"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Aligator at 205th St.

So this alligator was crossing against the light and the officer went to give him a jaywalking ticket…. Photo credit: NYPD34Pct via Twitter

It seems you can see everything in New York City. It’s true, not something you just tell the rubes coming from the countryside to gawk at the big buildings. Like wildlife. You can see a lot of wildlife–and I don’t mean the human type–here. NYPD 34th Precinct (@NYPD34Pct) tweeted a bizarre story today: they captured an alligator crossing 9th Avenue at 205th St. in Inwood today. That’s a mere 20 blocks or so from here!

This story made the news carousel at the bottom of the Bing search page! I clicked on it, and there was a story from the International Business Times! Unfortunately, the story’s first, highlighted photo was a fake prop alligator crawling into a manhole instead of the real thing. Look at it. Doesn’t this look dramatic to you?

An alligator was found Thursday in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Pictured: A prop alligator went into a New York City sewer drain during the launch of the Swamp People "Taste Of The Bayou" food truck, March 28, 2011. Donald Bowers/Getty Images for History's Swamp People

An alligator was found Thursday in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Pictured: A prop alligator went into a New York City sewer drain during the launch of the Swamp People “Taste Of The Bayou” food truck, March 28, 2011. Donald Bowers/Getty Images for History’s Swamp People

We don’t expect alligators (or crocodiles) to be crossing the street in NYC at any time. Leave that to those crazy southerners in Florida. They have alligators creeping into peoples’ back yards, eating their Chihuahuas and children, and causing all sorts of trouble.

We urban New Yorkers rest content with malicious squirrels, pooping pigeons, and the occasional stray dog. We expect to see cats on windowsills peering out from apartments, rats in the subway, and cockroaches a/k/a water bugs. But alligators? Aren’t they supposed to be in the sewers and not crossing city streets?

Pepé LePew (c) Looney Tunes

Pepé LePew (c) Looney Tunes

Skunks. We have them. I haven’t seen them, but I’ve smelled their presence on occasion. In September 2013, the New York Daily News published “Get these smelly skunks out of Washington Heights & Inwood, cries Councilman”, about the skunk problem in Fort Tryon Park. A photo of a skunk on Cabrini Blvd. graces the article. Imagine, you’re walking up Broadway when you see two glowing eyes. “Here kitty, kitty,” you croon. “Nice … skunk!” Hello Pepé LePew.

Add that to the cast of characters you see in Times Square, and you have a whole menagerie of wildlife to keep you gawking in and about the City.

Ode to My Blender

My Osterizer circa 1990s

My blender will likely burn out this summer.

I remember the Osterizer® blender of my childhood, circa 1955, a stainless steel beehive-shaped affair with a single toggle switch. It was the “modern” way to prepare meals (see illustration below) when I was a kid. The Oster® Beehive Blender lived on our kitchen counter top and blended many Carnation Instant Breakfast™ servings (with added raw egg), poured many pancakes, and caused confusion while washing the sharp doohickey on the bottom. The iconic glass jar finally shattered and the base burnt out, I suppose. I haven’t seen it for years, that is, if Mom still has it, which is possible.

My Blender's Buttons

My Blender’s Buttons

Mine is a standard, plastic-jarred Oster® blender that I bought more than 15 years ago–maybe even longer–from some discount department store. It has 8 buttons, a “low-high” slider, and boasts 12 speeds plus “Pulse”: Easy Clean, Grate, Puree, Blend, Cream, Shred, Chop, Grind, Whip, Liquefy, Mix, and Ice Crush. Have I cheated and shredded on whip? You betcha. I’ve also grated on ice crush. There’s a method to my madness, however.

It’s been a faithful companion all these years.

Companion? Yes, I traveled with it. I remember carting it about with me one summer when on a medically-recommended liquid diet. Specifically, I remember in an Ohio turnpike rest stop asking for ice at the conveniently located Starbucks, then going into the family restroom stall, plugging it into the outlet there, and blending myself a delicious, nutritious liquid meal which I sipped from the container with a long straw. Who knows what people thought when they saw me emerge from the bathroom with a blender full of … stuff…!

I’m addicted to sucking up icy sludge. Sludgees. I don’t know what else to call these blender treats. They’re not smoothies; smoothies are healthy full of kale or yogurt or berries. They’re not Slushees or Slurpees, which are trademarked products dispensed at convenience stores; nor are they any alcoholic mixed drink. They’re C-O-L-D; that’s all that matters. And they go down quickly. Sludgee.

The primary component is ground up ice. Without the ice, the beverage is not fun. Next is some milk product. I use powdered milk (and water) whenever possible for the convenience. (I also don’t like the sound of people crying in the kitchen in the morning over dry corn flakes when the last of the milk has been used up.) I’ve also used ricotta cheese, yogurt and ice cream, although it’s a waste of good ice cream. For volume or consistency, a piece of fruit is good. Frozen bananas work well (peel them and put them in plastic wrap when they start to turn brown on the table), but I also use an apple, skin and all, rarely berries, and most unusually, a half of a cooked yam. Once in a while I’ll add something “healthy,” like ground flax seed or psyllium powder. Cocoa powder and some artificial sweetener, a splash of vanilla extract, and a shake of cinnamon complete the sludge. Blended up, adding one ice cube after another until the motor strains in protest, it resembles… sludge. If you omit the cocoa, it’s just ugly, not sludgy.

My blender is on its last leg. The gasket allows liquid to seep out slowly. Sometimes when I blend I can hear a strain on the motor, a pulling. Sometimes I sniff a little of that electrical odor, the kind you smell before a motor burns out. (Aside: What is that odor, by the way?) I surmise this happens when an ice cube drops in the way of the blades, preventing them from spinning. That’s when I hit the “off” button, poke about with my long straw (never use the straw while it’s still spinning), and then hit the “pulse” button. Vrooom! It whooshes around.

Lately though, the liquid has been separating into two phases (note the scientific word I used): a liquidy phase on the bottom and a slushier phase at the top. What I desire is slushy all the way through.

Oster(R) Beehive Blender

Contemporary Oster(R) Beehive Blender – similar to that of my childhood

I should be wearing earplugs. That would be easier than sticking my fingers in my ears.  Also, I have never tried the blender with ice only although the rightmost button is labeled “ice crush.” That sounds so daring that maybe I’ll do it before the end of summer or the end of the blender, whichever comes first. Live dangerously!

Now you have endured my trivial notes on my on-the-way-out blender. My love of it, and sludgees, has evolved from a desire to stay cool. If I can’t provide 24/7 air conditioning for my body, at least I can freeze it from the inside out. So, having subjected you to this paen to my blender, here is my recipe for a Sludgee:

1 cup milk or (⅓ cup powdered milk plus water to equal 1 cup)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 packets Equal sweetener
Some fruit: 1 banana, 1 apple (cored), OR ½ cooked yam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon (or 1 shake) ground cinnamon
10-15 ice cubes

Start blending ingredients, then add ice cubes one at a time. Whiz until it is slushy. Stick in a long straw and suck. Experience brain freeze. Rinse and repeat.

My happiness, serenity, contentment, appreciation, and ability to give depends upon my attitude. Any challenge I am given is a loving nudge from G-d saying, “Hey, you need to work on something to refine your character and here’s a chance to do so.” He only gives us good. How we view situations changes agitation to mere irritation, anger to understanding, stress to an opportunity to practice patience, and adversity to a chance to grow.

What is my attitude toward things that happen in life? Where does it come from?

The people I surround myself with influences my attitude greatly. When I’m with an impatient crowd awaiting a bus that is wildly off schedule and late, I can pick up on that irritability, anger, stress and go along with the crowd, start to feel twitchy myself. Where is the bus? Harrumph, I can huff and puff while looking at my watch every two minutes. Each glimpse at the watch face without the bus appearing hikes my anxiety higher. How dare they? I’m going to be late. Mutter mutter. I’ve even heard people complaining about how much time it takes to pick up wheelchair-bound people, delaying the bus further. Grumble grumble.

I am stronger than my surroundings, however. I can choose to channel the anxiety, fear, disappointment into thoughts that bolster my spirit instead of feeding the snake of ill-humor. I can focus on the good even though the situation discomfits me. To those who grumble about wheelchairs, let them never suffer the helplessness you feel when you are dependent upon others for transportation, the lack of autonomy and diminution of the ability to travel. I remember with great gladness how my ability to walk was restored to me after an injury that rendered me incapable of even bending my leg! What a wonderful thing that people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to travel unassisted can now travel by public transportation!

I choose to wait patiently at the doctor’s office as a gift. Fuming will not make the appointments move any more quickly. Anger and annoyance won’t get me into the exam room any sooner. I sit back glad that I have doctors to watch over me, happy to have health insurance coverage. Or, on a more esoteric note, I’ll contemplate why dogs are hairy and rabbits are furry while I’m waiting. Look at my fingernails. Compose a blog post. Ripple my abdominal muscles. Ponder why Pluto was demoted from planet status. Wonder what the world will look like in 2100. Etc., etc.

Changing ones attitude requires being aware what attitude exists in the first place.

When I surround myself with kind, thoughtful people who act in a genteel manner, I become more like them. I remember to say please and thank you. I give smiles readily. I greet people with a glad face. I act respectful and feel respected. I absorb attitude from those around me. I gravitate to people who exhibit their happiness in spiritual ways. Being around them makes me feel uplifted. I feel hopeful and get sparked that I can better myself.

I ask myself when I do something or react to something: Is that the way the person I want to be would act?

Did you ever imagine yourself to be the Queen?

The person I want to be is kind, soft-spoken, friendly, respectful, pleasant, loving, disciplined, ladylike, calm, and giving. Benevolent, even. By envisioning and trying to live like that person, I take on her characteristics. Therein lies one aspect of my happiness. It’s all in my attitude. I’m not being handed troubles; rather, I’m given challenges from the One Who has my best interest at heart.

I can make happiness my choice.

Where Are My Glasses?

Where are my glasses?

These aren’t the ones I was looking for.

Where did I put my glasses? No, not that pair. My reading glasses. Nope, not them, those tortoise-shell looking ones. They’re progressives and I can’t read the greatest with them.

How about those ones there? Nope. That’s my last prescription that I just keep around in case I can’t find my glasses. I’m looking for the oval reading glasses I always wear on the tip of my nose ’cause I have to look over them to see anything. They’re a little twisted, sat upon, stepped on. Check between the sofa sections.

Hey! Where did these fake-o sunglasses come from? For that matter, where are my prescription sunglasses? Although… aviators haven’t been in style since…. They were in a big, hard, red case that snaps shut really, really hard.

Pink. Metal. Oval. Smallish. Bent. Mine. Where?

I wish I could find my glasses. Kitchen? Not on top of my head or tucked into my shirt’s neckline. Where did I use them last? Hmmm. They could be on the shelf with the extra glasses case. Couldn’t they? One can hope.

Coffee. Need caw—aw—aw—feeeeee. Need it now.

Oh, here’s an old pair hubby wore when we were dating. Wow, these are heavy. How did he stand it? Odd: why are they on the top of the desk? He’s had two new pairs since then.

Perhaps my glasses are by the computer. Or on the floor. Did I fall asleep with them on? Better check the bed. Under the bed. In the wastebasket. By the computer. Oh–I already checked there.

Wait, I have another idea. There’s a pair on the bathroom window sill, Michele’s old ones I keep there in case I need to stop in and read. Her prescription was similar to mine. Hmmm, didn’t remember how similar her frames are similar to my old ones before I got the progressives.

I remember I had them this weekend. Where could my glasses be? Didn’t put them in my purse, did I? Hey, here’s a £10 note! Wonder what that’s worth.

Concentrate. Glasses, glasses, reading glasses………..

Ramadan Hours

image

Ramadan commenced on Thursday, June 18, and will end on Friday, July 17. No grand commercial barrage accompanies Ramadan in the USA quite unlike the December holidays. The only evidence I’ve seen of it was this modest sign posted inside the fabric shop’s window:

Due to Ramadan
Store Hour
Mon – Fri
9.30 AM to 6.30 PM
Sat 10 AM to 6 PM
Sun 11 AM to 5 PM

I was hot. The turbaned shopkeepers greeted me with smiles and went on conversing in an Asian language I didn’t recognize (why I think I’ve an ear for languages is another story). The store was not icily air conditioned, unfortunately for me, but the men didn’t seem bothered. Although it was one of the hottest days we’ve had, they showed no discomfort. I, on the other hand, patted my face with a drooping tissue. When Ramadan occurs in the hottest months of the year, the fast must be a sure sign of devotion!

As a sewist (the latest term for someone who sews), I let my fingers do the looking. Every bolt of fabric, every roll of upholstery begs to be smoothed, pinched, and petted. Some fabrics, sirens like velvet, call out louder. “Hello fingers,” velvet croons. Others desire to be admired under different light conditions. Brocades, silks from China, and dichroic fabrics that appear to change color depending upon the incident light beg to be wiggled. I like to hold my hand under sheer materials, observing  its outline.

The Garment Worker.jpg

The Garment Worker” by Beyond My Ken – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikipedia.

I thought the Garment District would have Jewish shopkeepers, reminiscent of the famous statue of a tailor, “The Garment Worker” by Judith Weller at 555 Seventh Avenue. Not so. The majority of stores I entered on 39th Street were populated by Asian men, many wearing turbans. When did this happen?

I picked up a bolt of 45-inch wide stretch fabric with rainbow metallic threads. Yum. They hovered while I scanned my smartphone, trying to mentally calculate the yardage I’d need for an outfit while trying to Google a half-remembered pattern I sewed 22 years ago. I switched to a 60-inch wide roll of Indian embroidered cotton eyelet.  “Three-and-a-half yards,” I confidently said while not feeling so confident. At least the wider yardage will give me some leeway.

The shopkeeper calmly measured out the fabric while I dreamt of the creations I could make. I haggled for “$5 worth” of a coordinating rayon. I haven’t measured what he assured me was a greater length than I would have gotten for the quoted price per yard.

My purchases in hand, I headed to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for an icy coffee confection. Decaf, but with whipped cream. I followed no Ramadan restrictions and golly, I was hot.

Dodging a Bullet

Broken Auto Glass

The car next to mine wasn’t so lucky.

Parking in Washington Heights, and I assume in all of Manhattan, plays like a game of roulette. Sometimes you win, sometimes you just have to try again. Closer to home is better, naturally, but I have parked nearly a mile away (20 minute walk without bags) a number of times. I can usually assess when parking will be found without cruising around. Certainly, after 10 p.m. you can forget about a parking space. That’s when I cruise over to my favorite lot and say ¡hola! to the guy who knows me (or my car) already. Gracias por tu ayuda, and hand over $12 in the morning.

I had parked Freddie Ford on the Friday side and today is Friday. I hastened up the hill to rescue Freddie before the parking tickets would begin to multiply. Sweating profusely, I walked along Amsterdam Avenue, nearly ¾ of a mile from home, where I’d placed my car the other day after a fruitless half hour of riding around (before 8:30 p.m. yet!).  I noticed broken glass glistening in the street in already empty spaces. A frisson of fear ran along my back and I walked further down the row.

The car next to mine had been broken into, apparently. I feel like I dodged a bullet. Already on three occasions I found Freddie’s driver’s side mirror missing. I didn’t need to deal with broken auto glass.

Could it be that the thieves had compassion because there was a crushed liquor mini under the rear tire? Maybe they sensed that the CD changer doesn’t work and it frequently doesn’t play CDs either. It’s probably more so that my car is older and uninteresting. (Sorry, Freddie.) Blah. I keep the interior clean-ish without anything enticing peeking out. Likewise the trunk space is empty. There are some maps in the door pockets and a snow brush (in June!) on the back seat floor.

Freddie Ford now sits patiently in a Wednesday side of the street space, waiting for his next big adventure. I’m glad “he” is patient!

Watch Gears

The Gears are at the Heart of the Work

Question: When is a job not a “job”?

Answer: When the job is doing something you love.

I recently re-entered the work force. I found a job that will not be a “job” but a labor of love, working at a social service agency. The co-workers are pleasant, the hours great, clients interesting, and it’s a meaningful job. The organization aids needy people and therefore betters the world. That’s a good foundation for a labor of love. I’m one little tooth on the gears in the mechanism that makes the agency work more effectively. That’s me!

I’m glad to have a place to go every day and contribute something positive. I can change someone’s day just with a happy greeting; I can ease stress with a well-placed assist. What better than to make many peoples’ days become more pleasant?

Satisfaction (i.e., happiness) can be gleaned in the small things. Happiness is doing a good job and recognizing that to be the case, contributing to a group effort, getting a pat on the back, sitting back and pondering the good feelings. For isn’t pleasure gained from the sublime, what we’re here on this earth to collect?

An ice cream cone or a glistening glass of iced tea on a hot day brings great pleasure. So does scratching an itch. As much as I like my physical pleasures, I’m looking for something more holistic. For me, being a tooth on a small cog of the works suffices and pleases, a spiritual kind of pleasure.

Up the Steps!

Fit Friends on W 187 steps

Fit friends on the steps at West 187th St.

I’m from the city that has the most “stair streets” in the USA, Pittsburgh. I understand their utility. Too steep for a street but gotta go there? Put in steps.

“On some of the steepest hills, steps even double as legal streets. Known as ‘paper streets,’ these staircases appear on maps as valid thoroughfares – an often consternating surprise to unsuspecting visitors.”(1)

I don’t have to like them, though. <grumble, grumble>

Like those in my hometown, the steps at West 187th Street are not for the faint of heart. I chug up and down them reluctantly, when I really need to… because I’m too lazy to walk three blocks to take the elevator. Despite being the venue for an art project commemorating the Revolutionary War—for which I fail to connect to the historical past—these steps harbor a pedestrian functionality. At best they are a shortcut from Fort Washington to the valley (Broadway) below. At worst they are an insurmountable obstacle. For the thousands (my guess) of people who use them daily, they are just another way to get from low to high or high to low without detouring south to the A train station to use the elevator or walking up/down the long, bleak hill on Overlook Terrace between West 190th Street to West 187th St. So you see all sorts of people there: old, young, pregnant, and occasionally those with shopping carts or strollers.

Among these (primarily young) people are fitness buffs, determined souls who actually decided to run up and down the staircases! I’ve counted the steps (135) and the landings (8) and usually cannot walk up the entire staircase without stopping for a breath about two thirds of the way there. HOWEVER, I have a new world’s record to announce: I walked all the way up on Wednesday morning without a break! After coming all the way down I stopped to photograph these brilliantly glowing young people(2) with their own camera when they were trying to use a water bottle as a tripod. Then I asked to take my own shot and use their picture in my blog. New friends. How happy they made me!!

While my old knees won’t let me aspire to running up and down, and my lungs protest asthmatically, I can still aspire to climb and breathe freely! Care to join me?

 

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*
1. Albrecht Powell. Steps of Pittsburgh: Explore Pittsburgh’s Many Steps & Staircases. http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/about_pittsburgh/a/steps.htm, accessed June 6, 2015.
2. If you know these people, please shoot me an email so I can thank them again.

batya7:

Today is another day to think about happiness. Especially #30.

Originally posted on J'adore Journey:

IMG_9056

  1. “Science of happiness lies in our understanding. The secrets of happiness lie in our capacity to expand our heart.” – Amit Ray
  2. “Whoever is happy will make others happy.” – Anne Frank
  3. “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” – Ashley Montagu
  4. “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” – Ausonius
  5. “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli
  6. “If you have not taken the time to define what happiness means to you, what have your spent your whole life pursuing?” – Bo Bennett
  7. “When we recall the past, we usually find that it is the simplest things – not the great occasions – that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness.” –…

View original 1,470 more words

Laughter

sloth - Thowra_uk

“Hi there. Ain’t I such a cutie pie?”
sloth” by Thowra_uk, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nothing fills the soul with pleasure the way a good belly laugh does! 

Memory 1: A close friend accompanied me to a lecture one evening several years ago. On the way home, I decided to stop at the supermarket for milk. We walked through the aisles toward the very furthest corner at the back of the store where (naturally) the milk was kept. On the way we passed the greeting card display. So we did what women do; we paused to look at a few.

You wouldn’t ordinarily think that greeting cards would be a source of great amusement.

However, some are good for a giggle. Maybe you’d get a few chuckles over a good quote from a “Shoebox” card by Hallmark. Or perhaps Maxine would get you grinning. I’ve dwelled over a few funny cat cards to be sure.  ….. sooooo … (pause for the punch line) …

greeting cards

cards” by Tom Magliery, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Luckily for us, few people shopped at that particular store at that particular time on that particular date or 9-1-1(1) would have been inundated with calls to rescue the two middle-aged ladies who were rolling on the floor(2) laughing for over an hour!!!

That was a great belly laugh!

spoon

“Speak into the microphone!”

Memory 2: My sisters and I had only one first cousin (our father was an only child and my mom’s sister had only one child). Needless to say, family was small but precious. It was the night before our cousin’s wedding and we four girls went out for coffee and cake without the parents. No bachelorette party but something nice. We were reminiscing, swapping stories, teasing our cousin about marriage, comparing lipstick, etc., and all of the things girls talked about in those days. We were jolly but not outrageous. I remember playing the interviewer, holding up my spoon as if it were a microphone, and asking an interview question around the table. The bride and my sister #2 said something into the “mike” and we were laughing. When I held the “mike” to my sister #1, she was laughing so hard that she burst into tears! At that point, the rest of us lost it and started howling laughing, too. For years afterward, the phrase, “Speak into the microphone,” would propel #1 into paroxysms of tears and laughter.

Now, that really was a great belly laugh!

Have some joy this week.

PS – Doesn’t that little sloth just make you want to smile until your face hurts?  Cuuute!

**************
1. American emergency contact telephone number. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9-1-1
2. Only in the idiomatic sense; but afterwards, our sides ached from the laughter as if we had been rolling on the floor!

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