Archive for November 2012

Sweet Memories   8 comments

Are you surprised by all the publicity generated by the demise of the Twinkie? I was, but then, I think I received some insight into it – thanks to football. Well, indirectly – it was actually the half-time show on Thanksgiving afternoon.

I was in the kitchen, bungling a recipe for the stuffed Portobello mushrooms I’d volunteered to bring to dinner,  and the Detroit Lions were playing someone or other in the living room. On my way to getting dressed I paused to watch Kid Rock give a great rocking shout out to Detroit, then continued on into the bedroom when a country singer came on. I think his name was Trace Atkins. The announcer pointed out that he was singing to his little girl.

Having been a daddy’s girl myself, I came out again to take a look. Trace was singing

“She thinks we’re just fishing. She doesn’t realize we’re making a memory.” (Or something to that effect)

……….and that’s when it hit me.  That’s what the Twinkie hub-bub’s all about !

People aren’t mourning the passing of the pseudo-crème filled artificially flavored fat finger of cake.They’re getting dewy-eyed about the memory surrounding it. And for each person, it’s a whole different memory.

Now I was never a Twinkie-lover but I do eat my share of junk-food, if candy can be classified as junk food. And my memories of candy are linked with life on the streets.

Noon recess

It was a time when the world felt kid-safe. So come noon, once we’d finished lunch (NYC school lunches – now that could fill a blog in itself) we were set free to play. And when I say free, I mean free – no supervising teachers – no recess monitors– just hundreds of kids, all mixed in, first graders through 8th graders, all doing their thing in the street. The only restraints were the barricades placed at each end of 151st street

and the  NYPD-issued  sign – Play Street   No traffic.

But this was meant to keep cars out, not us kids in.  There was no hard and fast rule that you had to stay on the block. And many kids took advantage of the freedom to go down to Marty’s, the luncheonette/candy store on the corner. Marty’s had the classic varieties of fifties penny candy that varied from week to week and the standard candy bars. Since I received a daily allowance of five cents, I could be found in the middle of the mob at the candy counter.

During my eight years of frequenting Marty’s, my choices were in the hundreds, but three stand out.

 

Turkish Taffy

First of all, I don’t know why it was called taffy because it sure wasn’t chewy and pliable.

It was brittle, and that’s what made it the perfect contraband to bring back to school to enjoy during afternoon class. if you hurled it, unwrapped, to the sidewalk, it broke into angular shards, much as a plate of glass would.

Once back at your desk, you’d unwrap it, place it next to  the text books under the seat, and  reach  down nonchalantly for a piece from time to time.

 

Necco Wafers

These little wafers of assorted mystery flavors were not saved, but consumed at recess, or rather, “received.”

They were the same circumference as the communion hosts, and so we would play Holy Communion. (Yes, I went to Catholic School.) The  purchaser would have the first turn at being priest. All her friends would kneel on the sidewalk in front of her, as she went down the line and placed a Necco Wafer on  each outstretched tongues. And although the faithful only receive communion once a day, we took turns being priest, and received over and over until the wafers were gone.

 

Three Musketeers

I don’t know how many people know this, but the original Three Musketeer bars had two horizontal lines strategically placed in the chocolate coating indicating where you could split the bar into three even pieces to be shared with your two BFF’s. That’s why it was called Three Musketeers and that’s what the commercials on Saturday morning cartoons told us to do so we did. I usually shared mine with my two BBF’s Sharon and Gail. And even though our friendship didn’t last forever, I don’t doubt they were my Best Friends then. After all, I shared my Three Musketeers with them.

To this day, I’m scheming to have Three Musketeers all to myself.  That’s why I always buy a bag of miniatures at Halloween. After thirteen Halloweens here, I’m pretty certain none of the trick-or-treaters would think of  exerting themselves by climbing  the hill leading to The House of Mars.

So hee hee hee

I have them all to myself!

 

 

 

Okay – your turn? What were your childhood dietary indiscretions?

C’mon share. That’s what the comments section is for.

Manhattan, Moment to Moment   6 comments

 

My goal for the moment is to live in the moment. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve set myself the task of taming my monkey, and appreciating what’s in front of me now. Sunday turned out to be a lesson.  You see I’d planned to visit the Westchester Cat Show on Sunday with a friend. But she called me Saturday to tell me she was ill. I was disappointed, but decided to  put the now-empty Sunday to good use. I’d continue in my quest to rid the House of Mars of the carpet of leaves surrounding it.

Well, the House of Mars still wears its collar of leaves. I awoke on Sunday deciding it could wait. I’d planned on a day for myself and that was what I’d have. A meditation group I sometimes attend was meeting in the afternoon. It centers around the lectures of Eckhart Tolle, one of the biggest proponents of living mindfully. His book, The Power of Now says it all.

I looked at the clock on the night table. It was 9 AM. The group started at 1:15 – in Manhattan. I could make it. So after showering, a cup of coffee, feeding all three Mars,  feline and canine, and walking the canine, I managed to arrive at the Peekskill train station in time to catch the 11:21 train. I even had time to just stand on the platform and appreciate the sunlight sparkling on  the Hudson River. How’s that for a now moment?

After listening to the talk and engaging in the meditation, I was ready to put one of Tolle’s points into action:

We spend a lot of precious energy waiting for, worrying about, and over-planning for the next moment. But by the time the next moment  reaches us, it’s the now; and more often than not, whatever we were worrying about, or planning for never materializes. But no matter, now we’re busy fussing over what we think we see down the pike.

And here I was in the middle of a prime example. I wasn’t at The Cat Show, was I? With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of the mild  November and meander along The West Side rather than taking the subway back to Grand Central Station. I would just walk with no particular route in mind and appreciate whatever unfolded. (And if it so happened I passed one of Manhattan’s ubiquitous vegetable stores, I’d stop for the parsley I needed for the casserole I planned to make when I got home.)

But enough of my narrative, I share my hour’s walk with you.

 

Ah, Christmas preparations, I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas, but this calm before storm is nice too.

Along Broadway in the West 60’s

 

Oh my, look where I am – Columbus Circle and 59th Street; and I just wrote about my first summer job at Woolworth’s in the last blog. Let’s see what’s in its place.

Just what NY needs – yet another Duane Reade drug store.

 

 

 

I’ll avoid Central Park South. I hate seeing those poor carriage horses. I always feel so sorry for them.  I’ll head east on 58th  Street instead.  Ah, look, an alternative to animal abuse.

One of the pedicabs gaining popularity among tourists

And another, and one built for two.

Too bad they’re all idle.

I’ll bet those %^&!! Horse carriage drivers aren’t.

 

Oh, look more Christmas  preparations.

Along East 58th Street

And look, how quiet – wait until next week.

The famed FAO Schwartz toy store

 

 

Well, I’ve walked thirty blocks south and seven block south and not one vegetable store. But not to worry, I’ll get it here in Grand Central Station

 

On the Main Concourse

Is this parsley?

 

No, here it is.

 

 

 

PS. See, I did use the parsley.

Chicken and Noodle Casserole with sour cream, onions, & parsley

My Summer at Woolworth’s, the Great Granddaddy of the Dollar Store   5 comments

When was the last time you saw a cash register in the supermarket? I mean a real one ——-

with buttons to push,  and a cash drawer that flew open at the touch of the total button? Probably, not for a while.

 

The barcode…..

 

……and its reader have taken over.

 

But it wasn’t exactly a flash revolution. Its patent was granted on October 7, 1952. Yes, that makes the barcode system 60 years old. The railroads were the first to use it, to identify boxcars.  It didn’t show up in a store until 1974, and that was at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio where the first item to be scanned was a pack of Wrigley’s Gum.

But once the barcode got its foot in the drawer (get it? cash register drawer? Oh never mind) it   insinuated itself into our culture, and not always for the better. If you ask me it’s made us fat and flabby, mentally —–and lazy.

Last Saturday, I was in my favorite dollar store where one line was very long and the other was just long. The barcode reader on the longer line was not working. The young man at the register started entering the numeric codes of items on the touch screen, but his frustration bubble over and he walked off his post in search of the manager, uttering “I’m not going to punch in numbers all day.”

Initially I wrote it off as another example of the softness of today’s youth but then I realized that the UPC codes are long strings of numbers, requiring more concentration than punching in 25 cents. But still I was tempted to tell him my story. Then I realized it would come across as walking ten miles each way to get to school – uphill – in a snowstorm, so I decided to tell it here instead.

The year was 1965 and it was my first summer job – at the 5&10, the old version of the dollar store. To be precise, it was at a Woolworth’s,

and the store was located

on 59th Street, right off Columbus Circle.

Being in the heart of Manhattan’s office district had its good points and its bad points. The mornings were kind and gentle since all the secretaries and file clerks were ensconced in the tall office buildings. We spent our time tidying up and replenishing our counters from the inventory stored behind them, interrupted only now and then by a solitary customer. But come lunchtime and whoa – who let the dogs out?

The store would fill up, and it seemed like they’d all come running to me.   I had the fortune (won’t say mis….) to man the cosmetics counter. Back in those days, there were no central checkouts at the exit.  You paid for each type of good at the counter where you found it. Each cashier stood in the middle of her island, just her and her cash register, surrounded by whatever goods they were responsible for.

So there I was with outstretched hands offering me bottles of nail polish, tubes of lipstick, face powder compacts, nail files, eyelash curlers, mascara, and on and on. The good thing was most customers only had one or two items. The bad thing was the cash register.

You see, the cash resisters were big and clunky, made of iron, and nothing like the ones supermarket cashiers used.  You needed strong fingers to depress the stiff mechanical keys.

See those keys. Some were dollar keys, some were tens keys and some were ones keys. The price had to be broken down – just like in math class. So if the price tag on a bottle of foundation  said $1.79  you had to push on the $1 key, the 70 cent key and the 9 cents key, and when you totaled up the purchase, you still weren’t finished.

There was the matter of sales tax. You had to consult a tax chart and figure out how much tax had to be added. And hold on, when the customer paid,  you had to make sure the tax amount, which was usually just pennies, was deposited separately in a slotted box attached to the cash register.  Bags were paper back then, so you’d place the items in, tear off the stubby receipt, slip it in the bag, say thank you, and take the next items from the outstretched hands waving in your face. On and on it went, for the two to three hours of staggered lunch hours, usually from 11:30 to 2.

But I managed to hold up, maybe too well. My supervisor was impressed, too impressed. she switched me to the candy section. No, not boxed candies, bulk candies. At my new station, I was surrounded by glass cases filled with loose M&M’s Hershey kisses, jawbreakers, bubble gum, red hots,

and oh yes, did I mention the nuts? Cashews,  peanuts, filberts, walnuts, alone or in a mix, all of which, like the candies  had to be fished out with a silver scoop, weighed and placed in small white paper bags for discrete afternoon munching.

I learned to estimate weight well, for everyone wanted a different amount; a quarter pound of this,an eighth of a pound of that. There was no time for dumping it back and starting over. After weighing and bagging, it still had to be rung up and taxed, while all of a sudden, everyone had to get back to the office – now!

But I survived candy as well. My only break from the cash register came the morning I filled in at the lunch counter to make (yes, make) ice cream sandwiches. After all you couldn’t cut rapidly melting bars of chocolate-strawberry-vanilla ice cream, slap the striped slices between crispy waffle cookies and ring up a sale at the same time, could you?

 

Well —— maybe you could – if it had a barcode on it.

A Scream Rings Out From The House of Mars   7 comments

The following is a true story, and appropriately, it occurred a few days before Halloween. I’d intended to post it on Halloween but Hurricane Sandy left me without electricity. I’m grateful that’s the only problem I suffered, and  feel terrible for those who lost  t heir homes, or those in homes with no heat on a night as cold as this – 28 degrees, here at The House of Mars.

My power was restored after five days  –  so now I can recount the story of the scream.

 

The night promised nothing out of the ordinary. I came home from my usual evening workout at the gym to find the cat brothers hanging out on Marcos “just in case” puppy pads.

Same old same old, so I walked around them on my way to the bedroom.

It was when I came back, that I noticed the face-off stance which could mean but one thing – mou-house!

Sure enough Marcel crouched on the left and Marceau on the right and between them, a very still, but alive, mouse.

Reasonable facsimile of the mouse

My first move was prompted by self-preservation. I went back and shut the bedroom door. I’ve been wakened more than once by Marcel jumping onto my bed to share a squeaking mouse. On my way back to the scene of the impasse it came to me. There was only one honorable thing to do: come to the rescue of the mouse.

I grabbed a towel out of the bathroom, and before you could spell c-a-t  the mouse disappeared

I scooped up the towel, opened the door and flung the towel out into the dark before the brothers even knew what happened  I came back side quite pleased with myself

and then I saw it

 I’d missed the mouse.

I was rushing back outside to get the towel when I saw the tall slim figure facing me in the door way. And “he” wasn’t going away. He was coming towards me. It was all happening so fast that I couldn’t stop. I let out a scream as I crashed into him.

And then I realized. I’d crashed into myself

It was my reflection in the storm door.

You see, with Fall coming on, I taken out the screen panel the previous day, and replaced it with the heavy full glass  panel. I’d forgotten all about it.

But some good came out of it. That recurring dream I have,  the one that I’m being chased and can only utter a breathy whispered  eee, eee – well, that’s all it is, just a dream. My scream was a full-bodied Aah.

As for the mouse? I got him on the second try.

 

And the brothers?

They decided it was getting cold there on the tile floor

And where was Marcos. my “guard dog” ?

I told you it was just an ordinary night.