Thursday, November 29, 2012


After the meal, the whole gang went for our traditional Thanksgiving walk on the beach.  

Both girls immediately took off their shoes and sprinted for the water.  A good thing we were in the tropics this year!  Er, I mean, brrrr.  The little one, in particular, may be sort of a Pied Piper for other kids. As she was splashing about and jumping in pools, another little girl about the same age came walking along in nice pink suede boots.  The other girl's father told her not to jump in the water, but she could not resist!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pirate Party

Construction of the pirate ship fort was largely designed, overseen, and implemented by B "the Blade", with significant artistic direction and strategic insight from L "the Fierce Eel".

Only the finest materials were used.

A cryptic inscription on the cannon reads
"THERE IS WEATHER" - doubtless a nod to
the traditional cry, "Thar she blows!" 

Flying the Jolly Roger
Meanwhile, R "the Ruthless" -- believed by some naval officials to be the true mastermind of the overall pirate scheme -- baked a wonderful treasure chest:

Pièce [de huit] de résistance! 
All these activities -- and more -- were undertaken with the greatest secrecy.

When Captain C "the Cut-Throat" and her minions* were deemed ready to begin their quest, they were welcomed by L "the Loathsome" and instructed on the rules by L "the Fierce Eel."

The birthday pirate was inspired
to make a treasure map of her own!
Our treasure hunters raced from clue to clue, and eventually discovered a hand-painted and beautifully decorated treasure box (ed. note: not to be confused with the treasure chest cake) containing a cache of baked stones in which were hidden small coins from around the world.

There was much rejoicing (and munching of cake and ice cream) among the triumphant pirate crew.  They played in the fort for quite a long time.  No one had to walk the plank, though.

Arrrrr-tistic Director 

FN*: First Mate "Peg Leg" X and Pirates G "the Dagger" and M "the Marauder" 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Day on Bald Mountain

We went for a 3.3 mile combo letterboxing/hiking expedition up Bald Mountain.  The first part of the trail skirted around a pond.

Eureka!  A natural bridge!
Surprisingly, we had some trouble with gorillas chasing bananas (or possibly with bananas chasing gorillas; it got a little confusing).  What can I say?  Sometimes I was running in terror, other times I was roaring after my elusive snack.  Eventually, it got a little more recursive - and giggly - as the taggee would try to immediately tag back the tagger and make her escape.  (Pro tip: This is more effective the first time, due to the element of surprise.)

Near a trail junction, we managed to track down our hearts' desire -- the letterbox -- although the beech tree landmark has largely rotted away, and sticklers for detail might quibble about whether the container is on the "right" as opposed to the "middle."

The intrepid letter-boxing hikers

Another strategy for tag: Hide quietly, and carry a big stick.
Perfectly sized for little hands.  We measured.

At the first false summit (aka M&M Stop #1), we had a lovely view of the mitten:
Personal trainer with one of his high-profile athlete clients.

The bigger bump should be Mt Monadnock.

We kept on through some forested areas, collecting tiny pine cones for wreath-making next month, and eventually reached the second false summit, with a welcome windbreak offering lovely views of Mount Monadnock.   

I walked up a bit further to the true summit, which is basically a rock in the middle of the forest.  I did not take any photos of it.

The advance guard claimed
prime positions in the windbreak.

In the final stretch, we were playing alliterative alphabet games.  Even though it was all downhill at this point, it had been a long day with a lot of sprinting, so C kept an eye out for opportunities to slide down the leaves instead of walking.  But whether walking or sliding, she would call out a letter and she and I would brainstorm all the nouns and adjectives that came to mind, stringing them together to make phrases and sentences whenever possible.  Then she'd announce the next letter...

And we'd occasionally backtrack and supply more words for a prior letter, as the spirit moved us.

Despite all this mental and physical exertion, we fell pretty far behind.  When we finally rejoined the rest, it turned out that they had moved on to a more structured alliterative memory game about items one might find on a healthy hike.  We stuck with our game.

We all made it down in one piece and headed off for a victory lunch at a local establishment.  Spinach salad, pizza carbonara, grilled cheese, hot chocolates, and a turkey melt.  Yum!

My pedometer indicated 3.47 miles total (including my solo summit expedition).  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Sign I've Lived Too Long in New York?

My sister-in-law walked to her meditation class, and asked me to drive over with the girls and pick her up afterward. The little one was surprised: "You learned how to drive?" I told her I learned when I was 17; I just don't drive very often these days. We discussed the forms of transportation I use in NYC, then she returned to the interrogation: "But this is the first time they let you drive by yourself?"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lower Manhattan

It's strange to have seen lower Manhattan post-9/11 and post-Sandy.  The economic devastation is greater this time (particularly around Water Street), but the mood seems less grim than in 2001.  It might be the fact that more folks live downtown these days (due to the post-2001 incentives), so the streets are not completely deserted.  And it also helps that this is seen as a freak natural disaster, rather than a purposeful attack.  And (relatedly) that the streets are not patrolled by military folks in camouflage garb - just the NYPD, in their usual stations.

A nod to normalcy: union workers lighting
the trees in Hanover Square
Near Water Street, many familiar franchises (eg Starbucks & Au Bon Pain) have completely blocked out their plate glass windows with brown paper on the inside.  I suspect they don't want to expose potential consumers to the unsavory storm-recovery and cleanup operations.

By contrast, a mobile device retail store on Water Street did not cover its windows (after all, they don't sell food!).  This photo shows the kind of gutting that was necessary:

Retail Store, Gutted

A mail room with damaged sheetrock removed,
and dryers still running

The lights have started to come back on the east side of Water Street, but some buildings are still dark:

Meanwhile, my office building has reopened two select floors, with power supplied by a generator.  Only one elevator is in operation, and you have to be escorted up and down by a security guard.  The rest of us "refugees" from the building are squeezed into conference rooms and cubicles in other buildings across the city.  It's a whole new world.

My heart goes out to all the small businesses in lower Manhattan, especially the independently operated ones that don't have the support of a franchisor -- all those that operate, in best of times, with narrow margins.  The restaurants and bars in other NYC neighborhoods that were actually able to keep running without interruption surely made a killing; the ones in lower Manhattan and other affected areas that were able to reopen quickly with minimal damage once power was restored may be OK.  But many other places remain dark, and I worry for them.

And of course, all this is nothing compared to the places that were really hard-hit.  Many coastal areas and barrier islands in NJ (Sea Bright, Long Beach Island), as well as Staten Island and the Rockaways.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Putting a Flower-Box to Use

It felt like spring today as the snow melted (and sounded like it too:  gentle thuds throughout the afternoon as softening clumps fell from tree branches).

So that got me thinking of my lovely tulipus eternicus...  Why not put that flower-box to use?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives: Snowfall Edition

I went out for a walk in the first snowfall, with an idea that I might go see a movie, or possibly stop by a hardware store to get some supplies.  But the hardware store was closed, the subways were slow, and the weather blustery enough that I was dissuaded ... and in any event I was completely sidetracked by the extraordinary number of bicycles parked unprotected outside in the snow.  Most were locked; a few nonetheless lacked wheels.  A few intrepid delivery folks were actually riding their bikes, but they tended to park 'em under awnings when they stopped.

This is why Target uses self-locking shopping carts

On 5th Avenue: bicyclist, pedestrian and parked vehicles.

Sans seat, sans wheels, sans gear chain, sans all.

A horse! A horse!  My kingdom for a -- oh, never mind.


Special delivery

I saw 4 parked motorcycle/moped vehicles, and 2 in active use.

2 bikes under the awning, 1 on the curb

Love the black and white stripes.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

My last surviving grandparent stopped eating and drinking about four days ago.

I got the news that he was dying on Friday night, and booked a flight out first thing Saturday morning.

Everyone who could, dropped everything and came out to see him.  He was on oxygen, waxy and largely immobile except for the occasional spasm of a limb.  He seemed to be sleeping the entire time we were there, though his eyes occasionally half-opened and his face passed through different expressions from time to time.

We spent as much time with him as we could over the course of the weekend, catching up with each other in his presence.  As the spirit moved us, we stood at his bedside, held his hand, and spoke with him.  I told him who I was, told him we all loved him and would miss him, but that we were grateful for all he had done for us, and that we were really proud of him.  I told him how much I liked re-telling stories of his adventures in the Foreign Service.  I told him we were sad to say good-bye, but that we understood he'd had a full life and that we understood if it was his time to go.

I cried when my dad and brother spoke to him, trying to reach him and see if he was in there somewhere.  I cried in the airport.  I'm crying now.

It would be wonderful if he revived and rallied again, but I do not expect it.  Given that he has lost the will to live and is dying, I just wish we could all have stayed with him until the end.  (Only my cousin remains at this time, and she leaves tonight.)

So I am back in New York now, where everything is still off-kilter, and I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, the inevitable phone call or email that will let me know that this extraordinary man, the last link to my ancestors, is gone.