Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After Sandy

I'm propped up against the window of a store called The Living Room on the corner of E 17th St. and Park Avenue South, in the area of Union Square, delighted to have found internet service!  It's seeping through the walls of the store, generously sharing a signal with about 20 other people busily connecting to the world. Part of my quest today was to see how far uptown I needed to walk before I found electricity.  Still none in this area, about 16 blocks or so from our apartment, but at least a signal.

We still have no power in Lower Manhattan.  This morning the one elevator servicing our tower went down, as did the hall lights.  The desk clerk tells us that they are waiting for a delivery of diesel fuel for the generator, but have no idea when that will arrive.  Thankfully, we still have water coming out of the faucets and our backup supply in the bathtub.

Yesterday Drew and I surveyed the neighborhoods around our building and Léman Manhattan on Broad Street.  Here are a few pictures, the day after Sandy blew through.

It's interesting how perspectives change as we find ourselves in the midst of such destruction.  Yesterday I was grateful for one elevator; today I'm grateful for a flashlight to light my way as I walked down the 27 floors to exit our building.  AND for strong legs and lungs to get me back up this afternoon.

One thing that doesn't change is our need to be connected to our family and friends.  This need is so great that Drew traveled uptown last night until he found electricity and plugged our phones in until they had  50% power.  (Perhaps we're a tad addicted to them, as well, but that's another story.)

In the meantime, know that we are well, so much better than many. Thanks for checking in with us.  I may be propped up against this same window in the next day or so to write to you again.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Calm Before Sandy

Drew and I just returned to our apartment after walking south about 6 blocks to check on conditions at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, where he is Head of School.  The building is in Zone B, just a couple of blocks from Battery Park, and a half block down from the New York Stock Exchange.  During Irene, the basement took on some water; but so far all is dry, the sump pump idle.

The streets between here and there were quiet, except for a few people walking their dogs, or checking out stores which might still be open.

But no luck. . . even each of the four Starbucks we passed along the way was empty, stools upturned, lights off.

The Stock Exchange stood silent, deserted.

As we walked up Broadway towards our apartment, I wondered if we would ever again see that street, constantly teeming with people and traffic, so. . .  unoccupied.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Preparing for Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is headed our way.  It seems strange to be sitting in our 27th floor apartment, looking out the windows on a regular-looking Sunday afternoon, knowing that the view will change in hours.

People walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, some push strollers, others stop to take pictures;  runners and bicyclists pass them by.

A Circle Line harbor tour boat, dotted with passengers on her bow and stern, heads leisurely down the East River.

              Traffic flows smoothly.
Vendors peddle hot dogs. 

I could nod off for a nap.

Yet, the winds cornering the building have a whistle to them that I didn't hear a couple of hours ago.  They warn that their bigger, stronger, more powerful sister is on her way, like the Billy Goats Gruff who convince the waiting troll that the best (or worst) is yet to come.

We're prepared for her.

Flashlights, batteries, Stick N Click lights, water, food, an empty bathtub just waiting to be filled at the first sign of flickering power.

The building management has assured us that our 76-floor building will withstand hurricane force winds, that the emergency generator will provide lights in the halls and power for two elevators (rather than twelve.)  Our job is to close and lock all our windows.  Done.

Thankfully, our building is in Zone C of Lower Manhattan so we can stay.  Less than a mile away, residents in Zone A, must evacuate.  Those who need to leave via public transportation must do so before 7:00 p.m. on  subways or 9:00 p.m. on buses, when those services will stop.  While others are boarding up, loading up, headed for higher ground, I feel only mildly inconvenienced at the prospect of losing power, internet connection, phone service, or running short of. . . . nothing.

How do people weather such storms when they have no clue, no warning, no time to ponder, "Should I go buy a couple of more gallons of water?"  Even if Sandy tramps through New York City with the fiercest force she can muster, we have been forewarned.

With that thought in mind, I'm off to buy a battery-operated radio, then start a big pot of soup.




Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Evening with Mary Oliver

The Kaufmann Concert Hall at 92nd Street Y on Lexington Avenue was packed last Monday night.  Packed with kindred spirits, waiting for a gentle poet, whose words ran through each of us.

She gingerly walked to center stage 
on bird-like legs, 
back slightly humped, 
gray hair tucked behind one ear,
wire-rimmed glasses 
the poet's eyes,
which see into 
what the rest of us
pass by.   

Mary Oliver, at seventy-seven, carried her latest book of poetry, A Thousand Mornings, to the lectern.

She thanked us for the welcome, took a sip of water, and apologized for her voice, husky from a cold.  She could have honked like one of her beloved Blackwater Pond geese, for all we cared.  We were in her presence, this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who rarely grants interviews, much less readings. She opened the slim volume and began.


Today I'm flying low and I'm 
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I'm traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors 
into the temple.   

We laughed with Mary as she fumbled to find the right page numbers in her notes.  This wise woman, who puts words together with such grace, must have trouble finding her car keys and where her car is parked in the lot.  I felt comforted and in good company. . . about the fumblings.

With a feisty sense of humor, she joked, "If I don't read a poem from one of my earlier books, I'll get  slapped," and proceeded to read The Summer Day.
The last two lines challenge me every morning. . .

"Tell me what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

A collective sigh spread through the room as she read my favorite, The Journey, whose words embolden me with middle-age confidence. . .

". . . and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save 
the only life you could save."

I sit today with Mary's new book beside me, her name autographed in purple ink on the title page.  I stood in line to get her signature, along with my friend, Margie.  Margie who happened to be visiting from Alaska, who happened to find the tickets online, and who happened to be the first person who ever told me about Mary Oliver.

Now, there's a poem waiting to be written.

** I invite you to read an essay I wrote in my blog Arkansas/Russian Reflections when we lived in Moscow titled, "Tolstoy's Pocket and Oliver's Pencils."


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pasquale, the Pasta Guy

You know how some people can sell you something, anything, you didn't even know you needed?  The sheer force of their personality draws you in, makes you look, and convinces you that you're missing out if you walk away?  Luckily, this doesn't happen to me too often.  Well, there is that leopard print sweater hanging in my closet, the one the sales clerk said makes me look "exotic."

Ravioli was nowhere on my shopping list when I headed down the street to the Fulton Stall Market

on Sunday afternoon, not even one package . . . certainly not four!  Then I met Pasquale.

I paused at the Bambino's Ravioli booth, along with friends Margie and Jack from Alaska, admiring the perfectly shaped circles of dough, when Pasquale asked us, "So what can I help you with?" He was juggling a couple of other customers, with a friendly smile and Brooklyn-Italian kind of energy that made us want to hang around.

"Oh nothing, just looking," I said, but was already secretly tempted by the tantalizing fillings listed on the labels...
butternut squash, prosciutto and fontina, walnut and Gorgonzola, sundried tomato and smoked mozzarella, shrimp, meatball and more.

"These freeze great, you know," Pasquale said picking up the pumpkin ravioli under my nose.  Just stick 'em in the freezer, pop a package out for dinner some night when you don't feel like cookin -- from frozen to done in 7 to 9 minutes."  How did he know that my favorite recipes are the "on-the-table-in-less-than-15 minutes" variety?

"So what do you recommend? What's your best seller?" Margie asked.

 "Probably the lobster, but then the prosciutto's a big-seller; some people like the vegetarian. Did you see the butternut squash?"  How did he know that Margie had eaten her way through Vermont on butternut squash soup just last week?

"Everything we sell is fresh, natural, no preservatives," he continued.  We put our heart and soul into everything we make.  I'm the owner; my family's had this business for over 60 years." His pride was  heartfelt, and contagious.

"Sure, we'll take a couple," I said, with a hint of pride in my own voice at the thought of supporting this local businessman.

Ahh, but I should have known. Pasquale was one step ahead of me.

"Buy one more, and you get a free pound of pasta," he said.

"What am I going to do with so much pasta?" I asked, knowing Pasquale's answer before the words left my lips.

"Freeze it."

Dinner that night was butternut squash and  prosciutto/fontina ravioli, salad, homemade cranberry/walnut bread from a young lady a couple of booths down from Pasquale, and wine.

 How was the ravioli?  The best I've ever eaten!

And that's not even the best part. I still have 2 packages in my freezer.

Look for the Bambino's truck at your local market.  Maybe you'll be lucky enough to meet Pasquale and leave with your own bag full of pasta.

And may you have the good fortune
to share it with friends.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Steve Jobs and a Hockey Puck

I opened my Macbook Air this morning and clicked on Safari, where my home page setting is Apple.  Lovely cello music began, and a video automatically launched. Young Steve Jobs sat cross--legged on the floor with a Mac Classic in his lap, arms folded across the top, chin resting on a hand.  Even then he was wearing a black turtleneck shirt. The music continued and a much older Steve Jobs appeared balancing a lighter than air, Air, on the tips of his right fingers.  When he spoke, there was a low, aged quality about his voice, a self-assured wisdom that drew me into the Apple story, once again.
"There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love," he said. "'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it's been.' And we've always tried to do that at Apple."

Today (October 5) marks the first year anniversary of Jobs' death, the music/video montage a tribute to his memory. Last year at this time, my husband, Drew, and I had lived in New York City for 3 months. I  needed help with my computer and had made an appointment at the Soho Apple Store for 9:00 am that morning. The remainder of the story is written on my October 7 blog posting, and I invite you to read it.

Before opening my computer to check today's email and find Jobs staring back at me, I had randomly picked up a book from my bedside pile to read as I munched Wheat Chex and sipped tea.
Where will you be five years from today? aka, "What are you going to do with the rest of your life, for crying out loud?"  My friend, Marian, gave it to me last year on my 60th birthday, knowing that I needed direction and inspiration for the next 60. Why not think long-term?


Jobs' Wayne Gretzky quote could easily fit among the book's motivational sayings to evoke a vision of "five years from today."  He has been called a visionary, someone with an idea of what the future could be like. If I were to read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson sitting on Drew's nightstand, I'm sure I would learn how Jobs' vision became the Apple reality.  Hard work, focus, commitment, perseverance, belief-in-self, and belief-in-the dream, mixed in with his own signature uniqueness, undoubtedly top the list. But it's the Gretzky quote that keeps replaying like the refrain of a song,  "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it's been."

The combination of Jobs popping up on my computer screen and the serendipitous selection of "5," seems like a sign, or more pointedly a call to action.  What is my dream, that place I want the puck to be in five years?  Can I envision it?  How can I make it happen?  I see pieces of it, too early in the vision to share today, but it's taking shape. Time to grab it and move forward before it floats away into the "I'll-get-to-it-someday" stratosphere, where all becomes a distant mist.

What about you?  Where is your puck?       
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