Posted tagged ‘New York’

More Pix – New York Being New York-Crane Still Dangling on 57th Street

October 31, 2012








Above pictures are from my walk/busride home from work quite late last night.  The tall building has a large crane which came loose in the storm and has been dangling over 57th Street, still night secured.  The buses had started and were free, but crowded.  The City seems very bright this morning though and limited subway service is starting.  Still no power downtown. I’ve not been home and am running out of clothes!  A minor irritation, but an irritation!

Eyes Wide Shut – A Concert

January 31, 2010

Listening To Music

What a wonderful thing it is to close one eyes and listen to music.  This was made very clear to me this afternoon as I attended a friend’s choral concert in which truly sublime music (Brahms and a combination of folk songs and spirituals from Israel, Japan, the United States and England) was sung sublimely.

There is something innately thrilling about listening to live voices raised in song.  I  have to confess though, that because of my ever-wandering and little-disciplined mind, it is sometimes difficult for me to give myself over to it, to simply listen, without doing more (or rather something else) at the same time.  I am habituated to a certain narrative flow, the storyline of thoughts, worries, busy-ness, which is hard to turn off.

At this concert, however, I was blessed by the company, in the next aisle, of a woman in older middle age, with a pale braid in a loop that stuck out at the back.  She came in late, with several large, full, paper bags, a small black backpack and a heavy coat, which she took off, despite the chill, and laid across the empty seats in front of me.

I have to say that I was a bit suspicious of the woman the moment the coat came off, because she was pretty clearly braless under her grey jump suit.  This, perhaps unfairly, combined with the bags made me wonder for a moment whether she wasn’t homeless, except that the admission for the concert seemed a bit high for someone who only wanted a warm place to sit.

As the Brahms lieder progressed, she quickly unbraided the convex loop of braid, spreading the wavy hair over her shoulders.  She took her jump suit jacket off (yes, she really was braless) —there was some decal on her long-sleeve t-shirt.  It may have been a bird (as in Tweety), or I may only think that it was a bird because one of the Brahms lieder was about a “pretty bird”.  She rustled quietly among the bags and took out a tupperware container of pink yogurt and carefully spooned a few bites into her mouth, then closed it again.  After wiping her lips with her finger, she opened up her little black backpack, rummaged among its array of contents for a tube of skin lotion which she spread over her face.  After she put that tube back, she got another little bottle of lotion, which she rubbed into her hands.   I couldn’t help noticing, as I listened to another darting bit of Brahms, that the hands she rubbed with skin lotion looked well-manicured.

At this point, maybe, actually, some time before this point, I realized that I really did have to close my eyes if I was going to be able to hear the music at all.

This really did work.  With eyes closed, I could just be a beat, an ear, my mind amazingly blank.  Blank, that is, until I wondered what that woman was doing, and I’d just have to open my eyes for a second or two in order to check.

During a beautiful “Oh Shanandoah,” she flossed her teeth.  I turned away quickly.

During a beautiful spiritual “I been ‘buked”, she reviewed post cards on her lap

This is New York.  (Brooklyn actually, still New York.)

On the whole, I felt grateful.  I kept my eyes closed, more or less, anxious not to be distracted by the poor woman, anxious perhaps not to be like her.

Did I mention the second helping of pink yogurt?

Disturbance on the Central Florida Coast – Views of Obama

December 27, 2009

Arrived in Florida (Central Atlantic Coast) in the middle of the night.

Arriving in Florida is always a bit of a shock;  usually, it’s the humidity, the immediate and improbable moistness of the air.  But this time we left an onslaught of driving rain in New York City and arrived to a dry cool night.

We were met by a car service driver I’ve used for years whom I view as something of a friend.  I think the friendship is reciprocated (as evidenced by the fact that he was willing to wait for us till 1 a.m.)

Although my daughter asked me, before we met our driver’s car, to please not get in an argument about Obama, one started almost immediately.  The driver began it, actually, bringing up a story about how some other passenger, a military guy, had told him Obama was a terrorist against the U.S.  (This seemed to be a view for which the driver had some sympathy.)

I protested, despite my daughter’s stiffening in the backseat.

Our discussion heated up from there.  Eventually, even the daughter who had asked me not to argue broke in on the pro-Obama side.

I really like this driver.  He is extremely good-natured and sweet.  Even after I resorted to the F-word— our discussion had moved on through a variety of topics to 9/11–as a New Yorker who lives in downtown Manhattan, I feel like I have a closeness to 9/11 that simply cannot be approximated by people living on the Florida coast—he chuckled,  surprised both by my vehemence and my views, but not offended.

It all goes to show how different the country is outside of New York City, a difference that is almost unimaginable to me from downtown Manhattan.

The difference was reinforced later in the day, as we walked (which is unusual in itself here–but hey I’m a New Yorker, I walk) to a fast food franchise to pick up a favorite dish of my dad.  These places exist in New York City, but they are not on my immediate family’s radar.  Yes, this is probably due to a kind of elitism–though it’s really more of a nutritional and culinary elitism than economic.  New York has a plethora of amazing, unfranchised, food.   If my kids are hungry, they’ll go for a slice, a bagel,  spring rolls,  salt and pepper squid.

All the young and middle-aged people both serving and being served  were big, almost overflowing.   It’s a cliché, but, in this case at least, the truth.    We felt puny in comparison, ordered baked potatoes to share.

In the evening, the difference I went jogging on the only  nearby bit of sidewalk.  I tripped twice—the sidewalk turned out to be rutted—then was chased by a free-roaming Pomeranian that actually ran all the way across the street.

Okay, I’ll admit it;  I’m emphasizing the negative.   Frankly, there are lovely things about Florida and almost all the people  I deal with here are kind, polite, patient, personally generous; many  are not in the least bit overweight; the State, in fact, went for Obama in the 2008 election.

But when I hear this knee-jerk dislike/distrust of Obama, a distrust that not only questions the legitimacy of his presidency but also of his citizenship, it’s hard to feel like we are from the same planet, much less the same country.

The good news, I guess,  is that I called the driver to apologize;  he laughed again, said he really enjoyed our discussion, seemed to mean it.

New York Noise/Excerpt Nose Dive

July 25, 2009

Silence in New York.  Hard to find.  It’s like an animal here, furtive, shy, our native snow leopard.   Barely glimpsed, in this case, heard (or perhaps not heard would be a better way of putting it).

I am lucky enough to find it usually. I live at the bottom of Manhattan where winds require closed windows in the winter and concrete floors hurt joints but make an effective barrier to footsteps, bass beats, gnawing arguments next door, moans through bedroom walls.
But now it’s summer; the windows are  open wide and the constant whoosh of a broad courtyard of air conditioning units sucks silence like a vacuum right down its multiheaded tube. Drives me crazy at night.   In the day time, I can almost ignore, the sight of sun, leaves, windows overwhelms, the low whoosh, but at night, there’s that big vacuum sucking at my consciousness.

I think “car waiting” when I first hear it, but it’s a car that never drives away.  Whoosh is not the right word as that implies movement and these air conditioners do not move on.  But there’s too much airflow for hum,  and  it’s just too level for roar.
And it goes on and on and on. I know I’m hopelessly spoiled. When I lived in the West Village, three a.m. was frequently shattered by wailing arguments and the harsh splats of breaking bottles, slaps,  cries of “I trusted you.” And then of course there was that bass beat, woofers on every side.

Speaking of noise, Greenwich Village and Bass beats, here is an excerpt from a novel I’m about to publish called “Nose Dive.”

Yes, it’s a teen novel, but it’s funny, and I like to flatter myself- Hiassen-esque.

Check it out below.

Also check out my picture book.  1 Mississippi, available on Amazon.

All copyrights preserved.

NOSE DIVE excerpt, copyright Karin Gustafson 2009:

I remembered the night I first brought up the nose job.

“Mom,” I pleaded, “can’t you just focus on me for a minute?”

“Celia,” she protested. “I am focusing on you.”

But what she was actually doing was bending down on all fours, one ear pressed to the floor. She can often be found in this position these days.

“Why do you think I’m trying so hard to get them to turn down that bass?” she went on. “It’s for you.”

The problem is that my mom has become obsessed by noise. This is a big problem. Because, unfortunately, New York is not a particularly quiet city. Even more unfortunate is the fact that we don’t live in a particularly quiet part of New York. We live in the Village, a place with small, echoing, streets that people like to roam at night, often after drinking heavily.

We don’t even live in the quietest part of our building. We live in an apartment that is partly over a pizza parlor, partly over a Lebanese deli, and sort of catty-corner above a bar.

My mom’s obsession began when the bar got a new sound system and, informally, introduced dancing. At approximately the same time, the staff of the Lebanese deli brought in a private boom box, which, when their energy got low—let’s say at 3 in the morning—they’d turn up to brickshaking levels.

My mom went berserk, quickly jumping into full battle mode. “Battle” meant calling the bar and/or the deli several times a night and going down to talk to them in person every other day.

Victory, which took some months to attain, meant (a) the bar soundproofing every spare surface, and (b) the owner of the Lebanese deli, a super nice guy with thick eyebrows and a sweet, sad smile, making his staff get rid of their boom box.

But just as my mother was feeling gleeful, though also a little bit guilty—she gave a huge tip to the deli staff—the pizza parlor turned up the volume.

“It is them!” she cried. “When I called, they said it must be a car, a woofer—” She pushed herself up from the planking. “Who do they think they’re kidding?”

“Mom, it’s not that bad.”

“Can’t you hear that bass?”

“Probably. If I pressed my ear to the floor.”

Actually, that wasn’t true. I could hear the bass even without my ear pressed to the floor. But I didn’t want to encourage her.
“Let’s just go in the living room,” I pleaded.

“How are you ever going to get to sleep with all that racket?”

“Mom, it’s only 8:30.”

“Come downstairs with me.”

“I really don’t want to stand there while you complain.”

“I’m not going to complain. I just want to take a listen. You can pick up a slice.”

“I don’t like their slices. And I’ve got work to do. And I really really really need to talk to you.”

“Please, Celia.”

I got my jacket. But as we stepped down into the street and she positioned her ear on the glass store front right next to the words “Sal’s Pizza”—

“I’m going back upstairs.”

“Celia, please. They may recognize my voice.”

“You mean they may think you’re that nutty woman upstairs?”

“Stay positive.”

We pushed into the vinegary smell of warmed-over bread—no wonder the slices weren’t great—and yes, music.

Which wasn’t all that loud.

The bass was a little insistent—the melody barely peeked over the drum beat. But it definitely wasn’t deafening.

My mother’s eyes, confused, searched the counter, the walls, the oven—

The pizza guy nodded, waiting for our order.

I went to the refrigerator case, got two bottles of water, took them to the counter.

“Aha!” my mom nudged, staring pointedly upwards. A small boom box was jammed onto a teeny shelf right above the soda machines, about two inches from the ceiling—

I paid the pizza guy, then dragged my still upturned mom to one of the small wooden tables.

“It’s not the volume; it’s where they’ve got it sitting,” she whispered. “Celia, I know. Ask him to move it down.”

“I can’t buy two waters, and ask him to move the boom box. Besides, they’ve got all the pizzas down there.”

“So ask him to turn down the bass.”

“You ask him.”

“Please Ceel. They already think I’m a nut case—”

“You are a nut case—”


I wished (and not for the first time) that I was my sister. Maddy was the kind of person who would either (a) just tell the guy to turn down the bass, because she truly believed that my mother’s rights, as the upstairs residential tenant, were being infringed upon, or (b) just tell my mom to shove it because she truly believed that the guy had every right in the world to listen to slightly loud music before 10 p.m. on weekdays. Either way, Maddy wouldn’t just sit there, feeling like an idiot; she’d have a position.
But I wasn’t Maddy, and, at that point, I still hoped to get my mom’s help with my nose. I stepped back to the counter.

“Would you mind…uh…turning down the bass?” I pointed up to the boom box. “My mom’s a little, you know, funny—” I circled my finger at the side of my head, the universal gesture for looniness.

Then felt a sudden swish of sound and air. Uh-oh.

When I turned towards the door, I expected not to see anything except the far side of my mom’s back. Instead, there was windswept blonde hair. A chiseled nose. Grey-flecked seriously profound eyes that, thankfully, were not looking at me at just that moment.

My cheeks heated up like a slice about to be served. I quickly turned back to the counter.

The pizza guy had propped a chair next to the soda machine. He stood on it reaching up to the boombox. “What you want?” he asked, looking down at me.

What I wanted was to sink into the smudged floor tiles.

“Lower?” the guy asked as the music dropped to a whisper.

“It’s just the bass she wants lower.”

“What you say?”

I refused to allow myself to look in Brad’s direction. Still I could feel him, now to my left. At the refrigerator case.

“The bass,” I tried again.

The pizza guy stared at me quizzically.

Praying that Brad was too involved in the refrigerator to pay attention, “the BASS,” I repeated, voice deepening.

The music swung between whoosh and whisper as the pizza guy fiddled with the boombox. In the meantime, I watched Brad out of a corner of my hair.

He didn’t have his girl moat. Which meant I could actually talk to him, say hi, or hey, or Brad! I could remind him that he knew me from math.

He was taking out a beer now.

A beer?

I gently shook my hair to get a better view. Suddenly the green bottle, which I thought I’d just seen at his fingertips, was no longer visible; I could have sworn it went under his jacket.

“There’s no bass control?” my mom asked, coming up to the counter.

“There just this one button.” The pizza guy turned the volume control back and forth again with one large flour-dusted hand.

Cold air swept the space behind me. I knew, without looking, that Brad was gone.

The music was barely audible now. The pizza guy, holding the soda machine for balance, stepped down from the chair. His face was red from the heat of the oven. I realized that he’d been standing about two inches below and to the side of my bed upstairs. No wonder that part of my floor was also always warm.

“Thank you so much,” my mom gushed.

But the pizza guy just stared at her, wiping his hands on his apron, then turned and went back to the kitchen.

Her face turned almost as pink as his had been. “Oh I feel awful,” she moaned. “Am I absolutely terrible?”

I couldn’t answer her. All I could think of was that Brad had stolen a beer while we were distracting the pizza guy.

I tried to tell myself that I must be wrong, that I really hadn’t been watching him.

And anyway, maybe he had some kind of arrangement with the place. You know, because he was a minor and they weren’t allowed to sell him beer.

So he stole it?

Come on Celia, I told myself. This is Brad, you’re talking about.

But I didn’t actually know what that meant.

As we trudged upstairs, my mom’s voice vacillated between triumph and guilt while I tried to not think about Brad.

That’s not exactly accurate. I tried to not think about Brad’s fingertips clasping the beer. What I tried to think about was his beautiful tanned face, his announcement that he was in charge of the spring musical, and my certainty that he was going to have a lot to do with the casting.
“So now can we talk?” I asked.

copyright Karin Gustafson 2009