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Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Comments left on one of my earlier posts have led me to a point I’ve been trying to get to for a few months now:  “Describe the town where you grew up.”

Makes me think a little of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which was about a small New Hampshire town — ironic, when you consider that Wilder was from the South, and even more ironic when you consider that although I now live in a small New Hampshire town, the town I actually grew up in is in the Borough of Queens, in New York City.  Yes, New York does have small towns.  In fact, it’s really just a collection of small towns cobbled together into one large entity, and I never did find out how that came to be.

When I was growing up, it was just making the transition from a farming community to a City suburb.  In fact, there were still dairy farms in the next town over, and a large part of my childhood memories focus on the clank of milk bottles being delivered to our doorstep at around 4:30 in the morning (I’ve been a Morning Person from, oh, the day I was born — at 6:30 a.m.).

In our town, you not only knew where you belonged, you knew where you didn’t belong, and heaven help you if you were caught in a part of town where you didn’t belong.  Not that you’d get beaten up or anything, but thanks to the village grapevine, your mother would find out.  “What were you doing over on 79th Avenue?!” my mother would demand suspiciously, and of course, I’d wonder how on earth she’d found out.  In fact, I still don’t know.  We didn’t know anybody in that part of town who would have called her.  It wasn’t a bad part of town, not at all, but it Wasn’t Catholic.

The part of town where I belonged was very strictly defined.  I could walk the half-mile to school.  I could walk the half mile between home and the public library.  I could go around the corner to my aunt’s house.  I could walk over to the next street where my cousin lived, and I could walk a couple blocks past that to where my grandmother lived, along with her two sons and their wives (who were cousins of my mother’s).  That was it.  On no account was I to walk up The Avenue past the library, or near the cemeteries that defined the western and eastern boundary of town, and actually, I first ventured past the library when I was a teenager and wanted to purchase records at Bill’s Radio Shop.  My mother would purse her lips when I told her I was going to Bill’s.  Only when I was in my 40s did I learn that Bill, along with half of Metropolitan Avenue, was a frothing Communist.

Apparently there was a lot of Communist activity in our town in the 1930s.  My dad had a part-time job working at a hardware store at that time, and once casually mentioned that he covered the store on Wednesday evenings when the owner held his Communist-cell meetings in the back room!  If had known, when I was a kid, I think I would have called the FBI myself!  There was Bill’s, there were a number of haberdashers on the main drag, there was the movie, the toy store, a couple of drug stores — all, apparently, owned by Communists or Communist sympathizers, which was not a good thing to be in the 1950s, and heaven alone knows how those stores avoided being closed down:  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg weren’t neighbors, but they certainly could have been.

I always felt safe in our part of town, at least till after I was grown and New York became such a hotbed of crime.  There was always crime in other parts of the City, but it never seemed to touch our area, which was completely blue- and pink-collar.   The cops used to hate being posted to our town; they called it “the Little Old Lady Precinct.”  But that was probably because, as I look back, the whole neighborhood was inhabited by cops.  There were two on my block alone, four or five around the corner, my uncle who lived one block over, one of the uncles who lived with my grandmother, and there was another cop on his block.  Then there were the neighborhood kids who grew up to become cops.  In later years, the Mafia would take credit for keeping the neighborhood safe, but long before there was the Mafia, there were cops.

And in those days, there wasn’t any of this nonsense about “bribing” cops.  You took care of each other.  The cops didn’t patrol in cars, they walked beats, and if you invited the neighborhood cop in for a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day, he didn’t take that to mean that you were looking for extra protection, and that wasn’t why you were offering him a cup of coffee.  It was cold, and the poor soul was half frozen, that’s all.  The whole dynamic of New York City changed when people began accusing cops of being “on the take”; it wasn’t neighborly anymore.

Was there discrimination?  There must have been.  In a town that was half Jewish and half German, where the Jews employed Gentile teenagers to work for them on the Sabbath and the Germans employed Polish farm workers, during the immediate post-war era — not to mention our little half-square-block of neither-here-nor-there Italian and Irish families — how could there not have been discrimination?  But we knew how to practice civility towards one another, and we knew that Jews didn’t speak to Christians and vice versa.  (And Catholics didn’t socialize with Protestants, and vice versa.)  The rules were never, ever spoken, but they were widely known and accepted.

As the Jews died off and the Germans moved out, the Italians moved in, and the neighborhood changed again.  One of my most vivid memories is of visiting my old neighborhood with my two children — actually, we were visiting my aunt, who still lived around the corner from where I grew up — and I wanted to take them on a trip down Memory Lane.  It was summer, and as we rounded the corner, we came upon a scene familiar to me from my childhood, all the housewives sitting out on the steps of their houses, chatting with one another.  As we walked down the street, all conversation stopped dead.  All the women stared at us, and the silence, and the stares, continued as we walked down the block and out of sight.  We had become the strangers.  Home wasn’t home anymore.  It was a powerful lesson in neighborhood dynamics, and I finally understood an event that had taken place not too many years earlier, when a black man was badly beaten in an Italian neighborhood (Bensonhurst).  Everyone assumed the beating took place because he was black.  But that day, I learned that it was because he didn’t Belong.

Now the neighborhood has changed again.  My aunt tells me that Romanians have moved into the neighborhood.  In a way, I wish I lived there again; I’ve had good experiences with Romanians locally, and being an Orthodox Christian, if I lived back home, I’d be attending the Romanian church, since it’s the only Orthodox church in town — down the street from where my grandmother lived, in fact, in a former synagogue.  (Frequent seismic activity in the area suggests a lot of Jews rolling over in their graves at the very thought.)  But in truth, I probably never will see Home again.  And if I did, it wouldn’t be Home; it has changed too much.  And so have I.

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Today’s topic:  “How do you stay entertained when you are snowed in?”  To which I, living in New England, can only respond, “Oh, please.”

I personally have so much handwork that I practically pray for snow days — though, having survived one winter (I think it was ’08-’09, or it might have been the year before) when it began snowing in October and ended in late April, with snow every single day of the first two weeks of February, I temper my enthusiasm for snow with caution.  The fact remains that between cross stitch, knitting, crosswords, letter-writing, blogging, and the ever-present library of Books-to-Be-Read, indoor entertainment is not a problem in this household.

Other people are puzzle aficionados (yes, Italians, I know that’s grammatically incorrect, but I don’t know Italian plurals).  Still others begin planning their home renovations in October, put everything on hold for the holidays, and get back into it the second the Christmas tree is down.  There are people who put together entire photo albums over the winter, complete with hand-written notes about what was taking place in each photo.  You can make pretty good progress on a foreign language when the winds howl and hurl the snow against your windows.

Or you can begin, and finish, War and Peace.  Now there is a project.  But please don’t try to tell me that there’s nothing to do when you are snowed in.

And once it all stops, you still have to dig your way out.  Then you get to go skiing.

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It only recently occurred to me that it’s been one year now since my husband retired, an event I was not looking forward to.  I’m not the first woman who has at least thought, if not said, “I married him for better or for worse, but not for lunch” — although actually, at one point in our lives (when the kids were little), he did used to come home for lunch, and I enjoyed having a hot meal on the table for him.  That was a long time ago.

So here we are, a year later, and it hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared.  I truly was afraid that he would be one of those horrible men I see wandering the supermarket with their wives, badgering the poor woman about all her choices; I always want to say, “Hey, she managed the house just fine without you for 35 or 40 years, so buzz off, buzzard!!” and manage to restrain myself only with difficulty, which gets harder as you get older.

Fortunately, my husband has found many other things to occupy his time, mostly having to do with selling his father’s house.  He made two trips to NJ to clean the place out, in November and December, and we spent much of last winter sorting through the stuff he brought home, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been; he only brought home photo albums (still to be gone through) and tons of paper with confidential information on it because my in-laws never threw anything out.  Most of that went into the shredder (thank goodness for shredders).

In July he actually managed to unload the place, albeit at substantially under market value, mostly due to the fact that the in-laws hadn’t done a thing to the place since they bought it in 1973.  We debated updating it, and decided to put it on the market at a rock-bottom price (which was still about twice what they paid for it), and let the new owner do all the upgrading; and that turned out to be a good approach, since we got our asking price.  I would want that, too, so I could make my new abode my own that way.

And there has been the Garden.  Ever since we moved here, 24 years ago, my husband has had a vegetable garden.  He grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, mostly, all organically — we make and use all our own compost — and from time to time we have Unexpected crops, like tomato plants he didn’t buy (they came from seeds we threw away), and very often, a bumper crop of potatoes, which are a whole new ball game when you grow them yourself.  One year he planted pumpkin seeds, and we had pumpkins for about five years after that (and no clue how to cook them, sooooo….).

But now the house is sold, the paper is mostly sorted through, and the garden is going to sleep for the season.  There is still the cellar to clean out; it used to be a very nice family room till the kids moved out and started storing all their stuff down there, and now it looks like most people’s cellars.  When priests come to bless the house, we always ask them just to “throw some holy water down there,” and since they all have families and Stuff themselves, they know where we’re coming from.

I confidently expect this project to take a couple of winters.  After that — I don’t know.  But at least he doesn’t follow me around the supermarket, mostly because I send him with a list and some money.  Gives me more time for cross stitch.

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I have met the enemy, and he is the phone company.

Ever since Far Point Fair Point took over local telephone service, I have been an unhappy camper.  There was something so reassuring about names like New England Telephone and NYNEX (New York/New England Xchange).  I wasn’t overly thrilled with “Verizon” — a silly name if ever I heard one — but we shook down fairly well together until Verizon sold us down the river to this crowd that proceeded to lose the e-mail accounts of 2/3 of its customers — that’s when I started using G-mail — and billing us in the neighborhood of $25 a month for next to nothing.

At the same time, we’ve had our long-distance service, for a very long time now, with AT&T.  We remember when AT&T was the only game in town, and we always liked their service.  You got one bill, it was reasonable (provided you hadn’t been calling your Great-Aunt Mabel, who’s deaf as a post, out in San Francisco every single day ), and if you needed line service, all you had to do was call, and someone was there inside of eight hours.  Great company.

So there we were, paying in the neighborhood of $45 a month for long distance and $25 a month for local, and knowing that AT&T had local service to our area…  We decided to switch local service providers.   We made the appropriate phone call, and were assured that our service would be transferred smoothly on July 30.  We could even keep our same telephone number, the one we’ve had for 24 years.

Yeeeeaaaaaah.  On August 2, the hubster picked up the phone to place a call, and — nothing.  No dial tone.  I actually have made the concession to the modern era of having a cell phone, so I got on that, and after 45 minutes on hold (with the cell phone overheating in my hand), got a perky little number who wanted to know how she could make me a Very Satisfied Customer today.  “You can connect my service,” I said, and told her the whole tale.  Half an hour later, by which time my ear was also on fire, she assured me that I would be contacted by a Customer Service representative in “24 to 48 hours.”  What happens if we need the phone in the meantime??  Oh well.

By today, four hours short of the 48-hour deadline, I called AT&T again to find out what happened to my service.  Far Point, it seems, hasn’t released our telephone number for AT&T to pick up.  It’s going to take *another* 24 to 48 hours to get it all straightened out.  “Just cancel the service,” I said, and called Far Point.  (Star Trek fans will recognize the reference, presumably.)   When Far Point went to look up our account number — they didn’t show any such number in their records.  We explained what had happened, saying only that we had wanted to “consolidate our bills” (making no reference to their crummy service), and they told us that they would contact AT&T about the problem.  “Slight problem with that,” I said, and explained that we had already cancelled the service — whereupon the Customer Service rep for Far Point blew up.

Now, we have a cable company in town that has been advertising a cable-phone-internet package.  We already have our cable and internet with them, and decided to investigate their phone service.  For an addition $20 a month, we get unlimited local and long-distance dialling, and free caller ID and call waiting.  Great, we said, let’s do it.

But they can’t access our old phone number.  So we need a new phone number, and it will take seven days for the service to start up.

And people wonder why I hate phones?!?!?!

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I was browsing through old posts today, with an eye towards deleting some that were a little too personal — do banks still ask for your mother’s maiden name as a password to your account? — and reading them, I could see how people could guess I was from New York anyway:  They read just like Seinfeld, “the show about nothing.”   Boy, I wrote a lot about nothing.    😉

Which serves as an introduction to this post, which is essentially about Nothing.  DH and I, approaching anniversary #41, really are incredibly alike in many ways.  We are both morning people.  We both like classical music, and did when we were dating, too.  Both bookworms.  Both Conservatives.  My mother once reminded me that at one point I had complained, “It’s like dating myself,” and although that was an unfair assessment (made with typically 18-year-old arrogance), I can see how I drew that conclusion.

So it’s always a bit of a shock to find that there are some things on which we completely disagree.  One of these is nutrition.  DH, being the child of a nurse, is completely in lock step with the medical profession.  Once he hears that “Doctors Say,” it’s carved in stone.  So, for example, for the past 19 years, ever since I became Orthodox, he has had a serious problem with my fasting — until, sometime this past winter, he heard that Doctors Say that eating fish is good for you.  And we ate fish throughout Great Lent.  Hey, I’m not complaining.  Doctors also Say that Butter Is Bad for You, so it’s anathema to him.  Meanwhile, my nutritionist is saying, “Don’t eat margarine — it’s one molecule away from plastic” (my cousin who’s an engineer says the same thing), and trying to wean DH off margarine has been, shall we say, Interesting.

I, on the other hand, had a healthy distrust of doctors even before the horrors of 2006, dating back to when my feet began to go bad on me  —  maybe 21 or 22 years ago.  Up to that point, I had done three miles a day without batting an eyelash, but suddenly I couldn’t walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without holding onto something, and doctors blew it off as “all in my head.”  A visit to a chiropractor revealed that one leg was an inch shorter than the other; when I tasked my doctor with it, he explained that doctors don’t consider that a problem unless there’s a 2-inch or more discrepancy.  Hey, when you’re five feet zip, lemme tell you, every inch counts.  So 2006 just confirmed my entire experience of doctors since, oh, about 1978:  They’re all boobs, idiots, and charlatans.

Then, as I have discovered this past week, there’s homeopathic medicine.  This past week, as I have groused on Facebook, I’ve had a cold.  Not an especially bad one, but you know what colds are:  With some of them, you’re afraid you aren’t going to die, and with some of them, you just wish you could crawl into a cave until it’s run its course.  Mine, this week, was the latter.  I had some Tylenol Multi-Symptom cold stuff around, and the expiration date hadn’t quite come due — barely — so I took some and confidently waited for it to do its stuff.  Nothing.  I spent Thursday and yesterday in complete misery, until I decided, Enough! and grabbed some stuff called Sinusalia, from a company called Boiron.  Herbal extracts in a little pill that you chew up, consuming two of them every two hours until your symptoms are gone.

And danged if it didn’t work.

For the cough, I’ve been knocking back a couple of Halls Naturals cough drops every few hours — “Harvest Peach” — same result.  So help me, if I could find an acupuncturist locally, I think I’d give it a try.  But then, lately I’ve discovered this “woo-woo” way of living, doing t’ai chi and eating vegan (Gee – I – wonder – why), and have come to the conclusion that there really are worse ways to live.  Including, in my never – so – humble opinion, putting a lot of chemicals into your body.  Regardless of what Doctors Say.

Thankfully, we have 41 years of living together behind us, so we’ve learned to roll with each other’s “idiot – syncrasies.”  I suspect that we will never come to a meeting of the minds on the subject of homeopathic medicine, and that’s just as well.  Otherwise, it’d be like being married to myself — a fate worse than death.

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I Am a New Yorker

A priest’s wife I know who is from New York — Sheepshead Bay, I think — sent me this.  Says it all.

I am a New Yorker
I do not live in the five boroughs or on the Island or Upstate
I may live hundreds or thousands of miles away
Or I may live just over the George Washington Bridge
But I am a New Yorker

I am a New Yorker
Whatever took me out of New York:
Business, family or hating the cold
did not take New York out of me.
My accent may have faded and my pace may have slowed
But I am a New Yorker

I am a New Yorker
I was raised on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Rockefeller Plaza,

The Yankees or the Mets (Giants or Dodgers)

Jones Beach, Rye Beach, Orchard Beach or one of the beaches
on the sound [i.e., Long Island Sound]
I know that ‘THE END’ means Montauk.

Because I am a New Yorker


I am a New Yorker
When I go on vacation, I never look up

Skyscrapers are something I take for granted

The Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty are part of me

Taxis and noise and subways and ‘gedadda heah’ don’t rattle me

Because I am a New Yorker


I am a New Yorker

I was raised on cultural diversity before it was politically correct

I eat Greek food and Italian food,
Jewish and Middle Eastern food and
Chinese food
Because they are all American food to me.

I don’t get mad when people speak other languages in my presence

Because my relatives got to this country via Ellis Island and chose to stay.


They were New Yorkers


People who have never been to New York have misunderstood me.
My friends and family work in the industries, professions and businesses that benefit all Americans.

My firefighters died trying to save New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers.
They died trying to save Americans and non-Americans.
Because they were New Yorkers.

I am a New Yorker.
I feel the pain of my fellow New Yorkers.

I mourn the loss of my beautiful city.

I feel and dread that New York will never be the same
But then I remember:
I am a New Yorker


And New Yorkers have:
Tenacity, strength and courage way above the norm

Compassion and caring for our fellow citizens

Love and pride in our city, in our state, in our country

Intelligence, experience and education par excellence

Ability, dedication and energy above and beyond

Faith–no matter what religion we practice

Terrorists hit America in its heart
But America’s heart still beats strong

Demolish the steel in our buildings,
but it doesn’t touch the steel
in our souls
Hit us in the pocketbook;
but we’ll parlay what we have left into a
fortune
End innocent lives leaving widows and orphans,
but we’ll take care of
them
Because they are New Yorkers


Wherever we live, whatever we do, whoever we are
There are New Yorkers in every state and every city of this nation
We will not abandon our city
We will not abandon our brothers and sisters
We will not abandon the beauty,
creativity and diversity that New York represents
Because we are New Yorkers
And we are proud to be New Yorkers.


REMEMBER THE WTC
Author – Vincent Pasquale, Maspeth, NY

(where I lived for six of my 31 years as a New Yorker)

Thank you Vincent for allowing us to share this with
our fellow New Yorkers all around the world.


Only those who grew up or lived in NYC can understand the meaning of this:

THERE IS NO NORTH AND SOUTH. IT’S ‘UPTOWN’ OR ‘DOWNTOWN.’ IF YOU’RE REALLY FROM NEW YORK , YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CONCEPT OF WHERE NORTH AND SOUTH ARE…AND EAST OR WEST IS ‘CROSS-TOWN.’

YOU KNOW HOW TO MAKE AN EGG CREAM.

YOU RIDE IN A SUBWAY CAR WITH NO AIR CONDITIONING JUST BECAUSE THERE ARE SEATS AVAILABLE.

YOU KNOW WHAT A ‘REGULAR’ COFFEE IS.

YOU MOVE 3,000 MILES AWAY, SPEND 10 YEARS LEARNING THE LOCAL LANGUAGE AND PEOPLE STILL KNOW YOU’RE FROM BROOKLYN, LONG ISLAND, Staten Island (the other “Island)” OR “THE BRONX”, THE MINUTE YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH.

YOU RETURN AFTER 10 YEARS AND THE FIRST FOODS YOU WANT ARE A ‘REAL’ PIZZA AND A ‘REAL’ BAGEL.

A 500 SQUARE FOOT APARTMENT IS LARGE.

YOU WOULDN’T BOTHER ORDERING PIZZA IN ANY OTHER CITY.

YOU’RE NOT THE LEAST BIT INTERESTED IN GOING TO TIMES SQUARE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE.

YOUR INTERNAL CLOCK IS PERMANENTLY SET TO KNOW WHEN ALTERNATE SIDE OF THE STREET PARKING REGULATIONS IS IN EFFECT.

YOU KNOW WHAT A BODEGA IS.

SOMEONE BUMPS INTO YOU AND YOU CHECK FOR YOUR WALLET.

YOU DON’T EVEN NOTICE THE LADY WALKING DOWN THE ROAD HAVING A PERFECTLY NORMAL CONVERSATION WITH HERSELF.

YOU PAY ‘ONLY’ $230 A MONTH TO PARK YOUR CAR.

YOU CRINGE AT HEARING PEOPLE PRONOUNCE HOUSTON ST. LIKE THE CITY IN TEXAS .

THE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT IS A MAJOR TRAFFIC JAM, NOT AN HONOR.

THAT’S NEW YORK , BABY! YA GOTTA LOVE IT

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“A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short.” ― Andre Maurois

I can’t possibly add to that.    🙂

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