There is a small, narrow park not far from my home. A road with palatial houses and wide front porches frames this strip of green. In certain places, I can walk into the park and the magnolias and beech trees block out the homes so that I feel I’m in a secluded woodland.
Halfway down the park is a path that leads to the other side of the park: a road and more large homes. One needs to walk over the concrete bridge. Under the bridge babbles a brook. Recently, we had a lot of rain, so this morning, as I leaned on the wooden railing, the water bubbled over the rocks and swirled under the bridge. Surprisingly few cars drove by so I could clearly hear the brook and the birds. A sweet moment of contemplation.
After my recent trip to New York City, where my friend, Lois, and I spent a whole day wandering through the sprawling landscape in Central Park, I cherish my spot of grass, trees and brook. A patch of nature to refresh my soul.
I have written about my trips to Coney Island as a young adult when I lived in Jersey City on this Blog as part of the Alphabet Challenge. My theme was “places I had been.”
On April 3rd I posted: C: Coney Island.
C: Coney Island
Last year, I had planned on taking my grandsons to New York City with a side trip to Brooklyn to scour the neighborhoods and check out the restaurants and, especially, to see Coney Island. The COVID-19 Pandemic interrupted my plans.
Truth be told, I really wanted to go to Coney Island. I haven’t been there since the 50’s. My high school friend, Gloria, and I would take a couple of trains from Jersey City to Brooklyn at least once a week during summer vacations. Besides slathering baby oil on our bodies and roasting in the sun, we also went on the rides:
I’ve read that the Parachute Jump still stands since it has been designated a city landmark but Coney Island as I knew it is gone. No matter when I return the beach and ocean will greet me.
On June 3, Lois, my long-time nursing friend, and I flew into LaGuardia airport. We had five days to explore the city that had just loosened Covid- 19 restrictions. We decided to visit Coney Island over the weekend.
Yes, the Parachute Jump still stood as an empty landmark on the horizon. The Cyclone clattered on wooden slats as I remembered all those years ago, still accompanied by the screams of the riders.
Nathan’s hot dog lines weren’t for the faint of heart—a two-hour wait before we had warm hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut in our hands.
Wanting the beach and ocean to “greet me” turned out to be unrealistic. The beach on that hot Sunday was covered with blankets with hardly a place to put down your foot as you tried to make your way to the ocean. You were grateful not to step on a leg or arm of a sunbather or knock over one of the children jumping around. Finally, we reached the waters’ edge, dipped our toes into the Atlantic, took a deep breath and maneuvered our way back to the boardwalk.
None of this felt like the Coney Island of my youth. So many people, long lines, limited seating, hardly a meditative moment to breathe in the salt air and enjoy the solitude. Solitude? What had I been thinking of?
Lois and I were distressed at seeing a homeless woman pushing an empty shopping cart. She wove through the throngs on the boardwalk, naked from the waist up, stopping at each garbage can, tossing the contents onto the ground as she searched for food, seeming unaware of her surroundings or her state of undress. The crowds on the boardwalk gave her wide berth.
Lois and I watched and pondered–what should we do? What could we do?
I take these memories of Coney Island home with me: the crowds, the rides, Nathan’s, the boardwalk, and the Atlantic Ocean along with the vision of the unfortunate woman, who will no doubt, continue to haunt me.
I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.
The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day.
Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z.
P: Pediatric Unit
On one of the pediatric units at Babies Hospital in Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, I contracted chicken pox.
My roommate Gloria and I and six other students from St Peter’s School of Nursing in New Brunswick, NJ, spent three months at Babies Hospital where we did our pediatric rotation in 1960. We explored the city on our days off. While it was fun to be in NYC, I didn’t enjoy caring for sick kids. I couldn’t detach myself from their pain, sadness and the misery of their hospitalization. Give me healthy, happy kids every time.
Toward the end of the rotation, I was dressing a toddler for discharge. I lingered in his room, playing with him just to hear his infectious laugh.
It wasn’t until the parents had collected their son and left for home that the head nurse informed me the toddler was discharged because he had chicken pox.
I never had chicken pox. After two weeks, I noted the first spot. The nurse in the infirmary diagnosed chicken pox and quarantined me. My classmates headed home since our rotation was over. I lived in New Jersey and couldn’t cross the state line with an infectious disease.
The infirmary nurses treated the itch with Benadryl and calamine lotion but they couldn’t lessen the tedium of my confinement.
Later on in my nursing career, I had to declare a specialty. I chose geriatrics.
When I first read that men thought of sex every seven seconds, I thought that’s me. No, not that I think of sex but that I think of food frequently.
Even when I worked full time, I planned our family dinner each evening. Meal planning and cooking seemed more of a hobby that a chore. I enjoyed hosting parties and informal get-togethers.
Food had always been part of my life. Descended from two ethnic groups that think of food as love, there is no doubt I was hit with a double DNA whammy. My paternal Italian family spent Sunday afternoons at grandma’s Jersey City house: her kitchen table laden with homemade soup, bread and pasta, roasted chicken, salad, fruit, and followed by store bought Italian pastries. Expresso coffee for the adults coupled with good cigars for the men.
My mother’s Polish relatives lived in the New York City suburbs. Our less frequent trips to see them were also food centric: fresh and smoked kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, red cabbage with sour cream, and a selection of homemade desserts, such as cheesecake, lemon pie and baked apples with ice cream.
My mother was a good cook. I still have her three-ring binder busting with newspaper clippings of recipes, old cookbooks: The Art of Cooking and Serving by Sarah Field Splint, 1929 and educational booklets, such as The Herb-Ox Money Saver, 1949 and Sunkist Lemons: Bring Out the Flavor, 1939. Tucked into the pages of this last book is a typed recipe for Hedda Hopper’s Lemon Pie.
Now that I’m retired and there are only two of us to cook for, food doesn’t hold the same excitement. And I’m less interested in entertaining, if one can even do this in the time of Covid-19. However, recently I read Bill Buford’s new book, Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking. After I finished Dirt, I still had a taste for more cooking stories. I dusted off my copy of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain that I never did get around to reading. Either Buford or Bourdain had mentioned Larousse Gastronomique, the “internationally famous bible of cooking.” That’s when I went on a pilgrimage to the bookcase on the second floor stacked with books that mostly were dusted but not read.
On the bottom shelf stood The World Authority Larousse Gastronomique. It was the first American edition (1961) with 8,500 recipes. If I were to buy this book new on Amazon, I would spend $201.80 plus shipping. Okay, I am a Prime member—no shipping costs.
On the third shelf, I found a basket with all my mother’s cook books and notes.
What did this exercise teach me? First of all, the fact that I purchased Larousee Gastronomique reminds me how much cooking had meant to me. I’ll take the time to peruse this tome. Second, the trip down memory lane sorting all my mother’s cooking memorabilia challenges me to carefully sort her recipes and books. Maybe I would even try to recreate some of her dishes starting with Hedda Hopper’s Lemon pie.
The World Authority Larousse Gastronomique, the Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery Hardcover – January 1, 1961
This is the internationally famous bible of cooking, the encyclopedia-cookbook which, because of its 8,500 recipes and the full information it gives on all culinary matters, has been accepted as the world authority. Ask any chef, ask any cooking expert. You will find a copy of LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE in the kitchen of any superior restaurant anywhere in the world. It is a prized possession of every gourmet who knows French. But until now it has been available only the French language. Because of the complexities of variations in terms and measurements, it has never before been translated into English. Now, after three years of intensive work by a staff of twenty experts headed by two famous editors, it has been converted for American usage. LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE contains in its 1,100 large pages 8,500 recipes from all over the world and 1,000 illustrations, many in full color. Also, there are descriptions of cooking processes; full details about all foods, their nature and quality, and how to cure, treat, and preserve them; the history of food and cooking; articles on table service, banquets, food values, and diet — in fact, just about every topic of culinary interest is covered. Though LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE is the prime reference book of chefs, gourmets, and experts, it is equally useful and convenient for the home cook. All recipes except for banquet specialties are on a small-group basis, stated in simple terms for convenience in the home. For this American edition, all entries have been brought up to date, notable in the articles on the preservation of food. Entries are in alphabetical order and are fully cross-referenced under both English and French names. The illustrations in color, black-and-white photographs, and line drawings, many of which were made expressly for the American edition, show not only the appearance of the cooked dish but in many cases the intermediate steps of preparation as well.
I don’t know how Tim Holt does it but he grinds out an entertaining post every week. I could be one of his little old ladies shuffling along in my black church shoes with a grin on my face. However, I don’t wear church shoes or walk with a shuffle–yet. I do, however, have a smile on my face because his story brings back memories of dancing to the big name bands at the Plaza Hotel in New York City the 60s.
In this time of uncertainty and worry, I submit Tim’s post to bring a bit of levity to your day.
~I Play a Little~
“I’m no Tommy Dorsey” is what I say sometimes to hunched little ladies shuffling along in their black church shoes who look old enough to know Tommy Dorsey, to have danced to his music. Often, they grin and drop in a dollar. I don’t need the dollar. I need the grin. Other times, I tell people I am Tommy Dorsey.
You don’t know Tommy Dorsey? Oh, for crying out loud. This is the year 2020. Put the toilet paper down and go in that store and buy a CD. But be careful. Or better yet, tap this, then keep reading. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKQc-cbAvdQ The ads will pass quickly. That’s not true. They will pass excruciatingly slowly.
You recognize it? I’m Getting Sentimental Over You. I play that one in front of the store every Saturday. I don’t need to play for money. I have a nice income. I live quite comfortably. But I discovered that few stopped to listen unless I put a cigar box on the side walk next to my trombone case. I drew a big dollar sign on the lid. Folks want to help the old guy. Kinda nice, isn’t it? I don’t like how the young ones calling me “Sugar,” but that reflects how they feel about old dudes with beards like me. Kindly. I’m sure they’d pat my hand if I put it out there.
But we old folks need to get our kicks. Do they still say that? I play here on Saturdays. And a bunch of us meet in the park once a month and bring sheet music that’s older than our grandkids, and we play for a couple of hours. Until nap time. It astounds me how many over-80s plan their days around naps.
The trombone doesn’t consume me. I love its feel in my hands, and its sound, mellow and sad, like dropping pennies into a deep well. Something like that. At least for me. Everyone hears the sound from way down somewhere. That’s the magic of the trombone. But for me, it’s a Saturday thing. And a grassy park thing. And a sunny day thing.
I also like to bake. So I have a job at Paulie’s Bakery on Fridays. We start early. It’s a long day. Dough is mixed and pinched and divided and like monks in white robes, they rise. The buns, hundreds of them, stand like congregates, demanding my commitment. Instead of paying me, I ask Pauly If I may fill two bags at the end of the day with hot cross buns, still warm, all separated by little tissues. He did the calculation. He said, “Sure.” It’s nearly 7 by the time we finish cleaning up. I drop the bags off at Hope Church on the way home. Saturday morning is treat-time for folks whose circumstances cause them to need to dine for free.
Not a bad life for an old Ophthalmologist, is it? Just listen to the music and wonder what else I do.
On Monday mornings I flip the pages of the New York Times past the international and national news to the New York City Metropolitan Diary. Here stories are written by New Yorkers about happenings in their daily life. The stories make me laugh, cry, or shake my head—only in New York.
This story, written on November 14 by Susan Heath entitled,Beauty on the Bus, delighted me. So I decided to refer to it on my next Post.
This is the story:
A few mornings ago, our 86-year-old neighbor, elegantly dressed and perfectly made up as usual, knocked on our apartment door. “This is for your wedding anniversary,” Ruth said, and gave me one of her wonderful light-up-the-day smiles, an enchanting orchid plant and a big kiss. (My partner and I got married a year ago after 23 years of living together, and that day Ruth gave us a bamboo plant in an elephant pot, signifying long-lasting happiness.)
We chatted for a minute and then, her bright blue eyes twinkling, she said: “May I tell you something? I’m just a bit embarrassed about this, but I have to tell someone.”
It had happened that weekend. Ruth was on the M104, going up Broadway, sitting in one of those front seats they keep for old people. A youngish man came forward and stopped right in front of her.
“Can I ask you something?” he said. “Do you know how beautiful you are? Your hair is so gorgeous, and your outfit is magnificent. May I take your picture?”
Although Ruth was a little disconcerted, she said yes and the stranger took her photograph and (somewhat to Ruth’s relief) got off the bus.
Then a young woman a few seats away called out, “I agree, you’re perfectly dazzling,” and several people shouted from the back, “He’s right, you know.” And suddenly everyone in the almost-full bus was shouting agreement and clapping like mad!
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the bus conductor told Ruth as she got out at her stop.
And I said to her: “They’re right, you know. You are stunningly beautiful. New Yorkers always know best.”
Then I searched for pictures that would represent older, well-clad women I could use for my post. Most were from Ari Seth Cohen’s book Advanced Style. (Maybe he was the youngish man on the bus?) I had written about him in a past post, Sob Sisters. His book showcases extremely lovely older women. But when I tapped into pictures of less stunning women, run-of-the-mill women and some very wrinkled old women, I became uneasy. Were these women not lovely in their own way, too?
Are we trapping women in a category? Women of means who buy up-scale clothes, apply make up perfectly and walk down 5th Avenue to be seen. A small cache of exceptional older women that the rest of us women of a certain age should emulate?
I remember the ‘50s. All women clumped together as an entity. Dress alike. Act alike. Accepting the direction by a paternalistic society: make babies, bake bread, and not worry our pretty little heads about anything important—leave that to the men.
Thank goodness for women’s lib of the ‘60s. Women decided that the yardstick for success should be determined by the women themselves.