Archive for the ‘New York City’ Tag

Huh?   4 comments

The long Thanksgiving Day weekend offered me two chances to visit my version of the promised land – Manhattan, of course. Is there anyone out there who wants to promise me enough money to afford am apartment there? No? can’t blame me for asking, after all nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Anyway, as usual I had my camera at the ready, and this was good since there was a Thanksgiving cornucopia of signs that made me wonder.

How grateful do you have to be to deserve two ts?

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Yep, that’s grattitude for you!

I snapped this one on Thanksgiving afternoon!

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H&M. Aren’t you jumping the gun a wee bit?

Wow! 7-11 actually makes coffee every day!

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Have no idea what Feed The pig is, but if someone wants to find out, let me know! All I know is I’m already many people’s eccentric relative, Two out of three ain’t bad.

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but is I were the rich eccentric relative I could have my own apartment in Manhattan……..with my own terrace………and own river view……..my own doorman………….and………..and………and my own pony

Just kidding about the pony. Marcel, Marceau, & Marble would put their foot down on that one.

 

If they ever figure out how to untangle their feet!

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Posted December 2, 2015 by virginiafair in New York City, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Fessing up to Old   3 comments

I just arrived home from a weekend in Washington DC to celebrate the birthday of an old friend. And no, that’s not a bad camera shot, although I am quite capable of them; it’s that I can’t show you the whole picture because he’s retired from a post with the State Department where he was involved in covert operations from time to time.

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“Old friend”applies every way you look at it.  Old FRIEND because I’ve known him since first grade, and OLD friend because he’s older than me, by two months, a fellow card-carrying member of the first year of baby-boomers to grace this earth.  As if this wasn’t enough to remind me that time has marched on, the next day I found myself officially declaring to the world that yes, indeed I am an official old person.

I was traveling back to New York on Amtrak and arrived at Washington’s Union Station with over an hour to spare. And as my dad would say I “had to run my mouth.” so I called a friend. And after 15 minutes or so of running  my mouth I saw that I’d been oblivious to that fact that a line was forming at  the boarding gate.  and by t he time I got myself over there it was a long line snaking clear out of the waiting area. So I trudged to the back,kicking myself for not being more mindful of what was transpiring.

Fifteen minutes before departure, the boarding process began with the announcement

“Priority boarding for seniors, the disabled and business class travelers. ”

l looked at my ticket. Yes, there it was SENIOR!!!  Can you believe I almost let vanity keep me there at the back of the line?  I can’t believe it!  But yes, I was thinking I can’t go up there with all those old people

Well the thought was distinguished by a voice in my head that sounded awfully like Mr T  –

“FOOL!” It said.
so I gathered up my bags and made my way through the crowd. I admit I had to use my NY aggressiveness those blocking the way who didn’t know the meaning of “excuse me.” Well,  actually I prefer to think they thought I was a gate crasher because I couldn’t possibly be 62 or older

Still mired in this vein of delusional thought, I was delighted when the boarding agent stopped me and scolded “There’s a line here.”

“I’m a senior,” I proclaimed,

Yes, there’s the line And sure enough there was a line of  white and grey hairs waiting to have their senior tickets checked.

I got on line, and was soon admitted – no questions asked, sigh, no proof of age requested

We still had to wait another 15 minutes but al least we were in. and I began to feel a camaraderie with all these fellow seniors.

I must mention how different the boarding procedure is at Unions Station,  from New York’s Penn Station, where I had begun my journey. At Penn, there is are no airport-like individual gates nor do  they even announce the track until 15 minutes before boarding so one has to wander around or sit in one of the main waiting areas wondering if you;ll find the gate in time. Nor is there senior boarding – or even a line, for that matter!. Instead it’s a  pushy NY type funneling action with passengers jockeying for position as they wave their tickets at the agent waving  them through. Mind you I’m just saying I’m not disparaging my beloved Big Apple. Besides with my multi-year existence as  a NY’er I am most adept at wiggling through small spaces. but that’s a subject for a future blog.

Anyway, that was my train of thought and I’d just  begun to believe that the mystery surrounding the New York track departure was a security measure, when right then and there I saw that Washington has the Big Apple beat on that front too. As we seniors waited “In an orderly line,” as we’d been commanded. A security officer walked past accompanied by his bomb-sniffing Chocolate  Labrador Retriever. Then he walked past again, and once more, and then, one more time for good measure, as the dog indulged in cursory sniffs of our luggage.

I smiled as I realized these dogs are also trained to sniff drugs. Wouldn’t it be funny if he found something referred  to in 60’s vernacular as “Some good sh*t ?

Think about . Those of us line standers in our 60’s were the 60’s!  That would have been Outta Sight, Man!

From the Mouths of Non-New Yorkers   1 comment

I was in the city Saturday to have lunch with my oldest friend J.J.  Let me explain – She’s not my most elderly friend, but the one I’ve had the longest. We met when I was in 3rd grade and she in 2nd, in the school lunch room  Being a busy body, I noticed she was having trouble getting the noodles out of the chicken noodle soup her mom had poured into a thermos bottle.  I moved over, and helped her. Having met at lunch, we still keep our friendship going, meeting from time to time to share this meal. And Saturday we were meeting at a restaurant on the Upper West Side.

Although we were both born and raised on Manhattan, neither one of us still lives there.  I was taking the train into the city and she was driving from NJ.  Since I arrived at Grand Central Station  with lots of time to spare, and it was a 3 S days (superb, summer,  & sunny) I considered walking over to the West Side instead  of taking  the subway. The decision was made when my cell phone rang. It was J.J. She was stuck in traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. I had plenty of time to dilly dally.

I walked up to Fifth avenue and ay yi yi.

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Oh yes, it’s tourist season.

But I plunged in, and went with the flow. Until I heard  two gems that brought me to a halt – both from the mouths of visitors from overseas.

Gem #1

Location –  5th Avenue and 50th Street across the street from St Patrick’s  Cathedral.

Speaker – a woman (perhaps German) speaking to a tour operator: “Ah St. Peter’s Cathedral? Yes.”

It was all I could do to suppress the urge to say NO. St Patrick’s!!!!!!!!

I mean even if she was expecting to see the postcard perfect St Patrick’s,

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And thrown off by its present appearance as  it undergoes restoration

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Give me a break. How much bigger could the letters be?

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Gem #2

Location  – Still on Fifth Avenue – a few blocks north, at 56th Street.

Speaker – another woman – possibly from a Mid-Eastern country, speaking in an excited tone to her husband . Tramp Tower! Tramp Tower. In her defense, this was most likely just a matter of her accent,  but still I had to smile.  For you non-New Yorkers? Ever watch Celebrity Apprentice ? Recognize the building?

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DSCN0788No? Then in the words of  The Donald  – “You’re fired!”

These were all, as the young folks would text,  LOL moments, at the expense of tourists. But as I headed west on 57th St. I recalled J.J’s words when she’d call to tell me she’d be late.  I was dismayed to realize her years in New Jersey were weighing heavy on her.

Jersey people always supplement their location with their exit on the NJ Turnpike

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Or the Garden State Parkway

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My cousin lives in  Hazlet, but just in case you’re not sure, he’ll supplement it with Exit 117. When I used to summer  at the Jersey Shore,  if  you asked me where our group rental was, I’d say Manasquan (period). But if you’d asked one of my Jersey house-mates, they’d have said Manasquan, exit 98.

And so when Jackie explained “I’m still at Exit 11” I had not a clue and had to ask . Where  is that”

Just on case you’’re on the Turnpike  and looking for Woodbridge NJ.   It’s Exit 11.

Martian Summers/Manhattan Winters   6 comments

My bucket list dream is to move back to the isle of Manhattan. I don’t keep it a secret. I figure if the universe hears, the universe will provide.

Where would I choose Upper West Side? West Village? East Side? Yes! Only one minor obstacle stands in my way. Money.

And oh, there’s another problem. And it happens every year just around now, when winter has moved on for good. I go outside and, look who’s back.

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Would I miss all this? Probably. I feel like a child of divorce torn between two warring parents, each of whom tries to lure me with promises of a dream home.

I’m going to meet a friend in Manhattan on Sunday so I’ll probably be humming New York Frame of Mind next time you hear from me.

But maybe there is a solution. Or is it  a delusion. I could have my cake and eat it too. I don’t have to leave The House of Mars. It can be The Country House of Mars. When winter is busy doing its thing, I’ll be in The City Apartment of Mars, looking down from my terrace at the streets below and singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” or maybe “Winter Wonderland”

What’s that you say, what about the money I didn’t have a few paragraphs ago. Oh yeah. Hmm. Owning two homes can be pretty expensive. Two mortgages.

You know if 7 of you could come up a loan of $100,000 each, you could consider The Manhattan Apartment of Mars your weekend pied a terre. I could stay at The Country House of Mars and you’d have the whole urban palace to yourself. Go on, check your pockets for any spare big bills.  Look under the couch cushions. Try under the car sear.  That’s a place I’m always finding money.

No one? OK, if 14 of you come up with $50,000 each, I can offer you unlimited visiting rights. You don’t even have to call ahead.

How’s about 28 of you coming up with $25,000? I’ll pay you back. I promise!

Take your time, think about it. No rush. I’ll be here – hanging out with my friends!

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Soho Underfoot   1 comment

I am no stranger to Soho. My hairstylist is in Soho and I make an event out of each visit, wandering along different narrow streets, discovering new architectural treasures along the way. But there is always something new to discover and this time I found it by altering my gaze. I began to look down and never looked up again. Except to avoid collisions with wandering tourists

Maybe I should pause for a quick description of Soho just in case you’ve never been there

(Soho is a historic neighborhood ruined by, oops I mean  filled with tourists traipsing in and out of fashionable shops on the narrow side streets, and emerging from Broadway’s conglomeration of  chain stores such as HMS and Old  Navy, laden down with shopping bags filled with items they could have bought at their local  mall.

Among the oldest in New York City, the streets of Soho, deep down in lower Manhattan, have withstood a number of identity changes: farm land to elite mansion-filled neighborhood to red-light district to light industrial manufacturing and wholesale trading area. This last phase, starting in the Forties and lasting through the next two decades, saw the streets bustling by day, but ghostly at night.

That changed in the early seventies when artists in neighboring Greenwich Village found themselves priced out of their studios and apartments by encroaching gentrification. And they drifted into Soho, just to the south. They soon gobbled up the low rent lofts with the high ceilings and tall windows providing light and space for their works of art. And guess what – a typical story in New York – Soho now has the highest rents and most expensive real estate listings in all of Manhattan. Say good-by to the starving, or even successful artists and hello to media celebrities and  technology wunderkind.  

Oh a word of warning  for non-New Yorkers, Soho is an acronym for South of Houston, referring to the street that marks its northern boundary. If you happen to looking for that street, it’s pronounced House-ton.)

But back to me! There I am eyes cast downward, camera-ready

My awakening began early on when I was still en route to my hair cut, so technically I was in pre-wandering mode. Crossing a narrow street, even by Soho standards, and clumsy being my middle name, I was careful to take a second look at what seemed to be  a very high curb bordering a rather un-level street and that’s when I marvelled

Cobblestones! You don’t see these in other parts of the city.

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A couple of  hours later, now officially exploring, I chose Prince Street as my route west and began to notice what seemed  to be an inordinate variety of pipes. No, not the smoking kind.

This kind.

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In pairs

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In Crowds

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In all shapes and sizes

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And pipes weren’t the only cast iron sights. Although New Yorkers tend to detour around these

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I’ve only heard of one or two incidents when they gave way beneath a pedestrian– but you can’t be too careful, it would be a nasty fall.

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And then, there were  the delightful odds and ends.

Glass baubles

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The Fancy

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and The Un-Fancy

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Mind you, all this was, and I was still on Prince Street!

Where they love their trees

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Eventually I had to head north for the trek up to Grand Central Station. But I had to take my camera out one more time – on Lexington Avenue . I wanted to show you that we, New Yorkers do have manners.

 

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So if I bump into you because I’m looking down, I’ll be sure to say “I’m sorry”.

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.

My Very Own Presidential Debate Moment   5 comments

Tonight we’ll see the first of the Obama-Romney debates. As expected the media has their shorts in a knot trying to come up with every bit of minutia out there: practice debates and who will play whom; where the wives are,  how they feel; pitfalls to which each candidate is prone; pundits pondering “just how important” this debate will be; and of course memorable moments from past debates.

Of course no one mentions my memorable presidential debate moment.  But that’s because I’ve only revealed it to a chosen few. Also because until recently, I forgot it ever happened. But happen it did. To be precise it was a pre-presidential debate occurrence – literally. Although it means pinpointing my place in time, it happened just before the very first debate, as in Kennedy/Nixon 1960.

I was a high school freshman. My high school was on Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My bus home ran along Fifth Avenue, a three block walk to the west. I was strolling with friends en route to said bus, crossing Park Avenue. For non – New Yorkers, Park Avenue is a wide boulevard consisting of three lanes northbound, three lanes southbound and a wide shrub-filled median dividing the two.

As we were about midway across the first three lanes, the northbound ones, a cavalcade of police cars and motorcycles, sirens blaring, lights flashing, was approaching, preceding a limo in the southbound lanes. My friends chose to hightail it all the way across the avenue. Although I was to grow into an avid long distance racer, at this time, I saw little point to running, and avoided it whenever I could. And with the wide median sitting right there, I chose to wait it out.

Now I need to stop and explain the logistical circus we traversed every day. It was early October, the time the UN’ general assembly is traditionally held. Add to this the fact that my school neighborhood was, and is, home to countless foreign embassies, in the language of the day, Commie embassies,  whose streets were cordoned off with police posted on corners for security. This happened to be  the year Khrushchev was pounding his shoe on the desk at the UN,

UN and Fidel Castro had chosen to stay at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem,  bringing in live chickens for who knew what purpose. Get the picture? Then you’ll realize why I  took the police cars and sirens for granted, all part of growing up in NY.

So…..back to me. There I was, assuming it was some crackpot diplomat on his way to the UN. They were headed in that direction. But as the limo passed,

I caught a glimpse of the unmistakable thick brown hair and white-toothed smile of John F. Kennedy, and he was waving —-waving at me, only me, solely me.  I looked around; I was the only one there on the median.  As the last of the cars passed, I found reason to run to my friends waiting on the other side, and screech, as only a thirteen year old can

“That was Kennedy, It was Kennedy.  He was waving at me! Just me.”

Do you think they believed me? Of course not.

That evening I realized he’d been on his way to that first debate, the one where Nixon sweated and grew a five o’clock shadow right before our eyes and Kennedy shined brightly.

At the time, my family used to spend summers on Cape Cod and we’d make sure we were nowhere near Hyannis Port when President Kennedy was there. It was a given that crowds would clog  the streets, waiting for a glimpse and a wave.

Ha I’d think. I already got my wave, and I didn’t have to go out of my way.

History would soon bring the president  to Dallas, and it was never lost on me that Kennedy’s last moments were spent waving from a limousine. So what deep point am I making? I haven’t a clue! So I’ll end by saying may the best speaker speak his peace tonight. And I’ll be here in New York if either one wants to stop by and wave.