What’s to Eat?

Lifelongnewyorker has never been good at feeding herself. If left alone, she will have cheese and crackers for dinner. Unless someone else makes her lunch, she’s going to be buying it. And there’s only one rule: it has to be fast and easy to get; something that can be brought back to eat at one’s desk.

Luckily — really really luckily — MrNYer makes her lunch for her these days and makes sure she doesn’t leave the house without it. And, yes, she knows how lucky she is. Truly. Because she’d be in big trouble if she had to depend on what’s available close to work.

Back in NY, she had plenty of choice within a single block. At Newsweek, if the weather was bad, she just rode the elevator up one floor to the company cafeteria, Newsbreak. Venturing outside, there were Pax, Cafe Europa and Le Pain Quotidien, not to mention neighborhood diners and the fabulous (and now out-of-business) Crystal Cafe, which had the best chunky gazpacho every.

Later, at Scholastic, the neighborhood offered new options. In the building was the rooftop cafeteria and grill. Across the street, Dean & Deluca lured her, especially in winter, with its savory soups. If she were adventurous, she could stop at any of the food trucks that arrived in Soho about noon, or even stop at a street vendor for shish kebab (or “street meat” as her younger colleague called it).

Not so in Montgomery. Downtown has a number of lunch shops — they open at 11:30 and lunch is done by 1:00. Few are within easy walking distance, especially in summer, where walking three blocks would bring on heatstroke. The Commerce Cafe, however, is conveniently located right across the street. The cafeteria specializes in homemade southern food, with a meat-and-three hot lunch. Today’s entrees are fried chicken and chili mac. Sides include turnip greens, rice succatash, potatoes. There’s always salads, but most of them include either cheese or bacon. It’s really amazing how much you can do with bacon.

And if you’re hungry during the day? Need a snack? Not to worry. We don’t have an in-house cafeteria with healthy fruits, veggies and salads, as my two previous employers did. But we have vending machines. Here’s a few pictures. Which snack looks good to you?



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Don’t talk to strangers

Anyone who has flown with Lifelongnewyorker knows of her aversion to striking up a conversation with seatmates on planes. To avoid the chance chitchat, Lifelongnewyorker prefers to fall immediately into unconsciousness, usually before takeoff. Should sleep elude her, she puts on headphones, studies the Skymall catalog or stares catatonically out the window.

Not that she condones rudeness. Lately she has taken to greeting her fellow traveler and engaging in Limited Small Talk (LST)

This week’s trip to Washington, D.C. was typical: sleep on the Montomery-to-Atlanta leg, on the next LST with my seat mate in first class.

Perhaps because I was feeling pampered and expansive after enjoying my upgrade, perhaps because there was no danger in being trapped on an escalator, I let my guard down on the moving stairs in DCA.

Here’s how it happened. I approached the escalator as an unending line of eager and excited teenagers, all wearing yellow wool caps and festooned, like matching luggage, with yellow nametags, flowed onto the steps. A man in his early 30s–clearly one of the chaperones–
paused so I could go ahead of him onto the escalator.

Once on, I turned, saw that he was a priest (no collar, but he too had a name tag). Frankly I was surprised to encounter a priest that young, given that the average age of American nuns is reported to be about 74. Fondly recalling the times I chaperoned student trips (a clear example of time adding a rosy lens to memory), I asked where they were all from.

“Louisiana,” he told me, and I responded that I hoped they were prepared for the cold. “They think they are,” says Bing Crosby, adding, “I’m not so sure.” Stepping off the escalator we laugh together. Since we’re walking in the same direction, I to the taxi stand and he to the baggage claim, I break the cardinal rule of LST: upon completion of a successful exchange, do not introduce a new question.

So, I ask, are these all juniors? I’m totally inside my own, ancient frame of reference — 40 years ago in NY, where the trip to Washington was a common feature of junior year. No idea if it still is. “No,” he responds, “they’re freshman to seniors.”

Now I’m puzzled. Can’t be a curriculum-related trip. Maybe they’re in some kind of competition, or members of the school band slated to perform at a national event. I forge on, “Really? What brings you all to Washington?” I ask, gamely.

“We’re here for the big pro-life rally.”

And now I’m speechless. I recall that a colleague’s daughter who is a ninth-grader at the local Catholic high school is also going to this rally, not because she personally has strong views on the issue, but because it’s a school trip to the nation’s capital with her friends. She’s excited: They’ll stay in a hotel, see the sights, and talk all night long. Oh, yeah, and go to this rally. Colleague wasn’t thrilled that her daughter was being enlisted as a foot soldier in a political cause that Colleague doesn’t support.

I can’t tell him I support the cause, and the rules of LST are clear: do not invite controversy with strangers. ” Humma humma humma,” I imagine myself saying, but it comes out as “I hope they don’t freeze.”

And at that very moment, mercifully, the door to to taxis is on my left. Baggage claim pulls him to the right. I head outside.

The big rally is the next day, and it’s getting going as I arrive for an event on a street that has been blocked off to traffic because of it. As others arrive, everyone comments about the march. Mostly, these fall into the same category as comments in New York when the prez is in town or the UN is in session– it’s all about traffic and metro delays.

One person remarked upon the fact that he saw mostly groups like the one I encountered at the airport; young people in matching outfits full of energy, and as excited as if they were going to a football game. He also reported seeing a lot of young priests, and we joked that every priest in America must be at the National Mall.

And that led me to another memory. I, too, was in the company of a priest for an event in a bitterly cold Washington once. I was 17, out of high school and the official bus captain for one of three buses of people from Staten Island headed to the capital on the day of Nixon’s second inauguration, which we protestors were calling his coronation. We were there to march against Nixon’s odious expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos, and to demand peace.

On my bus was a groups of students from a local Catholic boys school, led by a priest whose name, I believe, was Fr. Tosh. We spent most of that very long and very cold day together. One thing I remember: we were somber. We were there for a serious purpose; it was no party.

Back at the airport today, I saw and heard people from the rally heading back home. Meanwhile, on the overhead televisions, CNN was reporting on the protest planned for today, in which people will rally against gun violence and in favor of stricter gun control.

And I couldn’t help but hope that at least some of those young priests led their charges to today’s rally,too.

What a Difference Three Years Makes and Pictures #16 to 19

The last two days have been spent in a training room, learning all about the marvels of the new marketing automation platform we’ve bought, when I got a message from my assistant that she had invoices and contracts for me to sign.

“Bring them to me,” I wrote back, “along with a blue or black pen.”

Signing the papers I noticed the date, January 16, and realized that I have been in Alabama for three years.  Later, I doubted this was possible and used my fingers to check my mental calculations.  Three years.  Confirmed.

In just under 1,100 days, a lot has happened.  Two thousand-mile road trips, a house sold, three babies born in our extended family, two moves for the Abandoned One, retirement and a significant birthday for Mr.NYer , a new house purchased, a new job settled into, new doctors lined up.  And Lifelongnewyorker has flown enough to earn Gold Medallion status on Delta for two years now. I guess things have worked out.

Three years ago, I wasn’t so sure.  Mr.NYer and I drove down in my Honda and arrived on the 16th. We hauled my stuff into the furnished apartment I would stay in for three months.  And Mr.NYer was returning to Staten Island on the 18th.  Panic set in as the enormity of what I’d set in motion became clear.  This is what I wrote that day:

We arrived in Montgomery yesterday shortly after noon, in moderately heavy rain.  

As we were checking into the apartment, Soon-to-be-Abandoned (or maybe he’s offically abandoned now) called to say the dishwasher was not working.  About this time, the leasing agent was filling me in on the pest control schedule.  My heart began to sink.

I don’t have an Internet connection in the apartment yet; I’m posting from Starbucks.  So this will be a short post. 

At some point in an early post I observed that I wasn’t feeling particularly worried or emotional about the move, but suspected at some point I’d feel like I was hit by an anvil.  The anvil has struck.  As I contemplated the lovely but impersonal apartment and realized that Mr.NYer would be leaving me there by myself soon, I panicked.  All I could think was that I wanted to go home, and the next thought of course, is that I’m selling my home. 

I miss my son, my cats, my house and my familiar life right now. 

Some deep breathing and lots of talking have helped.  I was also reassured by the presence of artichokes at the Winn-Dixie.  But I feel a bit untethered and hope that getting to work on Tuesday will help. 

And I miss my friends.

And here are some pictures from that weekend:

The drive through Virginia still felt like vacation.

The drive through Virginia still felt like vacation.

As we drove further south, the weather turned grey.

As we drove further south, the weather turned grey.

Feeling real now.

Feeling real now.

All the charm of a highway motel.

All the charm of a highway motel.


Winter Left Behind and Pictures 12, 13, 14 and 15

It looks like we might not have a winter this year in Alabama.  Not that I’m sure exactly what winter here looks or feels like.

For the past few days, we’ve been swaddled in a warm wet blanket of air.  The heat’s been off for days, and this weekend we both wore shorts around the house.  Today at work, not one but two people told me they had to turn their air-conditioning on.  (“Had to” does not actually mean compelled to, e.g. by force or imminent heat stroke.)  While driving my boss to dinner on Thursday, he asked if the car had AC. Mr. NYer and I have been sleeping with the window open. And today, someone in the office pointed out the window and said, “What’s with those trees?”  They appeared to be in bloom, two months too early.

You get the picture.  Climate change has come to Montgomery, and gone are the winters of yore.  But I never saw them here, so it’s hard to know what I’m missing.

But I do know what I’m not missing.  Snow. Wind. Bitter cold. Even if we were to have an unusual and extreme weather event here in Montgomery, it might mean — at worst — some ice and maybe an inch of snow.  That melts immediately.  Nothing like the snows in these pictures from 2003 and 2006.

One car is being cleared; there's another under the pile on the right.

One car is being cleared; there’s another under the pile on the right.

MrNyer shovels the sidewalk even in mid-snowfall.

MrNYer shovels the sidewalk before the snow stops falling.

Only wet and heavy snow sticks like this.

Only wet and heavy snow sticks like this.

Snow piled up on the deck outside the kitchen.

Snow piled up on the deck outside the very very cold kitchen.

The Sunday Drive and Pictures 10 & 11

While Lifelongernewyorker did not walk five miles to school — uphill both ways — she did grow up a while ago.  Things were different, as these pictures suggest.

First, the occasion: Nothing special, just a Sunday drive.  That meant that, shortly after church and breakfast (rolls and butter, as I recall), my father would say, “Who wants to go for a drive?”  The question was probably more ritual than real inquiry: of course we would go for a drive.

The cousins kept their church clothes on for the Sunday drive.

We girls kept our church clothes on for the Sunday drive.

With my two sisters and cousin (part of many such excursions before her parents left Brooklyn for Long Island soon after this photo was taken), we piled into the ’55 Pontiac. I’m not sure if I was still, at about three years old, sitting in the “child seat” — a contraption that hooked over the back of the front seat and featured a small plastic steering wheel so the kid could pretend to drive. Designed for distraction, not safety, you can think of it as the 1950s death trap for tots. If not, as the youngest and least powerful, I certainly sat in the middle, over the hump.

The destinations varied.  More often than not, we stayed close to home and went to the Prospect Park Zoo, the path along the Shore Parkway, or the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. But my father liked to drive, so we also ventured farther afield, often to Bear Mountain or West Point.

My mother rarely came along.  As I’ve noted in earlier blogs, she had her hands full taking care of us, my grandfather and the house in general.  My father’s job was to get us out from underfoot.

The only item missing was the glovrch, or to West Point.

Why the fancy clothes?  Readers: girls wore dresses in those days, pretty much all the time. Pants were rare, and reserved for play.  You didn’t wear them to school, or to church, or to visit West Point.

So, are the differences merely ones of style? Not entirely.  Allow me to employ my teacher voice (as if I ever leave it behind), to point out the larger social, economic and political forces that have swept away the circumstances that brought us to West Point that day:

  • The women’s movement has changed what we wear, who does the driving and whether it’s mom or dad who does the cooking (or ordering out).
  • Repeal of the “blue laws,” which kept stores of all kinds closed on Sunday, gave people alternatives for Sunday activity.  Now we can shop at Home Depot in the morning and return home to work on that DIY project in the afternoon.
  • Technology, of course, means that we’d see this as a video taken on the smartphone in full color, with sound, rather than as this short still moment captured on black and white film (or fil-lem, as my father would have said).
  • OPEC and the gas crisis of the 70s pretty much killed the Sunday drive as fun family pastime.  Gas prices have never gone down, and we’ve lost the habit of heading to the car for no good reason.
  • Was there even programming on TV on Sunday afternoon besides Fulton Sheen?  So much more to do today.

I’m sure the list could go on.  What are the big forces, technological innovations and social mores that have intervened? Add a few of your own theories in comments.

And note, please: No rose-colored nostalgia, or laments about how those were better days.  Remember what’s not in the picture: my mother back home in the kitchen, cooking, ironing or maybe doing some special project like waxing all the floors. We girls got to watch the cadets, but dared not dream that we could ever be one.  Didn’t stop for a game of catch.  Got maybe nine miles to the gallon of gas. No seatbelts.  Little kids perched in deathtraps.

Caring for One’s Inner Teenager and Picture #9

The Mush naps atop Lifelongnewyorker back in Staten Island.  RIP, Mush.

The Mush naps atop Lifelongnewyorker back in Staten Island. RIP, Mush.

This photo was taken, without Lifelongnewyorker’s knowledge or consent, about five years ago.  With a few circumstances changed, it could have been today.

What’s different: We no longer have that loveseat. Lifelongnewyorker is five years older. The cat pictured, lovingly nicknamed The Mush (for obvious reasons), died this year.  Our current cats nap by themselves.

What’s the same: After a long week, Lifelongnewyorker likes to take a nap on Saturday.  She pays lip-service to the cover story that she is going to read; a book is nearby.  But the lying down, the strategic placement of the pillow, and the addition of a coverlet all show that she’s fooling no one, including herself.  It rarely takes more than two or three pages before she sinks into unconsciousness.  Today’s lasted for three hours.

How nice, you’re probably thinking, to take such a long nap in the middle of a long weekend day.  Well, sort of.

The “inner teenager” of the title is a short dose of Mr. NYer’s wit and warmth.  You see, Lifelongnewyorker’s nap began only a few hours after she had gotten up from bed.  Yes, Lifelongnewyorker slept until 10:30 am.  More to the point, Lifelongnewyorker CAN still sleep to 10:30.  And then, a couple of hours later, take a nap.

She also falls asleep on airplanes before take-off.

Sadly, most people of Lifelongnewyorker’s vintage can no longer sleep much past 7 am.  They cite too many years of waking up for work, waking for children, waking to get an early start on the day’s worries.  Is it that they failed to nurture their inner teenager? Did they grow up too completely? You decide.

Lifelongnewyorker knows that having one’s inner teenager still hanging around is a gift.  Now if she could only do something about the clothes strewn on the floor.

Dublin Office Building and Picture #8

Dublin Office Building

Readers: Two very busy days for Lifelongnewyorker, so today I turn it over to you.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You may begin.