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maura @ 10:37 pm
This week Gus is at a kind of unusual camp. Not unusual in the subject matter — yay for science! — so much as unusual in location. The camp is in Manhattan about an hour’s commute from us, and it’s sort of a complicated commute, too, involving both a subway and a bus. It was kind of a fluke: we’d planned on another camp for this week that didn’t end up working out, and by the time we found out it wasn’t going to work it was already March, which is late for getting signed up for camp here. So when I found this week’s camp I sort of signed us up without much reflection on how the commute was actually going to work.
Because of the long trip in, whichever one of us is taking him that day has stayed in Manhattan and work for the day in the public library, which is kind of fun, actually. But last weekend we realized that the missing link in this plan is the car. What to do about the car? On our block and the streets around our house there’s alternate side parking for street cleaning four, count them, 4 times per week. That’s usually a pain but not a problem — since Jonathan works for himself he’s the car caretaker during the week.
But with this week’s unusual schedule we had to hatch an alternative plan. The neighborhood to the southwest of us only has alternate side parking twice per week, so in theory if we could move the car to one of those streets just after the street cleaner came by we could stay there for 6 days. I found a street that’s scheduled to be cleaned Tuesdays 8-8:30am, so that seemed like our best bet.
The good thing about that narrow AM street cleaning window is that it’s right before I have to leave for work, rather than midday like many other streets. The bad thing is that’s a narrow window on a car-heavy block. For some reason* I was weirdly paranoid that something would go wrong, so I got up early to get ready so I could head out the door at 7:45am.
* A rather boring and un-mysterious reason, actually: this week I’m taking 2 vacation days (for book writing) and have a couple of appointments that are taking me out of the office for a chunk of the afternoon, and work time feels short to me (because it is!).
The Alternate Side Parking Theater of NYC is extremely easy to make fun of, but man, this was intense. By 7:53am I was in place near the bottom of the street, adjacent to (but not blocking!) a fire hydrant just in case I needed to make a quick exit. By 7:59am the non-street cleaning side of the street was parked up solid, including me in a hilarious 4 car run of Subarus (ours by far the oldest and most shabby). All drivers remained in their cars; the woman behind me didn’t even take off her seat belt. There was one car left, Massachusetts plates, on the street cleaning side of the street. Tension was high — would that car move in time? Would it get ticketed? I read Twitter, watched, and waited.
Suddenly it was 8:10am and the street cleaner approcheth — a quick wet whoosh and it was off. And THE VERY INSTANT it passed, Subarus (and other cars) sprung into motion to pull over and park in its wake. I was a smidge nervous about the adjusting, but settled our car in well and considerately, I thought. Unlike the lady in a more expensive car who pulled into the space in front of me a few minutes later, hitting our car (gently) several times in the process.
Once we were in position on the newly clean side of the street my stomach and I settled in to wait for 8:30, until the alternate side parking window closed and I could head into work. On my way up the block to the subway I spied the Massachusetts scofflaw: never moved, nor ticketed. Lucky duck.
maura @ 4:39 pm
We had a hurricane, you may have heard. We are very, very lucky here at chez mauraweb: located at one of the higher elevations of the borough, there was no flooding, and we didn’t have more than a few lights flicker last night during the worst of the wind. A quick walk around the neighborhood today to dispel some of the cabin fever revealed that there are a bunch of trees down, but again, nothing too bad, probably about the same as the last hurricane or the tornado. Half of the plywood at the abandoned construction site across the street blew over, revealing the garbage I’d suspected was piling up behind it. Once things settle down I am definitely calling 311 on its ass.
But the rest of the city was not so lucky. Subway (and other) tunnels flooded and the waterfront edges as well. Much of Lower Manhattan and large portions of the suburbs without power. Hospital evacuations, power station explosions, the Rockaways burning. It’s kind of intense. School’s been canceled again for tomorrow, my work too. Who knows how long it will be until the subways run normally again, though the governor supposedly promised that some bus service will be back this evening. This is a huge huge deal for a place that runs on public transportation, that relies on being able to get people between 5 boroughs and 3+ states for work and school and everything else.
We got most of our storm prep done on Saturday so I spent much of the storm alternately gorging on twitter and news websites and trying to ignore it all and not be too freaked out. The cats were fine, acted as if nothing weird was going on (if a bit confused to find water in the bathtubs) and wasn’t it great that ALL THA HUMANZ were there ALL THA TIMEZ?! That made me feel better, too — animals are supposed to be much more sensitive to weather stuff than we are, right? We went to our front of the building neighbors’ apartment for potluck dinner last night and their hamster was sleeping right through it, I kid you not.
Now I’m in that post-storm stage of relieved and cabin fevery and under-exercised and (guiltily) bored and annoyed with myself that I’m not doing more with this found time. But it’s crypto-time, in some ways — I still can’t stop checking the news every hour or so, we wasted 1 hr waiting for the mayor to speak this morning (reported to be at 10 but really at 11). I’ve done some book work and checked my work email. I read a whole book on Saturday and Sunday (calm down, it was a YA book). The dishes and laundry are done. Gus has played more videogames than I thought possible, since we lifted all screen time limitations during the storm, and has a pal over right now. Jonathan is grading. And I am still…antsy.
maura @ 10:01 pm
We’ve been here for 21 years now and I still lurve NYC. I love the non-drivingness, the lotsa different peopleness, the variety of places and spaces, the never a lack of things to do. I know it’s reductive and not totally true — the income inequality in NYC is pretty severe, actually — but I feel like most of the time the city lives up to my ideal of a place where no one kind of person is the default, where the sexism and racism of the world is less prevalent, and where everyone remembers that the one bright spot on Sept. 11th was how much we all helped each other and looked out for each other, and we all try to remember to do that every day.
In Brooklyn specifically I love living only a few blocks from an awesome library, a huge park, gorgeous botanic gardens, a lovely museum, and lots of good public transit options. We have our hippie food coop for good food (and few choices, which becomes evermore important to me the older I get because reading labels is boring + time-consuming). We can walk to school and work. We have a house that is big enough but not too big. Yeah, there are things I wish we had — a little bit of our very own outdoor space, a parking space, less dust, self-cleaning bathrooms — but the stuff in the cons column doesn’t even come close to the list in the pros column.
Except. Lately I’ve been thinking that if anything drives me from NYC it’s going to be this godamned global warming. Because I am tired of being hot in my office, hot in the subway, hot everywhere. Why is it still 70 degrees on October 20th? Will it ever snow again? My wool sweaters are so sad. Also there’s the potential flooding. Blame the post-apocalyptic YA novels, but the whole have-to-cross-at-least-2-bridges-to-get-to-a-non-island thing is starting to nag at my brain a bit. And also there are tunnels, for cars and subway trains, and those could flood. Will flood!
Honestly, it’s enough to have me thinking about Canada. Or Iceland, where it’s a balmy 30 degrees right now. Brisk!
maura @ 10:28 pm
Now that things are (somewhat) slower I’m trying to get back to some old, good habits, things I’d stopped doing when I was too busy or too tired. So I walked to work both yesterday and today. Today I even walked the old, preferable way, which is much more scenic and much less vehicle exhaust-y but takes between 5-10 more minutes. Which is nothing, really — barely a drop in the time bucket, practically zip in the great scheme of things. And something I should totally be doing for mental health, etc.
What I’ve missed in the past couple of months is new street/public art, which is everywhere! Photos of the stuff closest to work coming soon, but also there’s a great installation on a building on the scenic way to work. I didn’t stop to take pictures today, and anyway tonight I found much better photos than I could probably take. E.g.:
Really a cool project, and I haven’t even had a chance to walk around the entire building yet. I actually kind of adore that part of Brooklyn, that intersection of Livingston and Hoyt. True that it’s grungy and dirty and rundown and sad, plus the horrible commercial crowdedness of the Fulton St. Mall (where–UGH–xmas carols are currently being played so loud you can hear them 2 blocks away!). But there are amazing and beautiful historic buildings, and a Mexican grocery with 50 cent bags of chips for after summer-camp snacks, and lots of people people people coming and going and just trying to make it work.
Here’s an article about the artist, who sounds like a cool guy.
Image credit: sabeth718
maura @ 10:19 pm
What is it about getting out of the city that always leaves me so conflicted when I return? Gus was out of school all last week so we headed north for a few days for our annual grandparents-n-snow pilgrimage. All of the usual “s” activities were accounted for: sledding, snowshoeing, skating, and skiing. Gus, Jonathan, and my brother built an epic snowfort, too, about 5 feet wide by 15 long with three rooms and walls (w/crenellations) over 5 feet tall and fierce icicles all around the door to ward off marauders. The whole trip was lovely.
So now I’m thinking about the country again, nature + woods + mountains (and the silo house). It’s not that I want to leave the city. Why does nature always have to = no diversity + tons of driving? Especially the driving — on this trip we realized that Connecticut is the Staten Island of New England, because there is always traffic somewhere no matter what day or time you’re on the road.
Also, I really miss the snow. You’d think after our unusually snowy January I’d be okay with what’s obviously winter ending (at the botanic gardens today I noticed that the bluebells are starting to poke through). But the skis in my closet make me greedy for more. Maybe we just need to be in a more northern city.
What I really want is a War Drobe so I can move from city to nature easily without all that pesky driving. And a rainbow unicorn.
maura @ 9:32 pm
So, there was a tornado in Brooklyn yesterday! Yeah, I know the weather service is saying they’re not sure what to call it yet, but it sure seemed like a tornado to me. It’s funny: I lived in Missouri for 2 yrs as a kid and have spent lots of time visiting my in-laws in the great Midwest, but it’s here in the big city that I first encounter a tornado.
The whole thing was really weird — as Jonathan said at dinner, the weather forecast for the day didn’t seem that awful, just a 20% or so chance of rain in the evening. I was chatting with a coworker and ended up leaving work later than I planned, and as I walked from the library to the subway it was just starting to drizzle. But the air was really unsettled and the clouds were speeding by and the lightning was just weird, so you could tell it wasn’t a typical storm.
The train was really slow so I was probably down in the subway for 20 minutes or so. When I got to my stop and walked up to the first level above the platform, there was a huge tree branch near the turnstiles. Which was unexpected! Then I got upstairs to the sidewalk and saw the first of the big downed trees on my walk home (that’s the photo on the left above). There were three big trees down on the three-block walk to our street, though strangely none of the small trees on our block were damaged at all. The buildings around us are all fine but there’s been lots of roof + window damage elsewhere in Brooklyn and Queens.
(The Times has a cool map today of the downed trees that traces the storm’s path. Go GIS!)
We’re fine, as is everyone we know. Our car is fine, too, which makes me a little sad. You see that last photo up there, on the right? See the little bit of red car across the street from the car that has a tree on it? The red one is ours, and I wish it was the other one. I’ve been trying to make us get rid of the car for about 3 yrs now. But my enthusiasm is not shared, and it’s a lot of work to get it together and actually sell it. So we are still car owners.
But we have friends whose car got totalled a bunch of years ago, I forget how, I think they were in an accident but thankfully no one was hurt. And afterward they decided not to get a new car. Which got me thinking what a great thing it would be if something like that happened to our car. Accident, disaster, whatever — as long as no one gets hurt and nothing else gets broken. It just seems so much easier than having to make the effort to sell the damn thing.
So hello tornado in Brooklyn. If you were going to take down all of our beautiful trees, the least you could have done is dropped one of them on our car. The owner of that car across the street is so lucky, sheesh.
maura @ 5:32 pm
1. We did manage to make it to the BBG today. What’s more fun than traipsing through the botanic gardens with a sullen, complaining 8 yr old? Same plus nearly every other resident of our fine city. I have rarely seen the gardens so crowded on a non-event day. We actually had to cut the trip short because the crowds were getting to all of us.
2. Here’s the flower report:
Magnolias: mostly finished
Tulips: full bloom
Grape hyacinths: full bloom, like a bluish-purple carpet
Lilacs: mostly not open, but a few bushes have started, eep!
Cherries: a mixed bag, some trees are full on, and some just have buds. Seems like the trees with whitish blossoms open earliest:
It’s like a crazy nature fast forward over there, even the azalea bushes have a couple of blossoms opening. Looks like Gus will have to endure a few more awful weekends of floral viewing. We’ll be consulting the cherry blossom status map to plan our viewing strategy.
3. We did have ice cream bars, phew. And as you can see, even the non-treat time wasn’t all bad:
Nothing like a muddy stream to really cheer a kid up after being dragged to see boring old flowers with his boring old parents.
4. Have you seen my to-do list? It’s gone missing, which has completely thrown me for a loop because I need to update it for this week and I usually start with the old list when I’m making a new one. I’ve got a couple of piles of work- and research-related stuff on my desk and shelves, and it’s not in any of them. I *just* had it yesterday, and I can’t for the life of me imagine what’s happened to it.
Maybe the cats stole it. I’ve been talking trash about shaving them lately because with the warm weather they are shedding like mad. This could be their devilish revenge: wig out the control freak by stealing her list! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!
maura @ 9:41 pm
I didn’t ride my scooter to work all last week, because the week before I took a spill. I know, I know, why didn’t I tell you, internets? Well, I was (understandably, I think) embarrassed: as I keep saying, the only thing dorkier than an old lady in an orange helmet riding a kick scooter is the same eating it on the broken pavement near the Atlantic Center. Duh. It wasn’t the end of the world — a couple of small scrapes and a bruised shoulder and a chunk out of one hand, and thankfully the worst of it is on my left side (I’m right handed).
With my (minor) injuries I’ve been walking to work the past week or so. It’s funny how sloooooow it seems to me now when I walk to work. It only takes 40-ish minutes, but it’s easily twice the time it takes me to scoot. (Though I’m pretty sure that walking is better exercise, even with the uphill scoot home.) I do listen to podcasts or music during the walk, which I can’t do when I scoot, but it still seems long and a little boring.
Until I get to the art, that is. Then things get more interesting. You may have seen this story in the Times last week about the rise of pop-up art galleries in vacant storefronts around the city. I know it’s not a good thing to have vacant storefronts, but I have to admit that I vastly prefer the art.
I actually walk by two of the galleries mentioned in the Times piece. The first is a long stretch of storefronts with a ton of space, and lots of interesting sculpture and paintings inside. Right next door is an Applebee’s* which just increases the artistic tension, as far as I’m concerned. The Kenny Scharf mural (photo in the Times) is there, and a weird industrial chunky sculpture that’s all wood and oil drums and pipes and water. There’s also the melting waffle from the plaza near my work! I was so glad to see it — it disappeared from the plaza a few weeks ago and I’ve missed it.
* I’ll never get used to this Applebee’s being there. It’s so incongruous.
The second set of gallery spaces is smaller but also pretty cool. There are a couple of pieces with an anti-consumerist bent, which I totally groove on. It’s also nice that the old store signs were left above each storefront; the 1 Hr Photo, Check Cashing and Taco Rico signs really add to the effect. One of my favorite pieces has a table with two chairs and a huge jello mold on it. It’s the spiritual sibling of the enormous melting waffle. Go weird big food art, go!
maura @ 9:43 pm
It’s been a crazy kid week in the mauraweb! household. Gus learned to make farting noises in his armpit (thank you, private school day camp!), and has of course been showcasing this newfound talent at every opportunity. Tonight I had to act like a parent and bust out with “no farting noises at the dinner table!” On the other hand, he’s really quite good, so I can’t help but feel a *little* proud.
He also got a haircut yesterday for the first time since last September. In our crunchy, progressive-school corner of Brooklyn it’s pretty common for boys to have long hair. But on our recent trip through a non-NYC airport the security guard used a female pronoun while referring to Gus not once but *three* times (though it didn’t seem to faze him). And it’s gotten increasingly difficult to comb, esp. since we’ve entered the shower-every-day camp phase of the summer.
I really liked his long skater kid hair so initially I was sad, but when I got home from work last night I was relieved to discover that the cut turned out really well. It always surprises me how much older he looks with shorter hair. I tried to take a picture, but he was all moving and weird faces and everything.
We accidentally let him stay up too late tonight and he started to get a little rammy in the shower. Suddenly he was rapping: “yo yo yo, my name is Joe, I like to wear my pants down low.” It sounded like something he didn’t make up on his own, so I googled it and looks like it’s a YouTube meme. For kids. Very odd. I couldn’t find the exact words though (the videos I watched all had the same beginning but different ends to the rhyme, e.g. “I stubbed my toe on a cheerio”). So maybe he did make up that part.
maura @ 9:39 pm
I’ve been mentally blogging all day in discrete paragraphs rather than sustained narrative, so I’m going to kick it list-style here tonight:
1. After multiple recommendations I finally got my hands on some Thermals records. And they are awesome! Good for listening to while cleaning the stacks of papers off your desk, arranging the fall workshop schedule, and doing the dishes. Since it has rained here for a million billion jillion days straight, the line that’s the title of this post seems particularly apt.
2. Seriously, it has rained for a million billion jillion days straight. I mean, I used to dig in Ireland, I know from rain. I finally bought some big tall boots, but this is still getting pretty old. No rain today but the forecast for the weekend looks ominous, bah.
3. Last week we went to the curriculum share at Gus’s school to see all the fantastic work they’ve done all year. I am completely in awe of his teacher: she took those 27 kids on a ton of field trips all over the city (they studied a lot of architecture this year), including walks over the Brooklyn, Manhattan AND Williamsburg bridges (not all in the same day). Among the work Gus showed us was a book he made entitled “All Kinds of Awesome Poems By Gus.” Which makes me giggle every time I think of it.
4. I finally cleared a whole bunch of random old photos off my phone recently. Here are two:
This is from a crazy place with tons of inflatable stuff to climb on called Bounce U that we went to with friends earlier this year. Gus had a blast, predictably.
There’s a fun public art project all along a street near my work for which lots of people knitted cozies for the parking meters! It’s amazing, very Doctor Seussian. I took this photo right after the cozies were installed — they look much more droopy now that they’ve been rained on for a month. You can get a better look in the nice Flickr photostream and there’s also more info in the Times.