Book publishing. And everything else.

Archive for the category “The City”

Birds Near Me

I’m fascinated by birds – no idea why. It appalls me that there’s something I actually share with Jonathan Franzen. I suppose not everyone is perfectly imperfect.

My apartment is a block away from Clove Lakes Park, which is filled with all sorts of interesting birds – a family of herons, at least one cormorant, kinglets (who are not afraid of anybody, and bop alongside you in the bushes as you walk), and warblers (who do the same). The centerpiece of the park, obviously, is series of lakes and streams formed by glaciers in prehistoric times, which is surrounded by trees and brush for the birds’ habitats.

Three ways of looking at a cormorant:

IMG_0363        IMG_0329     IMG_0378

Two ways of looking at a great blue heron mama and one way of looking at one of her babies:

IMG_0357 (1) IMG_0350 IMG_0109

One way of looking at a goose who is following you unassertively, for some reason you will never fathom because geese are foul, hissing monsters who only love you for your food:


I’m also two blocks away from the Staten Island Zoo; the YMCA where I go for yoga classes is right across the street, and doing sun salutations while the peacocks are loudly mating is hilarious and fun.

See if you can find the peacock and the peahen in the tree.

Peacocks in the tree

I’m also about a mile away from Snug Harbor. There, swallows, robins, and red-winged blackbirds swirl around me in an almost terrifying way while I walk around the little pond where they live. (If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of swallow dinnertime, it’s quite disconcerting.)

Red-winged blackbird banking in the field near the pond:


And a swallow barnstorming:


And finally, because it’s Staten Island, which is the Florida of New York City:


The bird that gets caught. This is the sight that greeted me when I first came to check out my apartment. Because gallows humor is my default mode, I knew this was a truly appropriate omen.

Right, I’m better now



Daffodils. Coming soon to a yard near you.

In Brussels

Brussels is snowy. They weren’t expecting the snow, and here it is. I can tell how unprepared they were by the amount of walkways that have not been de-iced or shoveled. I still am not sure if it was stupid for me to walk back to my hotel from the IFRRO offices in heels – they are wedges, after all, which are hardly heels when you think about it. If you think about it. I think about it quite a lot.

Winding streets. Sanded, icy pathways. Miracle of miracles, I did not fall on my rear, which is more than I can say for walking around New York in flat shoes. It was twilight – hard to really see the architecture. I think it’s impressive, but I’m waiting till Saturday to confirm this.

We went out to dinner at Jaloa. I had a sort of shepherd’s pie with oxtail, spinach and potatoes. And oysters! And cheese for dessert.

Tomorrow I’m walking back to the IFRRO offices – it will be faster than taking a cab. And I will wear my Danskos.

Also – the coffee here is amazing and wonderful and perfect.

And here we are in 2013

Usually I’m not big on resolutions. My traditional resolution has been to floss regularly. But this year I achieved that, so it’s time for something more rigorous. Looking at the categories into which I seem to have divided my life, I’m making the following resolutions:

The Work: Brian O’Leary, last year, made the resolution to “write something useful every day“. And he did it! I like the idea of writing every day, though I can’t swear it will be useful. But since Bernardo has also made the resolution to write every day, it seems like a companionable thing we can do in the evenings after dinner. So, I am resolved that there will be blogging every day. 

The Soul: Bernardo and I just started going to church regularly. I’d like to continue, and I would like to either join the choir, or start piano lessons again, because music feeds my soul like nothing else. So those are my resolutions for that category.

The Home: We’ve finished a year of pretty intensive renovations. This year will see us putting Venetian plaster on the walls of the living room, and repainting the sun room and kitchen. I’m hearing rumors of a new filing cabinet that will live in the basement – while it’s not my resolution to make to see all the papers in the house put away neatly, I can certainly encourage it. I resolve to stay on top of the laundry and pet grooming/hair sweeping, and to give a shit about how the house looks because I have to live in it. I am also not going to run in terror from my own finances. I SWEAR.

The City: I love my city so very much. Staten Island, in particular, seems like such an enormous secret – it’s a wonderful place to live, but nobody wants to hear that message. I resolve to take more pictures of the things I love in the city, to donate to the public radio station, to be more involved when there is trouble. Warm hats for Sandy victims!

The Body: Well, obviously I’m going to keep flossing. And my hip is as healed as it’s going to get – I have spent months resting and healing. I have joined a gym near my office, and every evening while I’m waiting for traffic to die down, rather than sitting at my desk, I’ll hop over and do some cardio. I’ve also unearthed my kettlebells and bands, and set up a home gym in the basement for resistance workouts on the weekends and when Bernardo has evening meetings, and downloaded Tracker2Go on my iPad and phone. I am also investing in a proper vanity table and jewelry armoire. No more excuses for looking like I’m falling apart, and wearing the same damn necklace every day because I’m too lazy to rummage for a different one.

Of course, to be realistic, for every resolution there are things we know we should be better at but realistically we’re not even going to attempt. Here are mine:

  • Being better about the phone. I hate the phone. We all know this. I will never be good at phone communication. I like text. How about we resolve your unrealistic expectations around this?
  • Being slower and less sudden/abrupt. Not going to happen. I know myself too well. It would be like asking me to be a completely different person. One who is deliberate and thoughtful and diligent about everything. Who is not me.
  • Stopping beating myself up when I screw up. I have been doing this for 47 years. If I were inclined to stop, I probably would have it figured out by now.
  • Lay off the avocados and seltzer. No.


I went into Manhattan today to take my computer into Tekserve and visit the Customs House for a Global Entry interview. As the ferry pulled into the dock on the Staten Island side, I noticed the flags were at half-mast.

Shortly thereafter, when I boarded the subway in Manhattan, a herd of 3rd graders (the teacher’s badge said “3rd Grade Spanish”) crowded on with me. I was sitting at the end of a bench – two boys scuffled for a space next to me, and finally out of sheer determination not to lose to the other boy, they both squeezed in with loud arguments over whose bottom touched the seat first.

A man on the next bench rolled his eyes and got up to move to another car. And I suppose I might have as well, on any other day. Probably because I am a mother, the sounds of shrieking children spike my blood pressure. When two children are shrieking, generally that means I have to do something about it, and more shrieking will inevitably ensue from one party or another (probably both).

But today, as the two little boys squeezed into the seat, I didn’t get up. Their shrieking subsided, and they both apologized to me – but continued emphatically and silently to cram and wiggle their way in. I could have gotten up to give them more space, but of course you don’t want to give kids the idea that if they are obnoxious, they win something. So I stayed put. And eventually they calmed down – we remained tightly packed, but they smiled at me and stopped wiggling.

It was a small moment, amidst plenty of other hubbub; the class was about 30 students. But I’ll hold onto it the way I held onto my Scamp last Friday. Kids are making their way in a brutal world the same way their adults are. We can all accommodate one another with some grace, and the least we can do as adults is throw some appreciation their way. They are so small, and they are trying so hard.


Gradually, we are achieving normalcy in the yellow house.

Yesterday, we felt the need to put our hands on our home – Bernardo went back to work painting the basement and re-organizing, prepping for when our shed is completed and we can put all the gardening supplies outside. I did a few mounds of laundry, finished turning over the closet to the fall season, sussing out some donations (a neighbor down the street, who’s very plugged into supply and demand post-Sandy, is collecting) as I did so. In the afternoon, I took Molly for a walk around the neighborhood – the gas lines are a weird repulsive attraction for me; I remember the gas lines from the 1970s, but I hate how people argue and carry on in the middle of the street.

We raked the leaves in the front yard. The air was brisk, and a neighbor had a fire going. We took our beers into the backyard, and surveyed – Bernardo had kept the pool cover on through the hurricane, and we had only a couple of pieces of shingle on the ground. Two baseballs blew into the yard – Molly discovered them and promptly shredded their covers.

We came inside and watched a movie on the computer while making dinner. It felt good to be tired.

In the night, Molly stole a bag of couscous and ate it dry. She’s been mischievous lately – I think she’s been unsettled by the hurricane; Bernardo thinks she’s just hungrier because the weather’s colder.

This morning Bernardo was out on the golf course. He’ll return to the basement chores while I polish all the brass fixtures in the house. We’ll keep putting our hands on our home, grateful that we have it.


That is all.

Well, actually, the dog ate an entire loaf of sandwich bread, but she is in the Area of Shame now.

Sandy in Staten Island

Let me begin by saying I do not know, but I think Mike Cane is okay. His undisclosed location is on a hill; I know from the Con Ed map that it is also suffering massive power outages.

We are also okay. We have no power or heat, but we have run an extension cord to the next-door-neighbor’s – they are on a different grid and their power was restored on Tuesday night. So we have internet, and various cooking functions, and are swapping the power between our two refrigerators every 2 hours.

We have a fire in the fireplace, and plenty of blankets and sweaters, and a space-heater for when things get real bad.

Staten Island is kind of like Sicily in that it has a lot of hills (non-volcanic, mercifully) surrounded by coastline. The coasts, particularly the South Shore, are what took the brunt of the beating. So far, there are 14 confirmed deaths, but they haven’t done the house-to-house searching yet because the floodwaters are still high. There are a lot of downed power lines all over the island. Statistically, Staten Island suffered the worst power outages of the 5 boroughs in terms of population – around 75% of homes and businesses were without power. Even Manhattan’s below-34th-street-outage did not compare with SI’s per capita outage. (I feel like I need to say this because we are often “the forgotten borough”.) Now, about 2/3 of the island is back online, according to Con Ed, but so far that has not reached our house (why yes, I am cranky, how did you guess?).

The biggest concern here seems to be procuring gas for cars and generators. We are getting some new shipments in periodically but it’s not enough to satisfy demand.

The devastation in Tottenville and on the East Shore is pretty breathtaking. Not just trees and smashed cars, but whole homes and families washed away. Boats lifted out of the marinas and pushed onto streets. A water tanker washed ashore.

We’ll be all right. Normal will come slowly, and then suddenly.


Mayday Mom

My older daughter, the Diva, has a highly-developed sense of social justice, so it was no surprise to me when she got involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. She hasn’t wholeheartedly fallen in with the movement – she has questions about what they’re accomplishing – but as a kid growing up in an enormous city, she’s certainly witnessed her share of economic unfairness, and it has touched her.

She is not demonstrating today because she has classes – political science, mostly, in which she’s highly engaged; I’m pleased that she’s prioritizing learning over marching at this point in her life. But there are plenty of people on the streets – both demonstrators and law enforcement – who are learning in a different way. Given the already-aggressive tactics of the NYPD and FBI, I’m not so sure how much of this learning is actually going to get processed.

I come down pretty hard in the Occupy camp just because experience has made it clear to me that our social system is designed to prop up the privileged, and keep them privileged at the expense of everybody else. I don’t agree with some of the rhetoric and violence and clownish behavior (it’s safe to say there are generally thugs on all sides of any argument and they’re not limited to police), and I’m skeptical of anarchism and other extremisms – but Occupy came out of some seriously critical thinking, and has made it plain (to those who don’t have the time or inclination to engage in critical thinking) just what is at stake.

All of which is to say, be careful out there. And if you’re inside, pay attention – everyone out on the streets today is representing. It’s the least we can do.

It Wasn’t This Blurry In Real Life

Meanwhile, traffic cops were behind us trying to write tickets for our illegally parked cars.

After it flew by, people applauded and one guy said, “That was when the US could do something right.”

He meant well. People’s reactions to things like this are half the fun.

Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,528 other followers