life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas in NYC -- Macy's

"If you haven't seen Macy's, you haven't seen New York."

Macy's flagship store at Herald Square in NYC is a truly amazing place.  It takes up a full city block, from Herald square to 7th Avenue, between 34th Street and 35th Street and has 1.25 million square feet of retail space.  At Christmas, much of the store's 8th floor is devoted to Santaland.

Macy's always does two sets of holiday windows.

The 34th Street windows are devoted to Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.  That's because Macy's sponsors that animated special.  They used to do  windows based on Miracle on 34th Street, which, as you may recall, was set in the Macy's flagship store.  I'd rather see the older window treatment, but the current windows are nice, too.

The Herald Square windows change every year.  This year the windows tell the story of a "Space Snowman" who has to rescued Santa and his sleigh.

You see the theme on the Herald Square marquee, then in the wiondows.

And for added entertainment, there was a Salvation Army bell ringer having an interesting evening:

Saturday, December 15, 2018


You almost always see Canadian geese on the grassy field between the elementary school and the high school.

“Canadian geese” might be a misnomer.  Our local goose population is non-migratory.

So it’s normal to see a flock or two enjoying all that the field has to offer.

But apparently the field also attracts the true Canadians, the geese who migrate from northern climes and head towards Florida and points south.

When I drove past the field the other day, I saw a sea of geese.  There must have been 500 birds on that field.

Here, take a look out my car window.

Friday, December 14, 2018

#skywatchfriday -- Christmas in NYC -- the Empire State Building

It was all lit up for Chanukah last week.

It never gets old, does it?


Thursday, December 13, 2018

tales from the commuter front

So the downtown #3 express train pulls in just as I arrive on the platform. Some passengers get off, a bunch of us get on.  It's so crowded that I cannot move.  More people are standing on the platform, unable to board the train.  Guess they will just have to wait for the next one.

And then we hear the dreaded announcement:  Attention passsengers, there is congestion up ahead.  We should be moving shortly.

And so we wait. 

Please stand clear of the closing doors.

The doors start to close, but then open again.

And we wait. 

Two men standing behind me debate whether to get off the train and take the #1 local instead.  They decide that they should stay on this train and wait, that by the time they get to the local train, this train will be moving.

Attention passsengers, there is a stalled train up ahead.  We should be moving shortly.

A young woman decides she's had enough.  She makes her way from the center of the car to the door.  Just as she exist the train and steps away from the door...

Please stand clear of the closing doors.

The doors close and the train begins to move.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

seen in NYC

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

songbird salutes the 70's: Tony Orlando and Dawn

The mood in the early 1970's was grim, disenchanted, depressed.  Watergate, Vietnam, Protests in the streets.

And the antidote was the feel-good sound of Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Orlando had a few top 40 hits in the 1960's, but for the most part he worked behind the scenes as a composer and producer.  And then, in 1970, he recorded a demo record, "Candida", which was released as a single under the band name "Dawn".  Eventually he teamed up with Joyce Vincent Wilson and Telma Hopkins to create hits such as "Knock Three Times", "Sweet Gypsy Rose", and their signature song, "Tie A Yellow Ribbon".  They also had a successful variety show.

So when Drew and I heard that the group would be appearing at the NYCB Theater at Westbury for a Christmas/reunion show, we had to buy tickets.

Tony has changed a bit since the 70's, but he still has that amazing voice.

Telma and Joyce are still beautiful.

They sang a lot of Christmas music, and some of their big hits.

A surprise guest...Jay Siegel of The Token s is an old friend of Tony's.  Jay joined the group to sing his big hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

And we had a visit from Santa.

Tony told some interesting stories.  It seems that the reason the group was offered the TV show was because of a performance at this very theater, back when it was still the Westbury Music Fair.  It seems Cher was supposed to perform at Westbury but had to cancel because of illness, and Tony Orlando and Dawn was booked as a replacement act.  A CBS executive happened to be in the audience, and he offers the group a summer replacement show.

And then he spoke about getting a call from Bob Hope and being asked to appear at a stadium, in front of 72,000 people, to welcome home the POW's of the Vietnam War, with this song:

It was a great evening, full of love and humor and nostalgia and music.  

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas in NYC -- Penn Station/Amtrak

I don't usually think of train stations as a place ot go looking for Christmas decorations.

And though I'm in Penn Statioin every day, I am usually on the Long Island Railroad level.

But I ha[ppened to find myself on the Amtrak level last week:


Sunday, December 9, 2018


A moment of introspection.

I try to be a good person.  I believe in social justice.  I raise money for charity, I participate in our synagogue programs to collect food and clothing for a local outreach program...

But when confronted with reality...

I'm in Penn Station every day as part of my LIRR commute.  It's my "guilty pleasure" to occasionally go up to the Amtrak level to grab a Krispy Kreme or head over to the food court for a Nathan's hot dog. 

There are homeless people and professional beggars in Penn Station.  Usually they'll come up to you and ask if you can help them out. I usualy smile and say "I can't right now",  and leave it at that.

So I was in the food court the other night. Instead of my usual hot dog, I ordered some popcorn chicken from the KFC, and it took forever to fill my order.  People who ordered after I did were getting their food before mine was ready, and I was aggravated.

And as soon as I sat down to eat, a homeless man walked over to where I was sitting.  I just wanted to eat  my chicken  in peace, I didn't have the patience to deal with him.   I tried to ignore him, but he wouldn't leave.  And then he began his "down on my luck" story, and I just snapped.  I told him "Go away!"

And since that night ,  I've felt awful about the way I treated him.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

P. F. Chang's

P.F. Chang's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So we hadn't been there  in awhile, but with a "buy-one-entree--get-one-free" coupon in hand, it was time to revisit P.F. Chang's.

The bad:  The Source Mall is basically dead, and right now the restaurant sits in the middle of a construction zone.

The good:  the restaurant's interior is beautifully decorated.  The restaurant was fairly crowded, but our reservation was honored and we had just a few minutes of waiting for our table.

The bad:  during the course of the evening we were presented with not one, but two dirty plates, plates that had not been thoroughly washed.  Both were immediately replaced, however.

The incredible:  the red sangria was incredibly potent and very tasty.

The food: 

We started with pork egg rolls.  They were crispy on the outside and stuffed full of tasty vegetables, with just a little pork to add flavor.  They were also very, very greasy.  Loved the accompanying mustard sauce, it had just the right zing.

Our go-to entrees here are the Mongolian beef and the crispy honey shrimp.

Mongolian beef -- slices of beef in a thick barbecue sauce, served with scallions. The beef was tender, the sauce spicy-sweet.  I miss the carrots that used to come with the dish. 

Crispy honey shrimp -- batter dipped fried shrimp in a sweet sauce, served over crispy rice noodles. I can't stop eating the rice noodles. 

We decided to order a third entree, chicken lo mein.  This dish was prepared with vericelli instead of the thicker lo mein noodles you find in other Asian restaurants.  The thinner noodles worked well with the chicken. 

Service in this place has much improved over the last few years.  Small complaint -- our waiter forgot the apply the coupon to our bill, and had to be asked to do so.   But overall a positive experience.

Friday, December 7, 2018

#skywachfriday December sunrise

My Long Island neighborhood on a recent morning

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christmas in NYC

Daytime view of the Stock Exchange tree.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Christmas in NYC -- the NY Stock Exchange

The NY Stock Exchange, at the corner of wall Street and Broad street, always does something special for Christmas.

You can see a glimpse of it as you walk up Wall Street towards Broadway.

The full effect:

Rockefeller Center's might be more famous, but the Financial District has its own "Big Tree".

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

another this and that

The funeral of George H.W. Bush has me in a nostalgic mood, longing for a kinder, gentler policial realm,  for a President I could respect even if I disagreed with him.

Don't you hate it when you rush to the train station, thinking you have to hurry or you'll miss your train, only to find out the train is running very late?

The public service posters in the NYC Subway (reminders to stay off the tracks, for example) are in English, Spanish, Russian, two Asian langugages (probably Chinese and Korean) and...a sixth langugage that I did not recognize, but Google tells me it's Haitian Creole.  Gotta love Google.

I found out that the lady in the subway station, the one handing out free newspapers, used to work in a bank.  The bank had massive layoffs and she lost her job ...

So Jen is gone...and Becca is coming back home.  It's temporary.  She has to move out of her apartment by Friday, and she won't be able to move into the new apartment until sometime after the 21st.  She's moving from Hell's Kitchen to Sutton Place.  It's a lot closer to her job. 

Drew and I are trying to figure out outr holiday plans.  We always go to the movies with friends on Christmas Day, then out for Chinese.  We have to pick a movie.  We also want to find a decent restaurant that will be open Christmas Eve.  And then we have to decide what to do for New Year's.

This year my company 's holiday lunch is at a country club.  I guess that means I have to dress a bit nicer than last year, when the party was at a casual Italian place.  I'm sure it will be fun, though.  I miss my coworkers from the Long Island office, it will be so good to see them again.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Boston Pops

Sunday night. The first night of  Chanukah. 

We had tickets to see The Boston Pops at the Tilles Center, the concert hall located at LIU/CW Post College.

Our evening began at Ben's Kosher Deli; the Greenvale location is just down the road from the college.  Drew had his usual tongue sandwich.  I went for something a bit different -- I ordered the "Difficult Decision", which consists of three appetizers and two side dishes.    I chose stuffed cabbage, stewed meatballs in gravy, fried kreplach (dumplings filled with ground beef, similar to pierogies), potato pancake with applesauce (well, it is Chanukah, after all), and noodle pudding.  Too much food!  Brought home lots of leftovers. 

The Tilles Center has a large room off the lobby, where patrons can have a cup of coffee or a drink before the show.  On Sunday night there was entertainment available as well, a group of musicians playing Christmas carols, using only bells. It was charming.

But the Pops...a full orchestra, joined by a choir, playing classical, folk and popular holiday music.

Everyone knows this version of "Sleigh Ride", arranged specifically for the Pops.

But their version of  "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is definitely unique.

Overall, a lovely evening. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Empty Nest Alert!!!!!

Yes, Songbird's nest is finally empty.

Jen moved out!

She and her boyfriend decided they want to try living together. 

It doesn't come as a surprise, she and M have been together for several years now. 

Except for the two years when both girls were away at college, I've always had at least one of my daughters living at home.  And "away at school" isn't quite the same as "moved out", is it?

I'm happy for Jen.

Friday, November 30, 2018

#skywatchfriday -- tall building and the night sky

The awe you feel when you stand at the foot of a tall building and look up at the night sky.

One World Trade Center, NYC.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas in NYC -- Zuccotti Park

Zuccotti Park, formerly called Liberty Plaza Park, is a 33,000-square-foot  park in Lower Manhattan, bordered by Broadway, Cedar Street, Church Street and Liberty Street. You may have heard of this park right after 9/11, it is across the street from the World Trade Center.  Or you may have heard of this park when it was taken over by Occupy Wall Street a few years ago. 

It's a small park, just some trees and some benches.  But at night during the Christmas season...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

another this and that

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...the city is all decked out, and tonight they light the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Drew and I are probably going to do the annual tree/store windows thing on Saturday,  December 15.  I was thinking we could do it on a weeknight, but then he mentioned it to one of our friends, and now she's coming along.

Jen and her boyfriend M had a great trip to St. Lucia.  They ar ealready planning two more trips -- to boston in July for Jen's friend's wedding, and to Aruba next November for M's friend's wedding. 

Becca is back together with her boyfriend. She's busy looking for an apartment, since the lease on her current place is about to expire.   She's also interviewing for a new job, and I hope she gets it.

My sister H is starting a new job soon.  She's been out of the job market for awhile, but now she found a great position, right up her alley.  I'm not sure when she's starting, but it'll be soon.

And I am feeling a bit...restless.  Like I need a change, like I need to shake thigs up.  I'm not sure where this feeling will take me...

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A wake and a weird story

We’re going to a wake today.  J was 64 years old, far too young.  He had some sort of infection, had been in the hospital for months.

I didn’t know J well, I’d met him only twice.  J’s sister R, who died two years ago, was Drew’s sister’s best friend in high school.  Drew and I bought a car from J in 1987, and I didn’t see him again until R’s wake two years ago.

Which brings me to the weird story.

J adored his older sister.  They lived next door to each other, R in the house their parents owned, J in the house their parents built for him when he got married.  R never married, and J took care of her.  

R died on November 20, 2016, just two weeks shy of her 66th birthday.  She was home alone when she suffered a fatal heart attack.  J found her body around 2:30 that afternoon.

J died on November 20, 2018 at around 2:30 PM.

Two of J’s children say that last week they dreamed of their Aunt R, and that R told them “I’m coming to get your father, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

You could say that the kids dreamed about R because she was on their minds:  the anniversary of her death was approaching, and they were fearful because J was very ill.

But the fact that he died two years to the day ... and around the same time of day...that’s spooky.

Friday, November 23, 2018

#Skywatchfriday --the holiday season

One Times Square, NYC. The most famous countdown clock in the world.   the ball remains in place all year, just waiting for New Year's Eve to arrive....



Thursday, November 22, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (spoiler alert)

Just so you undetstand daughter Jen was 11 years old when the first Harry Potter movie was released.  If you know anything about the Wizarding world, you know that 11 is the age when witches and wizards get their letter from Hogwarts and head to Ollivander's to get their first wand. Before we saw the movie, Jen read the book and then handed it to Becca, who was 9 at the time.  Both girls were instantly in love.  And so was I.  We anxiously awaited each new book in the series, each new movie. And when Harry Potter and the Dealthly Hallows Part Two brought the series to a close, we felt bereft.

Then, two years ago, came the charming prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the first in a new series of adventures in the Wizarding World.  I really enjoyed the film.

So of course I had to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The second installment is much darker than the first, beginning with Grindelwald's escape while being tranferred from one prison to another, his ability to bewitch wizards into following him, and the  horrific crimes he is willing to commit to achieve his goals . 

The Grindelwald story, especially his relationship with Albus Dumbledore, can be confuisng, especially if you haven't read  Harry Potter and the Dealthly Hallows (there's a lot of back story in the novel that never made it into either movie).  And the film tends to drag in spots. 

But overall it was an enjoyable film.  I especially enjoyed the scenes at Hogwarts, the brief cameo by Professor McGonnegal.  Leta LeStrange is clearly the most interestig character in the movie, pity we won't see more of her.  and did you happen to notice that Grindelwald was using the Elder Wand?

Can't wait for the next installment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sunday in NYC

So Drew belongs to this website called Audience Rewards.  You answer trivia questions and earn showpoints, and when you've accumulated a sufficient number of points, you can bid on exciting theatrical events. 

So one of the items up for bid was built around the Broadway show, Head Over Heels.  The prize package included two tickets to a Sunday matinee, plus...and this was unique...a one-hour dance class with a member of the cast.

Drew was one of three successful bidders, so on Sunday morning we headed to a rehearsal studio to take class with Tanner, the show's dance captain. 

Head Over Heels is a jukebox musical using songs by the Go -Go's.  The show's opening number is "We got The Beat".  Tanner taught us a few combinations from the opening number, and later sat down to talk to us about the show, his training, and what he does as a dance captain. 

Drew and I asked him to pose for a photo with us.

It was an absolutely incredible experience. 

Next up was lunch at Ben's Deli. Unlike the suburban branches of this kosher deli, the Manhattan location tries to emulate the great Jewish deli's of old New York.  The decor is art deco, the waiters have personality.  Our waiter, Sam, told us several jokes, I think he might do stand up when he's not waiting tables.  Loved my pastrami on rye -- Jewish soul food.

Then we walked over to the Hudson Theater.  It was time for the show!

We had great seats, 10th row orchestra.  And it was interesting to watch Tanner, and the rest of the ensemble, perform the moves he'd shown us earlier in the day.

And then, as I was watching the show, my "I used to be an English major" brain kicked in.  The plot is loosely based on Sir Philip Sidney's (1554-1585) Arcadia, and observes all of the conventions of a typical Elizabethan pastoral. 

If that sounds shouldn't. 

The plot involves the King of a mythical country, Arcadia, who hears his fate from the Oracle at Delphi.  He heads into the forest in an effort to change his fate, bringing with him his wife and two marriageable daughters.  Romantic comedy and incredible dance numbers follow.  There's a modern twist to the plot involving poetry by Sappho and a trip to the Island of Lesbos. 

Great show. 

Next, we hopped on the subway and headed downtown to Chinatown.

Mott Street is already deocrated for Christmas.

It was time for dinner at Wo Hop. Located in the basement of 17 Mott Street, Wo Hop is a real "no frills" restaurant.  It's open 24 hours/day and it's usually busy.  It's a very small restaurant, and they don't take reservations, so you have to wait on line until there's a table available.  Tea is served in a glass, everything is a la carte (including crispy noodles and white rice) and served family style.  I tend to stick with traditional Cantonese dishes here, it's what they do best.  We feasted on steamed dumplings, lo mein and sweet and pungent chicken. 

And then there was the incident of the "half moon".

Seriously, do people not know what they look like when they leave the house?  Or do they just not care?

While we were sitting at the restaurant, I found myself looking at the guy sitting in the booth across the aisle.  I didn't want to look at him.  It was almost like looking at a train wreck, I just couldn't help myself.

You know the term "plumber's crack"?

This guy was showing off more than just a crack.  He was letting it all hang out.

Later, when he stood up ... His pants clearly did not fit him, he had the waistband resting under his rather large beer belly. 

We finished our dinner, and hopped on the subway to Herald Square.  Walked past Macy's on our way to Penn Station.

Think they're getting ready for a parade?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lewis Black

So we were so excited to hear Lewis Black was coming back to Westbury Music, NYCB Theater at Westbury.The foul-mouthed comedian is one of Drew's favorite performers.

We had great seats for Friday night's performance.  Westbury is theater-in-the-round, i.e., a circular stage surrounded by seating.  We sat on folding chairs in what would otherwise be the orchestra pit, so we were close enough to touch the stage.

Black's opening act is John Bowman, who does most of his routine wearing a 70's-teen-idol wig, which he later manipulates to make a political statement. (Hint: which politician is known for his ...unusual and unique.... hairstyle?)

And then, the man himself took the stage.

Overall it was a great evening of comedy.

We did have one issue, the couple seated next to us. the guy was OK, but the woman ....

How do you pay good money to see a comedy show, and then talk through the opening act?

And the woman apparenlty had too much to drink.  During the first half of Black's performance, she was laughng hysterically every time Black opened his mouth.  Halfway through the show, however, she told the guy  that she had to use the ladies' room. And she never came back.    After awhile he kept looking at the door, as if he was wondering if he should go look for her.

It was a fun evening, and I think we'll be seeing Black again if he comes back to Westbury.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Product review — hair butter

It’s “dry skin season” again.  The temperature drops, and suddenly my skin feels dry and rough.

And lately I’ve noticed that my hair feels dry, too.  Almost like straw.  Thick and tangled and difficult to comb/style.  

So when I saw this product, I had to try it.

The label says you can use hair butter as a deep conditioner in the shower, or as a leave-in treatment, or even as a skin moisturizer.

The product is thick and creamy, and has a subtle coconut fragrance.   I used it as a deep moisturizing treatment in the shower.  My hair was soft, shiny and easy to comb and style.  

I didn’t try it as a leave-in, I thought the product was too heavy for that purpose.

And while the product did soften the dry skin on my elbows, I have other lotions and creams that are more effective on dry skin.

Overall a decent product, and I will be buying it again.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


The bag-shoving incident that I blogged about yesterday was only part of Thursday night's misery.

The region got hit with its first snow of the winter.  That's way too early around here, I don't remember it ever snowing before Thanksgiving when I was growing up, but in the last few years it's happened more than once.  (Thank you, climate change.) 

So it was the first storm of the season, and the snow totals, while relatively modest, were much higher than forecast. ( My corner of Long Island got about 5 inches, I think.)

The commute home was miserable for everyone.

Jen told me her drive home, usually about 30 minutes, took an hour and a half. 

One friend posted on Facebook that she and her husband were driving into Manhattan to see a show, but got stuck in terrible traffic and missed the performance.  Another spent hours in her car, driving to the airport, only to discover her flight was cancelled. A third posted about her son's school bus getting stuck in the snow right in front of her house.

My commute is primarily mass transit.  Thanks to the subway delay, I missed by usual LIRR train, which leaves Penn at about 5:50.  The next train, the 6:20, was cancelled, so I didn't get on a train until 6:50.  the trip usually takes about an hour, but due to bad weather and broken crossing gates, it took over 90 minutes. 

By the time I reached my station, the snow had turned to sleet.   Slogging through a slushy, icy parking lot is not fun.  I'd prefer plain snow to that awful mess.  But it was fairly easy to clean off the car.

It started to rain as I was driving home. I live in a wooded  area.  The trees were covered with wet snow, and when the rain hit, the snow ...and the leaves... started to fall to the ground.  Fun, fun.

And then Friday morning in lower Manhattan:

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Tales from the commuter front -- don't engage the crazy

To understand the story, you need to know what a NYC subway car looks like.

photo credit:

You're not going to find a train looking this empty during rush hour.

During rush hour, it starts to look more like this:

Photo credit:

And then there's this:

Photo credit:

You see how those who are standing are holding onto the metal bar, knee-to-knee with those who are sitting?  That's typical of rush hour.

I usually get on the train at Wall Street, which is the first stop  the train makes in Manhattan as it comes from Brooklyn and heads up to the Bronx.  The #2 and #3 trains run express, so it's just five short stops to Penn Station and the LIRR.  Most nights I get a seat.  The train usually fills up at the next stop, Fulton Street.  By the time we hit Chambers Steet, the train starts to feel like a sardine can.

Thursday night was no exception.  I found a seat and settled in for the ride.  But it was a bad night on the uptown  7th Avenue subway.  There were signal problems in Times Square, so all of the express trains were diverted to the local track.  This did not go over well with rush hour commuters, so the mood in the very crowded car was less than ecstatic...

A petite woman in business attire got on the train at Chambers Street and found  herself a place to stand. She was knee-to-knee with a burley man in a baseball jacket and hat. The man was several seats away from me, so I didn't see what initally happened, but I pieced it together based on what each of them said to the other.

Apparently the woman was carrying some type of bag, probably had it dangling from her arm.  Apparently the bag hit the man's knees.  Apparently he shoved the bag off of his knees.

She took  exception to his actions, and said: “You could have asked me politely to move my bag.”
He let loose an expletive-laced tirade about her behavior, that she should know how to behave in the subway.

She responded to him in a firm, quiet voice, that she did nothing wrong. He simply could have asked, and she would have moved her bag.

At this point, everyone in the train car was sympathetic to her.

But she was not not ready to move on. She never raised her voice, but she engaged him in a debate that quickly moved from the immediate issue — her tote bag ands proper etiquette on the subway  — on to comments about each other -- race, socioeconomic class, world knowledge, privilege and the like.

By now, neither of them was getting any sympathy from the rest of the passengers.

She turned her back, and he stood up and continued his rant. She turned to face him again.  He continued to yell, and actually shook his finger in her face. I  was almost certain he was going to hit her.

Eventually she moved away from him, and he stopped yelling.

But I was so happy when the train reached Penn Station.

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