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

Archive for the ‘View from Bennett Ave’ Category

Fall Back

Daylight Savings Time is over for the year. Did the change to Standard Time come easily for you?

In the USA, we turned our clocks back (“fall back” is the mnemonic) last Sunday morning at 2 a.m. Many of us are still suffering from the disruption. Sure, we got an “extra” hour of sleep on Sunday morning, but it is nearly dark at 5 p.m. here in New York City, and my head can’t wrap around the change. Disorientation confuses me. Aren’t I supposed to be asleep about now?

My friend’s baby awoke at 4:53 a.m. today. My friend was not ready to awaken at that hour and was not pleased. She would like the baby to sleep until 6 a.m. The baby cannot tell time, however, and wakes up whenever his body says to do so.  He’s probably thinking, “Hey! Where is everybody? I’m up. Why aren’t they up? Party time!”

Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “It’s only 10 p.m. Why am I getting sleepy?” Although I’m a night person, this change disrupts my system. I awaken in full sun again, having just gotten used to the darker mornings. I watch the sky darken from my office window before I’ve left work. I don’t know whether to nap, eat, or crawl under the covers for the night when I get home.

Why has the length of daylight savings time creeped to become longer and longer? It used to be six months. “Check your smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks.” That made sense when we changed the clocks every six months. Now it is eight months of savings and four months of standard. How many battery checks are ignored in April because it’s too soon since the last one in November?

I’m going to sleep now. Set the alarm, go to sleep, wake up, have coffee, go to work, have more coffee, leave work, eat dinner, go to bed. I’ll get used to it eventually… about the time we need to “spring forward” and change the clocks again.

Autumn Beauty

W. 187th Street stairs, looking east.

W. 187th Street stairs, looking east. © JustHavingFun

The autumn colors sing to my soul! I am certain this peek into the Creator’s paintbox carries me through the gray winter. It feels like fall came late this year. But while last week the temperatures were in the 40s, today it’s expected to hit 75. Crazy! I broke out my jacket, though, and put my sandals under the bed. The toes are getting cold so I know the oppressive heat is over. Gearing up now for the frigid winter seems more real day by day.

Speaking of crazy, there’s a certain pleasant vibration in my head that’s caused by the look of yellow maple leaves against rain-darkened tree trunks on a gloomy day. It puts me in mind of a long ago leisurely drive in the country near Poughkeepsie.

Brilliant gold maple leaves against dark branches.

Brilliant gold maple leaves against dark branches. © JustHavingFun

The day started off as if it had a headache. First the sun came out, then it ducked behind clouds. A wind blew up and fallen leaves swirled like dancers. The sun’s rays through the clouds highlighted odd sights off to the side of the road: a patch of late-blooming chrysanthemums, a kitschy mailbox, a faded American flag left over from July 4th, nude fields, homes festooned with carved pumpkins. I drove over the crest of a hill and lo, ahead of me, was a spectacular stand of maple trees limned against the gray, brooding sky—a vision so powerful so as to remain with me these thirty-some years!

Enjoy the autumn. Savor the crunch of leaves underfoot. Cherish the colors. Memorize the scents. This may be your own dramatic memory in thirty years!

Urban Orchard?

Urban Peach Orchard

Urban Peach Orchard? ©JustHavingFun

People plant fruit trees because the blossoms are beautiful. They bloom in the spring about the same time as the early flowers such as daffodils and tulips. Fruit trees frequently make up a portion of formal plantings that bloom in sequence. Think of the cherry blossoms that adorn Washington, D.C.

As a child I learned how to identify plants by their leaves and trees by their bark in nature studies classes. I would spend hours hiking in the woods marveling at the diversity of species in my area. I retained these skills into adulthood and at some point became a gardening enthusiast. Although I lack a garden now, I enjoy looking at other people’s plantings. I like seeing how each apartment building distinguishes itself from the next in the foot-wide strip of soil between it and the pavement. Hence, I stop to “smell the roses”—or Rose of Sharon—whenever I can.

There are few fruit trees in Washington Heights. It is a Jewish custom to say a particular blessing over a blossoming fruit tree in the springtime, in the Hebrew month of Nissan (approximately mid-April to mid-May). Since most New Yorkers can’t identify fruit trees by their leaves and bark, lacking the nature studies classes I enjoyed, some Jews took it upon themselves to publish a map identifying the fruit trees in the certain neighborhoods! Some people even hang a placard from fruit trees with the text of the blessing to aid their fellow Jews. There is one such tree on Bennett Avenue across from the Mt. Sinai Jewish Center. I visited that tree and said the blessing at the appropriate time last spring.

I knew about this particular tree on Overlook Terrace without seeing it on a map. I’d espied it and watched the fruit all summer. It’s unusual to see fruit tree blossoms that actually come to fruition in the city. It’s even more unusual to see one of these trees smack dab up against a building, adjacent to a fire escape, hiding behind a hedge of exuberant Rose of Sharon. Peering at the tree, I spy little blushing peaches emerging from under the leaves! It lives! It is growing!! Next to the subway station yet!!!

There used to be farms in this part of Manhattan. Oh, it was long ago, but it is indeed documented. What would those farmers say about their acreage now? How could this tree happen to grow precisely here? Did an opportunistic peach pit grow between the hedge and the bricks? Not likely. Unsprouted peach pits that are hundreds of years old have been excavated from the trash heaps of Old New York. These hard hearts don’t sprout easily. Could someone actually have planted this tree? Maybe. There is evidence it is cared for: it is tied where it intersects the top of the ground floor window. There’s a scar where it had been pruned.

Will these peaches rot on the tree, get pecked by birds, or be plucked by the person whose window they cover? Someday I expect I will emerge from the subway station and see some nouveau urban farmer climbing a ladder to harvest the peaches. Straw-hatted and overall-clad, he will set each booted foot carefully on the rungs as he climbs. He will test the ripeness of each with a little squeeze. He will pluck each one and lay it in a wicker basket depending from his arm like in an old-timey painting. Thus he will reanimate the ghosts of long ago farms in this part of the island. A fanciful dream, but what a dream!

Happy September!

Aaaaah, the promised end of oppressive heat: September! Cooler temps are on the way! I can go outside again!!!

I hate looking at all of these photos of happy hikers, joggers, runners, sunbathers. I seethe in jealousy. Why? I’m a person who can’t tolerate temperatures above 80ºF (27ºC). I hang out at the freezer cabinets in the supermarket, fanning myself. I fill my cup with ice and blow on it for cheap air conditioning. I’m the person in the office saying, “Why is it so hot in here?” while my co-workers shiver in sweaters and turn on the heaters under their desks.

Anticipated view of days to come.

Anticipated view of days to come. (c)JustHavingFun

Little Miss Furnace, that’s me.

So when September comes, when the leaves start to brown and rain from the trees and cooler air wafts in from the north, I revel; relief is imminent!

I’ve wondered if I can change my heet-feeling nature with biofeedback, accupuncture, or hypnosis. It’s a metabolic flaw, my inability to properly regulate my inner temperature.  Thus, I gloat over cold drinks like sludgees, welcome cloudy days and summer showers. and anxiously await the New Year (the Jewish New Year, that is) which heralds the advent of cooler weather.

Oh happy me!

Frederick Douglass Memorial

Frederick Douglass surveying his boulevard

Frederick Douglass surveying his boulevard.  ©JustHavingFun

I rode the M2 bus through Harlem last week. It follows 7th Avenue, also known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, below 155th Street. The neighborhood looks much like my own with apartment buildings housing small businesses on street level lining the streets. Some buildings boasted elaborate cornices belying their ages but others showed the worn look of properties that have been purposed and repurposed over the decades. Nail salons, restaurants, cell phone shops, storefront churches, schools, and groceries hunkered by the sidewalks. When I alit near my destination, I enjoyed walking along the pleasant boulevard as it neared Central Park.

After my business was complete, I made my way to catch the C-train. I had never taken the subway to the Cathedral Parkway station so was unaware of the striking memorial awaiting me at the corner of 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Boulevard) and 110th Street. The Frederick Douglass Memorial boasts an eight-foot bronze portrait sculpture as well as a focal fountain wall.

Frederick Douglass Memorial fountain wall

Frederick Douglass Memorial fountain wall. ©JustHavingFun

Frederick Douglass stood in his generation as a defender of human rights. A refined man and former slave, he became an abolitionist leader, a prolific writer, orator, and publisher. His voice still resonates. Large granite blocks immortalize his words at the memorial. The plaza itself greets visitors with stellar words from the masthead of his newspaper, The North Star, carved into the paving.

“RIGHT IS OF NO SEX – TRUTH IS OF NO COLOR – GOD IS THE FATHER OF US ALL, AND WE ARE ALL BRETHREN.”

It is well worth taking the time to pay a visit here. It is our duty to think upon the freedoms conferred on us and about those who have fought for these rights to apply to all men and women.

"WHATEVER MAY BE SAID AS TO A DIVISION OF DUTIES AND AVOCATIONS, / THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN ARE ONE AND / INSEPARABLE, AND STAND UPON THE SAME INDESTRUCTABLE BASIS." - 1851

Frederick Douglass quote 1851. ©JustHavingFun

Dragon Boats

Dragon boats returning to dock

Dragon boats returning to dock. © Just Having Fun

You can see just about every kind of festival in New York City. My home at the northern end of Manhattan is rarely more than an hour and a half by subway from every locale in the five boroughs. Since I’m heat exhaustion prone and sun sensitive I don’t venture out too much in the summer. This past weekend was an exception. We went to New York’s “Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival” in Flushing Meadows, Queens, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, August 9th.

Unisphere

Unisphere” by Nick, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I had only ever been to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as a small girl, to attend the 1964 World’s Fair, but knew its location because of the famous Unisphere globe which is still standing (and visible from the highway), and of course, Citi Field, the contemporary home of the New York Mets. I was anxious to see even a small portion of it and enjoy what New Yorkers seem to enjoy: crowds.

Dragon Boat Festivals, originating in China, have reportedly been around for over 2,000 years. Dragon boat racing comprises a portion of the festivities. The fair this past weekend sported a splendid number of people enjoying the day, strolling amongst the tents, eating, and watching the races on the lake.  Team sponsorship advertisements and race sponsors abounded including banks, health care providers, travel agencies, Chinese media, and insurers to name a few. Oars and paddles festooned the team tents as similarly-clad team members wandered around on their business in colorful packs.

I thought all the racing team participants would be Chinese, or at least Asian, but there were male and female athletes of a wide variety of ethnicities. Most, however, seemed to be on the youthful side. I can understand why: it is keen physical work! Ten paired oarsmen (oarspeople?) rowed to the accompaniment of a drummer who sat in the prow, facing the rowers, keeping time. Another person stood in the stern with a long oar (for stabilization?). It was difficult to examine the boats from my vantage point, but they appeared to be the same model, with a dragon’s head as a figurehead, and different paint combinations. It was lovely to watch, but the races themselves were very short in duration.

I looked for freebies hoping to snag an umbrella to ward off the hot sun and obtained some Kozy Shack rice pudding (Kof-K kosher) samples instead. I count that as success, too! Next time I’ll bring a camp chair and umbrella to further enjoy the sights and smells of a friendly summer festival.

Waiting for the Race to Start

Waiting for the Race to Start. © Just Having Fun

Lions and Tigers and … Alligators? Oh My!

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.

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!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: