Wait for the planes as they come in for a landing at LaGuardia Airport.

If you’re brave enough (i.e., brave enough to lie on your back in a public grassy area of Queens) — as in, brave enough to risk lying in who knows what may have been left behind in the grass, be it chicken bones or  broken glass or human/canine/feline fluidic emissions — if you are brave enough not to think about all that and just do it, you are in for a thrill.

Seriously, it’s so much fun.

DistantPlaneFirst, a speck of light and glint of metal in the distant sky

*

PlaneApproachThen the plane gets closer — you hear the roar of the engine

*

Plane2The roar is deafening as it passes overhead

*

SWPlaneA thunderous vibration infuses your body cells

*

SWSidewaysExhilaration overtakes you

*

There is nothing like it!

The emotional reaction evoked by this experience comes closest to, but doesn’t quite match in its level of intensity, this scene from the movie, Cabaret:

The Art of Living (in the city)

May 16, 2011

Just the other day I said to myself, “We should get a plant.”

And, voilà! Our good friends J&R drove in from CT yesterday bringing not only their wonderful selves — but also basil and parsley, a big clay pot and bag of potting soil.

Right after breakfast, I’m in the kitchen raking my fingers through the rich, moist soil and planting the herbs. As if I were living in the country. Or, at the very least, suburbia.

Basil and parsley anchored in soil (I’ve placed one of my small paintings behind the potting paraphernalia to tart up the photo), I dress and quickly leave my apartment building to move the car to the alternate side of the street.

At 9:15 a.m., I pull out of our no-parking on Tuesday spot on 86 St., hoping to secure a no-parking on Monday-side spot — so we will be safe for the week.

I drive to 77th St. and I pull in behind a person sitting in his parked car, who has the same idea as me:  park in a no-parking on Monday-side spot (from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m) and vacate the car when the clock strikes ten.

Because that’s how we roll here in Jackson Heights.

Of course, I’ve brought along a book.

A cursory glance at the curb and with debris at a minimum, I’m confident the sweeper has already come and gone.

I kill the engine and open my book.

A couple of minutes later, in my rearview mirror, I espy an approaching sweeper. %&$##@!

I start the car. So does the guy in front of me. We both move to other side of the street, double-park, and wait for the sweeper to do its thing.

Then we swiftly reclaim our former spots.

I turn off the engine and open my book (The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux.)

Several minutes later, a monstrous garbage truck trundles up 77th St. and screeches to a halt adjacent to my car.

Jockeying the truck into position, the driver finally comes to a stop. The idling truck is sitting at a 45 degree angle, its rear to the curb, cab to the front, and is blocking half the width of 77th St. The garbage truck driver gets out of his truck and yells at us to move.

&*%%$##@@! The guy in front of me starts his car and pulls it up to the corner (something he was loathe to do initially, seemingly he’s a person who has nothing better to do with his time than find the perfect parking space — as in: This is where I always park, I know it’s a big city, but this is where I always park so too bad for you).

I creep up behind him, shut off my engine and open my book.

Keeping an eye out for a DOT official with a ticket book, I happen to glance in my rearview mirror. That’s when I see a second sweeper coming up the block (ah, the redundancy of it all — just another example of our tax dollars at work).

Sweeper drivers have no mercy. They will pull their heaving machines right up to your rear bumper and lay on the horn. Which is exactly what this guy does.

So now we have the garbage truck blocking one-half of the street, the second sweeper blocking the other half, we two parked cars blocking the sweeper and all of us blocking the long stream of traffic demanding to get down the block, amidst a deafening cacophony of honking.

I start my car and lean on my horn to wake up the guy in front of me, who still has not budged or even started his engine. Finally, his engine turns over. I tail him around the block, certain he has a back-up plan.

Eureka. Three spots are open on 76 St., and it’s another Monday-side, no-parking 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. We quickly pull into our respective spots.

I open my book, read a couple of pages, text my husband at work, and before I know it,  it’s 10:00 a.m.

Time flies when you’re NOT having fun and it happens to be your DAY OFF!!!!

But…soon there will be basil.

So that’s something to look forward to. Along with my dentist appointment at 5:30 this afternoon. Do I know how to schedule my day-off, or what?

Notes from Under the Radar

September 17, 2010

Angel of Provincetown

In early September, during our much-too-brief sojourn with dear friends in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I found myself caught in the thrall of this boy angel (as you can see, I wasn’t the only one) and snapped a picture.

I’d forgotten all about him until last evening when a monstrous thunderstorm raged through Jackson Heights. Just as I alighted from a city bus into the enervating warmth and humidity, lightning struck. In a radiant, booming flash, deafening and savage — and close enough to rattle my eardrums and nerves — a fierce, fiery torch touched down a mere block away. Frightened to the quick  — I’ve never been so near to a lightning strike — I ducked and scrambled in the pelting rain and fled into the lobby of my building.

It was not until this morning — after I’d called in sick to work, felled by a cold, sinus infection, ear problem — that I thought about the boy angel.

It was as if the constraints on my imagination had been loosed by the singular fact of making that phone call. I was free — free to be me — at least for a day.

Unencumbered by the tiresome admonitions of a particular self-important pair of creepy coworkers mired in pedantry that have the power to absolutely ruin your day from the get-go — I suddenly felt like me again.

What a feeling.

I continued to mull over the weather incident a bit more, suddenly having precious free time on my hands. It did cross my mind that the lightning strike was the reappearance of my guardian boy angel, as I’ve come to regard him, paying a visit to New York in a different guise. Behaving in a similar fashion to that of the Tower card in the Tarot: deploying the shock of the unexpected to rattle me.

It so happens that the novel I am — was, will get back to soon, oh, the remorse of not working, the sorrow of day jobs — writing, has quite a bit to do with lightning. The inference of this lightning strike as it relates to my novel also “struck” me this morning.

N.B.: to the menaces from my day job who might happen click into my blog — unlikely, since the Queen of Tedium who reigns over my section of the office, ominously coined “The Cave,” once uttered: Why would anyone write a blog? — bugger off!

This is the same wet horse blanket who proclaimed for all to hear: I hate art museums. They’re so boring. I can’t be in one for more than ten minutes.

Good — then, please keep away. More room for the rest of us.

That inane comment begs a quote from the brilliant critic Arthur Danto, who wrote, when blogging about the artist Marina Abramovic:  “A work of art and a mere shipping carton can look exactly alike. What explains the difference? What is the difference between sitting down with someone in a performance and merely sitting down with someone? The work of art has meaning; it is about something. And it embodies that meaning.”

(Shipping cartons of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your strapping tape.)

There’s always more than meets the eye.

T.G.I.F.

Rude Encounters: Don’t you hate it when…

May 27, 2010

To quote Linus Van Pelt from Peanuts: “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.”

This morning, during my commute to work, I bear witness to four spectacularly rude events:

Numero Uno occurs even before I board the F train. Mid-way into my ten-block trek down 35th Ave. to the Roosevelt Ave./Jackson Heights station, this is what I see:

A vacant parking space. Vehicle A is “in position” for parallel parking — adjacent to the car in front of the spot, blinker on, ready to back in — when Vehicle B pulls in the space, nose-first.

The man in Vehicle A, to whom the space rightfully belongs — it’s an unspoken rule that if your car is in “parallel park mode,” then it’s yours — gets out of his car ready to stand up for his rights.

The obnoxious, loud-mouthed woman in Vehicle B, gets out of her SUV and starts verbally laying into the guy, non-stop. Screechy and abrasive, she does not shut up and just wears him down. She’s so f-ing crazy that the man from Vehicle A gets back in his car and drives off.

Bystanders on the sidewalk sneer at and grouse about Vehicle B — because the same thing has happened to all of us.

Numero dos happens five minutes later on the subway platform. Commuter etiquette dictates that, when an incoming train pulls into the station, those of us waiting on the platform stand clear of the doors so that passengers can get off.  After that, we board.

Not this morning. A poor, skinny, twenty-something guy plugged into his iPod is standing by the doors on the inside of the F train waiting for them to open. When they do, he is literally sacked by a monstrous linebacker of a woman who plows into him before he even has a chance to get out of her way.

The sick thing is, it’s a deja vu experience for me. I’d seen the same woman do the same thing on a different morning.

Numero tres occurs immediately after I get on the train. I notice a vacant seat next to the window and start walking towards it — not barreling my way through the bodies, mind you, as some other commuters like to do. When I’m almost at my destination, the guy in the adjoining seat sees me approaching and angles his legs to allow me leeway to sit down. A nanosecond later, this female bulldozer rushes me and slides into my seat, without a glance in my direction.

Here’s another rule — which has nothing to do with etiquette, but safety. Never argue with people on subway trains. You’re only asking for trouble. Big trouble. The odds are that they are nuts.

So I walk over to an open spot by the doors and grab onto a pole as the train pulled out of the station. I look over at the woman, who, like most brazenly pushy types, is a coward when it comes to personal confrontation. Her gaze is fixed on the unattractive bulge of her knees.

A guy seated adjacent to where I’m standing looks up at me and nods toward this subhuman who stole my seat.

“Do you believe that sh*t?” he says.

Not that I expect him to give me his seat  — are you kidding? That would violate another unspoken rule. After all, I’m not on crutches, past the age of 80 or extremely pregnant — not that any one of those conditions would get you a seat these days, whether you’re male or female.

Numero quatro, however, takes the prize.

The F train pulls into 57th Street. I climb the stairs to Sixth Ave. and decide to stop in a nearby deli to pick up a sandwich for lunch.

As I wait on line to pay, I barely notice the man ahead of me, except that he’s about about thirty-something and dressed in gym clothes. He pays and leaves.

I open my wallet, ready to pay. But before the cashier rings up my purchase, she nods toward to door and with a look of disgust on her face, says: “I give him change and he shows me his thing!

What a way to start the day.

The R (is for retro) Train

April 15, 2010

This morning, when the R train thundered into my stop in Jackson Heights, I noticed that the train’s digital readout said the it’s final destination was Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

I’ve been riding that train every day to work and had never noticed that before.

It triggered some reminiscing. At that hour of the day, I’m ripe for getting lost in fantasy  — open to anything that will take my mind off the eight-hour grinding drudgery that lies in wait across the East River (i.e., “The Office”).

In the late 1970s, I spent a lot of time in Bay Ridge. Disco was popular, of course, though not so much with most New Wavers I knew and hung around with, who pretty much boycotted everything “disco.”

I’ve always liked to remain open to all kinds of music, as long as it’s good. Back then, I was listening to Pere Ubu, The Cars, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Devo, Lou Reed, The Cramps, Leonard Cohen — but also Donna Summers, The BeeGees, Sylvester, The Tramps….and Verdi and Beethoven and Bob Wills…you know, good stuff.

I’d frequent the  Met and The Mudd Club and the disco with equal alacrity. Why not.

Anyway, getting back to Bay Ridge…

On a main drag in Bay Ridge was a bar called Scarlett’s, which I believe might have been on 86th Street (or maybe was it Third Ave.? I don’t quite remember.) Possibly, it was on that same street where John Travolta is strutting his stuff to “Stayin’ Alive” in the opening scene of Saturday Night Fever.

One of my favorite memories of Bay Ridge (for the kitsch factor, alone) was the art show that Scarlett’s sponsored one Sunday afternoon. The theme of the exhibit? Frank Sinatra.

Neighborhood artists, most of them Italian-American, showed up to exhibit their portraits of Old Blue Eyes. His wildly interpreted visage could be found propped up on shelves, makeshift easels, barstools, basically, on every available space in Scarlett’s.

It was hilariously memorable show of art that’s so bad it’s good and an all around great day. Beer helped.

There’s something about sitting in a bar mid-afternoon during summertime, bluish light carpeting the floor, street noise filtering in through the open door, that I’ve always found inviting.

I think it’s because my dad used to moonlight (or sunlight, if you will) on weekends in my uncle’s bar in Brooklyn. He was so young then, in his thirties, and tended bar in a white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up, his thick black hair slicked back with some kind of tonic.

My uncle stocked the juke box with all the latest rock and roll 45 rpm records. My dad loved the song, “Black Denim Trousers.”

.”

Wow, I found a version of it on youtube!

Whenever Rock Around the Clock would come on, he’d put down his bar rag, swing my mom around by the waist, and the two of them would break into a fast lindy hop.

Those were happy times.

My sister and I loved that we were allowed to hang out in the bar. We felt so grown up, even if we did spend our time skipping the length of the room spinning bar stools.

The movie Saturday Night Fever seemed to put Bay Ridge on the map overnight. A group of artist friends (some Bay Ridgers and a few Queens-ites, like me) had gathered together and gone to see the movie when it premiered — in Bay Ridge!

The theater audience was filled with locals. There were lots of knowing hoots and laughs and ad-libbing throughout. The screening took place at one of the King’s (Loew’s) Theaters a grand, elaborate movie house with a balcony, velvet seats and carved gilded moldings. The works. It was gorgeous.

We just loved the film — including the anti-disco faction among us. The opening scene of SNF is one of my favorites  of all time, for its excellent use of music — second only to “Raging Bull” (and one notch above “The Sound of Music.”)

Shortly before moving back to New York last autumn, I was lucky to have seen a remastered print of the film on the big screen in Los Angeles. It was fantastic, and funnier than I remembered.

On my commute home this evening, after disembarking from the R train in Jackson Heights and climbing the stairs to the second level, I noticed a trio of South American musicians playing on the second level of the station.

But it wasn’t the usual  “El Condor Pasa.” To my surprise,  they were playing, “If I Can’t Have You,” a song from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever.

On a pan flute, no less!!

It was very weird. But — in the best possible way.

Coffee Klatch at Lety’s

March 9, 2010

After a long day of skills testing and job interviews, by the time I got home, I was cooked. I needed to kick back and chill. A cup of coffee seemed like the perfect antidote.

So I changed into comfortable clothes and walked to my favorite neighborhood bakery, Lety’s. The day was glorious. Sunny and Spring-like.

At Lety’s, I bought myself a coffee and one pignoli cookie (trying to be good, though I really wanted two) and found a table. I plopped down and opened my book.

Three old cronies from the ‘hood sat down at the adjacent table. Their conversation was fast and funny. I couldn’t stop listening. I closed my book, took out a pen and started writing it down.

They covered a wide range of topics. Here are some snippets:

Eating

“It’s a steakhouse at Christie and Delancey.”

“It’s not a steakhouse.”

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

“And you gotta get the chopped liver and the schmaltz!”

Doctors

“I went to the doctor today. I picked up two containers of coffee, one for the receptionist…”

“Did you use your coupon?”

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

“Is that the one whose office is across from McDonald’s and the pizza place?”

“Right across!”

“Remember that doctor on Mulberry Street who weighed 270? At the end of each day, he’d go into one of those Italian restaurants and eat like he was going to the electric chair. And he smoked Camels! Do you know he lived to be 90 years old?”

“I know him. He was a two, three dollar doctor. If you were broke, he wouldn’t take money from you.”

“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 walk in…? Fuggedaboudit!”

The Old Days

“Ice cream sundaes was fifteen cents. With the real strawberries in there.”

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

The Movies

“I went to see that 3-D movie, Avatar.”

“You gotta be sick to see that. Space ships flyin’ all over the place.”

“With the 3-D glasses. If you take them off you can’t see the movie. It’s blurry.”

“What a racket.”

Current Events

“A lot of people are running away from Scientology.”

“John Travolta. Tom Cruise. I seen their place out in L.A.”

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

“Did you hear about the rabbi who said that lox is not kosher?”

“That was in the 2nd Avenue deli. They were slicing it on T.V. I was getting hungry just watching it.”

“On Toidy-toid Street, right?”

Health

“My blood pressure is 103 over 68.”

“That’s too low.”

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

“Whoa, that’s too low.”

Females

“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.”

Toyota

“What about the guy on the San Diego Freeway in a Prius going 90 miles an hour and couldn’t stop it. Toyota told him there was nuthin’ they could do because his model wasn’t recalled.”

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

“So far 83 people in the United States got killed by Toyota.”

“Should’ve used the handbrake.”

“Remember the handbrake in the old days? 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.”

I hated to leave all that entertaining conversation behind. But I left Lety’s in a much better mood than when I’d come in. As I turned down my street, more entertainment. Two teenagers were conversing on the sidewalk, a boy and a girl.

Boy: ” I never said she looked like…”

Girl, hands on her hips: “You brother said you did! Why would he lie?”

Boy, throwing up his hands: “He’s an exaggerator!!!”