Category Archives: NY Slice of Life

Goodnight, Irene

Not to make this weekend’s storm all about me or anything, but one good thing about being out of work is that I didn’t have to worry about this morning’s commute into the city. I offered to drive my husband into the city if it turned out to be an issue.

He usually takes the MTA Express Bus from our corner; in Manhattan he transfers to the 1 Train south to Houston Street. He had planned to walk south if the trains weren’t running; his office is about a half-hour walk from the bus stop. But he told me that the trains were back in service when he got into town.

The subways had been shut down at noon on Saturday in anticipation of the storm. Some anonymous MTA employees called it a massive overreaction, but considering how lack of preparation has led to horrible devastation during other storms and natural disasters, maybe it was the best thing they could do. The trains were running this morning, and a lot of people apparently chose not to go to work, so the commute was not the hellish scenario my husband had anticipated.

The ever-helpful MTA announced that riders who prepaid for unlimited Metro cards will not get refunds on the two days they lost. I hope they change their minds on that one. It really is nasty to stick it to people like that, especially those who may already have lost money by not being able to get to work this weekend.

The worst of my problems, as I finally emerged from the apartment after two days, was that I could not get to Michael’s Art & Crafts because roads were closed, either by downed trees or downed wires. Reports were that over 4 millions homes and businesses lost power, and I’m guessing that Michael’s and other stores along Northern Boulevard were affected, because employees were not answering the phone. I ended up at my local Staples instead, a veritable nightmare of parents and kids swarming the aisles, hunting and gathering school supplies. I escaped as soon as I could claw my way through to the door. The last weekend in August doesn’t mean that much to you when you don’t have kids–until you encounter a whole congress of them in one place.

A little excursion around my neighborhood found the downed tree pictured above, just a few blocks away. It was a pretty large tree and was completely across the street — but it appears it did not damage anything except the sidewalk. A good example of what could have happened, but didn’t, during Hurricane Irene.


Taking the day off

Last week I was editing a book, but as I was done the first full read, I took a much-needed break and spent the day swimming and hiking at a state park with a friend. I live in Queens, he lives in upper Manhattan and the state park was in New Jersey. I picked him up in Midtown and we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel. out into the wilds of Jersey, to a park that he’d known as a child.

The park had a small man-made beach by a lake with a roped-off swimming area. Little schools of minnows swam by our feet as we entered the water. It was August and we’d had a number of hot summer days recently, so the water was just cool enough to refresh without being shocking.

Because it was Monday, a workday for most, the beach was not crowded. There were mostly moms and babies, plus a few well-behaved teens and some complete family units. If there were any other adults our age there–without kids–I didn’t see them.

My friend works in catering, so he works sporadic, odd hours. I’m still collecting unemployment, looking for work and trying to see if my freelance business takes off. We both agreed (who wouldn’t?) that working the weekend and taking Monday off was way better than working 9-5 in some crappy office dealing with petty politics and crazy bosses.

But I was tired. Being unemployed means I have been keeping weird hours. I’ve been staying up late, spending a lot of time on the computer–sometimes writing, sometimes doing legitimate research, but other times just chatting and checking FaceBook and LinkedIn and Twitter to see if anyone has said anything in response to something I said, or if there’s anything worth responding to myself. I know I need more sleep.

So after the first quick dip into the water, I lay on the beach, my body covered in sunscreen, and tried to sleep. My friend had mini-speakers for his iPod and he was playing a Rolling Stones’ album. The volume was set relatively low–but it reminded me of my childhood on the Jersey shore where someone blasting music on a boombox never seemed that big of deal. I guess hearing the Stones themselves created a nostalgic mood for me. It was “Tattoo You,” an album that came out the year I graduated high school. (Yes, holy crap…don’t tell anyone it was thirty years ago.)

I’d brought two notebooks with me, one a personal journal and the other a multi-purpose book for drafting blogs, drawing, and jotting down ideas, to-do lists and get-rich-quick schemes. I always have the notion in the back of my head that I “should” be writing. I let that go for the moment.

I dosed off and had a warm, pleasant catnap. last I’d looked my friend had been lying back in his beach chair with a hat over his face. Since he was being quiet I guess he was napping, too. No one had to be anywhere and we didn’t need to set any alarms.

Eventually we started to come back to life. My friend wandered off to inquire about boat rentals and I opened up one of the notebooks and did actually get a page or so of a potential blog written. But when he returned and proposed ice cream from the truck at the edge of the parking lot, I abandoned my notebook. We talked, ate chocolate popsicles, took another swim and later took a hike in the nearby woods.

I think having my friend there allowed me to let go and not worry about life, writing, or my job search for a while. He’s an actor when he’s not catering, and is an outgoing, very friendly type, the kind of person you’re happy to hang out with. It is hard to get upset about things around him.

I really needed the day and the company. It is hard to relax when you feel like you should be doing something every hour of every day toward getting a job. I did send some resumes out last week and I made inquiries about freelance and full-time work with a publishing house where another friend works. So far there have been no job offers, and I’m still waiting to hear about the freelance.

On the beach, I wasn’t beating myself up about not being where I was supposed to be or doing what I was supposed to be doing. I’m doing the best that I can to survive these economic times, and I will survive them. When I do start working again, I’ll be working hard, and who knows when I’ll be able to go to the beach again. I’m going to enjoy it while I can. And I did. A perfect day.

Spaced out on the train

This has nothing to do with writing or editing, it’s just a little NY Slice of Life. I plan to post SOLs occasionally when the mood strikes.

One of my “issues” (I have many) about life in the big city is that I get anxious over people being too close to me in public. There are times when you have to put up with touching others; during rush hour on the subway there’s no way around it. I’m OK with that. I have to get somewhere and it’s unavoidable.

But if someone’s breathing down my neck in the subway and there’s plenty of room on the platform, I keep my eye on that person because I don’t trust him. In other words, he makes me nervous. He’s either up to no good or there’s simply something “off” about him because he’s standing that close. I say “him” but it could just as easily be a woman.

I like to space myself out on the train or the bus. As a matter of fact, all people who ride public transportation should should space themselves out. If one person is in the first seat, the proper course of action is to take the back seat, or at least the middle. If the bus or subway car is mostly empty, I don’t sit next to the only other person there. And if I’m the one who’s there first and someone sits close to me, I’ll probably move.

I got on the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) recently with a friend. It was early on a Sunday afternoon, so the train from Great Neck to Manhattan was not crowded. A lot of those seat pairs that face each other were available. My friend wanted to grab one of those. I don’t normally sit in these seats, mainly because if the train gets crowded and all four of these seats have to be occupied, they are too tight for strangers to share–in my opinion, of course. (This is all about my opinion.) Since it seemed unlikely that we’d have to share seats with strangers that day, I reluctantly agreed.

My friend moved toward one of those seats, which was opposite a family with a few kids. I signaled “no” to her and urged her to move on. A baby was screaming in the next car so we moved on again. We finally found a seat in the third car, which was almost empty. Two passengers were across the aisle from us in the pair of seats that mirrored ours. I already felt uncomfortable because I was violating my normal spacing “rules” (there were plenty of empty seats away from other people), but I sat down facing my friend and tried to be OK with it.

However, I soon realized that the young couple across the aisle from us was making out, and because they were facing forward and I was facing backward, we were in each other’s lines of vision.

Excuse me, but … no, this isn’t happening. I don’t mind Public Displays of Affection, but I have my limits. Watching a couple kiss and grope all the way to the city wasn’t how I wanted to spend my ride. My friend was facing forward so I don’t think she realized why I was uncomfortable. I moved and sat right next to her on the same seat. I felt foolish explaining why I’d moved, so I lied: “I think we can hear each other better if we are next to each other.”

She seemed to buy this, and we both put our feet up on the opposite seat and relaxed, having some nice conversations all the way into town.

On the way home, my friend again chose a pair of facing seats. The guy across from us was practically the only other person in the car and there were plenty of secluded seat options that we passed up. I don’t know if I was transferring my uncomfortable feelings onto him, but he seemed anxious, the way he kept shuffling his newspaper and slamming sections of it down onto the seat. Once again, I felt weird explaining my feelings to my friend. I admit they are not logical. Maybe part of it is simply not wanting to bother other people, which I do realize is an impossible dream–people bother other people, especially in NYC.

So I put up with our seating choice but kept my eye on the nervous news reader across the way. I was very relieved when he finally got off the train at Auburndale.