New York City

Goodbye, 2016

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

There’ve been years where I couldn’t wait to rip off the last page of the calendar. Despite the many days of suckage in 2016, this wasn’t one of those years.  I know, I know, the past couple of weeks the news and social media feeds have been filled with headlines and posts of people desperate to say goodbye and start fresh.  Not me.  I’m afraid of 2017.  There, I said it.

I swear I can’t remember the first half of 2016, pretty sure my memories are on the tracks along with a smashed Cheetos bag and someone’s lost hair extension under the 6 train. The second half? I swung from funk to anger to disbelief and back again.

Too dramatic?  Maybe. I have several good friends who are optimists, they live their lives on hope and faith that love conquers all.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  You could say Mrs Fringe is a pessimist, but I believe I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, if you are a woman, a person of color, Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, a Dreamer, an educator, differently abled, parent to someone who is differently abled, a journalist, a senior citizen/will be a senior citizen who needs both Social Security and Medicare, or a free thinker, there is much to be–well ok, if you’re insistent on being less dramatic than I–if not fearful, at least wary of.

New Year’s isn’t like birthdays, we aren’t supposed to make wishes, we’re supposed to make resolutions.  Resolve to be kinder, more thoughtful, more efficient, disciplined, stronger, faster, better.  Shall I resolve to be the Bionic Woman, then?  (If you’re too young to be familiar with the Bionic Woman, take my word for it, she was cool, a 1970s sci-fi tv character.)  So when I hear people talking about wait-and-see, it won’t be so bad, I hear it with my bionic ear as magical thinking, wishes on a trick birthday candle.  I’m not worried about The End of the World, nuclear style.  Come on, I live in New York, everyone’s favorite target (and as a special bonus, the city our President-Elect and family won’t leave); if there’s an all out nuclear war, I’ll be the first to go, vaporized before the page telling me to watch out for mushroom clouds can load.  No time for angst.

I’ve been rereading all my old favorite dystopian novels–along with some new ones–and they have certain themes in common, whether the trigger was an economic collapse, totalitarianism,or plague.  Despair, violence, governmental overreach, hunger, talk about the necessity of good shoes. For the long walk to find others. And don’t give me any parables about crying because you had no shoes until you met a man who had no feet.  We don’t live in the garden of Eden, and I’m too old for barefoot and pregnant. I need shoes. We need shoes.  Good ones, without cracks in the soles, that don’t make you cry when you have ’em on for more than twenty minutes.

I’ve also spent some time rereading old posts. Sure, Mrs Fringe was always meant to be honest, somewhat bitter and definitely salty, but also funny. I think I stopped laughing about a year ago.  For a lot of reasons, both personal and greater, many but not all of them detailed here over the past year, there’s been less funny, more general horror.  And nausea.  The other night I made a DD (Disastrous Dinner, trademark pending).  Completely unsalvageable, suffice it say the overpriced short ribs couldn’t even be added to the doggie gumbo, and the polenta had more than a mild resemblance to the poo found in a newborn’s diaper. I happened to turn towards Nerd Child as he took his first and only bite.  The expression on his face? I laughed for twenty minutes straight. For some people, when things suck, they need to cry.  Others need to surround themselves with beauty, chant affirmations, or pretend the only things that matter are the things they can control.  With that DD, I remembered, I need to laugh (and overuse commas).  It’s my way through.

So while I want to believe all will find their measure of peace, love, and laughter this year, I’m not wishing or resolving.  I’m going to laugh when I can, I’m going to speak out when I need to, and yes, I’m checking my shoes.

Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

A few photos from 23rd Street, just a bit east of where the explosion took place Saturday night.

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I had never heard of the Chicks on the Right before, and I’m pretty much the left leaning filthy hippy they rail against, perhaps even the “landbeast” or “moon bat” so charmingly defined in their chicktionary.  But hey, I don’t live in an echo chamber and don’t want to, and these are apparently two middle aged women putting themselves and their beliefs out there in the blogosphere.  I want to support that, wanted to find out more about them, being another middle aged woman who puts herself and her beliefs out there.  Imagine my surprise when I actually read the post I had seen linked in my Facebook feed this morning.  Now I’m sure they don’t know or care who Mrs Fringe is, I’m barely a spit bubble compared to the success of their big pink bubblegum blowing blog, but I’m a New Yorker, after all, and if you’ve got questions/thoughts/incorrect assumptions about life in the Big Apple, I’m your gal.

So let this cliched middle aged broad clarify a couple of things for you.  I have a passionate love/hate relationship with this city, but when you’re born and raised here, you’re a New Yorker for life, even if you’ve long since moved to Timbuktu.  I have never been to Indianapolis (the area these “chicks” appear to be from), so I don’t know what it’s like there.  The only tv show I can think of that was set there is One Day at a Time, pretty sure that isn’t an accurate reflection.  I, and all eight million of my neighbors, are indeed tough and resilient.  What we aren’t is a hive mind.  That’s the beauty of New York.  Diversity.  Is that a dirty word for your blog? Sorry, it’s the one that fits.

Not just diversity in faith, skin color, gender/gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, but diversity in thoughts and beliefs, including political.  Yeah, we’re a blue city in a blue state, but there are enough right leaning people here–and even more independent thinkers– that we’ve had a Republican mayor or two.

This isn’t my main issue or yours, not what spurred me to respond.  The emergency text blasted out to all NY cell phones, identifying the name of the suspect wanted for the explosion that had taken place in Chelsea a few days earlier.  For the record, I’m not a big Twitter user (though I think I will send you gals a tweet so you see this post), I hadn’t seen any of the ones you posted, let alone tweeted about it myself.  That said, yeah, receiving that text falls under what I like to call icky-squicky-this-can’t-be-right.  Not because I didn’t want the person responsible captured and prosecuted, but because it feels more than a bit Big Brother-ish.  I’m a little confused, aren’t conservatives the group that complains about government overreach?  I know you disagree, and I’m sorry for being dense, perhaps you can explain it to me.  Simply, seeing as I’m a slow-witted New Yorker who doesn’t understand what’s in my best interests.

I was also taken aback by your expanding and clarifying statement, “Not only that, but these delicate snowflakes cried that something like this could lead to the Supreme Evil of racial profiling.”  Sorry for causing more eye rolls, but my experience as someone who lives in this great diverse city means that yup, I’m also against racial profiling.  Why?  Because my neighbors, friends, children’s friends/classmates, family members, are a diverse (oops, there’s that naughty word again) bunch.  Getting up and living their lives each day, I imagine much the way you do, and being profiled, stopped, too often falsely accused and arrested just doesn’t seem to represent the land of the free to me.  Profiling isn’t “suddenly” bad.  Perhaps you weren’t aware of it as an issue until recently.  That’s ok, you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know the nice part of being older?  I’ve learned to stop and think; listen to the other side of issues, take the time and put in the effort to learn the subtleties.  America is a big place, encompassing many different people, beliefs, and lifestyles.  What works in a small town in Montana wouldn’t make sense in New York–and that’s okay.  Damn I hope I don’t melt, being a snowflake and all, it’s hot in the city today.

But what really got my fingers itching to respond?  “New Yorkers have traded in their traditional toughness for a safe space of politically correct social justice.”  Here’s a bit of New York reality for you, our world has changed.  We’ve made trade-offs, some I agree with, some I don’t, but yeah, I’ve changed.  I assume you weren’t here in New York on 9/11/01.  I was.  I haven’t forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten the fear of trying to figure out what was going on.  I haven’t forgotten running to get my son from school, finding a stream of parents flowing in and out of the school trying to get their children, the hushed panic of whispers about parents who worked in which towers.  I haven’t forgotten my gratitude for the incredible calm and order the school staff had going.  I haven’t forgotten the horrible, unnatural quiet in the streets.  I haven’t forgotten trying to reach people I loved with no answer for hours that felt like decades.  I haven’t forgotten watching the towers burn and the smell of smoke and the ash settling over EVERYTHING.  I haven’t forgotten the first aid stations that were set up so efficiently that looked like not quite perfect movie sets–where are the extras?– because they were so empty.  I haven’t forgotten the thousands of people staggering up Broadway like zombies, covered in layers of white gray ash made up of things we didn’t want to think about.  Wondering if we were breathing in people.  I haven’t forgotten the many, many people who didn’t get to go home.  I haven’t forgotten being trapped on this island of Manhattan, no one other than emergency/official vehicles in or out. I haven’t forgotten the nausea and heart stopping this-will-never-be-the-same first time I saw clusters of armed guards in the subway, on the streets and by the bridges and tunnels.  Not something to watch on a tv screen, not theoretical, but my city, my friends, my neighbors.   Perhaps you think I should be embarrassed to admit this day changed my life and my city forever?  That there is fear that didn’t used to live in my gut?  Nope, not embarrassed at all.

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Chicks on the Right, you have every right to disagree with my political opinions.  You have every right to voice those opinions, vote for the candidates who agree with you, protest the decisions that go against your belief systems and values.  You can join the millions of non-New Yorkers who are quick to lay claim to our city but have no clue what it is to live here, live side by side with all kinds of people, no idea how to make peace and have respect for those who live differently.  But unless you were sitting next to me on the train yesterday, on my way to pick my daughter up from school, underground when the train stopped, vague announcements about a problem ahead, then listening to the announcement that all service had been suspended and thereby wondering if someone had fallen onto the tracks, or jumped, or if there had been another attack, trying to send a text to the school and your child not to leave the school because you were going to be late and you didn’t know how late, feeling the gratitude and relief when the car doors opened so you could run off the train, up and out of the subway and wait behind 342 other people trying to grab cabs on the same corner, knowing you were still on the wrong side of the UN and the President was here to speak there, enough of a New Yorker to then argue with the cab driver about the best route to take so you could get to your child, establish they and your city are safe, knowing you’ve got to get back on those trains to get home, do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, you don’t get to tell me how tough and resilient I and my fellow New Yorkers are not.

What Time Is It?

Bottle without a message

Bottle without a message

Time for Mrs Fringe to have the first beach day of the season to herself.  I feel pretty lucky to have kiddos that recognize my particular brand of lunacy requires both beach time and occasional time by myself.  So the other day–the day before the girl’s last day of school– I checked the weather (iffy, which made it perfect to not bring Art Child), packed my bottle of frozen water, bleach-stained oversized towel, my trusty black and white composition notebook (just in case I should be inspired to write, hah!) and got on the train.

At first it seemed like the iffy weather prediction was completely wrong.  A bit of wind, but blue skies and sun all the way.  A bit more wind.  Eh, the sand scraping across my skin is free exfoliation.  I can be freckled and have a youthful glow!  Before two hours had passed, I found myself wondering how long I could lie there with sand blowing straight up my nose before I suffocated.  I gave up.  Took my towel and headed back toward the train.  While I stood on the boardwalk shaking out my towel, I thought of the many times I had gone to the beach in my angsty teen years, shivering in out-of-season winds while sitting on the rocks writing horribly overwrought poetry.  For some reason I also remembered going with my mother to the “big girl’s” shop on Coney Island Avenue, to buy housedresses for a relative in California, while my father sat in the car outside, grumbling about muumuus.  Shh, it’s a secret, don’t tell anyone.  For my mother, the secret was that this glamorous, beautiful cousin was a “big girl.”  For me, the secret was she wore house dresses in her home that seemed like a mansion compared to our semi-detached brick two family house.  For the love of God, she had gotten three thousand miles away from there, didn’t she know there was a reason they didn’t sell those polyester monstrosities in Southern California?

It’s a funny thing.  When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to “escape” South Brooklyn.  Seriously, it was like living the script of Saturday Night Fever, those bridges and tunnels represented everything.  I’m a cynical gal and always was, but I can and do certainly look back and realize my rose-colored glasses were firmly in place, like most other young people.  If I lived in the city (people who live in the outer boroughs refer to Manhattan as “the city,” regardless of the fact that it’s all five boroughs that make up NYC), life would be different.  I would be free, not trapped, living the life I always wanted.  You know, in a cold dark garret, chain smoking clove cigarettes while scribbling the great American novel.  Manhattan/Paris, Nineteenth Century/Twenty-First Century–it’s all the same thing, right? I’d be living the dream.  Regardless, I certainly wouldn’t spend twenty years dodging PTA meetings and worrying about doctor’s appointments.  Whatever happened, I would never find myself back in Brooklyn.  Most of all, I would never, ever wear a housedress.

So what do I do now with every opportunity on beautiful (or iffy) summer days?  Hop on the train and go over the bridge back to the Brooklyn, of course.  Just the beach, but.  No matter how many times I’ve gone back, no matter that it’s been a firm part of my summer routine for eons, I have to laugh at myself.  The first couple of times I went back, I wondered if I would run into anyone I knew.  Never have.  Who knows, maybe I’ve been towel to towel with someone who graduated from high school with me and neither of us recognized the other.  I quickly stopped thinking about it.  The realities of living in a city so densely populated is that I have people who live on the same floor of my building that I don’t see for months, sometimes years, at a time.

This winter I reconnected with an old high school friend, through Facebook.  She left Brooklyn before I did, and it turns out she too, is back in NY, living in a different borough.  We briefly talked about meeting up, but it hasn’t happened.  What would I say, without judiciously chosen and edited photos to represent my life?  Badge of honor, I’ve never worn a housedress!  Still, I found myself on Brighton Beach Avenue before I got on the train, looking at my favorite (cheapest) variety store running a going-out-of-business sale, and wondered if I had $5 on me.

A dollar short, story of my life.

A dollar short, story of my life.

Hey Hey Mama!

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Of the million annoyances I encounter daily through life in the city, I’m old enough and defeated enough to realize 999, 997 have nothing to do with me personally, don’t effect me in any way, and are none of my business.  Sure, the number changes if you consider what I bitch about in my head, or to Husband, or even here on the blog, but to cause me to speak up and interact with strangers?  Not so much.

New York is always under construction.  Buildings going up, coming down, being renovated or refaced, streets being dug up or patched.  Interesting if you’re young or new to the city, hours of free entertainment if you’re 3, good news if you’re in contracting/construction.    I’ve heard people complain about “how much” construction workers earn.  I don’t complain.  First of all, the salaries vary widely–union/non-union, public or private project, white/”minority” worker–wrong as it is, last I read white guys earned an average of 20% more (I put minority in quotes because whites are not the majority in nyc), etc.  Second, these guys* work incredibly hard, back-breaking work in freezing cold, rain, heat and humidity that has most of us hiding inside, sometimes questionable working conditions, and often breathing in shit that I don’t want to think about.  Third, the majority of these jobs/workers are highly skilled, and their work is important.  Fourth, the risk of serious injury is high.  A few of the assignments on the sites aren’t labor intensive, they’re incredibly boring.  Like being assigned to open/close the gates and plastic bumpers for pedestrians to pass through in between cartloads of crap being hauled from the fenced in site to the dumpster in the gutter.  Boring, but they can’t blow it off or let their minds wander, because that would be a disaster, a law suit, and an unemployment line waiting to happen.  Often while working this mind-numbing task, they’re being berated and cursed by veryimportantpeople on their way to veryimportantmeetings who can’t contain their annoyance at being detained for 7 seconds so they don’t get a steel beam through their skull.

 

See? Look up or look down--construction.

See? Look up or look down–construction.

I pass several construction sites daily, multiple times per day, as I take Art Child back and forth to school.  The nice part of being a woman of a certain age who’s allowed herself to go gray?  I don’t deal with much catcalling anymore.  I’ve heard there are a few who find it complimentary.  There are also women who like to call their husbands/boyfriends Daddy and greet them at the door with a martini and a smile–but of course that all falls under the annoyances-I-keep-to-myself category, because it’s none of my business.  At best catcalling is a background annoyance, often it’s rude and dehumanizing, and at worst it can be frightening.  I see a lot of the same guys every day, they smile and say good morning, I respond in kind, and that’s the extent of it.

But the other day I was walking with Art Child and her friend, and one of the workers (who I didn’t recognize, not one of the ones usually on the gate) made a comment to/about my daughter’s friend.  Well, of course not so much about her as about her body.  My daughter looks younger than her age, her friend does not.  Young teenaged girls.  Of course she’s attractive.  I shook my head, said “no,” and we kept walking.  This man–was he drunk?–kept on, calling after us and followed.  For the record, he was not a young man.  Definitely old enough to know better than to make these types of comments to a girl who could easily have been his daughter.  I understand, putting to the side the misogyny of catcalling, when it comes to girls this age, it’s easy to think they’re older, especially if you aren’t looking at their faces. I turned back and said very clearly, “she’s underaged, back off.”  Would you believe he kept going, commenting and following a bit more?  Of course you believe it, if you’re a female between the ages of oh, say, 10 and 100.  Was he delusional?  I offered him a couple more words and we kept going.  Why did I keep going? Because the girls were creeped out and frightened, and I wasn’t sure if this girl’s mother would be okay hearing about a confrontation afterwards.  If I stopped, I was going to get loud.  It’s a balance and a judgement call. Sometimes it’s good for young people to see adults doing the right thing, standing up for them and themselves.  Other times (when the option is there) it’s better to cool off a bit and deal with situations without young people present.

So I don’t know if this guy was drunk, delusional, or bitter about sweating his balls off in 90° heat.  What I do know is that he was confused if he thought this would pass without incident.  This morning I had a nice chat with the site manager/foreman, who was responsive, respectful, and took me quite seriously.

a)The word “underaged” holds more than a bit of power. Those 9 letters contain many implications; ethical, moral, and legal.

b) Site workers and managers pay very close attention when you stop and speak.  If you’re blocking the pass through, several workers have to stop what they’re doing.  Time is money after all.

Women, we don’t have to tolerate predatory behavior, and we shouldn’t.

Moral of the day:  Most annoyances can and should be ignored, some should be addressed head on.  Oh yeah, and don’t fuck with Mrs Fringe.

*I reference “guys” because while I do/have occasionally seen women working on construction sites, it’s still a field dominated by men–and I’ve yet to hear a female construction worker catcalling.

Those Moments

Quintessential Guggenheim

Quintessential Guggenheim

The NYC public schools were closed this past week for the February break.  I’m cursing this break when school is still in session at the end of June, but in the moment?  Yeeees, so necessary.  For the most part, the girl and I spent the week resting and ate half-priced-post-Valentine’s Day chocolate.  But yesterday morning Husband needed to get new glasses, so Art Child and I went with him to help pick frames.  Since we were going to be on the east side anyway, I figured it was a good day to hit a museum.

The Upper East side has been (marginally) more resistant to change than most other residential neighborhoods in Manhattan, so there are still a few old gems left to wrap me in the nostalgia of remember when.  Like this one.

Almost makes me wish I liked egg creams.

Almost makes me wish I liked egg creams.

Art Child and I said goodbye to Husband, I grabbed my camera, she grabbed her sketchbook, and off we went.  The Guggenheim isn’t one of the museums we visit regularly, it is not one of the suggested donation institutions.  Those types of museums can quickly blow a week’s budget.  Eat before we go.  No, we aren’t buying anything in the gift shop!  No, we can’t go again before the installation leaves. The saving grace is that flat admission price doesn’t exclude any of the temporary exhibitions.  If you’ve never been, the building itself is well worth a visit.  All curves, you spiral your way up a continuing ramp to see what’s on display.  Certain floors branch off to more permanent exhibits and/or smaller installments.

Every time I go I think of being there with Man Child when he was a little guy, an installation of motorcycles.  Very cool, even if I still don’t understand why they were there.  Mostly I think of it because Nerd Child was an infant.  They didn’t allow strollers/carriages along the ramps, and Nerd Child was a champion puker–one of those babies where every spit up looked like an audition for The Exorcist– so Husband and I took turns carrying him while zig-zagging around the bikes.

The current primary exhibition is a retrospective, a collaborative effort from Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss that spans over thirty years, “How to Work Better.”  Huge, the sheer number of sculptures, photographs, videos, and instillations left me overwhelmed at times.  Art Child tells me I’m supposed to be.  Some of it I really liked, some not so much.  The first thing you see is the costumes the artists wore while making their films THE POINT OF LEAST RESISTANCE and THE RIGHT WAY.  umm, ok.  I didn’t take a ton of photos, I was busy trying to understand what I was seeing, but I’m glad we went.

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Here's where I love the tourists, they remember the views over the park are part of the intended experience.

Here’s where I love the tourists, they remember the views over the park are part of the intended experience.

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In the Thannhauser Gallery there are an assortment of paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cèzanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others.  Regardless of what else is on exhibit, whether it’s something I enjoy, understand or not, I’m moved and satisfied sitting in that gallery.  I love Picasso, his paintings, his etchings, his sculptures.  Not all of his work, he starts to lose me with swaths of his Cubist period.  Does that mean I’m déclassé?  Maybe just a peasant.  That’s ok, I don’t mind.

One of my favorite paintings is there now.  Sorry, I must have knocked the dial on the camera right before I took this photo, it’s way too yellow.

 

Woman Ironing, by Pablo Picasso.  Can I say it again? I love this painting.  From his Blue Period, there’s something about it that has always drawn me in.  I don’t remember the where (pretty sure it wasn’t the Guggenheim) or when (I was a child, for certain) I first saw it, but I will never be tired of this woman.  When I hear people refer to a work of art speaking to them, this is one of the paintings that comes to the forefront of my mind.  Maybe I always knew I was destined for drudgery.  And scoliosis.  And shadows.  Take a closer look with me, the shadow along her neck is delicious, makes me shiver.

Everything you can't see in her eyes, but see in her curves and angles.

Everything you can’t see in her eyes, but see in her curves and angles.

This was the first piece of the day that Art Child chose to sit and sketch.  I can’t say what I enjoyed most, being able to sit down and enjoy the Ironing Woman, the girl sitting at the end of the bench and sketching her, or the museum visitors stopping to watch her sketch for longer than they looked at the painting in question.  Perfect moment.

After we had moved on, and were back to Fischli and Weiss, I felt my phone buzz.  A text from Nerd Child, frustrated and disappointed about a lost opportunity.  No fault of his own, one of those life-happens things. Still, I’m a mom, which means through the life experience that enables me to understand the whys, hows, and frequencies of disappointments, my heart aches for each of my kiddos, every time they’re faced with one.  In the middle of the gazillion clay sculptures I happened to be standing in front of a representation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot.  I walked past the donkey to the inner wall of the museum and looked down.

Something had clicked for me, and the artists’  spent Rat and Bear costumes lying on the lobby platform made sense. Trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t, philosophical questions that don’t have a right answer–or any answer at all, dreaming about success.  Yeah, these are the things we need to do, to experience, the questions we need to ask.  These are the moments we need, perfect or otherwise.

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Excuse Me, Your Fly is Open

Fresh  off the dirty laundry pile!

Fresh off the dirty laundry pile!

I haven’t wanted to talk much about Trump and the upcoming election here on Mrs Fringe.  Why feed the fire and all that.  Or not, maybe if I’m honest, it’s because I was hoping to cling to my default defensive position of burying my head in the sand, thereby pretending he’ll go away.  Surely Americans will come to their senses long before an election?  Surely his blatant lies, manipulations, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and generally abysmal record as a human being will send him straight to the peanut gallery.  Apparently not, heh.  And let’s face it, you don’t come to Mrs Fringe for political analysis.  I’m not that objective.  I’m not that good with the straight facts and figures.  As I’ve said before, I’m not that smart.  If you want a blog with reasoned analysis, I recommend this guy, Benjamin Studebaker.    (I know, not completely objective, but smart, backs everything up with facts, and straightforward.)

I’m still not ready to talk big picture, address my fears re who the GOP has put forth as viable candidates overall, but.  Today I’ll talk about Donald Trump.  First, a bit of background on me.  When I was younger, I worked in social services.  My very first job in the field was with a camp that served autistic, psychotic, and what was then termed “emotionally disturbed” youth.  (I don’t know why kiddos with autism were in that grouping, it was a long time ago, autism was even less understood, and it was considered rare–well before the epidemic it is today.)  In retrospect, it was a dumping ground for kids no one knew what to do with.  I know of three who were institutionalized not long after, but I’d guess that’s what happened with the majority of them.

One of the campers was a teen I’ll call Joey.  I don’t remember exactly how old Joey was–he wasn’t in my group– somewhere in his upper teens, already looked like a grown man, with limited verbal/comprehension skills complicated by English being his second language.  Joey had an obsession with his penis.  Every time he wasn’t actively engaged in something else (and often when he was), his fly was down, schlong out, and masturbating intensely, while shouting his catchphrase.  Between his catchphrase and obsession, I’m guessing there had been a serious injury and/or abuse in his past.  Obviously, for all the reasons, we couldn’t allow Joey to walk around masturbating all day (not least of which the injury he was causing himself with such frenzy).   So in addition to songs, chants, directions and redirections, hoots and echolalia, the command of “Joey, put that thing away!”  was a constant refrain.   We shared the campgrounds with other camps, and the other camp directors and counselors were forever threatening to get us kicked out if Joey continued whipping it out.  We smiled, nodded, made the right noises and then turned away rolling our eyes.

At the time Joey was considered harmless.  The majority of these kids, and the adults I ended up working with, were “harmless.”  I was passionate in my defense of these children, wished with all my heart I could protect them all, always.  When one of the kiddos broke my nose that summer, I argued on his behalf when the director kicked him out of the camp without a chance for me to meet with him and let him know I was ok.  I was so angry, so indignant I wanted to quit.  It hadn’t been an appropriate setting for him.  I didn’t quit because I also met my first autistic kiddo there.   I was idealistic, young enough and brash enough to romanticize what I was doing, but I was good at what I did.  The child with autism?  I was over the moon excited when I was able to get him to play one round of duck-duck-goose after weeks of trying.  I called his mother.  When she understood who was calling and why, she called to her husband, “Magic Fringe is on the phone.”  That’s what they called me, and thinking about it still warms the cockles of my heart.  There’s no magic, though.

Non violent, these children and the adults they become are a million times more likely to be the victims of predators than predatory themselves.  I just made up that “statistic,” but the intent behind it was a fact then and a fact now.  But the majority doesn’t mean all.  I did work with some people who were violent, on occasion a danger to others as well as themselves.  And as I grew more experienced, and now as I’ve gotten older, I see the nuances I didn’t see then.  It’s still heartbreaking, but not quite harmless to have a young man walking around hooting, yelling, and masturbating in public.  The potential for danger; the potential for violence caused to him, by him, or to those just too close to get out of the way was real.

When Donald Trump hoots about immigrants, about building a wall between Mexico and the US, when he calls women “bimbos,” when he trumpets that sexual assault in the military is to be expected, when he calls a woman “disgusting” for needing to take a break to pump breast milk, when he says he would eliminate gun free zones in military bases and schools, when he says the answer to our broken mental health system is to find a way to arm more of the “good guys” to take out the “sickos,” when he calls for banning Muslim immigrants from entering the US, when he brays about plans to bomb the shit out of Isis (does he know Isis isn’t a country?), when he shouts that he will force Nabisco to produce Oreos in the US, Apple to produce their products here–while at the same time his clothing line is manufactured in Mexico and China…I could go on and on.  The point is, when he spouts this nonsense, he’s whipping it out.

He has no filter.  He isn’t honest.  There’s a difference.  With all the lies he vomits, it’s shocking to me that anyone, anywhere, perceives him as anything other than a dishonest buffoon.  I’m also shocked when people talk about him as a businessman, how good that would be for America.  Umm, America isn’t a business.  It’s a country, made up of individual citizens, with varying needs and vulnerabilities.  Trump is indeed a good businessman, if good here is defined by  selfishness and the amount of money accrued.  He’s so good, he was able to declare bankruptcy multiple times–wipe his debts clean at the expense of thousands of jobs–and still make money.  He’s so shrewd, he’s got people supporting him who represent those he screwed with each and every bankruptcy.  By the way, that whole idea of businessman as politician?  We did that here in New York City, with Bloomberg.  He fired those who disagreed with him (oh, those pesky checks and balances) and when his term was up, he changed the term limit laws so he could stay.  Get ready to hand Trump a crown and scepter.  You may or may not want someone you consider a “bleeding heart” at the helm of this country, but do you want someone who is actually morally bankrupt?

The very same things that make me unqualified to be a political pundit–lack of filter, lack of understanding of the nuances in policies, inability to grasp the ramifications of decisions made today for 30 years from now (it’s true, I’m a lousy chess player), selfishness and general hotheadedness–are what make Trump unqualified to lead this country.

When people cheer him on, use him as validation to let their inner racist come out, their not so underlying faith that women are less-than, their complacence with ignorance of how the world works, when they vote for him–they aren’t just turning away from nuance and rolling their eyes, they’re handing him lube and inciting potentially dangerous situations.

Put that thing away, Mr. Trump.

Nesting

This pair has been hanging out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

This pair hung out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

The crows seem to enjoy today’s fine flurries.  They stuck around, cawing and calling and circling until the flurries stopped.

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It’s that time.  That time of year, when I start thinking about how nice it would be to get away by myself.  Still haven’t done it (not since I had children, anyway), but I think about it.  A little while ago I even looked up writer’s retreats for 2016.  They lose their appeal after about 3 minutes of web surfing.  Wooded settings, steep price tags, set meal times, and evening conversations with strangers.  Feel me shuddering through the keyboard?  Creating my own retreat, though, that would be lovely.  Just a few days.  Coffee, tea, salad, and Cheetos should cover all the necessary meals/food groups.  Maybe some salt and vinegar chips.  On a beach, because if I were to be overcome by the glory of uninterrupted alone-time and therefore not get any writing done, I’d still be happy.

It’s also that time when I’m thinking about writing.  A lot.  I know myself, what it means when I can’t stop thinking about a poem, a photograph, a song…and I know what’s next; obsession with the next manuscript.  You know when you hear women talk about nesting in the later stages of pregnancy? I never did that.  I do it before getting serious about a manuscript.  Why? I dunno.  It isn’t like baking or being caught up on laundry and grocery shopping beforehand makes a damned bit of difference by the time I’m a month in, but I do it anyway.  Feels like dropping down to a low gear in order to drive up a steep hill without stalling or getting caught at the red light at the top.  Not that it works, life provides red lights with regularity, and god knows I stall out all. the. time. while I’m writing, but that’s what it feels like for the moment.

So I’ve been thinking about Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody.”  I always loved this one, no matter how many times I’ve heard and read it.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? 
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one’s name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
 
I’ve never been Somebody, from my vantage it seems like there’s power in it.  But there’s freedom in being Nobody, do you think?  Maybe not, maybe it’s just one of the not-so-little lies we tell ourselves, along the lines of poor-but-happy.
A few weeks ago I took this photo on one of the (thankfully) few bitter cold days we’ve had this winter.
Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

The flowers, this photo, a complete story by itself.  But which one?  My first thought for a caption was something like, “Screw you and your cheap-ass bodega flowers!” Such a frigid morning though, maybe they dropped from fingers so numb the person carrying them didn’t realize they lost them until they were fumbling for their Metrocard two blocks later.  The neighborhood where I took this shot is a busy one, home to a large social security office, a few social service agencies, and several thrift stores. Maybe they fell from the cart of someone’s wheelchair, or the little basket that sits across the top of a walker.  Maybe they were dropped as someone late for a date grabbed the first available cab they’d seen in twenty minutes, or maybe, maybe, maybe.  So many possibilities, and those are just a few of the more mundane ones.
I stopped halfway through putting this post together to go pick up the girl.  In Grand Central, when you walk through the tunnel connecting the tracks for the shuttle and the 4/5/6, there are several abandoned “windows.”  I can’t remember if there used to be stores behind them, or what they were originally for, but now they’re lit empty boxes, good for backlighting the various street performers and religious groups that stop in front of them. Today I was walking past and saw this.
MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

Clandestine spy code?  Pre-arranged tableau signaling the all clear for a passionate liaison between an engineer and a station inspector?  I think, if I were writing this into a manuscript, I’d have to add a crow.

PTSD of Snow

Everything on mute.

Everything on mute.

It’s well documented that I hate winter but really, it’s just the cold.  I never minded the snow, always figured if we had to have sub freezing temperatures, might as well have the beauty and quiet that comes with snowfall.  There’s always something a little magical about snow, not to mention the throwback to being a kid, hoping for a snow day.  And let’s be honest, if you live in the city, it’s likely you skip the bad part of snow–shoveling.  (Unless you have a car and park on the street, in which case you’re screwed.) Sure if you have a brownstone the steps and path need to be shoveled, but it seems like most hire that work out.  It has to be a LOT of snow to interfere with public transportation or cause any real inconvenience.  Say, for example, 26.8 inches, like we saw yesterday.  Even with that, we were warned well in advance (though we didn’t expect as much as we got, it isn’t like we were expecting a dusting), and it was a Saturday, no school anyway and many people off from work.

Look what we get in exchange, clean and lovely scenery, cool ice patterns, etc.

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All good, right?  Biggest concern dodging the icicles and avalanches of snow sliding off the rooftops in the days after the storm, as they melt just enough to slide off and hit the ground–or the nearest head.  Except not anymore.  Every step on the snow, every glimpse of an ice patch…makes me think of the ice patches I won’t see, how hard those snow piles are after sitting on the curb for a couple of days–or weeks–and flash back to my face hitting the ice last spring, when I fractured my everything.  Ridiculous.  I’m not young, but I should be too young to be literally worried about busting a hip.  Should be.

Maybe I should just stay in and write.  Winter has traditionally been my most productive time in terms of fiction.  I think it’s the excessive heat pumping through the radiators, puts me in just the right stupor to lose myself in my imagination.  Except.  Recently every time I open the damned file intending to do more than read the few pages I’ve got, I flash on the mountain of rejection letters I’ve accumulated over the years for various projects.  Dear Fringie, Intriguing story, great characters, thanks so much but no thanks and good luck. 

Maybe I’ll just kick back on the couch and watch Netflix with Art Child.  Mmm hmm.  Remember the avalanches I mentioned?  Sometimes they happen and you hear them during the storms, from winds blowing and drifts settling.  They make quite the sound on impact, and mostly it’s just background noise, though sometimes it can be startling, depending on the size of the chunk of snow, and how far it has to fall. A few years back Art Child and I were home during a storm, and there was a particularly loud snow-muffled thud.  It wasn’t snow.  Someone jumped from the roof.  Despite all the years and storms where those thumps were just snow and ice, now I jump.

Nervous staying in, nervous going out.  I took the girl and the camera and went to the park this morning.  I’m too damned old to be scared of boogeymen, especially when they’re decked out like Frosty.

Click on the photos if you’d like to see them full-size. Happy Blizzard, Fringelings!

 

The Kitchen is now Closed

Jawfish poking his head out of his cave to see if it's all clear

Jawfish poking his head out of his cave to see if it’s all clear

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season.  Remember my last post, my big stand about refusing to make any rolled cookies in hopes of preserving my back?  Yeah.  I stuck to not making any rolled cookies, but as it turns out, if you make enough drop cookies while still up and down the train steps for 12 trains a day and add in cooking regular food, that doesn’t actually mean anything.

First came the molasses cookies.

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Then came the oatmeal cranberry chocolate chips.

Photo by Art Child

Photo by Art Child

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Pause to absorb some tank serenity.

This cracks me up, the snail has some type of algae (that I don't see anywhere else in the tank) growing from his shell.

This cracks me up, the snail has some type of algae (that I don’t see anywhere else in the tank) growing from his shell.

clown trying to convince the urchin to move

clown trying to convince the urchin to move

On to the chocolate crinkle cookies.

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Now for my favorites.  Honey nut ball thingies.  They have the flavor profile of a Greek/Middle Eastern pastry but in a cookie. They’re kind of a pain to make, lots of steps but well worth it.

The first step is the killer. Chopping and chopping

The first step is the killer. Chopping and chopping

End of chopping, walnuts on left, pistachios on right

End of chopping, walnuts on left, pistachios on right

Glaze of honey, oj, cinnamon sticks and cloves

Glaze of honey, oj, simmered down with cinnamon sticks and cloves

The filling=nuts mixed with orange peel and a little of the glaze

The filling=nuts mixed with orange peel and a little of the glaze

not so secret ingredient for the dough

not so secret ingredient for the dough

By this time I was grateful for a dough that didn't have to be mixed by hand.

By this time I was grateful for a dough that didn’t have to be mixed by hand.

End result, drizzled with the glaze.

End result, drizzled with the glaze.

Last batch, pumpkin cookies with a cream cheese frosting.  Simple and pretty fast to throw together, these are almost like little cakes.

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Added up, somewhere between 15-20 dozen cookies, less the couple dozen that were casualties to the residual nerve damage from my fall last spring.  Lots of dropping/kitchen accidents now–I have to start remembering it’s just to be expected when calculating how much I need to prepare.

Christmas dinner I tried to keep things easy.  Ham, curried lentil/cauliflower/almond pie, and a baked spinach and pea risotto.  I’ve never made risotto in the oven before, but I saw a few recipes online, and it seemed like a great back-saver.  Blech. Let’s just say I won’t repeat that mistake.

The curry pie was also new for me, but this I would definitely make again. If I can remember what I put in it.

The curry pie was also new for me, but this I would definitely make again. If I can remember what I put in it.

Mini pies with the excess curry and crust

Mini pies with the excess curry and crust

Man Child wasn’t with us last Christmas, either, but this year we’re really feeling it.  Maybe because last year he was here right before and after, maybe because we know he’s much further away this time.  In any case, he’s been missed.  On the bright side, he definitely knows the routine/timing for us, so he and Miss Music (visiting him in Europe for the holiday) called to video chat on Christmas morning.

For you, Man Child--in case you were missing our Christmas breakfast. ;)

For you, Man Child–in case you were missing our Christmas breakfast. 😉

So yeah, I’m done.  I don’t want to mix, measure, chop, sauté, or bake anything else. More than anything, I’m sick of smelling like the inside of my oven.  Why oh why does anyone think it’s a good idea to create grown-scents and lotions that smell like food?  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a successful adult day if at the end of it I don’t reek of garlic, onions, cinnamon, or vanilla.

One of the best parts of this season has been having Nerd Child home.  Not just here, but relaxed because the college app hell is over.  This means I’m getting to hear lots of fabulous music.

Yesssssss

Yesssssss

Because of El Niño, instead of gray skies and ice we’ve seen quite a bit of fog in the city this winter.  Unfortunately, late December is still far from the end of the season, and I’m afraid we’re going to be slammed with early spring snowstorms.  This of course is based on nothing other than my pessimism.

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For most of us, winter weather is, at worst, a nuisance.  Our recent high temps have meant it didn’t “feel” like it should be time for Christmas shopping, but it was more pleasant when we had to.  Feeling beat and smelling like holiday cookies is solved with a shower at the end of the day.  But for all too many, this warmer than usual season means everything.

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Wheezin’ With the Season

Smudge Moon

Smudge Moon

It’s that time where I post about how crazy busy everything is, and how behind I am on getting ready for the holidays.

This year I’ve done absolutely nothing to get ready so far, but oddly enough I don’t feel stressed about it.  Each year we pare down a bit more in terms of the number of gifts purchased, amount of money spent, types and amount of cookies baked, amount of decorating done in the apartment and size of the tree. Because I’m not a shopper, I miss the biggest sales more years than not, and by the time my youngest was ten, I didn’t even pretend I would go anywhere on Black Friday, enough was available online.   And let’s be honest, hitting those big sales often means you end up buying more than intended, so financially it’s a wash, with more crap to figure out where to store on December 26th.

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

Art Child is disappointed because I told her I won’t be making any rolled (i.e.: fun holiday shapes) cookies this year.  I’m sorry she’s disappointed, but I’m glorying in my lack of guilt.  I’ll make some drop cookies, much less time and prep required, and they’ll be absolutely fine.  Instead of gingerbread cookies, I made a gingerbread bundt cake (used an oatmeal stout in it, freaking delicious!) so the apartment could at least smell like we’re getting in the spirit.  Because she’s sick (always at this time of year, it’s the one tradition that will apparently never be omitted) that little missing slice is all she’s eaten of the cake.  We won’t discuss how much I’ve eaten.

I probably should be feeling stressed about shopping by now, but I don’t.  The wish lists are small and mostly practical.  Nerd Child actually made a request (he’s the one who never asks for anything) so that completely removes the anxiety of trying to guess–knowing as I hand over my cash that I’m guessing wrong and spending too much–and we have to have him with us to make this purchase.  He won’t be back home until later this week, therefore there’s 0 reason to go fight the hordes on music row, 48th Street.  Not that there is a music row in New York anymore, most of the stores have folded or moved elsewhere, adding an element of maudlin “remember when” to the crowding.

If it weren’t for the fact that I once again forgot to factor in medical copays, I’d say we are going to be completely within budget.

If I can see this guy's rooftop decorations from my terrace, does that count as us being decorated?

Thank you, guy on the next street, for putting your decorations on your roof where we can see them even if you can’t.