Friday, January 25, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams ... a day in the life

Good evening from New York, where no day is ever quite the same as any other.

Well, each day does begin with a sunrise, or an alarm clock beep that precedes that gentle light.
After that, all bets are off. I remember the structure that I might yearn for, but have to be ready to improvise.

I am lucky to be able to sleep easily, and do usually wake before the 6:50 am alarm beeps.
Then. I will usually press buttons on the television's remote to see what might be going on beyond my bedroom. I am something of a news junkie, eternally wishing to place my day(s) into some perspective against the broader spectrum. Perhaps foolish, but I continue to try.

It is at this point that I frequently briefly re-enter the land of nod, for just one little farewell dream. Then I really am awake. I learn of overnight tragedy around the globe, and local weather and traffic reports.

Now. I think, what day is it. Am I going to the shop early, later, or not at all?
Depending on the answer, or if I can think of the answer, I may still indulge my news hunger, or get going. That means up to fix breakfast and switch on the computer.

If it's a work day, I will always have an egg, toast, juice, coffee breakfast. I never know when lunch might occur, so want to travel full. With the political/financial news on as background, I make a quick or not so quick visit to the internet, emails and this site.

I will see if there are any shop e-mails that I should know about before I arrive at the shop. Sometimes I will cringe, and wonder if I want to arrive at the shop.

By now, I may have gotten a phone call from a staffer who is ill, or for some other reason, won't be showing up. Cringing again. Even saying bad words out loud.

On to the shower, get the hair and make up done. Figure out which outfit to display to the customers. get dressed. Gather up all the folders that I will need for the day into the tote bag that I refer to as my portable safe, get keys, get out the door.

Now, my building has three elevators, but they are slow at best, so I usually walk down the three flights of stairs to the lobby, greet the doorman, and off I go to the glamor of the subway train.

My neighborhood station has both express and local (making all, all, all stops) service, and entry to the trains comes via a "Metrocard" that I buy monthly that gives me unlimited rides for a 30 day period. I sweep that little card through the turnstile, and gain access to the stairs to the dingy train platform. It is a narrow concrete area, between the local and express train tracks. I am very glad not to travel during rush hours often, because that would be scary with the crowding.

The wait for the train can be very short or irritatingly long. Sometimes we are entertained by a musician who hopes that we will help him exist in the city. Some of these entertainers are great, some just make me want the train to arrive more quickly. Sometimes I will see someone I know in the crowds waiting for the trains, but usually I just blend into the anonymous masses, with my head in a magazine or a book. Train riding time is a great reading time.

A train eventually arrives, and if the cars (carriages) are not too crowded, I can wedge myself into a spot of my own.

There are may different subway routes under New York, somewhat like London, so I can vary my route according to variables like weather, delays, whim.

One variation that I like in cold or wet weather allows me to transfer between two subway lines in the Times Square station. A benefit is that my underground walk between the lines often takes me past some very fine entertainers. Could be Cajun bands, Asian flutists, break danders, Peruvian rockers, Japanese Bowie wannabes, crazy lady playing a saw, gospel singers, totally fabulous drummers playing instruments of their own devise. And more.

I will not describe the various fragrances that you can encounter in the subway. They are too varied.

One subway route allows me to exit to Seventh Avenue, and I will walk two long crosstown blocks to the shop, that is on Fifth Avenue. This walk takes me past some interesting sights. Many new buildings are being constructed along these blocks, filling in tiny street level spaces with very tall slivers of expensive condominium apartment buildings; cranes are everywhere. The recent financial mortgage/credit crises may cause problems for these buildings as 2008 advances.

In the midst of these projects, some traditional businesses of this area continue. They relate to old line photography studios, commercial photography/advertising businesses, recording studios and some shops that make props for theatre. These prop shops are my favorites, because their windows, and the sidewalks outside their buildings always display a true surrealistic vision.
Example: golden mini Eiffel towers, next to huge pink flamingos, and all sorts of greenery, in every scale. Then there are some statues of the Virgin Mary, and a giant green pig, and some beautiful Japanese lanterns, and ... is that a hula dancer? Little blue rabbit statues next to a big kitchen sink. And more.

Also on this walk is a wonderful baker's supply shop. Everything that anyone would ever need to bake or decorate anything. It is all here. Pans, sprinkles, silver and gold decorations, cookie cutters, muffin tins, lots of stuff to go on top of tacky wedding cakes, mixing bowls, doilies, cardboard boxes of every shape and size to put a cake in. Etc.

Also pass by some very down and out folks, either asleep on the sidewalk, or waiting for some kind of connection at a corner or two. This is the city.

Finally round the corner at Fifth and get to the shop. If I am the earliest shift, that means I start the day fresh and will unlock the door and let the rest of the day evolve little by little. If I arrive after others have started up the day at the store, it is an entirely different day. I often feel that I am playing catch up for the next eight hours, putting out fires that I did not set.

It is all totally unpredictable. Phones ring, people show up. Some of these encounters are very pleasant, and some require detonation skills. My role is to inspire my staff to do their best, and to make sure that each customer is well served. And meanwhile to do all requisite corporate politicking. And make sure that the shop's merchandising always looks great, and all the items are fully restocked, and all the computers and other pieces of equipment work properly, and the banking and other financial doings are done on time, and so much more. Oh, we also always have to have fresh flowers in big vases all over the shop.

I usually work during my 45 minute lunch break, as that is a time to get into the somewhat calm office area, and to check on e-mails. The days usually flies past. Our shop's busiest times occur shortly after we open, then during the lunch period 12 to 2, and finally when folks are on they way home after work, 5 to 7. The earliest that I will go home would be 6; it is more usual for me to leave around 7 or later.

When I leave the shop in the evening I can glance up Fifth Avenue and see the bright lights of the Empire State Building, and the beautiful deco Chrysler Building. Then it is down into the subway, for the return uptown to home.

I may have to pick up groceries in order to prepare dinner. Once home, I can relax, change into tee shirt and jeans, read my mail and e-mail, fix dinner, pour a glass of wine. Check the news, listen to some music, maybe have time to call a friend if it isn't too late. But it often is too late! So most of my catching up with friends has to wait until one of the two days off per week. The pattern on those days is more varied.

All in all, I do find myself squeezing much into each day, and often do wonder about why it is that I live in this city. Then something extraordinary happens, and I rejoice!

It is always such a pleasure to finally cut the lights out, and rest my head on my luxurious down pillow. I am asleep in a minute or less.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Country Dreams, City Views

Hello from New York.

Leap year is underway. How will we use that extra day?

In this country, a cartoonist of the 1950's who created the L'il Abner series, also created a holiday know as Sadie Hawkins Day. It is celebrated on February 29, and the cartoon character Sadie H was allowed on that day to propose to the batchelor of her choice, in her hillbilly community. The cartoonist, Al Capp is long dead, but many still laugh a bit nervously when the name Sadie Hawkins is mentioned.

That was not at all the way that I thought I would begin this posting. But the fingers on the keys know their rhythms and destinations. Typos, my fingers scoff at such trivialities.

We are indeed in mid January. The days are lengthening. In the States, the presidential election follies are well underway. We view these activities from the outside via media, and opinions of friends and family. And wonder. What we have got now is not serving our country well. Will the replacement inherit a condition that can be fixed?

New Year. Thinking again of cartoons, and the new year's baby in a diaper (nappy to most of you) full of hope, perhaps. Two weeks later. Wondering.

Within the company where I do work so many hours, I am so sorry to say that we have lost a colleague whom many of us held in very high regard. She has now "left the company" in official speak. Confidentiality prevents us from ever really knowing more. But, of course, in the fullness of time, we will know more. Her sudden departure has left many of us fellow shop managers wondering where our future, and that of our company may lie. The company is dedicated to being different, setting a higher standard. Now we wonder.

I may write more later, but cannot now.

In the week between Christmas and New Year's, a neighbor in my building took the step of sort of indicating that he would be interested in advancing our friendship to another level. Since then, I have done a bit of a dance, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, but at this stage in my life, not really wanting to have any more entanglements in my life. Right now, I yearn for more free time. I cannot now paint or draw when I want to. I have so much stored up inspiration and ideas to release.

But, I do not want to hurt another person, who has gotten his courage up. Do any of us ever get beyond our teenage years? I know that I were even again really smitten, I would be a born again 16 year old in a second. But now, I feel all of my well-earned 62 years.

The full moon will have its way with us on January 22 (in the States) and perhaps after that this year will gain grace and elegance and we will proceed accordingly. As of now, the weather is very strange, the financial markets (upon which I pin any hopes of leaving the work-a-day requirements of the shop,) the global politics, and even certain local situations involving some dear to us on this site, are a bit in turmoil.

I have not written a blog in weeks and right now think that this lapse has led this one into too much of a summary. I usually like to just have a stream of consciousness, free flow in my writing, without any outline or agenda.

But, I do want to include a picture by Vanessa Bell ... so hoping that it will appear, that is just for our very special birthday girl of January 18, Camilla.

Art usually leads me into light, and I will mention that this afternoon, after meeting with representatives of the management of this apartment building to try to sort out the latest manifestation of the change of ownership of the building (incorrect figures filed with New York State regarding my current protected tenant-status rent) and this morning's lack of running water for four hours, I took a walk.

I walked through Central Park, warmish in advance of expected frigid temps this weekend, and went to a gallery on East 57th Street (a traditional block of fine galleries for decades) to see an exhibit by a favorite artist, William Kentridge. As anticipated, it was wonderful. If you ever get a chance to see his work, please do so. His drawing is sublime, but he takes these drawings to another level, and had made many animated films, and also designed sets for major opera houses. Today's gallery's site is

Maybe I will leave you with the hope of seeing this wonderful creativity. Still hoping for a happy new year.

Pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Over here, it is still January 1, so allow me once again to wish a very happy new year to all who will read these words.

After the sometimes frenzied days of late December, it was a great pleasure to awake to a grey beginning to the New Year, and to know that when the alarm clock beeped, it would not be necessary to jump up and adhere to a schedule.


I was able to awake prior to that electronic beep because I did not stay up late enough to see the final minutes of 2007 drift over the horizon. My new year's eve strange dreams were broken, of course by the sounds of party folks singing and yelling their way home down the sidewalks outside my window. I also think that I hear the fireworks that are sent up over Central Park.

As a measure of how civilization passes by with each year, a sound that I used to hear at midnight was silent last night. On my street, there was a custom at midnight that lots of folks would open their windows, and bang on metal pots and pans with big wooden spoons. A very domesticated way of celebrating the new year.

I fear that the folks that used to do this, for decades, have now been forced to move from the street as the speeding forces of real estate upgrading, and renovation, and costliness may just be stomping upon those earlier simpler forms of celebration. Or maybe, I just slept through it last night. Don't think so, though.

All right. Moving into 2008 and its grey sky and mistiness. I got up early and got down to a bit of very much needed apartment cleaning up. Out with the old sort of thing. Several chairs and tables now are bare, the piles of papers, magazines, books that they once held have been banished to other locations. Some of those piles actually made their way outside the apartment to the recycle area down the hall.

Great. Sent off some e-mails to friends and family. Balanced the checkbook. Started early preparation (soaking in lots of water) of a dried legume known as black-eyed peas. It is considered lucky in traditional Virginia lore, to eat black-eyed peas on the first of January. I am very afraid to tempt fate by ignoring this custom, so every year I manage a mouthful of these beans before nightfall on January 1.

Next I turned to working on a long-term knitting project, originally begun to "use up" left over yarns. As any knitter will know, this sort of project can only encourage the purchase of additional yarns, so the project continues ad infinitum. If all goes well, I will illustrate this blog with a bit of the increasingly large coverlet that results from this multi-year project. I will spare you a photo of the black-eyed peas.

In early afternoon I had a surprise visit from a fellow tenant, who came by to wish me a happy new year. I served him tea and some of my home made sugar cookies (not so many people in this city still bake any kind of cookies.) It was nice to just chat a while. This gentleman had an impromptu birthday party last weekend to which I was invited. So...this is quite a lot of socializing for me in a few days.

The weather cleared in early afternoon, and so I also managed a quick walk over to the Park and enjoyed stretching my legs, seeing all the European tourists doing the same, and came home feeling as if my 2008 was off to a good beginning.

I wish the very same to all of you. Pleasant dreams to all.