life in and around NYC is insane

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I sit and watch him sleep

This story began 3 weeks ago, when my dad was rushed to the ER.  Four days in one hospital, then transferred to a second hospital.  Eight days in hospital number 2, and then to rehab.  He's weak, he's debilitated, he's despondent.  There are a myriad of problems.  Resolve one issue and another condition pops up.  Bottom line, he's 85 years old.

We -- my whole crazy mixed up family -- are spending so much time here, seeing to his comfort, trying to cheer him.

I came here straight from work tonight, got off the train and drove straight here.  He was sleeping.  I stayed anyhow.  He woke up a short time later.  His mood is more upbeat today, the doctor solved one of his problems. 

It's so hard.  

The Scourge of Chipmunk-kind

Live with cats and you will never be bored.  Lately I've been watching thr interaction between Redford and Mr. Kitty.  When Redford first joined our household, Daisy was clearly the alpha cat.   Both boys were very much under her paw, she kept them both in line.

We lost Daisy last fall, and the relationship between the boys has changed.  They interact a lot -- whatever is in the other's food dish is clearly better than what is in one's own, wherever the other has curled up for a nap is clearly the best sleeping place in the entire house.  Mr. Kitty was not afraid to swat at Redford with his paw, and so he has become the dominant cat.  Lately he's taken to chasing Redford around the house and swatting at him.  Yesterday he managed to trap Redford in a corner, but Redford is good at escaping.

It's funny how they react to humans the same way.  It what used to be a rare occurrence but has become more common since my dad was hospitalized, there were no humans in the house when I came home the other day.    But there was Redford on the porch, with an impatient look on his face that said "It's about time you came home!"  You would have thought he'd be happy or relieved. . . I opened the door and found Mr. Kitty in the foyer, wearing the same expression.  Both boys followed me around the house, even into the bathroom, until I made my way into the kitchen and found the cans of catfood . . .

Recently Redford has found himself a new hobby -- hunting chipmunks.  Apparently they don't taste very good, but they make great toys.  That is, until they stop moving.  We found a chipmunk corpse on the front porch, then another on the back deck.  Yesterday Redford came to the back door with one in his mouth, and was so sad because I wouldn't let him bring his new toy into the house.  He dropped it, and it started to move . . .I opened the door, scooped up the cat and brought him inside . . .the poor chipmunk made good his escape.

The other day, I am told, my sister F ran a similar rescue mission.  But that victim wound up running into the house.  It dashed through the kitchen and into the dining room, and my sisters had no idea where it was headed.  My sisters immediately began search and rescue operations.    At first they didn't know where it went . . .then they noticed both cats in the kitchen, sitting in front of the baseboard heater . . . There was definitely someone small and furry under there . . .who is now safely rescued and returned to the wild. 

Though after what happened when Daisy caught the bunny . . .I was almost surprised that they let the chipmunk go . . .

Nope, never boring at my house . . .

Saturday, May 26, 2012


It's Friday night, the movie opened today, so in what has become a pattern we arrived at the movie theater early and stood on line waiting to go inside. Friends waiting to see Men In Black 3 tend to discuss upcoming movies like Batman and and make stupid jokes about Alien and Star Trek. I got to show off my Dunkin' Donuts app, the alien I captured on my tablet.

I'd seen the first two movies many times, and fully expected to enjoy this one as well. I was not disappointed. Will Smith's Agent J has to travel back to 1969, where he meets up with a younger version of Agent K -- Josh Brolin doing his Tommy Lee Jones impression. This being NYC in 1969, the New York Mets, Apollo 11 and even Andy Warhol figure into the plot. I'm old enough to remember that era, and it seemed realistic to me. Griffin reminded me of Robin Williams as Mork, just as innocent but not as frenetic. Loved the movie.

We ended up at Red Robin for dinner. Ironically the chain was founded in 1969, which I did not know until I saw the sign in the lobby. The place is very 21st century, though. They sent a text message to my cell phone when our table was ready. The emphasis here is hamburger -- pink (medium) or no pink (well done). One of the members of our group ordered chicken instead because they would not serve her a rare hamburger -- company policy. We started our meal with the "pick any two" appetizer - we ordered onion rings (which came with chipotle sauce) and cheese sticks (marinara sauce). Just enough food for four people. I ordered a classic bacon cheeseburger, which was served with huge steak fries. Brought half of it home, it was good but huge. . .Staff was very attentive, refilled our glasses before we asked. Much improved since the last time we were here.

Overall another successful evening. Red Robin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It takes two hands to handle a Whopper . . .

Burger King on Urbanspoon It's matinee day, during Fleet Week, and our show has a 7:30 curtain. So we decided to forego our usual sit-down pre-theater dinner in favor of fast food.

This is not your typical Burger King. Located on 7th Avenue and 41st Street, where the fashion district meets the theater district, it's a Whopper Bar. Don't expect a full menu. All they serve are Whoppers. But with a difference, of course. Toppings such as guacamole, jalapenos and bourbon sauce are offered. I had bacon and swiss on my Whopper. Drew ordered the meat lover's Whopper, which included bacon and pepperoni. Fries are thick cut and nicely salted. They have a liquor license, I think the choices are limited to beers. Better than the average Burger King.

The show tonight? Newsies. I'd never seen the Disney movie from the 80's, but clearly many audience members are fans groupies. The audience was very into the show. I had no preconceived ideas about the show, but found myself being drawn into the story. The themes of corporate greed and uniting to protect the working poor are relevant today. And how can you go wrong with music by Alan Menkin? The dancing was amazing -- graceful and atheletic and enhanced by acrobatics. The show was supposed to be "limited engagement", which was extended twice, and now it's open-ended. If it wins a few Tonys next month . . .

It was a perfect night for people-watching. Tourist season, matinee day, Fleet Week, a Yankee game up in the Bronx, and a Rangers/Devils playoff game at the Garden. Lots of sailors and Marines in Times Square. A sea of blue jerseys near 34th Street. I even saw a group of Rangers fans on the upper level of a double decker tour bus, taking in the sights before the game. We knew the Rangers lost just by the look on the faces of the hockey fans we saw as we walked back to Penn Station to go home.

Overall another lovely night!

All I need is a tall ship. . .

. . . And a star to steer her by.  Saw this ship this morning.  It's Fleet Week in NYC and the talk ships are here to honor the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So it's official

We had a beautiful day for graduation, warm and sunny.  Jen's entourage met up at the school.  We sat on the quad, behind the graduates, so it was hard to see the podium. But we did manage to get a few pictures and some video of the proceedings.

Seeing my child in cap and gown, hearing her name called as she received her degree . . .how fast she has grown up!  I was in tears.

Afterwards we headed back to Jen's house, where she and her housemates had planned a party. We enjoyed burgers and hot dogs and fried chicken, salads and fruit and cheese.  Later there was a champagne toast and cake, of course.

My parents watched the graduation over the web, my sister H brought the computer to dad's hospital room.

And on Monday Jen came to the hospital wearing her mortarboard so that her grandpa could see the graduate.

The graduate

Story to follow

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Graduation weekend, off to a rough start

So the plan was for a whole group of us to come up to Rhode Island to celebrate Jen's graduation. The graduation ceremony is set for May 20 at 12:30, and Jen and her housemates plan a barbeque at their house afterwards. The group consisted of me, Drew, Rebecca, my parents, my three sisters and our good friend J and her 3 kids -- her sons and my daughters think of each other as cousins. Later Becca asked if she could bring a girlfriend. Plan was to drive up Saturday, attend festivities Sunday and drive home Sunday night.

There are only two hotels near the university. Both required a two-night stay, prepaid. It didn't make sense. So I booked a block of rooms in Warwick, a 30 minute drive from the school. Well, J decided not to come up Saturday night. She and her boys are driving up Sunday morning and driving home Sunday night -- her son M is at a sweet 16 tonight.

Then my mother decided that it would be too much for my father to drive home Sunday night after the party. So she booked two rooms - one for herself and my father, one for my sisters H, A and F - for Saturday - Monday, in the university town. I kept two rooms in Warwick, one for me and Drew, one for Beca and her friend.

Well, as you know, my dad has been in the hospital for over a week, and won't be released for at least another two days. So that meant a change of plans. My mom and H stayed home. Becca's friend cancelled, so she wound up with F and A at the hotel near the school. They took one room - H is fighting with the hotel to get my parents a refund on the second room.

So Drew and I wound up driving here alone. Hit a huge amount of traffic on I-95. Took at least 90 minutes more than it should have to get through Connecticut. Almost got killed when rubberneckers stopped short to look at a tow truck and a broken-down car on the side of the road. Got to Jen's house shortly before she planned to go out with her friends for a last hurrah (at least the champagne I bought for tomorrow will be chilled).

So Drew and I find ourselves in Warwick tonight, all alone. At least we had an excellent dinner at Legal Seafoods. I'd been to one in Boston and he'd been to one on Long Island. So we decided to try the one in Warwick. From the outside it looks like a seafood shack. Inside the decor is more upscale but still nautical. Bread was served piping hot with butter. He had the lobster bisque and I had the Rhode Island chowder - a tomato based chowder which contained chorizo. Both soups were excellent. We both ordered shrimp with garlic -- succulent shrimp cooked with cherry tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms in a garlic sauce, served over al dente linguini. Drew loved the sangria, but my pina colada was lacking.

Tomorrow, on to graduation!

Legal Sea Foods - Warwick on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Olympic Diner and conversation

Olympic Diner on Urbanspoon I find myself here frequently. Drew and I stopped here Monday night. He had a bacon cheeseburger deluxe -- huge burger plated with two large onion rings, served with lettuce, tomato, fries, cole slaw and a pickle. The slaw here tends to be fresh and sweet. I had chicken souvlaki. Grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion on pita, served with fries. You get two containers of tzatsiki with the sandwich -- you can smell the garlic as soon as you open the container. Yum! Back again tonight -- you know Becca is home from school when you see me getting take out from this diner. This time I was the one getting the bacon cheeseburger. Becca had a t-bone steak, which comes with mashed potatoes, corn and a side salad with their famous Greek dressing. No kidding, they make their own dressing, bottke it and sell it. Home with my daughter eating take out . . .how sweet to sit alone with her and just talk . . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Worried, part 2

Dad is still in the hospital.  In theory he will be able to come home tomorrow.  But  I heard what the doctors said and I am concerned.

In theory he's supposed to come with us to Jen's graduation.  We plan to drive up to New England Saturday and attend graduation Sunday.  He really wants to be there.  Said he didn't want to ruin her graduation.  Also said he was amazed that he lived long enough to see a grandchild graduate from college.

I am afraid he won't be well enough to make the trip.

Last night I said to my mom "Plan A is that he recovers enough to make the trip.  But you need a Plan B."

If you had been at the hospital with us this weekend, if you had seen what I saw, how debilitated he was, you'd probably agree with me . . .Plan B is very likely.  I don't want my father to literally kill himself trying to go to the graduation.

I'm supposed to be happy now, I have a chikd about to graduate from college.  But part of me is very sad and very worried.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Orchid on Urbanspoon

Go down to the basement, where you'll find a Chinese garden in full bloom - with a name like Orchid you expect floral decorations. Spacious, with lots of room between tables, this place is a little fancier than most Chinese restaurants, though we still felt comfortable in jeans.

Tonight's dinner began with a pu pu platter - generous portions of spare ribs, spring rolls, steamed dumplings, shrimp balls and some sort of chicken concoction. I've had better dumplings, but the shrimp balls were absolutely amazing. Spare ribs were small but tasty. Spring roll was a little greasy, but who cares?

Our group ordered several main courses: seafood nest (shrimp and scallops and vegetables in a white sauce), chicken with broccoli, beef in hoisin sauce and the house fried rice. All were expertly prepared. There was just enough food for the four of us. A hungrier group might want to order an additional dish.

We didn't order dessert, although the ice cream here is very good, but ended our meal with fortune cookies. Although for the most part the food at Orchid surpasses that of Jani, where we ate last week, I did miss the fruit at the end of our meal.

Expensive but worth it! We will return.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp and Johnny Rockets

1966 saw the premiere of three television shows that would become cult classics, three shows whose influence is still felt today.

The first was Star Trek.  'Nuff said.

The second?  The Monkees, of course.  A manufactured band in the mode of the Beatles, they turned out to be quite good.

With musical talent and comedic timing, they developed their own style and dominated the airwaves, at least for a time. MTV credits them as the fathers of the modern music video. I cried when Davy Jones died.

The last of the trilogy is Dark Shadows. An afternoon soap opera, a gothic melodrama that zoomed to popularity with the addition of the supernatural. Before the Twilight Saga, before Buffy the vampire slayer, before Harry Potter, we had Barnabas Collins, a tortured vampire who became an unlikely teen idol. We had Angelique the witch. We had a ghost named Quentin. We had time travel and parallel time.

The show was unintentionally campy and comic at times, with actors who flubbed lines, stage hands who walked across the set, boom mikes that appeared over actors' heads, and mishaps with scenery and props. But overall, it was dark and foreboding. And held our attention as it slowly built its story. I have to admit, although I watched the show and liked it, I wasn't a die-hard fan at the time. That happened after I met Drew and he dragged escorted me to a few Dark Shadows conventions.

Drew is such a fan that he just bought the ultimate collection. Every existing episode, plus outtakes and bloopers and cast interviews. The set comes in a box shaped like a coffin. When you open it, if the DVD's are in order, the images on the spine of each DVD case form a picture of Barnabas. We can all be Willy Loomis when we watch our favorite episodes.

When I heard Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were planning a movie, I wasn't sure what to expect. The original series was very popular on Scifi a few years ago, but an attempt to reboot the series in the 90's failed miserably. Well you know we simply HAD TO see the movie on opening night. We were not disappointed. You don't have to have been a fan of the old tv show to appreciate the movie. Tim Burton retells the story with his own perspective, his own sense of weirdness. On the other hand, it is also clear that Burton and Depp are huge fans of the show. Lots of inside references and jokes. It's played quite seriously, for the most part, though thete is humor in Barnabas' first encounters with the culture of 1972. Can't wait for the DVD.

Our evening ended, appropriately enough, at Johnny Rockets. It's an old-fashioned diner/luncheonette/hamburger joint. Very retro decor. Servers wear paper soda jerk hats. The music is pure nostalgia. Norman Rockwell-esque Coke ads adorn the walls. The food? I had a cheeseburger, served with fries and a smilie face made out of ketchup. Between the burger itself and the "special sauce", I must have used at least six or seven napkins. I love a juicy burger. Drew ordered grilled cheese with bacon. Marc had some sort of jalapeno mixture on his burger and chili cheese fries. Everything was fresh and tasty. We considered the shakes but I wound up with a Diet Coke, served in a real Coca Cola glass. Marc went with a Coke. Drew ordered a Coke with a shot of cherry syrup, so much better than the premixed Cherry Coke you get in the supermarket.

Overall another sucessful night. Johnny Rockets on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My name is Victoria Winters. It is late afternoon at Collinwood . . .

. . .and time to see what Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have done to Dark Shadows.


My dad is 85 and has a myriad of illnesses and medical issues. This morning my mother had to bring him to the ER.  I just spoke to him.  He's feeling better and he may be able to go home tomorrow.

But of course I am worried.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The blonde dye sunk into the brain

So my soon-to-be-college-graduate took her last exam yesterday.  Told me she'd be home last night.  I was expecting her around 10 PM or so.

When she wasn't home by 11 I started to worry.  By 11:30 I was very worried.  At 11:45, just as I was about to call her, she walked in the door.

Seems she stopped at a friend's house to use the bathroom.  Well, it is a long ride home from her school.  And she decided to hang out for a little while.

But she does have a phone.  An iPhone, to be precise, with free calling nights and weekends as well as unlimited texting.

Book smarts does not equal common sense.

Monday, May 7, 2012

All creatures, great and small

The house we live in was built in 1968.  My parents are the original owners, we watched the house being built in the summer of 1968, and moved in that November.

There was a lot of building going on back then, what had been a sleepy little community grew into a busy suburb.

They say thst Levittown was built on potato fields.  My community was carved out of the woods.

The elementary school around the corner from our house, where my sisters and I, and later my daughters, were all students. . .its mascot is a stag.  I am told that when the school was built in 1964, deer would come out of the woods and walk right up to the classroom windows.  Alas, the deer moved out when we moved in.

But there are still remnants of the woodlands. 

The houses on my side of the street were built on long, rectagular lots, and the rear portion of each lot was left in its natural state.  In 1968  our lot abutted undeveloped woodlands.  We were told that the State of New York planned to build a roadway through those woodlands, and the wooded area of our yard would serve as a sort of a barrier between us and the road.  We also knew that another builder was planning a development on the other side of the projected roadway.

Well, the other development was built, but the state abandoned plans for the road.  So what's left is a long, thin strip of woods, 18 acres that for various reasons cannot be developed.  I can hear ny neighbors on the next street if they're partying in their yard, but I cannot see them except in winter, when the trees are bare.

We have lots of small animals living back there -- squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits.  I've seen lots of different birds, and even bats.  The raccoons come up onto our back deck, and I've seen a fox once or twice.

And there was this one time some ducks decided to take a swim in our pool.  Though thankfully the Canadian geese tend to hang out by the school.  When I was a kid we used to find toads living in the grass, but it's been a long time since I've seen them.

And of course there are bugs.  Mosquitos, wasps, bees.  Ants and spiders and slugs.  I've heard cicadas and crickets. Fireflies, of course. Then there were the years of the gypsy moth caterpiller - they were like an invading army.

But I'd never seen a butterfly.  Until yesterday, that is.  Two beautiful black and orange butterflies fluttering across the lawn.

They were incredible.  Wish I could have captured them with my camera.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chinese food!

Jani on Urbanspoon Jani is our neighborhood place, our go-to place when we want a sit-down dinner. I love the teapot collection -- glass display cases surround the room, showing off beautiful ceramic teapots. No two are alike. Your meal starts with crispy noodles, duck sauce and sinus- clearing mustard. Hot tea accompanies your meal, and my water glass was never left empty. Tonight we enjoyed steamed pork dumplings in a delicate sauce. Best dumplings I've had this side of Chinatown. Our staples here are crispy shrimp with walnuts (large fried shrimp in a sweet brown sauce) and Peking beef - chunks of meat in hoisin sauce wrapped in a delicate pancake (we refer to it as a Chinese burrito). And your choice of white or brown rice. The meal ends with fortune cookies, orange segments and chunks of pineapple. Love the fruit!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers

Fun movie.  Pure comic book, lots of action and some humor.  These guys aren't goody goody, they snipe at each other. 

If you haven't seen the movie, make sure you stay through the credits -- all of the credits.

And if you've seen the movie you'll understand my sudden craving for schwarma.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Songbird salutes the 70's

It was 1975, and I was 15 years old, and the biggest song on the radio was this incredibly romantic ballad called "Mandy" by an up and coming singer named Barry Manilow, and I was in love. And two years later, when I bought "Barry Manilow Live" (a double album!) . . .when Barry talked to the audience I felt like he was talking to me. All I wanted. . . What I really, really wanted . . . Was to go to a Barry Manilow concert. Alas, it was not to be. Last fall we heard that Barry was planning four concerts in Radio City Music Hall, and that the concerts would be in mid February. What a perfect Valentine to give to ourselves! Drew bought tickets for Sunday February 12 and we were both excited to go. And then in December Barry had hip surgery and wound up postponing a lot of his concerts. Our February 12 performance was moved to May 2. Our evening began in the Brooklyn USA Diner on West 43rd. We had enjoyed a meal here awhile back and figured we'd give it another go. The host was very eager to seat us and our waitress was very attentive. Loved my cheeseburger - huge juicy patty served on a sesame seed bun, with bacon and cheese and frizzled onions. Fries were a disappointment. Too soggy. Place specializes in dessert but we didn't order any. Then it was on to Radio City. Barry Manilow is now a 60-something with bad hips and too much plastic surgery, but the voice, the talent and the showmanship remain. He sang almost all of his hits, starting with "Could It Be Magic?" and ending with "I Write The Songs". Best performance of the evening was when he sang "Mandy" as a duet with a film clip of his 1975 performance on The Midnight Special. The audience loved him, so many of us sang along and waved our glowsticks ( freebies we got from the ushers). Sad when the show came to an end. Brooklyn Diner USA on Urbanspoon

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