January 30, 2017 by 59 Comments
It’s the Quiet Car. Quiet. There is no prohibition for dining in a Quiet Car. Or in any car for that matter.
You may be Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. You may be Vegetarian. You may believe in Global Warming. You may be a member of the NRA or for Gun Control. You may be for or anti Keystone Pipeline or fracking. Voucher or Public School. Whatever. As long as you aren’t in my face with your POV, I’m good. With one exception: Dining on public transportation. Don’t like it. Don’t do it. Find it deplorable.
6:35 p.m. Metro North departing from Grand Central Station to parts North.
It’s a six-seater, with four persons. Three people is manageable. Four is crowded. As the fourth piles in, the other three, me included, grumble. The commuter code is broken.
I’m knee to knee with a student, who has cracked open a pre-packaged salad, its perfume, sesame ginger dressing, spills into the cabin. She spreads out her napkins and proceeds to dive in with her plastic fork. Mixed mesclun greens. Julienne sliced red bell pepper. Water chestnuts. Baby Corn. All coated and shimmering in dressing. She catches me sliding my knees into the aisle. One Human feels discomfort in another Human. She wraps the dish in the plastic bag offering additional spillage protection and looks up. I grin. A sort-of thank you cheetah-like grin. Just one drop on me and there will be an explosion in this train car. She gingerly spears her greens and uses the plastic bag as a splash guard. Graying Mustachio Man looks unpredictable, eyes have that crazed look, best not to test him. [Read more…]
January 22, 2017 by 50 Comments
I’m leaning back in the chair. The bodies on the teleconference are shifting, their paper shuffling is booming on the mic. The update continues, I’m fading, drifting. I look up at the clock and it tugs me back, way back.
It’s hidden inside, in a dark space, deep in a corner on the edges, frayed but biting.
I was a child. You were a child. A Boy.
The schoolhouse had two classrooms, three grades in each room, one row for each grade, four to six students in each grade. Three rows of heavy steel, four legged desks, each having a pocket for school things. We were in the First Grade.
He was oversize in first grade, having been held back. Tall, thin, with hunger hanging from his bones. His brother was already categorized as a Juve, his Father an alcoholic, in and out of small jobs and a Mother desperately trying to keep it all together, and losing.
Faded jeans, not from stone washing, but from hand me downs from his older brother, or from a flee market sale. Everything wrong-sized, tattered and carrying a whiff of moth balls. Laces on too-big shoes loosely tied. Hair long, unruly and badly in need of a sheer. [Read more…]
December 6, 2016 by 31 Comments
Excerpts from wsj.com: Six luminaries to weigh in on a single topic. This month: Manners:
“When you speak to people of my generation, you’ll find that our parents didn’t talk to us about things; they just told us what to do. From morning until night, you were issued instructions. Seventy-five percent of those instructions had to do with manners—don’t reach in front of another person, elbows off the table. As a result, you had a certain way of seeing the world. I went to the Nobel Prize ceremony with Toni Morrison the year she won. I got up at one point during the dinner to talk with the wife of an editor at Knopf. But when I got to her, she practically shoved me to the ground and said, ‘Don’t you know you can’t stand up when the king is sitting down?’ Well, no, I didn’t know that. How would I know that? Of all the things my mother told me, that is one thing she missed. But other than that I pretty much know everything!”
— Fran Lebowitz is a writer and social commentator.
“When I was a child, my parents used to take me out to a restaurant once a week, even though they didn’t necessarily have the means. Restaurants are a wonderful space for a child to learn the value of good behavior because, in dining, the rules of etiquette are built on respect….
— Charles Masson is a restaurateur. His latest project, Majorelle, opens in December at the Lowell Hotel in New York City.
“My husband and I have four sons and two grown grandchildren. Good manners were as important to their education as their schooling. When our grandchildren came to our house, their parents would say, ‘Mind your Mimi’s manners!’ It’s all about treating people with courtesy and kindness. […] If ever I’m asked an ill-mannered question, I just say, ‘I’ll forgive you for asking me that question if you’ll forgive me for not answering it…’
—Lynn Wyatt is a philanthropist and socialite.
Image: kate spade new york
November 27, 2016 by 55 Comments
The moment, seconds really, should have degraded into an inkblot, edges fraying, burrowing to lose itself among the billions of other moments, stored for retrieval at a later date when a similar moment showed up. Aha, I remember that.
This one Rises, floats on Top, bobbing up and down, making sure it isn’t lost. Remember this, it seems to say. Don’t forget this, it needs to say.
I’m walking Cross-Town on 47th. It’s dark. It’s early, 6:23 am. And, it’s Cold – sub 35° F, with winds gusting. Feels like 26° F. Biting.
I’m wearing a trench coat, knee length, its heavy lining leaning in on my shoulders. It’s zipped to the throat.
The fur lined leather gloves keep the hands and fingers toasty. I grip my case with one, and swing the other, the motion pulling me forward, the pace quick, the blood and bones warming from the movement.
And there he was.
Alone. [Read more…]
November 20, 2016 by 7 Comments
A summer day — I was twelve or thirteen — at my cousins’ house, in the country. They had a fox, collared and on a chain, in a little yard beside the house. All afternoon all afternoon all afternoon it kept—
Once I saw a fox, in an acre of cranberries, leaping and pouncing, leaping and pouncing, leaping and falling back, its forelegs merrily slapping the air as it tried to tap a yellow butterfly with its thin black forefeet, the butterfly fluttering just out of reach all across the deep green gloss and plush of the sweet-smelling bog.
— it kept running back and forth, trembling and chattering.
~ Mary Oliver, from “Staying Alive” in Upstream: Selected Essays
Photos: From Autumn and Winter series by Alexandra Bochkareva (via My Modern Met). The dichotomy between the Mary Oliver excerpt and the photographs is that the fox (Alice) is trained and domesticated. Don’t miss the backstory and additional photos at My Modern Met.
November 12, 2016 by 42 Comments
It’s late afternoon Thursday. We’re walking up 47th street dodging the lingering jewelers, puffing on their Marlboros, blowing smoke rings, their arms out with pamphlets: “We buy Gold Sir, top price.” If I had gold, I wouldn’t be traipsing up 47th street rushing to catch a commuter train. Step back.
My colleague is in front. I’m trailing. He’s a New Yorker to the core, from birth, wily and confident. And you, you Friend, are country, and you can’t take Country out of the Boy.
I catch him and finish sharing a moment:
“I just can’t let it go. I’ve been carrying this with me for two days.”
He pauses: “Are you nuts? Don’t give it another thought. This is New York. Anything could have happened.”
He veers right.
“You’re right. See you tomorrow.” I push on to Grand Central.
Anything could have happened.
It was Tuesday morning, early.
I exit Grand Central. It was brisk, and dark. I wait for the light to turn, and I cross Madison. There’s plenty of time before my morning meeting, no need to push it. Music is streaming in. I’m lip synching James Taylor’s Country Road : “But I could feel it Lord, on a Country Road, Walk on Down…But you know I could feel it child, yeah – Walking on a country road, I guess I know where my feet want me to go.”
I hit repeat, and James sweeps me away again. Lightly Child, Lightly. And on this morning, I’m right there in that sweet groove with Ahab, “he never thinks, he just feels, feels, feels.” And on this morning, here I am, a tall sunflower leaning into the Sun. Sweet Jesus, why can’t I find this place more often.
I pass into a dim section of the street.
He appears directly in front of me from Nowhere.
Unshaven. 5’9″. Tattered corduroys, dark windbreaker. And in my space. I step back, and lift my hand up signaling back, my torso trembling. I re-grip my case. I pull the ear buds out. And Brace.
He points to his ears and emits a muffled: “I’m deaf. I need help.” [Read more…]
November 11, 2016 by 11 Comments
Devoted the main part of the day, from 11 to 3.30 o’clock, to Armory-square hospital; went pretty thoroughly through wards F, G, H, and I — some fifty cases in each ward. In Ward H supplied the men throughout with writing paper and a stamped envelope each, also some cheerful reading matter. […]
My custom is to go through a ward, or a collection of wards, endeavoring to give some trifle to each, without missing any. Even a sweet biscuit, a sheet of paper, or a passing word of friendliness, or but a look or nod, if no more. In this way I go through large numbers without delaying, yet do not hurry. I find out the general mood of the ward at the time; sometimes see that there is a heavy weight of listlessness prevailing, and the whole ward wants cheering up. I perhaps read to the men, to break the spell… […]
He who goes among the soldiers with gifts, etc., must beware how he proceeds. It is much more of an art than one would imagine. They are not charity-patients, but American young men, of pride and independence. The spirit in which you treat them, and bestow your donations, is just as important as the gifts themselves; sometimes more so. […]
To many of the wounded and sick, especially the youngsters, there is something in personal love, caresses, and the magnetic flood of sympathy and friendship, that does, in its way, more good than all the medicine in the world… Many will think this merely sentimentalism, but I know it is the most solid of facts. I believe that even the moving around among the men, or through the ward, of a hearty, healthy, clean, strong, generous-souled person, man or woman, full of humanity and love, sending out invisible, constant currents thereof, does immense good to the sick and wounded.
~ Walt Whitman, recounted his wartime experience in a diaristic piece titled “Hospital Visits,” published in The New York Times in December of 1864
October 24, 2016 by 22 Comments
In the aftermath of the loss of his first race for office, in 1964, Mr. Bush wrote a heartfelt letter to an old friend: “This mean humorless philosophy which says everybody should agree on absolutely everything is not good.” He continued, “When the word moderation becomes a dirty word we have some soul searching to do.” The words — touchingly naïve and heartfelt — seem to come from a vanished world…
Mr. Bush was the last president of the World War II generation. A decorated combat hero, he nevertheless found it incredibly difficult to talk about himself — a legacy from his mother, who discouraged self-reference and self-absorption by saying that no one wanted to hear about the Great I Am. As a child, Mr. Bush was nicknamed Have-Half for his tendency to split any treats in two to share with friends. His was an ethos of empathy. Mr. Bush always wondered about what “the other guy” was thinking and feeling. […]
Mr. Bush tempered his own ambition with empathy and dignity. Late in his years as Mr. Reagan’s vice president, Mr. Bush was shown into a children’s leukemia ward in Krakow, Poland. Thirty-five years before, he and his wife, Barbara, had lost a child to the disease, a family tragedy of which he rarely spoke in public. In Krakow, one patient, a 7- or 8-year-old boy, wanted to greet the American vice president. Learning that the child was sick with the cancer…Mr. Bush began to cry. “My eyes flooded with tears,” he dictated to his audio diary, “and behind me was a bank of television cameras.” He told himself, “I can’t turn around,” can’t “dissolve because of personal tragedy in the face of a host of reporters and our hosts and the nurses who give of themselves every day.” So “I stood there looking at this little guy, tears running down my cheek” — “hoping he didn’t see, but, if he did, hoping he’d feel that I loved him.”
Mr. Bush’s is a voice from a past at once distant and close at hand — and a voice we should seek to heed, for we need that grace now, in our own time.
~ Jon Meacham, Nostalgia for the Grace of George H.W. Bush