Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An early morning waffle. Indulge me, please.

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow, so we should turn our thoughts to family. I have had a plentiful dose over the last week and as one set of sheets revolves in the dryer, and all remnants of the previous visitors is clearned, the doorbell rings on a new set, ready to partake of the festivities. Caught up in the groundswell of all this relative activity I am trying to figure out how I feel as I come down from a roller-coaster of emotions, not to mention the late night crying jags, remonstrations, venom, and dramatic apologies. Left in the wake of it all, I am giddy from the effort of peacekeeping, negotiating, mediating, strategizing, and drained from the experience of outrage, anger, sadness, guilt, and relief, but not much joy, unfortunately. It is hard to watch one's parents age and in doing so, replace your image of them as all-powerful, knowing beings. They become fallible and doddery and their decision-making instincts, never the best anyway, become worse. And the siblings behave as they always do and the children watch you all and vow secretly that they won't repeat the lunacy. But we live in Groundhog Day and what goes around must surely come around. Oh what would we do without the emotional exercise of some good old family dynamics, with a side of cranberry sauce and a spring of parsley on the top?
Happy eatin'!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A propos not that much

Listening to Radio 2 streaming from the BBC across the cyberAtlantic and there is a tailback on the Westway, leading to the Marylebone Road. I feel nostalgic and homesick and the light rain puts me in the mood to walk along the Embankment and take in the ancient and contemporary London skyline. But a siren passes by and I am back in New York City, which is both alluring and repellent. Saw that rat on the platform again this morning, sipping from an overturned yogurt carton and like every other assault on the quality of life, one learns to just take it in stride and not scream at the top of one's lungs, like the 'career' woman who broke composure to run towards us at full throttle, away from the rat. Get a life, lady. The rat, meanwhile, scurried as fast as it could towards the tunnel once the decibel level went up and disappeared over the edge, onto the tracks. 

I've switched to NPR and I'm listening to all the inevitable cuts that Albany is going to make to education, Medicare, etc, and social services, so that we can try and balance the insane budget. Meanwhile, the taxpayers (that includes us triple-paying suckers in NYC) are going to continue to fund executive compensation - AIG is still partying on their handout -- as well as the auto industry, for their failure to see that Hummers and SUV's were not the way of the future. Don't even get me started on the lawyers who will be on the meter to the Capitol for the foreseeable future. Now here's the question: if the well is open to all and sundry and we aren't a Socialist state just yet, can I send any debt that I accrue to the Federal government for a quick bailout? I know that I didn't really need that flat screen, and it's true, I could do a grocery shop less often, but hey, if major industry can insure itself with the bucks they're taking out of my paycheck, where's my payout? Just wondering.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gassing it Up

Gasoline isn't regulated in New York.
That was a joke and if you live here, you should be laughing your overpriced socks off.
I've always known it but it really stung this weekend, after a trip upstate, where we filled the tank for $2.35 per gallon on the New York/Mass border. A few hours later, back in the depths of the concrete jungle it cost us $3.05 per gallon. I have the picture to prove it. And I couldn't help thinking, gee, we New Yorkers really fork out a ton for the privilege of living in this glam world capital, where the trains don't run, the stations are subterranean stinkholes not to mention glaring fire traps (we were joined by a rat on the platform this morning), you can't get a family-size apartment for a decent rent, and a gallon of milk, sans the hormones, is a steal at $5.99 at Gouge City, also known as Gristedes, where it's faster to walk to Boston, pay for groceries and come home again, than get out of this store. And yet, we cling to it all as though there is nowhere else in the world that can match the sophistication, ambiance, and unique vibe that is the Big Apple as we wantonly destroy everything that made it what it is in the first place, oh let me count the ways. But the world's changed baby. If you really can't live without Coach and Victoria's Secret, well, you can find them almost anywhere now -- no need to confine yourself to Broadway at 84th street. Everything we got is ditto for the rest of the planet and I can't help thinking back to those pre-gentrification days, when it was still cheaper to eat at the local diner than Nobu, when your favorite, independent bookstores weren't being evicted to make way for a nail salon or yet another bank, when condo wasn't a dirty word. Welcome to the global city as it contracts to face the economic downturn. Who's going to fill all those empty retail stores now, and the half-finished ugly skyscrapers cobbled together with sheetrock?
When the dust settles on the last one out after the financial rape and pillage of this poor old town, perhaps it will revert to a place where creative people can live somewhat affordably once more. They won't mind the dirt. Bring it on, I say. Bring it on.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On the road

We were coming home from Massachussetts on 684 last night -- raging at the usual morons with access to a gas pedal -- tailgating at 90 miles an hour; weaving in and out of the traffic as though they were actually skilled and masterful; and cursing at the usual 200-ton SUV's with their obnoxious, blinding brights on. As usual, we were enraged by the mania, ignorance and sheer incivility on display that was nothing less than the Bush era, manifested at that moment as ultimate rudeness on the road, at super high speed, amid the very real risk of life and death. And then it hit us. Almost. The car in front stopped. Just stopped, for no reason whatsoever and within a nanosecond, we were all screaming as, in slow motion, we plunged forward towards the rear of those terrifying red brake lights. I glanced in the mirror and saw that there were no options -- the car behind was gaining fast and the lanes to each side of us offered the same view. I cringed and waited for the massive impact in front and back and thought of the three children, jammed in the back, and saw our car concertina'd on the road in one those very real, utterly nightmarish moments flashed by. So this is it, I thought. This is how it happens. Just like that. It's all about stupidity. Nothing more or less. And so avoidable.

It didn't. We swerved out of the mess and we were beyond shaken by the near-miss. Later that evening we passed a car turned upside down on 106th street, in a sea of broken glass on the road. As we hustled to get by the rubbernecking, I couldn't help noticing the person, upside down in the front seat and the circle of cops, gathered around it. My heart sank and raged simultaneously as we drove away from whatever disaster some family had to deal with last night.

This morning I ran around the NYC reservoir and saw the light reflected off the water, and the golden treetops shimmering in the slight breeze with the Manhattan skyline, a hazy backdrop to it all. I picked up the pace, breathed in the air as deeply as I could and only one thought came in, loud and clear. We are alive. Saved by inches, but alive.