Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I've been going to La Guardia since I was a little girl. I have very early memories of going there with my mother and sister to pick up my father. In those days, there was no security to go through -- anyone could just walk to the gate.

On my flight out on Tuesday, it was really foggy and I think of old movies where they announce that all planes are grounded due to fog. I also think about NTSB accident reports that start, "The aircraft took off in fog and freezing rain..." I am not a nervous flyer, but I don't think fog and freezing rain helps.

Going through security, I was looking at a little girl, no more than three years old with her shoes off to get checked and I realize people have stopped saying we have to do X "or else the terrorists will have won..."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Laundry Luxury

I did some laundry today, and having done my time, my years and years in laundromats, I can say without reservation that I have never put a load of laundry into my very own washing machine without being grateful for it.

I used to really hate the schlep to the laundromat -- carrying everything, trying to make it adhere to a certain number of loads, having the change, having the soap, having the time, waiting for a machine, having to add more money to the dryer, sitting there with everyone else.

There's something unnatural about folding your underwear in front of strangers. In my rush to get out, I would force myself to take someone's abandoned wet laundry out of the washer and stick it in a cart so I could get going with mine. I dreaded touching it, but I'd rather touch it than wait longer. When the person arrived, they were typically slightly pissed off, and I could remain anonymous, and the person would have this attitude of "how dare anyone move my clothes and dump them in a wet heap like this." Too bad; next time,return in time.

Once this really decrepit homeless guy came in and he was literally washing what looked like rags, but they were his clothes. Luckily mine were already swishing away but he was so dirty that I feared, truly, for whoever put their clothes in that machine next.

I went to mention it to the attendant and she sort of yawned, bored, reached for a gallon of bleach, had me point out the machine he'd just used and she dumped the entire gallon and ran the machine as if this were a routine thing to do -- like asking the waiter for ketchup. I guess I expected some kind of discussion, or even a rebuff from her like "hey, don't worry about it" but she had her plan.

Someone told me once that a homeless person snuck their clothes into his machine while they were being washed -- sort of piggy backed on his clothes. It still makes me shudder.

Of course, I would call myself a bleeding heart liberal, but there's no liberal heart that bleeds so much, as to be OK with a homeless person's clothes in with mine. Mother Teresa would complain.

Oh, perfect segue. There was a homeless guy on my block who claimed to be blind, but he wasn't, and he was just plain nasty, would yell at people, even people who gave him money, he'd yell like it wasn't enough and how that person who just gave him money was a g.d. cheap so and so.

Well, one day I was walking down my block. It was the day Mother Teresa died, and I saw him. I decided that to honor Mother Teresa and her selfless life, I would be momentarily selfless and be pleasant to him. So as I got near him, I bent over, smiled and said cheerily, "Hello... how are you today?"

He screamed at me, "Get away from me you g.d. c-word. You g.d. c-word. You c-word!" Except he didn't say c-word, he said the c-word. Yeah, that one, the disgusting one. He literally was bellowing down the block after me "You g.d. c-word!!, you c-word!"

Mother Teresa would have slapped him. So much for selflessness.

And that is why, among other reasons, I say a little prayer of gratitude every time I do a load of wash in my very own machine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Street Musings

When I was a child, I used to wonder why old people sat on the porch and how boring it was when you could be out running around and doing something. But for the last few years, I've grown accustomed to taking a few minutes to sit out on the steps of my building, typically when returning home from errands.

Even though I don't live on a main thoroughfare, it seems like I can sit there and watch the world go by -- interesting people, people with dogs, with kids, people talking on cell phones -- little dramas passing before me.

Years ago, I read John Barth's The Floating Opera, so named for an opera that was performed on a barge that went up and down the river and so you only could follow the plot of the opera by the section you saw as the barge floated by -- the metaphor for life, or for sitting on your steps.

As I walked to my errands today, I was thinking how ordered a city is -- how people and cars wait for the lights to change, how cars go all at once and people cross the street all at once. I was thinking about the diversity of city life.

Once a woman I know from suburban Kansas City was in NY for a girls' weekend, and she called me breathlessly to say they were in a deli getting coffee that morning and she heard someone talking a foreign language into a cellphone. I waited for the punchline, but that was the punchline. Doing something ordinary like getting coffee, yet hearing a strange, foreign tongue. That was part of her New York experience.

I thought about it and surmise that if you live in suburban Kansas City, you don't hear people speaking other languages that often. When I was picking up dry cleaning the other day, I noticed a shrine in the store, and the thought crossed my mind "Oh, they are Hindus" because I'd see those shrines elsewhere. It's commonplace really and not worth noting other than the passing thought that the people who run the drycleaners belong to a specific religion.

Right next to my drycleaners with the Hindu shrine is a Mexican take out run by Koreans. The place is decorated with Korean fans, prints, a Korean calendar but all the Korean employees are knocking out tacos and chimichangas. I can call in an order for delivery and there's something so amusing about hearing them answer the phone "Hello, Taco Today" with a Korean accent.

Someone told me years ago that every Sikh has the same last name -- Singh -- and so when I get in a cab and look at the driver's license and see his name in Singh, I enjoy saying, "Oh you're a Sikh" and the driver is always surprised that I would know that and so from the drivers I've learned about the Sikhs, their history and heritage, and it's a part of world history you never learn in school.

I was getting frozen yogurt once near Christmas and the young woman serving me who is from Bangladesh asked me sincerely, "What is the difference between the Holy Ghost and the Christmas Spirit?" I loved that question. If I ever don't live in New York, the thing I will miss most (OK, aside from Greek coffee shop breakfasts since they're the only people who understand what wanting your scrambled eggs soft really means -- try asking for that in surburban Kansas City!), so what I will miss the most is the richness of diversity that I get to experience every day. I know that sounds terribly hokey, but it really is true.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mmmmmm... pastrami!

I am a creature of my own habits. I go to certain restaurants with certain friends and we always sit at the same table and order the same thing. Sometimes I think I live in a city with 40,000 (really) restaurants and I go to a handful of them.

So today, I was having my monthly lunch with my friend Barbara and she suggested we try a new place. She suggested a deli on Broadway between 82nd and 83rd called Artie's. Check it out at

Well, I had the most wonderful lunch. I really do love deli food, and Artie's is a big old-fashioned place, much more authentic than the "name brand" delis in Midtown. This is the sort of place where they put two little dishes and a bowl of cole slaw and a bowl of pickles on the table as soon as you sit down -- and lots of both.

Barbara had a soup and half sandwich -- chicken soup which I tasted... which was really pure heaven. REAL carrots, carrot slices that come in all sizes, not uniform "carrot-like food product..." those skinny egg noodles and chicken-y taste. You know when you taste something real and it prompts a memory of "oh, yeah, THAT'S what chicken broth tastes like --- I remember this now."

So the sandwiches were wonderful, those iconic 5-inch tall deli sandwiches, and I took about 2/3rds of the meat off my sandwich and took it home with me.

Then the waiter came by and asked if we wanted dessert and I said no, but Barbara said to me, "Do you want some chocolate pudding?"

Chocolate pudding??

Wow, of course, I said yes, because she really wanted it (turns out she was eyeing it in the deli case while waiting for me to arrive), and heck, I'm willing to go halfsies on chocolate pudding. However I said to Barbara that I literally do not remember the last time I had chocolate pudding... 1965?? Really.

The pudding arrived with whipped cream, and it was so delicious, light fluffy, chocolately. I think it's safe to say it was the best chocolate pudding I've ever had in my life, but since I haven't eaten any since the old days of Jello pudding that you'd stir on the stove, there wasn't much competition. This stuff, though, was great.

So on the way out, I had my doggie bag of pastrami wrapped up by our waiter and I bought two poppy bagels and some cole slaw to take home. When I have my leftover pastrami on the poppy bagel, I will add the cole slaw to the sandwich and eat it with cole slaw juice dripping down my chin with a bunch of napkins on standby -- way too sloppy to eat like that in a restaurant, but in the privacy of my home... well, that will be one great meal!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nightgown RIP

Among my friends, I am somewhat known as a decluttering coach -- helping people get rid of stuff we don't need, no longer use or think we have to hold onto for whatever reason. There's something so liberating about a bunch of shopping bags out the door to the thrift shop or a box of books mailed to a friend.

I enjoy sorting through my things and giving away those I no longer need or use. And yet, every so often I come upon something hard to part with. Such as with my favorite nightgown. This is the one I reach for first in the drawer. It's old, old, old and has been washed so many times that it's gossamer. It's the perfect weight -- light enough to be cool in any season, but heavy enough that you know you're wearing something.

The flowered pattern is so washed out that you really can't even make it out that it's flowers anymore -- just a sort of multi-colored swirl of faded colors. Funny how a nightgown can be a security blanket, the thing you feel safe in, the thing that makes you feel like you're home and all is well in your little world.

I knew the end was near, but the nightgown was still in tact and wearable -- but today, pulling it over my head to take a shower, my thumb went right through the material. That's how thin the material is.

It seems just plain wrong to stuff it in a garbage bag. What's the proper send off for such a thing? I delayed the decision by putting it in the hamper, but I know it's beyond mending, beyond rescue. RIP to my favorite nightgown.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

At the Periodontist

I often joke that maybe I'll find a nice old man for myself in the waiting room of my periodontist's office since it's a decidedly over-50 crowd. Plus at the prices we pay there, the guy would have to at least be financially solvent, take care of himself (and his gums) so there's a number of must-have boxes checked off already.

As I was sitting there on Monday, an old guy came out with his perio work finished and I watched as he put on his coat and he must have known I was checking him out -- he was probably 75 or so and one of those charming older men, or so I perceived. I was sitting right by the door and as he passed me to leave, he looked at me with a twinkle in his clear blue eyes and said to me, "I'm off like a prom dress."

At first I wasn't quite sure what he said and then I realized the joke and I have to say it made me want to sort of call down the hall after him before he reached the elevator and ask, "Hey, wanna get some coffee?"