Monday, November 19, 2012

Hurrican Relief

While I was wringing my hands wondering how people would ever clean up the mess left by Sandy, others were springing into action.  It didn't take long to get word out that our stake would be volunteering in the Rockaways for two weekends.  The family wards were assigned to go on Saturday and the singles wards would meet for a brief Sacrament meeting and head out on Sundays.  We were instructed to wear work shoes and bring gloves and our own lunch and water.  Because Paul is the Bishop of the Lincoln Square YSA Ward, I decided to serve with them on Sunday.  It was about a 90 minute ride on the D train to school buses and then to our destination in the Rockaways.  Missionaries had been working in the area since the storm and had identified hundreds of homeowners who wanted our help.  We divided into groups of ten and were give two addresses.  At the first home, all we did was carry furniture and appliances from the backyard to the curb.  The second home had been flooded and as the waters receded, tons of sand mixed with oil had been deposited on their driveway.  While some of our team mucked out the basement of the home, the rest of us scraped and swept the driveway.  It was a gooey mess, but we finally got enough of the sand off to hose it down.  With dish detergent and lots of brooms, we were able to clean up the driveway and left the homeowners with a little hope of returning to a new normal.  Having finished our assignments we found another home that had been flooded and started tearing out the basement.  This home had been flooded up past the 1st floor.  We tore out soaking wet wallboard and insulation and hauled it to the street.  Let me stop here and say that this is what is called "mucking out."  The full time missionaries have been mucking out four days a week for the past three weeks.    While destruction is more in my strike zone than rebuilding, this is heavy and difficult work.  Everything had to be ripped out from the floor to the ceiling including the ceiling.  We came home tired and soaked and satisfied.  The people were so grateful for our help.  While we got to come home and have a hot shower, most of the people we helped were still living in their homes without power and running water and no heat.  And yet, many seemed very positive and hopeful and grateful.  The second week was much like the first week except that the water had drained out of the walls and insulation so it wasn't quite as difficult.  We totally gutted a woman's house.  As we were cleaning out the cupboards it was amazing to see how high the water had come up during the storm.  The dishes in the cupboard above the sink were filled with water!
As we walked through the neighborhood we were greeted by many other volunteers from local church groups.  And many people had come on their own just looking for a way to help.  One food truck owner from Chicago drove his food truck to Coney Island and parked for three days serving free hot food to anyone who was in need.   There are countless stories like this of people who didn't wait to be asked;  they just came and did their part to relieve the suffering of so many. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sandy Arrived

Bobby Roberts sings "Big Sandy" in contrast to Terry Allen's "Little Sandy."  "Sandy Here on Earth" was song by John Fahey but who can forget Carlene Carter's "Too Bad About Sandy?"  However so many New Yorkers are singing the song from Grease, "Sandy my darlin, you hurt me so bad, you know it's true....."   Sandy did hit and she left her mark.  Many will be figuring out how to rebuild, clean-up, or move on.  The relief effort continues and not surprisingly there are so many willing volunteers.
Watching a news conference the other night, Mayor Bloomberg said, "We'll get through this, we're New Yorkers!"  I turned to Paul and mentioned that the mayor's remarks made me a little bit teary eyed and it obviously had the same affect on Paul as he was caught wiping away tears.  In unison we called out, "we're New Yorkers!"  I like the sound of that. 
 I need to give a big shout out to so many friends and family who contacted us during the Hurricane named Sandy.  She struck on October 29-30, and Paul and I didn't feel a thing.  Paul was in Hong Kong and I was in Austin.  We were following the news closely because we have many family members,  dear friends and colleagues who were in harm's way.  We were grateful to get reports that all had survived although trees were down and power was out.  Some still do not have power and this is November 6. 
Paul arrived home Thursday after the storm and enjoyed a 21/2 hour ride home from the airport.  Traffic was obviously crazy and the entrance to the Triboro Bridge was down to one lane because they were doing checks on cars to make sure at least three people were in each car.  If not, you were turned away.  (Didn't apply to livery cars or taxis).  My trip home the next day was another story.  I arrived in 30 minutes because people couldn't get gas and just weren't on the roads.  It remained this way right through the weekend. 
We walked through Central Park on Saturday and found many large trees that had fallen during the storm and countless branches.  Interestingly enough, the buildings in our neighborhood that have decks and large trees on the decks, appear to have no damage.  The trees are still swaying in the breeze.  Go figure.
In an earlier post I mentioned our adventure on Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn.  The photo shows how dangerously close the water came to damaging this beautiful landmark. 
Sandy has left us, but we're not singing "why, why, why;" we're saying "we'll get through this, we're New Yorkers!"

Monday, October 8, 2012

Columbus (has his) Day

That's right.  I am writing this on Columbus Day.  Recent books about Columbus don't shed as positive light on him as did our Social Studies teachers, but I will leave my opinions on that topic for another day.    There is a 20 foot statue of Columbus atop a column in Columbus Circle which is probably about 70 feet tall all together.  Recently as part of a public arts project, the artist Tatzu Nishi created an apartment around the Columbus statue so that the public could "discover" Columbus up close and personal.  We walked up six flights of stairs that were part of the scaffolding around the column and entered a fully furnished apartment.  The television is  playing CNN News, magazines are available for reading while sitting on the sofas and Columbus is atop a coffee table in the middle of the room.   The windows provide spectacular views of Central Park and Central Park South.    We had so much fun looking at the finer parts of the statue (made of marble, by the way) which cannot be scene from the street level.  Just another fun thing to do in New York. 

Friday, September 14, 2012


I'll never forget where I was and I am sure that you never will either.  I had just come home from my run in Austin, TX and turned on the news and heard Katie Couric say, "we have just been informed that an airplane has struck one of the towers in the World Trade Center."  The video made it appear as if it were just a small plane and perhaps the result of a pilot losing control.  It wasn't long before we understood the true cause and that it was no accident.  We remained glued to the television news that day and cried as we discovered the extent of the lives lost and the lives changed that day.  Little did we understand what it would mean to all of us and how it would change the world.
It has been interesting to talk to those who were in the city when all of this occurred and the changes they have felt as a result.  Each person has mentioned that it changed the way New Yorkers treated each other.  People became much nicer and neighbors reached out to each other in a way they hadn't before.  It is reassuring to know that out of tragedy, positive changes can also occur.
New York City has created some beautiful ways to remember  9/11 and honor those who died.  At dusk on 9/11 a tower of light that extends hundreds of feet into the air is lit and it stays on all night and slowly fades as the sun comes up.  This photo was taken from our bedroom window and you can barely make out the "pillar of light" that lit up our room that night and helped us remember.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lottery Winners!

Every summer the outdoor Delacorte Theater in Central Park puts on a Shakespeare play and one musical.  Each show runs for about two weeks.  This is a public theater which means that most of the tickets are free---for a price.  The price you have to pay is that you must stand in line the day of the show to get your tickets.  Most people begin lining up about 4:00 a.m. and tickets are distributed at 1:00 p.m. for that evening's performance.  There is also a virtual lottery and you can sign up each day and hope that you win which gives you two tickets for that evening's performance.  I have signed up for the virtual lottery almost every day for the four summers we have been here and never won.  Last year we wanted to see Al Pacino in "Merchant of Venice" but ended up paying for tickets when they produced it in a theater on Broadway in the Fall.  It was fabulous.  This year we wanted to see the musical "Into the Woods" starring Amy Adams.  I signed up for the lottery each day and each day got the memo "Thank you for entering the virtual lottery.  Unfortunatley blah, blah, blah...."   So I set aside my Wednesday to join the others standing in line.  On the Monday previous to that I signed up for the lottery out of force of habit and at 1:00 I saw the magical words "Congratulations, you have won two ticket for tonight's performance of Into the Woods."  As luck would have it, Paul didn't have to work late and it was a spectacular summer night.  I like to even say there was a hint of fall in the air.  Paul met me at the theater and we were guided to our fabulous seats on the aisle and about 10 rows up.  It doesn't really get any better than that.  The show was really well done and as is often the case with Sondheim, the music and themes in the show are quite haunting.  The lyrics are worth reading because you can't catch every joke and every poignant thought because it moves so fast. 
Another thing we really enjoyed about the whole experience was that it felt so much like we were watching this show with our neighbors.  Not many tourists spend the time waiting in line all day to get tickets, so you really do get mostly local people in the theater and there was just a nice feeling.  It really did feel like we were part of a community.   We all felt like winners. 
(PS--No picture taking allowed! Sorry)

Two bucks to pony up

I think I have mentioned how much Paul and I enjoy riding the carousel in Central Park.  I know it's been a bad day when Paul asks if I'll meet him at the Carousel after work.   After just one ride and about 30 minutes of listening to the calliope music he is ready to cast away all cares and worries.  We'll  ride the carousel even when we are feeling good-----things just get better.

Saturday we decided to take a quick trip to Brooklyn to check out a new carousel that had recently been renovated.  Jane's carousel, as it is called, was built in 1922 and purchased in 1984 by Jane Walentas and her husband.  Jane spent the next 25 years restoring the carousel to it's original condition in her DUMBO art studio.  And it is a beauty.  An architect designed a glass enclosure that surrounds the carousel and that allows the riders a clear view of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge,  and the skyline of Manhattan.  The setting is just stunning.   One caution however:  if you weight 255 pounds or more, you have to ride the pony's that don't go up and down.  Believe me, it's worth the weight loss. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From Swan Lake to Coney Island

It was quite the cultural journey I made from watching the ballet at Lincoln Center to the hot dog eating contest on Coney Island.  I can't really compare the two events except to say that history was made at both events.  The ballet was simply beautiful and little did I know that I would be witnessing history that night when Angel Corella danced his last dance and retired from the ballet.   Angel came out for a curtain call and the audience went wild.  Flowers were thrown on stage and then for about 20 minutes, former dance partners, directors, family members, etc. came on stage and placed bouquets of flowers at his feet.  It was quite emotional actually. 
And now for the hot dog eating contest on Coney Island.  Of course you have to cheer for Joey Chestnut who finished first with 68 hot dogs in ten minutes, but the real surprise was the victory for Sonya Thomas aka "the Black Widow."  She bested her record by eating 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes and thus history was made.  It was also interesting to learn that she only weighed 100 pounds.  She clearly doesn't keep those hot dogs down for very long.

I will attend the ballet again.   And while I enjoyed the spectacle of the hot dog eating contest, I think "one and done" works for that.  It's just another example of how you can find anything you want in this great city. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wild Parrots in Brooklyn

Adam Gopnik wrote a book titled Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York which I read soon after arriving in the cityEach chapter tells another story about living in New York.  One of the chapters included a story of a parrot colony in Brooklyn that was about 30 years old.  These birds had initially been obtained as pets but eventually escaped their cages.  I guess two or three birds gathered and settled into a tree near the Brooklyn Community College in Flatbush.  Surprisingly, the birds adapted to the climate and stayed year round and even multiplied.  I was curious and wanted to see if the parrots were still there.  A good friend with a sense of adventure and two very cute children agreed to accompany me on this adventure.  I bought a five pound bag of parrot food and we hopped on the subway and began our adventure.  We arrived at the campus only to be told that the parrots hadn't been spotted for several years, but we weren't going to let that stop us.  We walked around the soccer field of the campus and found a wonderful woman tending her garden in the community garden.  We asked her about the parrots and she exclaimed, "they are finally coming back."  Apparently the university had been doing construction and had disturbed the parrots' nests and they had left the neighborhood.  However, this sweet woman showed us where the parrots had begun building their nests again, high up in the lights of the soccer field.  We hurriedly walked over by the light pole and the kids sprinkled the parrot food all over the sidewalk.   We stood to one side and waited patiently, hoping that the dried seeds, apples, mangoes, and oranges would attract them.  Within just a few minutes three parrots flew down and began to squawk and nibble at the food.  Their cries brought other birds from their nests and for several minutes we had the pleasure of watching these cute, green parrots fly from their nests, to the top of buildings, to other parts of the neighborhood carrying with them the good news that there was a picnic down on the sidewalk. 

Every community has something unique waiting to be discovered or shared.  And I have just barely scratched the surface of this great city,  which means I have lots of adventures ahead of me. 

...on the Hudson River Line....

We are coming up on four years of living in our apartment.  Unlike most New Yorkers, we found our apartment in just three days of hunting.  The interior was not finished but the minute we stepped in and saw the views from the living room we were sold.  The following photos will provide the evidence of why it never gets old living here. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A curious mind

I bought some heavy cream at the Trader Joes today and was asked by the enthusiastic checker, "whatchu you gonna make with that heavy cream?"  When I said au gratin potatoes she just nodded her head and then replied, "Did you know you can make butter with heavy cream?"  When I nodded my head she said, "One day I decided to look up the recipe for butter.  I don't know why, I was just curious how it was made.  And do you know the recipe for butter is just heavy cream?  I said to myself, 'Girl, you have to give that a try."  So I put it in a jar and shook it up and I had myself some creamy butter.  It was amazin!"  You just can't walk away without a smile on your face after a conversation like that.  Thanks Trader Joes' checker for making my day. 

How soon it becomes late.

A Thoreau quote seems appropriate for this blog entry.  Paul and I have been in New York City long enough to require us to renew our library card.  I stopped in to get it done today and was informed that we are renewed clear through 2015!!  But then I began to think it through.   Our first card was good for four years so I am wondering why we got a reduced sentence.  Looks like we are going to need to be on our best behavior for the next three years so we can get back on the four year list.  That might require returning books on time, buttering up the not so nice librarian and speaking in our "library" voices.  I think we can do it. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking Sharp!

Just another New York thing to do. On Saturdays the guy who sharpens ice skates, knives, scissors, lawn mower blades (he doesn't do many of these) pulls up in front of Zabar's and for $15.00, he will put the sharp back on your blades.   Paul's brother had given him this beautiful carving knife several years ago and it really needed to have a tune up.   It just seemed like such a New York thing to do so we
wrapped up our knife and went and stood in line with the other dull blades.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

For most families in New York, the most expensive vehicle they own is a stroller. The stroller must carry all the kidders, groceries, be equipped for all kinds of weather and still be small enough to fit into elevators and through apartment doors. The photo was taken of the "stroller parking lot" at church. Paul and I went shopping for a simple stroller to use when our grandkids come to visit. We picked out our $50.00 stroller thinking we had really splurged because we got the one with a nice basket underneath, a sun guard and it folded up nice and small and had a carrying strap. While waiting for our salesperson to finish the transaction we got caught up in a stroller demonstration being done for one of the higher end strollers. We watched this guy fold the stroller every which way, attach a bassinet and then a seat which could be raised and lowered to twenty different positions. We watched him attach weather shields and sun guards and baskets. We have purchased cars with fewer features. It was difficult not to succumb to the flashy colors and the "can't live without'em features" of the stroller that really did seem like it could take you to "infinity and beyond!" Cooler heads prevailed that day although we do find ourselves lingering outside the neighborhood children's store windows coveting the newest models of the city strollers.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Discovering Daffodils

Walking past Columbus Circle today I made an important discovery. Okay, maybe not as important as the one made by Columbus himself, but I discovered that it was spring in New York City. See photo as proof. Daffodils have come to life and the tulips cannot be far behind. We have survived another winter and our mild winter may be the proof everyone is seeking that there actually is global warming. Not once did the Hudson freeze over, we never had to shovel the walks at the church, only a couple of times did I stay in because it was too cold to venture out, and I don't think I ever said that I was tired of winter. But I'll take Spring and there is nothing like Spring in the city.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Young at Heart

Paul and I decided to return to Michael Feinstein's club this past weekend. Petula Clark was singing and we thought it would be fun to see her in person. Feinstein's is an intimate restaurant with a small stage for the performer. The band consisted of a pianist, two guitars and a drummer. We arrived early enough to enjoy dinner and take the measure of the people sitting next (very close) to us. The woman at the table to our left was an elderly widow, but it was apparent she was not a first timer. All the waiters seemed to know her and she even waved to Michael when he entered with his dinner guests. She had invited a younger man (he was about 70) to join her. During their conversation she mentioned that her building had "gone condo" and he asked if she had bought her apartment that she had lived in for 35 years. She replied that she hadn't but had two years left on her lease and judging from her frail state, she probably wouldn't need to renew. The two guys who were sitting just in front of us were a couple in their late 30's. The one guy was explaining that he loved Petula Clark and had grown up listening to her music. This was quite apparent when as each song started he stood up clapping and then proceeded to sing along. Clearly a fan.
Here is the one detail I left out of the story and which makes it rather funny. It never occurred to us until just before Ms. Clark arrived on stage that she could be much older than about 65. I don't know why, but it just didn't seem possible that she could or should be much older than that. In truth, she is 79. While she gave it her best shot, there was a lot to be desired. She pulled out all the tricks like having the audience sing along, having us all clap loudly while she attempted to sing, saying the lyrics rather than singing them, telling long stories in between each song so she could catch her breath. I won't even go into her attempts to dance to the music----it wasn't pretty. But we came away with fond memories of when Petuta could sing and we loved her songs---Downtown, Don't Sleep in the Subway, I Know a Place, My Love----A few clicks on ITunes and we found the Petula we remembered. But it was still a lovely evening and I had a very handsome date who bought me dinner and made me laugh.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Big Blue

I consider myself a sports fan. Win or lose, I was always a loyal Burley High Bobcat fan. I have also been a loyal to the BYU Cougars, Boston Red Sox and the Celtics. I climb on the bandwagon when the Bruins are winning and I have even been known to cheer for UT and UVa. It is rare that I don't have some team preference for any sporting even that I am watching. This year's Super Bowl was no exception. While I really like both teams, my heart was with the Giants. What's not to like about Eli Manning? But that wasn't why I was cheering for the Giants. I wanted them to win so I could stand in the Canyon of Heroes for their ticker tape celebration parade. And that is where I was on Tuesday morning. I jumped on the subway which was already packed with Giants fans and we headed down to Park Place. Right away I noticed that I was a little bit different from the other parade goers. First of all, I wasn't wearing a Jersey nor was I speaking 'Jersey.' Honestly, I am pretty sure I didn't hear one sentence that didn't contain the "F" word at least once. And second, I didn't have beer with my breakfast which seems to have been a common breakfast "juice" for most of the guys I met along the way. We waited pressed together for an hour before the first of the players floats came by. During that hour I saw two people chased, brought down, and cuffed by the police and one fight which resulted in a guy being taken away for stitches. Honestly, the crowd was fascinating. The parade lasted about 15 minutes, confetti streamed down from the windows of the office buildings, the players waved as they rode past us on big trucks and for a brief moment I was a true Giants' fan. They won the Super Bowl in an incredible game, I live in their town, Eli's such a good ol' boy, and they made it possible for me to stand in the Canyon of Heroes. A wonderful New York moment.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where were you?

I suspect each of has a story of where we were when the planes flew into the towers of the World Trade Center. Our friends who were in the city at the time have shared some of their experiences and the things that they have learned since that horrible day. We will always be mindful of those whose lives were lost and for those families who are now without beloved family members. Long time New Yorkers do mention that after 9/11, there were changes that occurred in the city and chief among them was that people became nicer to each other. While I have nothing to compare it to, I have to say that I have found many of the people in New York to be generous and helpful.
With this said, I just wanted to share a few photos from our visit to the 9/11 Memorial. It is a beautiful, sacred place. Our son-in-law had an app on his phone which allowed you to type in the name of a person who died on that day and it would pull up a photo of the person with a short bio. We typed in a couple of names and it was very emotional to read about a person whose life was cut so short in a needless, horrific event. I hope that even though many of us weren't in the city at this time, that we will each try to become just a little bit nicer.