life in and around NYC is insane

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

a short month -- but very full

Sigh...we say goodbye to February today.

It's been a very full month.

With Drew's birthday, my birthday and Valentine's Day, we did a lot of celebrating.  If you join loyalty programs from chain restaurants, you get all sorts of discounts and free items for your birthday, and we took full advantage of what we were offered. A little self-indulgent, I know, but we enjoyed it.  Though my weight loss plan took a real hit...I am back on the straight and narrow now...

We saw a lot of movies, too.   We enjoy the movie theater experience, and we wanted to see all the "important" films before the Oscar presentations.  No, we didn't see "everything", but it sure felt like we did.  What a wild Oscar night, though.  Some politics, of course.  And an ending like no other ....people will remember the La La Land fiasco for years to come.

Live performances --  Drew and I saw Lewis Black, and I went to the NYC Ballet with a friend.  I don't know much about ballet, but I'm learning.  Full report to follow.

I picked an interesting time to re-join the JCC, but the change from Planet Fitness has been good for me -- more options, more choices, it keeps my level of interest high. Yoga, the pool...it's great.

I've been busy with my political activities as well.  At the behest of my Planned Parenthood volunteer coordinator, I showed up at a Town Hall where we dealt with an "empty chair" because a Republican Congressman didn't show up.  And I volunteered at a Democratic Congressman's Town Hall, which gave me about 30 seconds of fame on the local cable news.

I haven't been as attentive to my charitable volunteer efforts, which kept me busy most of January, but there are several projects coming up in March.

The family?

Drew has been dealing with some significant medical issues.  It has gotten to the point where he posted on Facebook (he never posts on Facebook) to let all his friends know what's going on.  His doctor is thinking about referring him to a specialist in Philadelphia.... it sucks getting old, doesn't it?

Lots going on with Becca.  Her boyfriend just moved to the city, and she's excited to be able to spend more time with him.  They're going to Jamaica in a few weeks.  She's also looking for a new roommate, her current roommate will be moving out when the lease ends in August.

I'm not always sure about what's happening with Jen.  She's not happy with her job, but she doesn't know which way to go to change things.  sigh.  After the break-up and make-up at New Year's, she and her boyfriend seem to be OK together.  For now.

And the girls are planning a trip together to Disneyworld.  I guess all those trips we took as a family made an impression.  Yes, I raised two "Disney Princesses", didn't I?

I'm worried about my mom.  Dementia is not fun....but what can you do?

So now, on to March...and the  promise of spring.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The JCC

I picked an interesting time to re-join my Jewish Community Center, didn't I?

70 JCC's, in states from New York to Florida to California, have received bomb threats in recent weeks.

The most recent round, today,  of threats included the Mid-Island Y in Plainview, NY.  No, it isn't "my" JCC, I belong to another Y here on Long Island.  But I've been in the Plainview building countless times.  I was there just last week for an event.

It's scary when something like this happens.  Scarier still when it happens so close to home.

I feel the same unease that I felt 9 year ago, when my synagogue was attacked.

It was a hot Sunday morning in August when I heard that the synagogue had been vandalized, that horrible antisemitic messages had been sprayed all over the synagogue walls.  The worst of it could be concealed by huge white sheets until the building was power washed a few days later.

If that was not horrifying enough....

I drove over to the building to see the damage, and found myself in an encounter with ....

Well, he drove up  to my car in his pickup truck, rolled down his window, and asked me "Are you Jewish?"

When I said yes, he replied "I feel sorry for you, because I hate Jews!"

When he saw me reaching for my cell phone, he drove away.  I guess he didn't want an encounter with the Hate Crimes unit of our local police department.

I feel that same disquiet today....

Did you see that?

Whoever handed the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty will soon be looking for a job.

Weirdest Oscar night ending on record.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fences




Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in. -- August Wilson


August Wilson's powerful play.  Denzel Washington's masterful movie.  A story line driven by characters and conflict.

Set in 1950's Pittsburgh, the story revolves around Troy, a middle aged African-American man, and his struggles to earn a living and provide for his family -- his wife Rose and their son teenage son Cory.  Others in his life include his adult son Lyons, his brother Gabriel and his best friend Bono.

At the beginning of the movie, Troy and Cory are building a fence in the back yard.  The fence becomes symbolic, a metaphor for all the twists and turns of the story, all the conflicts, those that can be resolved, and those that cannot.

Troy can be lively and engaging, he can be selfish and cruel and rigid.  His failures and disappointments shape how he interacts with his wife and sons.

Rose is a strong woman, looking for peace and dignity, trying to construct a n identity and life for herself while married to a man who sucks all the oxygen out of the room.

I think the audience rests its hopes on Cory, that he can break the cycle, that he can escape the confinement of life in that neighborhood, that he can become something better, even as we watch Troy crush Cory's dreams.

It's a powerful drama about the human condition, about taking the good with the bad, about trying to move ahead when life beats you down.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

La La Land (spoiler alert)

I'm a sucker for movie musicals, and La La Land is getting good buzz, so of course we had to see it.

Before I talk about the movie, let me talk about the theater.

Most of the movie theaters around here have converted to the luxury model -- reserved seating in plush recliners.  I've gotten very spoiled.  The only theater showing The Founder, which we saw last week, has not yet converted to the luxury model, and we were not happy.  The theater in which we saw La La Land is a hybrid -- the front rows are traditional seating, the back rows are luxury seating.  there is a difference in price, of course  -- $.50 per ticket.  We splurged.

So...the film ...

The movie is set in contemporary Los Angeles, but is done in the style of a 1950's musical -- sort of a cross between Singin' In the Rain and An American in Paris.  You know what you're in for as soon as you see the word "CinemaScope"  flash across the screen.  The opening number has the population of Los Angeles singing and dancing their way through a horrific freeway  traffic jam.

The musical numbers , especially the dance sequences, are well-staged and beautifully filmed.  I especially enjoyed the one in the observatory.

But the film is not without its flaws.

I like Ryan Gosling, but...well, his character, Sebastian, is very poorly written.  A rip-off of a Woody Allen character, but without the angst, or the charm.  I lost interest in him halfway through the movie.  And Gosling will never have much of a career as a singer. I don't know why he's nominated for an Oscar for the role.  Maybe it's recognition for his other work.

Emma Stone's Mia has more depth as a character, and I did care about what happens to her in the movie.

The ending of the movie....



...is a rip-off of last year's Woody Allen hit, Cafe Society.  The key difference?  Jesse Eisenberg's character seems happy as a club owner, Ryan Gosling's character does not.

An enjoyable film, and I'm glad we saw it, but...well, I don't understand the Oscar nominations, there were better films and better performances this year.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Eisenhower Park

Yes, it is one of my favorite places to go walking.  I usually park near the Veteran's Memorial and walk around the lake.

And even in the dead of winter, I find activity on the lake.


Usually it's ducks and/or geese, so I wasn't suprised to find geese on the pond last week.




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Yes, they actually swam.

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But look at the birds in these pictures. I'm not sure if you can tell, but yes, those are seagulls.



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I even took a little video.



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Traffic jam!

 The view from the driver's seat yesterday morning.



Had to wait for the traffic to clear.





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lewis Black!

I never know what to buy for Drew.  I always seem to find something that I think he'll like, but that winds up on a shelf or in a drawer...so I always ask him what he wants before getting him a gift...

(He doesn't have the same issue when it comes to me, as my jewelry and pewter figurine collections can attest.)

So when I asked him what he wanted for Hanukkah this year, he told me that he wanted to see comedian Lewis Black, who would be appearing at the Westbury Music Fair...er, the NYCB Theater at Westbury...on February 17th.

If you haven't heard of Lewis Black, this is how he describes himself on his website:


Known as the king of the rant, LEWIS BLACK  uses his trademark style of comedic yelling and animated finger-pointing to skewer anything and anyone that gets under his skin. His comedic brilliance lies in his ability to make people laugh at the absurdities of life, with topics that include current events, social media, politics and anything else that exposes the hypocrisy and madness he sees in the world. 


His humor is very topical, very political, very liberal in his outlook.

And very, very funny.

His opening act, John Bowman, did a spot-on impression of Donald Trump -- worth the price of admission just to see that.  Then Black did his rants about politics, Long Island traffic, candy corn, gun control ... it was hysterical.  

At the end of the show, Black went "live", streaming a question-and-answer session to his audience on the web.

Great evening of comedy.

And we scouted out where we want to sit for Bill Maher -- he's coming to Westbury in August.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Songbird salutes the 70's: David Cassidy




It was 1970, and there was a new TV show called The Partridge Family.  Aimed at young girls like me, the premise was that a widow and her five children had formed a rock band, and traveled around the country in a brightly-painted bus.  The show starred Shirley Jones, an Oscar-winning actress and singer, and featured her real-life stepson, David Cassidy, in the role of the eldest son, Keith Partridge.

And like every other little girl of that time, I was instantly in love.

My sister and I watched the show, we read the articles in Tiger Beat, we collected the records and the posters, we wished we could go to one of his concerts...

And then, like most teen idols, he faded from view as his  audience moved on...

Years later I learned what had happened to him. Typecast, he was unable to find work.  He lost his fortune and descended into the same alcoholism that had led to the death of his famous father, Jack Cassidy...

And then, in the early 1990's ...there was a new musical on Broadway, Blood Brothers, starring real-life brothers David and Shaun Cassidy, and British pop idol Petula Clark as their mother.   saw the show in 1994, and I was very impressed.  What an incredible comeback for him, proof that David was much, much more than a teen idol.

And then, four years ago, Cassidy toured with Mickey Dolenz and Peter Noone, in a tour devoted to their days as teen idols.  Noone was added after Davy Jones (another of my idols) had unexpectedly died.  Jones apparently helped Cassidy embrace his teen idol past.

The tour came to Westbury, and I finally got my chance to see my David Cassidy concert.



Last Saturday night Cassidy gave a horrible concert performance -- slurring his words, forgetting lyrics, even falling off the stage.  With his history, everyone assumed he was drunk.

And then on Monday came the news:  it wasn't alcohol, it was dementia.  The same disease that claimed his mother and grandfather.    The disease that will now cause his retirement at age 66.

I know the horrors of dementia all too well.

Today I feel sad.  I feel sad for my idol, and for all the little girlswho once loved him.  another piece of our childhood is fading away.




Monday, February 20, 2017

The Founder

Yet another movie based on reality, The Founder tells the story of Ray Kroc, who created the McDonald Corporation.

Kroc was a slick, fast-talking salesman, unsuccessfully trying to find the next new thing, when he happened upon a hamburger stand in San Bernadino, California.  McDonald's, run by two brothers, was new and different -- mass produced hamburgers in paper wrappers, and a family atmosphere so different form the then-popular drive-in restaurants.  He saw the potential, brought the concept to the Midwest under a franchise agreement, and began to build his empire.

We all pretty much know where the story is going, everyone is familiar with McDonald's, after all.    Still, it was interesting to watch Kroc go from a seemingly nice bumbler to a nasty backstabber...

Michael Keaton is amazing in the role, he really deserves an Oscar -- pity he wasn't nominated.

Definitely a movie worth seeing.

Friday, February 17, 2017

thinking about my dad...

Today would have been my father's 90th birthday.

My sisters were all "daddy's girls", completely devoted to him.  I had a more contentious relationship with him, we butted heads many times.  But he was  my father, I loved and respected him.

And I genuinely liked him, which is far different from love, isn't it?

Much of who I am today is due to my father's influence.

He didn't just earn a living as an educator, he was a natural-born teacher.

My father gave me an appreciation for literature, for theater, for Broadway, for Shakespeare.  Our family vacations sparked an interest in travel, in history.

And he was devoted to my mother, they were married for over 50 years.

And he was proud of his children and his grandchildren.

H loved female attention.  He was the youngest of 5 children, his four older siblings were all girls.  He had four daughters and two granddaughters, and he reveled in being surrounded by  us.

His favorite quote, one from The King and I, was "Among so many sheep I am the only ram, it's no wonder I"m the wonder of Siam".

I'm really missing him today.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

feeling old!

So my favorite radio station is WCBS-FM, a station that plays "oldies".

That once meant music from the 50's, 60's and 70's, but more recently has come to mean music from the 60's, 70's and 80's.

But yesterday...OMG, yesterday they played....they played...OMG, they played a song by Backstreet Boys!

In the late 1990's and early 2000's young girls -- like my twosome -- debated the relative merits of Backstreet Boys versus *NSYNC.  Which boy band was better?  I took the girls to see *NSYNC in 2002, we sat behind the stage, and my kids were convinced Joey Fatone winked at them. I took them to see BackStreet Boys.  We saw Backstreet Boys in 2005.

My music on an oldies station, that's normal.

My daughters' music on an oldies station??????

I feel old.

So here it is, the song played on WCBS last night.  From 1999, here are the Backstreet Boys with their hit song, I Want It That Way.




Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day

Drew and I are a modern couple, we usually split the cost of going out.  But last night, for Valentine's day, he treated me.  And ... oh, wow.

We went to one of our favorite restaurants, The Melting Pot.  How can you go wrong with melted cheese and melted chocolate?

It was very festive  last night.


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And Drew really splurged, he ordered a package that included rose petals and candles on the table, a vase of roses, a coffee mug to take home, chocolate dipped strawberries and champagne.



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Loved the champagne. The strawberries came in a box.

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They  look so yummy!

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The mug was cute.

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Yes, that's a jar of their garlic wine seasoning in the mug.

The dinner came with cheese fondue, salad, main course and chocolate fondue.  Our main course included lobster tail, shrimp, chicken, pork and steak, all of which we cooked coq au vin style,

The dinner came with one glass of champagne for each of us, but the manager treated us to a glass of prosecco as well.  Two glasses of wine is definitely my limit.

Wonderful meal. We took half of it home, I'll have a nice lunch tomorrow.

We did have a near-disaster.  The candles were very small, low to the table.  I had to remind Drew several times to keep flammables away from the candles.  To no avail.  He set a paper napkin on fire!

And the funniest moment?  I gave Drew a humorous Valentine's card.  The same card I gave him last year.  I guess it really does fit his personality.

It was such  a lovely evening.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

a strange journey

It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I was 19, and a coworker asked me if I wanted to be set up with her brother. The young man who showed up at my door boree a striking resemblance to Woody Allen -- good thing I was a fan. 

We dated for awhile, and broke up.

A few years later we reunited, dated for awhile, and broke up.

third time around, we dated for awhile, got engaged, got married, had two children.

And got a divorce.

Considering the bitterness of the divorce, no one would ever have imagined that years later we'd be back together.  

Yeah, we're a bit behind on the relationship learning curve.  

It's been a strange journey, stranger than I would ever have imagined.  

But I think this time we have it right.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jewish Arbor Day

The Jewish people were the first tree huggers.

Yes, it's true.  

Yesterday was a minor Jewish holiday, Tu B'Shevat.  Also known as the New Year for Trees.  

The Bible contains many directives for an agrarian society.  When to plant, when to reap, when to allow a field to lie fallow.  

The age of a fruit tree is calculated on Tu B'Shevat.  It is forbidden to eat the fruit of a tree that is 3 years old or younger.  Fruit from a 4 year old tree was to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem or given to the poor.

Later, the Kabbalists in the city of Sfat came up with a ritual, based on the Passover Seder, involving four cups of wine and four different types of fruit.    A Tu B'Shevat Seder wasn't widely practiced, except by scholars and mystics, until modern times.

But the idea of planting a tree in Israel ...that began with the early Zionists who wanted to renew the land.  Organizations such as the Jewish National Fund collected charitable funds, which were then used to plant trees, create forests, etc.  

In modern Israel Tu B'Shevat is all about ecology, like Earth Day.  

I guess I come by my environmentalism honestly.  It's part of my heritage.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Celestial happenings

The moon is full tonight.

That's not unusual, we get a full moon every month.

But tonight we also get a lunar eclipse.

That happens sometimes when the moon is full.  It's not all that common, though it's been happening more often in the last year or two.

But a full moon, a lunar eclipse and a comet?  That's rare.

I may just have to brace the cold and foggy a little stargazing  tonight.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

winter is coming

No, not a "Game of Thrones" reference.

I opened up the blog today and really couldn't think of anything to write.  I guess I have the winter blahs.  Don't know why I should feel so blah, we really haven't had a bad winter this year.  Only one storm where there was enough snow that I had to shovel out the car.  Usually I get the blahs when I've been beaten down by the cold and the snow.

But it's been mild so far.  In fact, today we will likely see temperatures up in the 50's, close to 60.

Different story tomorrow.  There's a winter storm warning in effect for tonight and all day tomorrow.  we're expecting 7" to 12" of snow.  I guess that means working from home Thursday.  I'll bring my laptop home.

But the snow won't last long, the forecast is for temperatures in the 40's on Friday and Saturday.

Yeah, the weather has been a bit weird this winter.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Patriots Day

There seem to have been a lot of films recently that are based on true stories -- Sully, Deepwater Horizon, and now, Patriot's Day.

You recall, when we saw Sully back  in September, that I told you I had actually seen Sully's plane in the Hudson River.  (my review).  Then in October, I told you about my career in environmental law and my connection to the Deepwater Horizon disaster (read about it here.)

Well, I'm not from Boston.  I've visited the city numerous times, it's a great place for a tourist, but I am not a Bostonian.  And I'm not a fan or the Boston Marathon, just not the kind of sport that interests me.  I guess my connection to the events of April 15, 2013 is the same as every American's -- we watched it all unfold on TV, and in social media.    And it was only 4 years ago, our collective memories are still strong. 

the movie is fast paced, the camera often shooting from the point of view of one of the characters.  We meet most of the main characters a day or so before the bombing, as they go about their lives -- a cop who will be at the marathon's finishing line, spectators who will be injured by the blasts, the MIT cop who will later be shot by the fleeing bombers, the Chinese student whose car will be hijacked.  We also see the bombers at home, engaged in ordinary, family activity as they also plan their heinous act. 

I found myself remembering all the details ... I found myself crying during the scenes at the marathon...and after the story ended, when the filmmaker included interviews with the real people whose lives were portrayed on the screen, I nearly lost it. 

Boston Strong.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jones Beach fallout

So yesterday, right after I blogged about walking at the beach, an article from the New York Times popped up on my Facebook.  Originally published in July 2015, How Walking In Nature Changes the Brain talks about how science has been able to quantify the effects of a nature walk on human behavior.  I don't need a scientist to tell me that walking in nature improves my mood, but the science is interesting nonetheless.

I mentioned Teddy Roosevelt.  I think most people are familiar with the former President. A conservationist and promoter of public parkland, he made his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island.  We don't have huge federal parks around here, but he was an inspiration nonetheless.

I also mentioned Robert Moses.  People outside of New York may not recognize that name.  He was a politician appointed to head several NYC and NY State agencies throughout his career.  He is responsible for many of the state parks, and the parkways that lead to those parks.  He was behind the building of the Triborough Bridge, the Battery Tunnel, and the Throgs Neck Bridge.  He also made some very bad decisions -- Walter O'Malley took the Dodgers out of Brooklyn because Moses wouldn't help him find a suitable location to replace Ebbets Field, the 1964-1965 World's Fair was a financial failure, and his destruction of small neighborhoods in favor of large housing projects exacerbated the urban blight he was trying to cure.

so...what will pop into my head the next time I'm at the beach?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jones Beach redux

One of the joys of living on Long Island is that it is, in fact, an island.  110 miles from Manhattan to Montauk, but only 20 miles at its widest part.  And as the home of environmentalist Teddy Roosevelt, and as the stomping grounds of the master builder Robert Moses, we are blessed with an abundance of state and local parks.  That means you're never far from the ocean, should you want to take advantage of it.

And I do take advantage of it.  Quite often.

One of my favorite places this time of year is Jones Beach State Park, a huge public space that takes up most of Jones Beach Island -- a barrier island along the southern shore of Long Island.  In the summer the park is always crowded.  Park patrons can enjoy the 6 1/2 miles of white sand beaches, they can stroll along the boardwalk, swim in the pool, play shuffleboard, baseball or miniature golf, fish off the pier or watch the boats in the marina, or attend concerts at the outdoor theater.

In the winter, however, the seagulls far outnumber the human park-goers.  You'll find fishermen at  the pier, of course, and a few hardy souls who walk the boardwalk despite the cold.

The other day it  occurred to me that I had not been to Jones Beach since the breast cancer walk in October.  So yesterday I bundled up (thanks, Suzanne, for suggesting I wear the LuLaRoe leggings under my jeans!) and headed for the desolate beauty of the beach in winter.







The specks you see along the horizon are cargo ships headed towards New York Harbor.

I parked at Field 6, the easternmost parking field, and I walked west along the boardwalk for about 45 minutes or so, then turned around and walked back to my car.  It was cold and windy, but also invigorating.

After a crazy week at work, and with all the lunacy in the world theses days, it was good to take a few moments to appreciate the timeless beauty of the ocean.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day -- again

According to folklore, today  is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.
If he sees his shadow, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.
If the day is cloudy and therefore shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.

It's been a mild winter so far.  A little bi of snow, nothing too dramatic. 

I'm hoping it stays that way.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February

The shortest month.  The dead of winter, punctuated by a few holidays -- Valentine's Day, President's Day, Lincoln's Birthday.  Not to mention, a couple of birthdays -- Drew's and mine.

I mean, I hate winter weather, can't wait for spring, but at least I have a few happy things to keep me busy while I deal with the ice and snow.

But in the midst of all that celebrating...

I find myself in a  contemplative mood.

Maybe it's the weather.  Or my age.  Or what's going on in the world.

But I find myself wondering how to be a better person. How to focus positive energy.  How to help improve the world.

I've always had a strong sense of social justice.  But am I doing enough?

And friends, family?    Am I helping to create peace, harmony?

A song popped into my head yesterday.  "Easy To Be Hard".  It's from the musical Hair, and Three Dog Night's version hit the top 40.


How can people be so heartless?  How can people be so cruel?.....Especially people who care about strangers, who care about evil and social injustice....

The lyrics are resonating.

Maybe a little self improvement is in order this month.



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