Happy Balentime Day!

I thank Mr. T for that declaration from the past. We shouted it to each other every year when my daughters were little. These days, I have make sure I don’t slip up when I wish someone a happy day. Ok, self..say ‘happy valentine’s day,” don’t shout “HAPPY BALENTIME DAY, FOO!”

My neighborhood drug stores have dwindling displays of cheesy roses, and the red heart-shaped candy boxes have all but disappeared. The cards are a mess and all picked over, a few stray red envelopes remain. If you haven’t felt the intense pressure to buy useless crap, I mean, send heartfelt greetings yet, your time is over.

I’ve always liked the thought of Valentine’s Day. Of course it’s a more fun when you have an actual love in your life. For those who’ve been unlucky at love, there are anti-valentine cards like, “Happy Singles Awareness Day,” or “Nothing Says YOU’RE SPECIAL Like A Mass Produced Card Written By Someone Else.” Too cynical..I still like the red hearts, the flowers, and silly bitmoji texts. Yeah, it’s a day made shamelessly profitable by Hallmark, Russell Stover, and Etsy. But I think this year, 2017, we deserve to take a few hours away from bad news and give each other hugs and flowers. It will be a grim year if we don’t give each other a little love. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate. HAPPY BALENTIME DAY, Foos.

1st-valentine-tulips
Valentine tulips from a former love.

New York Nice

I have a friend who, while not all that nice, is really a good writer. Everything he writes makes me laugh out loud. Extremely insightful and, frankly, he and I complain, I mean write, about many of the same things. Reading his blog is like reading my own ideas. But getting an email announcement about his latest post sets me off. What the!? I haven’t started a new one yet and he’s got two more out there. I hate that. And they’re always wonderful, of course. I may have to block his emails from now on so I don’t feel so bad about slacking off. It’s hard to come up with ideas sometimes. Many posts just present themselves (I wish they’d also write themselves). But if I haven’t seen anything worth writing about — vomit on a subway platform or SUV stroller wars on a Brooklyn Heights sidewalk — then I anguish. I have anxiety. Because my aim here is to please my devoted readers.

You’ve heard of Minnesota Nice. It’s kind of true, though sometimes it’s just passive-aggressive posing as nice. We aim to please, sometimes at the expense of our own pleasure. Lately I’ve been thinking that I shouldn’t worry so much about being nice — I mean, if someone isn’t happy with me, that’s their problem, right? This morning I butted in a line. Yes, really. I was late and couldn’t wait for the exceedingly large gentleman in front of me to move along. I did make eye contact as I shoved him out of my way. With big Keane eyes and upturned eyebrows, I begged forgiveness, “I’m sorry..!” I mouthed, with all my teeth showing, and I moved along quickly. Hostile yet smiling broadly, scurrying away like the infamous Pizza Rat, avoiding confrontation. I thought about it the rest of the day. I felt bad. I wasn’t nice.

When I was a little girl, my father left. I never knew why, it wasn’t talked about, though in my young mind, it was likely because I wasn’t a nice enough daughter. I did see him several weeks after he left one day when I was outside playing in my front yard. His car drove slowly by, with the window rolled down, and he looked at me. Didn’t wave or stop. I stood there, watching the car as it drove away. You’d cry if you saw it in a movie. Years after as an adult, I made contact and met him at his house. I met his new wife and we all drove down to West Des Moines to visit my step brother, Gene, who I had never heard of and never saw again. I remember he was very nice and I wondered why he lived in West Des Moines.

Of course we’re all formed by good and bad events in our childhood. Maybe I try really hard so people won’t leave me. I’ll continue dispensing tales of my nice and not-so-nice accounts of the city. But I can’t stress about it. I’m going to spend less energy seeking to please strangers (except you, my faithful blog followers.) This is New York…there’s no pleasing it. It doesn’t care about me anyway. This city can make me feel bad, but I know, even if I’m not so nice, it will never leave me.

Monday in New York

11:00 AM

I love New York!

Especially the subways. The train stations are so varied, some scary and filthy, others bright and white with beautiful mosaic work. And that distinct New York City station smell; the dormant, putrid concoction, intensified by excessive and oppressive heat. What is it? Piss, vomit, mold, rotting vermin corpses? But each trip on the train promises new people, new adventures, singers, panhandlers; who knows what awaits me today!  Nothing spectacular, just humanity, a connection in a way – superficial, of course, but so satisfying.  The rumble of the incoming train makes a plump rat scurry to safety amid the plastic bottles and wrappers.  I get on the train, a small part of this amazing crush of humanity.  I settle in for my ride…..   We’re still here…why aren’t we moving?

11:10 AM

Geez I hate this city.

The trains can be so challenging. My F train inexplicably turned into a G train.  F’ers get off and wait for the next train. When it arrives, we hurry in, cramming into each nook and cranny of the crowded train. We wait for the doors to close. It’s too long a wait…the doors are still open. I know that’s a bad sign. The conductor soon announces this train is suddenly going Express for reasons not shared with us.  My stop will be skipped.  We empty out, like a clown car, a hundred people piling out of the train. But these New Yorkers are not grumbling. It’s just the way it is. I’m from Minneapolis so I am grumbling (inwardly so no one suspects I’m not from here) and I decide to head outside to do who knows what. I just know I’m frustrated!!  Now it’s raining lightly, I’ve been at this station for 15 minutes. I stand outside in the rain. The day is dark, even though it’s late morning, and I’m annoyed. I’m talking to myself, gesturing and muttering. I will no longer judge those scary looking people in Union Square, mumbling and muttering aloud. They may be F train riders.  I soon realize that I have no options. I go back down (and pay another fare) and wait for another train.

11:29 AM

The F train arrives at last. It’s packed, but all is well..my ride into The City is quick, quiet and uneventful, normal. I arrive on 23rd and Sixth Avenue and it’s now raining steadily and seems even darker. Headlights are on, umbrellas up, heads down, braced against the blustery wind. It violently flips umbrellas inside out. (At least those poor, unfortunate souls with cheap, CVS umbrellas. Don’t ask me how I know this. ) I duck into a store, away from the wind, trying to salvage my umbrella.

1:40 PM

My errands completed, I walk to the train to head back to Brooklyn.  This trip would have taken 45 minutes in Minneapolis, back home in less than an hour, parking in my building’s climate-controlled garage.  Ahh, Minneapolis –  it’s so easy.  They should use that as the state motto.

One block to go, swapping my heavy bag from one shoulder to the other while trying to steady my umbrella, the rain is slowing to a spittle. The wind that once affronted now shoos the low hanging clouds quickly away. Brilliant sunlight emerges, blue sky, the rain refreshed the city. Umbrellas come down. Cabs begin to honk, headlights go off, we are all alive again, bustling here and there. It’s dazzling!  And that smell… that evocative, fresh, earthy rain on the pavement.

What a beautiful day. What a beautiful city!

Take My Seat…Please!

I came to New York later than most young hopefuls who arrive here to fulfill their dreams. I’ve wanted to live here since I was 20 but, as the saying goes, life got in the way. So here I am, 40 years too late. I made it. I’ve got it all but now I’m not really part of it all. I have some of the same hopes and dreams I had at 20 when I should have come here, but new expectations, lower ones.

My body and my energy deny it, but I am in the sleep aid and reverse mortgage ad demographics. Being an old fossil means if people acknowledge me at all, it’s usually to give up their seat on the train. The sign in the train asks riders to please give up your seat to an elderly, disabled, or pregnant person. I acknowledge their courtesy but I prefer to stand. Nobody’s gonna tell me I’m old. Heading to my weekly lunch date in South Seaport, I saw a cute guy on the train. He stood with his back against the doors. Black jeans, leather jacket. Ear buds. Attractive. He was only 20-something, so my admiration was pure. But he made me pensive; why didn’t I have one of those when I was young? So afraid to talk to boys, I never gave myself a chance to know one so I didn’t date. Men only want one thing, I was told. What is that? I didn’t really know, only that it was bad. Well I got over that fear, luckily because New York is a city for meeting strangers and making friends. Be completely alone if you crave it, but the opportunity for meeting people is tremendous.

Meet Ups offer events every night of the week to get together with people who share your interests. Mindfulness, Walking Tours, Bizarre & Wonderful NY Food gatherings. There is a Greyhound Playgroup. I love greyhounds. I’d like to go but would it be weird to show up without a dog? I could meet a guy with a dog…but then, he’d be 30 years old. I just got an alert for a new meetup, Laughter Yoga – a Good Time to Have a Good Time. I have never once laughed while doing yoga. I went to one called The Secrets of Grand Central, very enlightening. After the tour, the group headed to an Irish bar to watch football. Since I don’t have a tv and I love football, I was up for it, knowing everyone there would be under 40. I like to hang out with young people, tho this group all seemed to know each other. I sat at a table with a couple of nice young guys who were kind enough to talk to me. It was really loud and I couldn’t see the game anyway because two young women with really big hair, were standing in front of the tv, talking and gesturing and not even watching the game. And the bartender was busy with the youngsters at the end of the bar. I’m going to stick to the Over 60s playgroups.

I’ve been here nine months now and making it my own place, like millions of (young) hopefuls before me who came and never left. I figure I’m in a whole different class of new arrivals: Applying for Medicare instead of grad school. No longer waiting for that ‘big break,’ I am still feeling lucky every day, overwhelmed – that’s a good thing – by all the possibilities that exist here, even for someone old enough to remember when movies cost $1.00.

My New York Surprise Today  

The best lessons learned are those we experience firsthand. My lesson for the day: there are umbrellas and there are New York City Umbrellas. Who knew?

Walking down Flatbush Avenue toward LIU with my cheesy Minnesota umbrella (and a 40 wind gust having its way with it), the thing snapped itself shut – inside out – and rain, like tiny nails, pelted my cheeks.

A half block to go. My pants were getting wet. My shoes started to leak. Luckily my ride showed up. I hopped in the car, placing the umbrella on the floor. He looked at it with disgust. “That is a really shitty umbrella!” he said, chastising me for bringing the shameful thing into The City.

I won’t give up my little red umbrella, it’s just fine for my other life. But I have a feeling there will be more days like this and I’ll have to get a new one. Now I know.  I won’t have to fear a day like today. I will slog down the sidewalk like a real New Yorker, with my sturdy, unsnapable New York City umbrella.

‘Scuse me, I gotta run

I was walking down Smith Street yesterday, a lively avenue with butcher shops, flower marts and tiny French restaurants. Groups of people were standing, engaged in loud and spirited conversations. “I sawr it…”  “I sez, whada yuhs guys tawwkin’ about?”  “It ain’t woith it..Fuggedaboutit!”

We don’t do that in Minneapolis. When I see people on the street, their conversations are friendly, but private.  Actually, other than downtown on a weekday, there aren’t crowds of people milling about. When I return home from New York, I’m aware of how quiet and open the Twin Cities seem. It’s easy.

People here in Brooklyn are friendly. It’s a neighborhood where you always see someone you know and stop to talk. They are also very helpful. The reputation of the brusque New Yorker is not deserved – and maybe misinterpreted. New Yorkers are abrupt. But that’s because we are all in a hurry. Not discourteous, just direct.  Ask someone how to get to the R train, another helpful New Yorker rushing by will offer his opinion, because there-is-a-much-faster-route-let-me-tell-you-about-it.

I rush here, too, as if I have places to be. Swept up in the pace, even though the entire afternoon is stretched ahead of me, no commitments. I have to keep up. I’ll be rushing into the city tomorrow to pick up a rug and carry it back on the train. We don’t do that in Minneapolis. We have cars. It’s easy.

Welcome to New York

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I’ve been in my new apartment for a week now. I wanted to write about all the surprises, expectations and experiences of my first week. Rather, I’ve spent it painting walls and gathering essentials (plates, knives, matches) and trying to remember why I left a beautiful, sunny loft in Minneapolis for a nice but decidedly darker and dirtier New York apartment. I wanted to write interesting posts and do lots of paintings of my beautiful neighborhood that (in my mind) I would be busily be cranking out.  But I had to hold off. Because the only thing I had to post was: Waited all day for the gas man to hook up my stove…

I’m learning a lot about customer service and the acceptable level of it here. The bar is sometimes low. I could have written about the noise or the dirt but that’s old news when you’re talking about New York. I wanted to wait – to be positive and upbeat about my new city. This is, after all, something I’ve wanted to do for years – move to New York. I’ve been here a week. The writing had to be put off – I had to wait until I didn’t feel like slitting my wrists (tho in fact, I forgot to pack a knife). I waited for the dust – wow, there is a lot of it – to settle. Getting my stove hooked up and making coffee and toasting a bagel this morning feels like I’m actually in my apartment, instead of a hostel. It’s getting better. Going out to buy a knife now, not to end it all, but for the cream cheese schmear on my bagel.