Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category
Has anyone seen the L’Oreal T-shirt commercial making the rounds on TV. No, let me re-phrase that – the skin care company isn’t selling T-shirts these days, they’re still pushing young-looking skin. The commercial points out how wearing one of your old concert t-shirts can give your age away. It certainly hit home. It even sent me searching through my t-shirt drawer for
The reason I had to search is that I never wear it because……because. Well, keep the premise of that commercial in mind. One picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case one T-shirt.
As if the date didn’t give away the fact that the shirt is 35 years old, take a look at the price of the tickets?
But wait, there’s still the story of what I had to go through to get the tickets. Hint – it involved starting the car. But for those not yet born on that day, let me describe what life was like before Stub Hub and Ticketmaster. Hell, before there was an internet!
It was about 9:30 AM or so when the phone rang – the kitchen phone on the wall – before there was such a thing as a cell phone. It was the man to whom I used to be married. His boss had just received a call from his daughter who had a summer job at KOME, the rather edgy local San Jose FM station. Nope, no such thing as Pandora or streaming. It was either AM or FM. (as in radio!) But back to the story….. Said daughter had just gotten the word tickets for the upcoming Stones convert would be going on sale at Tower Records at 11. The limit would be 6 tickets. He wanted to know if I could take some cash out of a dresser drawer (sigh, nope, no ATM’s yet) and dash down to Tower Records which was in Campbell, about a 20 minute drive as the crow flies from our apartment in Los Gatos. I could and I did!
With plenty of time to spare I got on the relatively short line of people outside the door and chatted amiably with a woman ahead of me, as the line steadily grew behind us and snaked around the corner. Yes, fancy that – talking to a stranger. Remember – no cell phones, no texting!
Well I bought my limit of six tickets and we sold the other four tickets to friends (at face value, no scalpers, we) and a happy time was had by all.
In writing this I realize that 35 years was a really relatively short period of time for life to change as much as it has, thanks to technology. Or no thanks to technology depending on how you feel about the turn life has taken.
I also realize that that T-shirt is the oldest article of clothing I own.
I know Macy’s has great sales, not only because my friends rave about the bargains they find there, but because I used to partake of them over the years. What stopped me was a problem with my Macy’s card. The problem was not my credit, but for some reason I was unable to activate my new card over the phone. That alone tells you how long ago that glitch occurred since if it were today, I’d have activated it online. Eventually they stopped sending me their sale fliers and coupons, and we parted amicably. I never looked back because for some reason I was never crazy about shopping there. Maybe it was the waiting in line at the cash registers scattered around the various departments. Or maybe it was the necessity of having to go to the mall. I am not a fan of malls.
Well I was recently on 34th street passing THE Macy’s yes, the one from the classic movie, Miracle on Main Street; the one that hosts the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, floats, and balloons; the original Macy’s famed for being the largest department store in the world. Needless to say it can not fit in a mall since it takes up an entire square block.
Upon seeing the entrance, I had a flashback that revealed to me the root of my Macy “problem”. This store was the bane of my early childhood existence! Back in the early days when I was still an only child, which meant younger than five, my mother would regularly drag me down to 34th Street to “go shopping.” We’d have to walk nine blocks to the subway, (but that wasn’t the part I hated) then ride 129 blocks underground. That’s eight stops if you’re counting. I wasn’t, but I was asking “Are we almost there yet.” (Nope, that’s not what I hated either.)
Finally we’d emerge into the daylight of Thirty-fourth Street and make our way into the store. It seems like it was always crowded, even though it was usually a weekday morning. (Nope the crowds didn’t bother me either). It was the fashion faux pas, my mother visited on me.
As soon as we emerged from the revolving door, she’d take my coat off, but leave my leggings on. Leggings back then referred to the heavy wool pants that were part and parcel of the matched set that also included a matching hat. That’s what I hated – I wanted to keep my coat on like all the grownups, but there I was walking around with my dress stuffed into a suspendered overall type pants. But my mother had a theory. If I kept the coat on, my body would get used to it and when we went out into the cold once again, I’d feel cold. But I noticed she didn’t mind “getting used” to her coat.
This looks like a Sunday coat, and since stores didn’t open on Sundays back then, it couldn’t have been a shopping coat, and I’m probably younger here than the days I’m talking about – but look at the leggings. Get the picture?
If walking around unfashionably clad was the beginning of my, as she liked to put it, crankiness, (a word often applied to me, especially at nap time and bedtime), it was reinforced by having to wait until she’d bought everything else before going up to the fourth floor or the fifth floor. One held the children’s shoe department and the other, the toy department. I regarded them both as sources of joy, and perhaps enjoyed buying shoes even more than a toy. (Some things never change!)
But n-o-o-o-o. I had to wait until last. Another one of my mother’s theories was I’d be less of a pest if I had to wait. Pest was another word often applied to moi. The reasoning behind this was, once I had what I came for, I’d suggest “Let’s go have lunch”. Well, maybe it was more like whine, so if she saved my shopping until last, she’d be able to shop in peace.
Once her mission was accomplished, we’d either have a hot dog and orangeade at Nedicks, an indoor stool and counter. If I recall, that’s all they sold; at any rate it was a New York icon in the Fifties and Sixties.
No more Nedicks! Today, it’s a
Sometimes we’d go across the street to the 5 & 10, as we called Woolworth’s, where we’d also have a hot dog, but a coke instead of an orange drink.
No more 5 & 10. Today, it’s a
Although lunch was fun, it remains overshadowed by the shopping. But you know how they say misery loves company ? Well, about thirty years later I discovered I was not alone. The man to whom I was once married, upon hearing my tale of woe, assured me that he was there too and he was very surprised I hadn’t seen him.”I was the one tagging after my mother,” he told me crying.” the one crying.”
I wish I’d asked him if he had to take off his coat!
There I was minding my own business, driving home from a day at work and an evening at the gym. I had a mile to go when one word, Ebinger’s reached out from the radio speaker and dragged me back to 1961 (or thereabouts) to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where my grandfather and two aunts lived. Ebinger’s Bakery! It didn’t take long for the faded-to-mist memory to rise up and flesh out. And it brought an old friend – Fudge Marianne. Meanwhile back in the present, as I waited for the light to turn green in 2014 Putnam Valley, a woman related how twenty years ago she went to extremes to to duplicate an Ebinger’s cake for her 80-year-old Brooklyn grandfather.
Ebinger’s was a long-standing Brooklyn icon, kind of a 20th century Junior’s . (Not being a cheese cake aficionado, I venture to say Ebinger’s turned out better cakes) I don’t think the bakery was famous outside of Brooklyn since I never heard it spoken by anyone while growing up in Manhattan. Most likely, if not for Aunt Ginny, the NPR account would have only elicited “huh?” from me. But instead I find myself in the living room on the first floor of the two family home where my grandfather and my two aunts lived. My brother Jim and I are anticipating being called into the narrow mahogany dining room, dominated by a long rectangle of a table, six high-backed chairs, and a sideboard. Finally it comes. “Time for dinner.”
Ever since my grandmother had passed away in 1960, my mother’s youngest sister, Aunt Ginny had assumed the role of hostess whenever we came to visit, we being me, my parents, and my two younger brothers. Whereas I recall my grandmother’s meals as being gravy-drenched and over-cooked, especially the canned spinach, my Aunt Ginny’s dinners were definitely worth the hour and a half drive all the way from Harlem in northern Manhattan, through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel at the tip of Lower Manhattan and then all the way through Brooklyn, the largest of the five boroughs to Bay Ridge . If you saw Saturday Night Fever – you’ve witnessed Bay Ridge. In fact the disco where John Travolta danced his signature solo was just a couple of blocks away and like Grandpa’s two-story two family house, also situated on Fourth Avenue . But disco wouldn’t arrive for another 13 years so it was still the neighborhood movie house, The Harbor.
What was so special about Aunt Ginny’s cooking was that she didn’t! Aunt Ginny was what in those days was known as a career woman. She worked at the New York Times and knew not a thing about cooking, nor do I think she cared to. But she knew her way around a deli and a bakery, and she aimed to please. My brother Jim loved ham and potato salad so there would be a platter of cold cuts on the table with carefully rolled slices of not only ham, but salami, turkey, and roast beef, as well as heaping bowls of potato salad, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. As for my eating pleasure, I kept my eye on the Ebinger’s Box perched on the sideboard, 99.9% sure that when opened it would reveal a Fudge Mary Ann, resplendent in all its smooth chocolate icing, layers of yellow cake, and sumptuous butter cream.
Which brings me back to my car in 2014 where this woman on the radio is rambling on about how hard it was to replicate this landmark Ebinger’s cake, the confection they were known for. So I’m waiting and waiting for her to string together those three glorious words – Fudge and Mary and Ann. That’s when she says Blackout Cake. And I say, “say wha? She goes on describing it, a dark chocolate cake, with dark chocolate frosting and dark chocolate crumbs sprinkled on top, so named for the mandatory black out periods imposed during World War II.
But back to Brooklyn, finally the meal is finished and already stuffed, I proceed to top it off with a piece of ….yes, Fudge Mary Ann, or maybe it was two pieces. We then retire back to the living room where Jim and I are certain we’re going to burst and die. I swear to never eat that much again…….But I do,the next time and the time after that, until I went off to college. By the time I graduated, Grandpa had died and Aunt Ginny sold the house and moved to an apartment, an apartment with no room for a mahogany dining room set. And so like so many other fond memories, Fudge Mary Ann faded away to nothingness until…….
Back in my own living room in the Google Age I decide to resurrect it . Aha, first off, I find thisi
Ebinger Baking Company, with a chain of stores across the borough, was founded in Flatbush in 1898 by George and Catherine Ebinger. Famous for their cakes and pies, and especially their Blackout Cake, they closed in bankruptcy on August 26, 1972, “going the way of the Navy Yard, the Dodgers, and Luna Park”, said the New York Times.
Their what? Their blackout cake?!?!? Not one mention of Fudge Mary Ann? I don’t give up that easily. I march into Google Images and type in Ebinger’s Fudge Mary Ann cake. But instead I’m shown pictures like these.
A blackout cake
I scan through rows and rows of cakes until I’m cross-eyed.
Hmm, is this what Fudge Mary Ann looked like?
No, not fancy enough
Or maybe this is her, she may have had slices almonds
No, maybe not
Gradually I come to realize I have no idea what she looked like but I sure remember how that scrumptious cake tasted………or do I?
Hmm, what did it taste like?
A horrifying thought crosses my mind. What if I’m the only one left in the world who remembers Fudge Mary Ann, but I don’t? Does that mean she never existed? Kind of like that tree falling in the forest. How depressing. If only I’d been listening to the classic rock station instead of NPR!
Have you heard about the latest war? No, it’s not being fought in Afghanistan. No, not Syria either. North Korea? Iraq? No and no. The latest war is being fought on the streets of NY. And the combatants are trucks, food trucks. Lest you think I mean some sort of Battle of the Monster Trucks, let me explain.
Food trucks are a big thing in Manhattan,“gourmet” trucks that draw lunchtime crowds in midtown and lower Manhattan.
They are owned independently and each specializes in its own particular genre. Whether you’re in the mood for a taco, vegetarian or vegan, Jamaican jerk chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls , Korean barbecue, or an exorbitantly overpriced grilled cheese sandwich there’s a truck parked somewhere offering just that.
I stood on line to get a taco once in Soho but changed my mind after I looked around and asked myself “Where am I going to eat it? Sitting on a doorstep? On-the-go? There have been times I’ve walked along munching on a hot dog or a bagel or wrap. But a burrito? I even make a mess eating a burrito while sitting at a table.
But back to the war. Truck owners have to go through various permitting processes – health permit, business license, parking permit, etc. I believe that somewhere in all this, there is a way of determining who gets to park where and on which days.
Unfortunately, as in all business arenas, not everyone is as scrupulous as they should be. So when one truck moves in on another’s territory sparks fly. CSI NY had an episode where a murder was committed and it was found to have centered around a food truck feud.
I have to laugh with all this talk of food trucks. They’re nothing new. Way back in ancient times, also known as my childhood in the Fifties, trucks showed up on the streets of Manhattan every day, and the faithful flocked to get the best of what they offered. These trucks didn’t line the streets for periods of time like the trendy ones do. They came and went, and the housewives who depended on them had to be on the lookout for their arrival since they stayed only as long as there were customers before moving on to the next street.
Back when I was very young, before I’d started school I’d have a ringside seat each morning. Our dining room looked out on 149 St and there I was, stuck at the table until I finished my cereal, or forever, whichever came first. I’d sit, spoon in hand, arranging and re-arranging clumps of used-to-be-hot cereal, staring out the window.
Soon a truck loaded with fruit and vegetables would come into my second floor frame of view, and stop in front of a stoop across the street.
Before long women would come down from their apartments, “pocketbooks” hanging from their elbows.They would wait their turn while the customer of the moment pointed out what she wanted – maybe four or five tomatoes, two pounds of potatoes, a pound of onions, a bunch of bananas. The peddler would weigh her purchases on the scale hanging from the back of the truck. He’d jot each on a paper bag and calculate the total before depositing it all into the same paper bag. No paper or plastic in those days and the bag served as the receipt.
On other mornings, usually Fridays, I enjoyed a whole different spectacle. One I’d hear before seeing. A man’s voice, preternaturally loud and as nasal as I’d ever heard would shatter the morning silence, proclaiming in an odd chant “I’ve got fish today,” That was just the prelude. “I’ve got fresh flounder. I’ve got fresh butterfish. I’ve got fresh mackerel.” The words of his sing-song might vary from season to season but the key word was fresh.
Again the women would gather, and like the produce peddler he’d serve one at a time, weigh it on the swaying scale, and having attended the same school of accounting, jot and calculate the total on a paper bag. The only added task was that he’d first wrap the fish in newspaper, yes newspaper!
There was another truck that visited but not nearly so regularly. And while it didn’t sell food, it offered a food-related service. It was the knife grinder and as unpleasant as I found the fish monger’s voice, I’d take it anytime over the grating noise that set my teeth on edge as women brought their knives to him and he ran them against the giant grindstone wheel.
Then there was the truck that came in the afternoon – after I’d been reprieved from breakfast prison, and finished lunch – the truck us kids flocked to; hearing its bells before it even turned into 150th Street.
And of course, everyone knows this truck.
And my former husband’s father drove one of these, delivering fresh bread directly to the doors of customers in Westchester.
But uh oh, stop the presses! Look what I just came upon.
Maybe things weren’t quite as copacetic as I remember
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.