The clock over my sink drew a second look from many visitors to the House of Mars this summer. My cousin Janet, visiting from Brooklyn, thought she’d entered a time warp. What else would explain the fact that she arrived on the 4:10 train, then accompanied me on a detour home to forage the necessities for making watermelon margaritas, and yet arrived in my kitchen at 4:20. Others were less dramatic, and just asked outright “Is that clock right?” My answer to all seekers remained the same – yes, kind of.
You see, I’ve hated climbing up to take it down to turn the clock forward, or back, as the season and the news programs dictate. And so this year, after several months of conveniently forgetting, I decided on July first since I was as close to Eastern Standard Time as I was to Daylight Savings Time, I’d just bide my time until the clock would sync itself with reality.
Or so I thought until the middle of August when it became permanently 3:42 over-the-sink-in-the kitchen-of-The-House-of- Mars. The battery up and died, and so unless I wanted to live a life just short of the witching hour of British tea time, I’d have to climb up there after all.
Score one for Father Time. Score another advanced case of procrastination for me – I decided to wait until November 1 to do both, fall back (not off the ladder, I hoped), and change the battery.
Finally the day arrived.
I checked the clock. I needed AA
Thanks to my friend, John, an emergency-phobe, I always keep a box-load of batteries to tide me over though any power outage. I checked my stash.
every thing but AA
Lesson learned – Don’t Mess with Father Time
I was on a mission, an advance party charged with finding a restaurant. I had several criteria. Since we would be attending a 7 PM music event on the West Side of Manhattan immediately afterwards, it had to be in the vicinity of West 72nd Street, and since it was early September, which is technically late summer, we preferred it have outdoor cafe seating.
Normally I’d let my fingers do the walking and make reservations on Open Table, but since my train got in at 4-ish, and we planned to eat at 5:30, which is early by New York standards, I knew I’d have no trouble finding a place. I decided to walk over from Grand Central and take a look in person
Well, it didn’t take long for me to become totally distracted I had progressed but one block when all it took was one well-displayed sign in a store window.
I knew what a variance was, having sought the help of my friendly town building department in pinpointing the location of my septic system years ago. I was told a variance had been issued for it. That was all they know
“what’s that mean?” I asked.
“It’s an exception to the rule.”
Curious to see what was going on after hours, I turned the corner and proceeded to the next sign.
Of course I had to make my way around the entire building
Is the whole thing rat-infested?
I finally tore myself away and proceeded onward when total panic struck. My heart rate actually increased. Had I crossed the border into a parallel world? Into another dimension? I stepped back. Here I was on the corner of 50th Street and Fifth Avenue, but where was St Patrick’s Cathedral? Had aliens absconded with it? I mean where could a cathedral that took up a square block disappear to? I took a few deep breaths to calm myself, and stepped back to logically assess the situation. There had to be a logical explanation. And there it was.
I was on the corner of 50th Street
but not Fifth Avenue
So distracted had I been by the rat poison sign, that in my desire to explore, I’d turned north a block early onto Madison Avenue without even realizing.
But time was a-wasting, and I was on a mission. I gradually wound my way north and west when ……..what was this? It was a typical Halal food cart but I’d never seen so many people lined up at a pushcart.
I decided to research the matter scientifically and do some comparisons.
right next door
across the street
on the next block
Even an ice cream truck just as people were getting out of work on a hot evening proved to be no competition.
But maybe that’s because it wasn’t Mr Softee.
(If you’re not a New Yorker, you don’t know that after years of luring successive generations of children out of their homes for soft serve ice cream cones with its annoying music, Mr Softee raised such ire that a newer prissier New York City issued noise restrictions targeting the trucks during the reign of King Giuliani)
But oh my goodness, time was a-wasting.
Well I managed to find a few restaurants then proceeded on to meet my friends on our agreed-upon corner. They suggested a restaurant they’d passed on the way over from the Museum of Natural History, where they’d spent the afternoon. And what are the odds? Of all the restaurants on the West Side, it was the one at the top of my list!
End of story.
Well, not quite. A few weeks later I found an article about the opening of Urban Space Vanderbilt, a new upscale midtown food court…..
right down the street from the rat building.
Just when I found a way of facing the facts of life, the coming winter life, that is, I find things have been turned topsy-turvy. You see, I’d found solace in the thought that Mother Nature would be taking a well-deserved rest after blessing me with such a beautiful summer along with an abundance of vegetables, and bouquets of flowers, potential bouquets, that is, since I only picked flowers on two occasions.The problem, although it’s not really a problem, is that my garden doesn’t want to stop so she can rest, and she doesn’t seem ready for even a short nap anyway.
The tomato plants are continuing to furnish me with daily portions
as well as promises of more to come
Yellow Squash, though tinier than in the dog days of summer. get a bit bigger every dayWhile even tinier zucchini hope they’ll be big enough to pick before the first frost gets hereI don’t think any eggplant will emerge from these lovely purple flowers
But maybe I’ll pick a pepper or two tomorrow
Even my container annuals, which in other years I discard in August because they’ve grown leggy and sparse, don’t seem to know it’s October 15 and not August 15.But then I look at the deck from a different angle.
And I look up the road.
But still, with October temperatures like these……….
……the plants aren’t the only ones who are getting the most out of this summer that won’t quit. I’m still working in my summer office.
And as for The Mars, Marble, Marcel, & MarceauI don’t have the heart to tell them (or my outdoor green friends) the weatherman is warning of frost on Saturday night, and temps as low as 29 Sunday night.
As is my wont, I was cozily ensconced in the recliner one morning a couple of weeks ago, sipping my coffee and watching the Today Show, when a movement straight ahead, through the window of the spare room, and up in the woods caught my eye. At first, judging my the heft of its hind quarters I though it was a bear, bears being in the news so often. But no, although it was a hefty figure, it was the wrong color so the second thought flashing through my mind was that it was the Golden Retriever down the road who, on a couple of occasions, has escaped his yard to explore my woods. Then I noticed the magnificent antlers, it was a young male deer. But it was gone before I could right the recliner and grab my camera from my bag in the dining room.
I forgot about it until that evening when I went into the driveway to get a 30 lb bag of cat litter out of my car.
There he was.
Then I realized he was getting closer to the decorative grasses I’ve been nurturing for five years, so I proceeded out to the cat littler. It had little effect on him, but at least he changed his direction.
The next day, I took a look at the grasses, and decided they must not be his cup of tea.
Friday evening I had just parked the car when I was discovered I was being observed from the driveway next door.
Maybe it wasn’t my grass he’s interested in. Maybe he’s looking for a set of wheels
I have long suspected that Marble is the reincarnation of Marcos. Allow me to sway you to my belief.
I adopted them both as a result of an obsession based on a falsehood. Believing the plea of my favorite 104.6 DJ Maria Milito that a 16-year old dog had been surrendered to Animal Control in Manhattan, I wasted no time in running to his rescue. What I brought home was a robust, rambunctious 7-year old. Somehow the neighbor who brought Marcos to the shelter, since his owner could no longer care for him, had said he was 16. Perhaps it was a language problem. The shelter is in Spanish Harlem and I used to call Marcos my Puerto Rican dog when I once witnessed his ears perk up and his head swivel around when we passed landscapers calling to each other in Spanish.
As for Marble, it was my view of him in a cage in the Petsmart adoption room. All I had to do was see the back of his head.
For some reason, he didn’t turn around and I didn’t disturb him. Maybe I had blinders on, but I do not recall taking note of his back, so I was laboring under the impression that he was an exotic cat with one lone stripe tracing the length of his back, like a skunk in reverse. He wasn’t.
Marcos entered the House of Mars with his ribs not only palpable but poignantly visual. This was most likely proof of what the Good Samaritan’s explanation that “his owner could no longer care for him”.
When the “rescue lady” delivered Marble, I commented “oh, how thin.” Her interpretation? “He’s slim.
Compare the posture and tell me that’s not the same old soul!
I managed to fatten him up when he was Marcos…….
….but have had no luck with him as Marble due to a chronic case of inflammatory bowel disease. Although truth be told, Marcos may have had it too. I often Joke that he came back as Marble, just so he could throw up on spots he missed when he was Marcos.
If you don’t believe me ask Marceau the Moocher. He’s already ready to share.
But if you need irrefutable proof, here it is.
OK, be like that!
Sound travels. That’s a given, but how it travels is another thing. At the House of Mars, for instance, when my next door neighbors are talking above a certain level on the deck on the far side of their house, it sounds as if they’re in my backyard – but only if I hear them through my bathroom window.
And I guess they have to be on some sort of mystery solar sweet spot since I don’t always hear them.That house has had seen three sets of owners since I’ve lived here, and it’s been the same with each set of neighbors. They don’t have to be loud, they just have to be on their deck.
This summer I discovered another sound phenomenon at the lake I go to. There is a certain mystery spot in the middle of the swim area where the human voice projects as if amplified by a microphone.It has to be late in the afternoon when the crowd is thinning out
and it has to be a loudmouth doing the talking. I witnessed it twice, but while the first instance was merely annoying, the second was traumatic! A woman was drilling her kids on their multiplication tables.
If you’re asking yourself what’s so traumatic about that, you didn’t have a mother like mine. You see, when it came to the times tables, you never know when she would pounce. Once she knew the ones you were weak in, she turned into a pit bull. I was fine until I got to the nine times tables, 9X7 in particular. For my brother Jim, it was the eight times table and 8×7 was his mental block. While we never knew when she’d bark either one, we were reasonably sure it would be at breakfast. 9×7? 8×7? Sometimes she’d toss a curve ball like 6×7 then circle back to 9X7 or 8×7.
63, 56, it dawned on me there on the beach. Why didn’t she quiz us in reverse? Give us the answers, let us come up with the equation. Maybe it would have helped.Why didn’t our teachers do that? Why didn’t I do that when I was a teacher? Who knows, maybe teachers more creative than I was, came up with this tactic
The drill was still going on as I started to pack up to leave and I wondered why the woman didn’t correct her daughter when she replied 132 to the equation 11×12. Why didn’t she tell her the correct number was 121? I stopped to give 121 some thought and realized that’s 11 x11. See, my theory works!
My morning routine varies little. After my cup of coffee, I make my way down to the basement to turn off and empty the dehumidifier. As I pass the vegetable garden, I will myself to stay on the concrete path Taking a deep breath, I descend each step, repeating a silent mantra, Leave them alone, leave them alone. My will power holds up on the way down,vegetable but evaporates on the way back up.
I bend over and peek under the giant atomic monster spectacle zucchini plant in search of any new green zukes,
then do the same at its slightly smaller yellow squash cousin.
If my garden was the state fair, I’d have to rate these two a gold medal, since no sooner do I slice and grill one harvest, but find several more lining up for the next time I fire up the grill.
Next I sidle over to the eggplant where there’s no need to search. Although not as prolific as the squash varieties, it has yielded one meal and it looks like another one is not too far in the future.
And although they’ve had their problems between the groundhogs’ occasional raids and my absent-minded trampling on them, the pepper plants are giving it their all. I gently part the leaves and count the pretty white flowers and recall how crisp and crunchy the one tiny pepper I couldn’t resist picking back in July was, even though I should have left it on the plant a little longer. One is waiting for me, if I can have the patience to wait for it to get a bit bigger, or maybe a lot bigger. Oh, yes, I’d give it a bronze medal.
But now the fun ends. I know I should just turnaround and go back into the house, but that masochistic part of me propels me on to the tomatoes with whom I have a love/hate relationship. I’m in awe of how huge the the plants are. But I guess they have to be if they are to hold up all those huge beefsteak tomatoes hanging from them. Green tomatoes. After checking each one for a hint of yellow or orange, I sigh and turn my back on them.
Slacker medal for them
You see, it’s more than my disappointment. It’s my friends I worry a bout. No, not my veggie plant friends, but my real live flesh and blood friends, the ones who were so hopeful as they accepted my overflow of small plants last May, the 23 seed tray mates of the 5 runts I kept for myself. Only two have reported red tomatoes, the rest are in the same boat as I am, seeking that slight change of green to yellow green, then on to orange……and so on.
Then came tonight – since we haven’t had rain in over a week, I hauled the hose over for a soaking than the watering can I usually use to gently administer to each plant.
I wasn’t really looking at it, but there it was. Well, isn’t it always the way?!?
Have faith my friends, have faith. Your’s are on the way!