Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Limits of False Advertising

Was listening to Elmo Hope and considering an album entitled “Last Sessions” recorded in 1966 and searched on Wiki to find that passed away the following year at the age of forty-three.  Hadn’t realized he had a daughter, Monica Hope, a singer, with his wife Bertha who is also a pianist.  And, I hadn’t realized that while he was out West he’d recorded with the tenor player, Harold Land, whom I also love.  I’m listening to a live session recorded a place called the Jazz Cellar, in Vancouver, in 1958, some nine years before Elmo’s untimely demise from pneumonia.

Squirrels are testing the limits of false advertising on my “squirrel-proof” bird feeder this morning.  If they pop cover on the elongated feeder, I’m annoyed but not surprised.  I just looked over and the squirrel tried to leap up and hold the both of the feeder that rest on an eye hook, so it swings if you hold it on the lip.  He didn’t manage to topple it but a whole lotta seeds spilled out and its’ now looking miserable at an odd angle.  The critter fell about fifteen feet to the ground after that failed attempt.  Can’t tell if that dissuaded him or not but either he or one of his chums has lined right up to try once again.     


Today isn’t warm enough to melt all this snow before Christmas, but at forty-one-degrees Fahrenheit it’s certainly softening up the part of the icy driveway I’d been brutalizing yesterday.  My hand, in particular, are sore.  It hurts to type.  But it’s that sore muscles, I’m-getting-stronger, sort of pain that is oddly satisfying.  I came home from dropping my daughters off at the train station with my mom and salted the driveway.  That was a few hours ago and I suspect it’s all softened up by now. 

The younger one and my mom are seeing “Frozen” on Broadway.  I’ve already received a photo or two of the journey’s progress.  The older one is meeting a friend and they’ll all be back by 6:30PM.  I note that they are both developing a teenage understanding of New York in a way that is ritualistic and yet very different from my own experience with that place.  I would never have been back my 6:30PM. 

Sunday, 12/22/19

Good to Have My Arms

Older daughter back.  She woke me and my wife up at 3:00AM to say there was a bug in her bathroom.  Our bathroom was immediately behind her.  “Why don’t you just use ours?” I barked.  My wife asked what kind of bug.  “A stink bug.”  They are ugly enough but move like rhinoceros beetles and are rather easy to dispose of.  My wife bravely went off to reckon with this critter. 

I the morning she yelled downstairs for us to be quiet. It was 11:00AM.  I offered to make my younger one some breakfast but she helped herself to some goodies she’d secured the night before at the Japanese market we visited in Sunset Park.  She and my wife went out to do some shopping and she began to chop-away at some of the vast sheet of ice covering our driveway.   This immediately made me feel guilty.  Shoveling driveways was once my trade.  I’d been sitting in a chair imagining that I’d go for a walk to get some exercise.  I should head out and do something productive. 

The big shovel we have is plastic and not the right tool.  There is also a spade with a pointed tip which is what you need for digging into hard earth but in my wife’s hands was a flat shovel I hadn’t seen before, which is exactly what you need to have any hope of dislodging any of crust on our driveway.  So, as she sped off, up our extremely icy, driveway incline, I began to chop and chop. 

Slow going, but progress was made.  And, as I haven’t had access to a gym for a while it was both wonderful and humbling to call upon my upper body to perform.  I stayed out there for about two hours or more and my hands, my biceps, my shoulders all felt like silly-pudy.  I tried to chop as a lefty for a while to give my right hand a break.  Some places you could get the tip of the blade up under the ice and pry a long sheet free.  But most blocks you simply had to slam the blade down on over and over again, at this and that angle until pieces would come off.  Salt would have helped, so would the sun.  But we didn’t have any and I kept at it beyond what necessity demanded, because if felt so good to have my arms sore.   That’s how I sent the shortest day of the year, with the sun dropping down in horizon by 3:30PM, the way I remember from a winter visit to Oulu in Finland, near the Arctic Circle.

Saturday, 12/21/19     

May Have Been Midwood

My older daughter is flying into town, from college.  It’s going to be wonderful to see her.  I’d opted to spend fifty bucks more to fly her direct with no lay overs.  I imagined her snowed in, in Detroit, having missed a connection and told her to get the direct flight.  I considered but didn’t spring for the additional $150.00 that would have flown her into Newark on United.  Next time I will consider this more carefully. 

Midday on the last Friday before Christmas, we picked up my younger one from school around 1:00PM and headed on in.  We didn’t pull into the Terminal 4 arrivals area until about 4:15PM.  The traffic was merciful enough until we got to the approach to the Whitestone Bridge which was backed up for miles.  Crossing it was an accident in the oncoming lane, and not any toll booth as I’d suspected that all the rubbernecks were slowing for.  But then the Van Wyck Expressway (did you know Robert Anderson Van Wyck he was the ninety-first mayor of NYC?) was bumper to bumper.  If you look at Google Maps, like I just did, to find out what the hell the name of that road you were stuck on is called and see that it is called Route 678, which isn’t what anyone else in New York calls it so you zero in closer and see that it was, the Van Wyck, it suggests the trip from the Whitestone Bridge to JFK is fourteen minutes of drive time, which may well be the case at 2:00AM, but at 3:30PM its more like an hour and fifteen minutes. 

I barked at my younger one as I tried to welcome my older one, as I pulled up and immediately caused a jam with the people behind me yelling and me sharing the love.  We couldn’t get the trunk open.  Her luggage was too big to fit in the back seat and we generally made a mess of it.  Speeding off we got back in traffic.  The ride to my sister’s where we to pick up her gifts to bring north should also have been about fifteen minutes but was projected to be and our and a half away in rush hour.   Waze had us off the BQE and into some crosstown neighborhood that may have been Midwood, then on to Ocean Parkway and up into her Sunset Park neighborhood.

She’d sold us on having our dinner in a redone warehouse shopping and dining complex near her home called Industry City.  There was supposed to be a vegan joint named Renegades and we headed there and parked in the lot by the Marine Terminal.  Renegades was closed but we spied people dining in another part of the complex and headed into a rather wonderful Japanese food complex and soon were having ramen, okonomiyaki and some kohada, and saba sushi, served by grumpy, middle-aged Japanese men that was outstanding.  At the table next to us two guys my aged whom I figured were Russian had an adorable girl of nine or so with them who seemed to be to be what a nine-year-old daughter of my best friend might look like and they turned and asked waitress who served them: “Are you Japanese?”  I could have told you how she would have responded, before she did, in fact say: “No.  I’m Chinese.”  But then if I asked them if they were Russian I may well have been wrong as well.


Saturday 11/21/19

We’ve Got Options

It’s getting pretty close.  Last weekend other things go in the way.  There’s only six days left till Christmas so today both agree to go and find a tree.  Our first Christmas back here in a long while, we will also need a tree stand. In Beijing it was getting pretty sparse last year.  I don’t have to look back at last year's entry to remember the Christmas tree lady, nearby the bridge over the fetid canal only had two or three trees left.  “Whatdya think?  All the laowai have left.”  She asks for $120.00 and you say: “I’ve been coming to you for ten years?  $80.00 and not a penny more.” This, even though she, herself, might not have been here last year and she can’t distinguish you from any other foreigner she may or may not recall from last year.  You put the cash in her coat.  She refuses, you come to an agreement.  The tree itself is loaded, dirt and all on to a scooter and driven over about twenty-minutes later and three men lug the tree, potted in a green wooden tub, dirt and all into your living room. 

We’ve got options in New Paltz.  Over at Lowes we considered multiple tree stands and chose something that looked just like the one we have in storage back in Beijing.  We got more bird seed, some Christmas lights and a bunch of mousetraps too.  They had trees all lined up but this late in the year it was slim pickings.  No matter, our plan had been to visit the Balsam Ridge Christmas Tree Farm, down South Street from Lowes.  It was a lovely drive down but cresting up to the bluff upon which this farm was located it was immediately apparent that the only trees they had left were next year’s aspirants.   We considered going in and asking but everything looked deserted, so we cut back down the road without stopping. 

Mercer Farms near our house had trees and we went back there.  But the trees were all under six feet tall: “Yeah.  It’s too late in the year.  I don’t think anyone has anything tall left.”  I groaned when my wife suggested we head back to reconsider the Lowes’ stock.  We did anyway and reconfirmed that the trees were all too short and thin.  My wife was heading over the river to pick up our daughter.  That place we’d visited yesterday in the old Montgomery Wards’ mall will have a better selection than anything we’ve seen here. She was worried they’d need to tie the tree on to the roof.  “If you buy it tonight, I’ll go pick it up tomorrow.”

At home I made two pizzas.  I have the pre-made dough.  I know what the visual looks like for spinning pizza dough into a proper pie.  I ought to practice.  I have the hairy arms for it.  Every time I try, which is once or twice a month I just give up after an initial spin, feeling ridiculous, and pull it out into something like a circle, which is fine except the center gets to thin and when you pull it out of the oven and cut them into triangles the toppings prove too heavy for the thin crust.  And on one of the two pies, that is what happened tonight.   

My wife surprised and brought the tree home with her, wrapped up, in the car.  At least our tree’s up.

Thursday 12/19/19