Monthly Archives: August 2008

That’s Lice

Last Wednesday’s visit to the salon was the bomb.

Fortunately for me, and for an anxious 14-year old just back from camp in Canada, LA based Hair Fairies has a New York outlet and they were able to schedule an appointment within an hour of my call for help. Another enterprise, one that makes regular visits to the teen’s school for head checks, wasn’t able to confirm an appointment time when I called just before 9 a.m. or again at 10. So, a googling I went to find the competition.  And whew, Hair Fairies rose to the top.

Here’s the thing: I was aware that there are professionals who can check and offset the lice problem. makes me itch just thinking about it And while people do, it’s not necessary to throw out all of your furniture, stuffed animals, toys and have every lick of clothing sent to the cleaners. You may, but there are cleaning techniques and even companies that will do the cleaning/delousing for you. The bugs can only live off the head for 24 to 48 hours. And they don’t fly but are transmitted through direct contact. Remain calm. Within an hour of my request, we dashed “calmly” to the salon in the west 30s.

My fairy princess sat in her barber shop throne while the dedicated technician, clad in royal blue scrubs, a navy blue bandana around her head and gold earrings with Timothy written in script from one end of the hoop to the other, manually checked her hair and scalp. She separated the hair, fine tooth combing section by section first dry, then wet, from top to bottom, under and over, in search of head lice. At each interval, dry, wet and a third looksee with nit zapping cream, V-Marie stated her findings or lack thereof.  “Didn’t find anything yet,” she said.

Meanwhile, I checked out the salon scene. Long locked Hannah Montana played on a flat screen across the room, colorful kids playthings neatly arranged throughout included a kitchen corner, drawing table, game boy DS, a noticeable lack of fabric and teeny curly headed fairies hung down from the tops of each of the four window frames overlooking Avenue of the Americas.

And then, “Nothing,” said V-Marie with a smile. She completed the wet stage of her comb-through examination of the near waist-length Botticelli like curls of my growing girl.

As to why head lice seem to have gone mainstream, ie fancy sleep away camps, private schools, kids, teens and adults, it’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps they’ve developed a resistance to the pesticides that people use to rid themselves of the white bugs and eggs. No matter, they exist and deal with the prospect we did.

The morning after we arrived home, the early-to-rise camper cum glamour girl crawled into my bed, leaned her head against the fabric headboard and proceeded to watch a video on her laptop. I did my best to refrain from cringing over the prospect of little white bugs crawling from her head to my bed. I was touched, frankly, by her wanting to be with me after weeks apart. Besides, the worst thing I could do, I think, would be to show my anxiety and turn her away. If the bugs were in our house, they were in our house, my bed or not.  Freaking out about the unknown wouldn’t serve me or my daughter.

Caring for her, about her, is as simple as saying it’s my job. I would do anything for my children.  No matter what. The way a mom stands by her wretching child, holding her hair, gently stroking her back as she heaves into the toilet. Gross, yes, but of no import. What matters is trying to offer some sense of humility in an otherwise unpleasant time.

Yet somehow, with the bugs, though I did a preliminary looksee, it was to little avail. I didn’t really know what I was looking for nor was I forced to delouse her head or our home. Fortunately for this household, no bugs, no nits.  A giant sigh of relief. And next time, I’ll know who to call.

Sounds of Silence. Summer out of the City.

Back in town after a few days north of the border where we collected the 14 year old from her summer camp experience. It was a beautiful day to drive South via Ithaca with a stop at Moosewood Café and quick tour of the University/College town and home of DT’s alma mater. I must say, for a place that is “gorges,” the trash cans are not abundant but neither is the trash (so something’s going right). I loved the crunchy nature of the place – strikingly white, however, or is it just me? After yesterday’s visit to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls where our foursome was clearly in the minority of nations represented, the whiteness of Ithaca was striking.

And speaking of another world, the husband/physician-scientist and I listened to Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss which was nothing less than incredibly depressing. But compelling and a good listen for hours on end, 800+ miles in five days) through beautiful rolling tree covered hills, lush farmland, alongside lakes and across rivers.

We reached 125th Street on the West Side early this evening when we heard our first car horn after days of silence. A traffic-light changed just seconds prior, make that split in the life of the hurried traveler. “Welcome to the City,” said the horn/husband. Sheesh.

And then, after class this eve, as I exited a cab, a car honked at a line of cars being blocked by a trash truck. Fortunately for me, the cabbie suggested I take my time. That was a gift. Honestly, deep breaths and remaining calm are what it will take for me to be back in this noisy metropolis where so many people are in perpetual motion. Where are they heading, why are they rushed? Give me strength. Give me silence. I can no longer hear the loons calling.

Look Back on Time with Kindly Eyes

In a fair suburb of New York, the same suburb where Uptown grew up, I spent my formative years at an all-girls middle/high school nestled on a hillside. The school was founded at the turn-of-the-century. We had a headmistress, a tragic Gothic tale, which resulted in a lively ghost who was rumored to roam the halls, beautiful old stone buildings and dormitories whose rooms were nestled in the eaves. It was an idyllic setting where we all read Jane Eyre, spent evenings laying on the great lawn looking at the stars, and winter days sledding down the steep hill on our lunch trays. We all had that teenage angst (some more than others), but we were part of a global community, with nearly 70 percent of our student body hailing from around the country and around the world. Two of my closest friends however, were New Yorkers (one suburban and one a city kid).

I was always fascinated by the city friend, she possessed an “otherness” about her that could only have been a direct result of her growing up in the Village during the 80’s and 90’s to artistic, Bohemian parents. Her mother looked like a dark-haired version of Claudette Colbert, but spoke in a voice more akin to Lauren Bacall. Her father was a little more of a wayfarer and eventually moved out of their apartment and to the “gritty” neighborhood of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

Having our school situated on the train line to Grand Central, my two friends and I spent almost every weekend in the city, visiting the Met and sitting directly across from the massive “Joan D’Arc” painting (second floor, make a left, walk down the hall and another left and it’s all the way down on the right) where my suburban friend would sit sketching, while my city friend would be writing songs about the paintings. I would simply sit there staring, taking in the art and watching people react to the paintings. We would then roam through the Village, stopping at Hudson Street Papers and Tea & Sympathy and walk along Charles Street. My city friend had such a self-possession. Everything she did intrigued me. She was perhaps, the person I most wanted to be at the time, because she was so unlike me. I didn’t have an air of mystery, grow up in Manhattan, attend art openings since birth, or act in my mother’s movies and performance art pieces. But I so wanted that all, minus the dysfunction that seemed to come with it.

In tenth grade however, my city friend betrayed me in a typical adolescent way, and we were no longer friends. There were no more impromptu photo shoots in the music building while she strummed Mazzy Star or Tori Amos on her guitar, no laughing in the dorms as we recited Shakespeare, Dickinson or Rossetti with each other. My suburban friend remained, but after her parents died within a few years of each other, she receded, feeling a bit like she had been marked by a scarlet letter. I stuck by her through high school and even college. September 11th happened while she was studying in Morocco. We spent the day instant messaging each other, since news was being censored on her end, I was her one link to the rest of the world that day. I sent her a care package with peanut butter and that horrible cover of Time magazine with the Twin Towers being struck. We lost touch shortly after that. Until today, when I reached out to her and then the other friend found me.

I met my suburban friend at Tea & Sympathy. A place which I’ve written about and been to hundreds of times. As we sat down today, examining each other’s faces for signs of the girls we once were, she remarked, “I haven’t been here since high school.” She looked around and I knew she saw exactly what I did. A version of our younger selves, sitting in the window, having tea, laughing and whispering. Who would think that in nine years, not much has changed. We were both the same people at the core. She’s still funny, honesty and fiercely intelligent. I’m still me. But we’re both free of that adolescent pain that held us back from being ourselves. We picked up exactly where our last tea left off, we laughed and whispered, talked about our lives and passions and our futures. “This was fun,” I said. “Let’s stay in touch. Maybe do something next week?” And true to her humorous and candid form, my friend replied, “I’m glad you said it first. Because last week I said that to someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and they said, ‘ummm, yeah. Maybe I’ll call you.”‘

And our city friend? She has changed her name, and now shares her new identity with that of a Pre-Raphaelite muse. Her photo square sits in my “Friend Request” box on Facebook, her strong features staring back at me. I haven’t accepted her yet. The adolescent in me is brutal, she wants the adult me to remain mysterious, self-possessed, and let the city friend wait there, in limbo. And for once I’m listening to my younger self, and leaving the request “pending.”

-Downtown

Mr. Softee does Mid-town

Had to chuckle on Thursday as I did my banking at the lavish Citibank branch on the SE corner of Fifth Avenue at 60th Street. First, it was funny to me to hear Debbie Harry singing her 1979 hit, “Dreaming” in the confines of the lushly carpeted, rococo style bank branch across the street from The Plaza in all of her splendor. The song is nearly 30 years old, older than DT, and the tune brings me back to my days as a summer camp counselor in Maine, many moons apart from my UT life as a mother, wife, working girl.

Smiling I was as I stepped out onto the pedestrian lined sidewalk only to find Mr. Softee parked on the same corner selling his treats to a pair of middle aged women. This is summer in the City, 2008 style. Blondie meets Mr. Softee. I wonder who came first? xo

What Color is the Empire State Building?

Uptown is out of town but en route to VA from NY on Thursday evening, we turned to bid farewell to our adopted city and admire the Manhattan skyline from the Great Grey Bridge. Red, white and blue lighting atop the Empire State Building (ESB) caught our eye and we guessed the patriotic palette was in recognition of our athletes abroad.

Sure enough, this week and next, the Empire State Building (ESB) shines the flag colors of the top 66 countries competing in the games, based on the number of athletes attending from each country.

For the first time ever, the monument split the tower’s sides into separate colors and is lighting each of the four sides of its famed tower—north, south, east and west—in the colors of the participating countries’ flags.

Thursday night the monument shined bright in recognition of the United States and Chinese flags with red, white and blue on the North and South sides and red, yellow and red on the East and West sides.

The ESB lighting schedule can be accessed by linking here:http://www.esbnyc.com/tourism/tourism_lightingschedule.cfm

Colors are listed from bottom to top as they appear from the street.

If you happen catch a glimpse, here’s what you’ll see tonight:

North side: Czech Republic
Red/White/Blue

West side: Russia
Red/Blue/White

South side: Italy
Red/White/Green

East side: Nigeria
Green/White/Green

All a-Twitter

We are Twittering. If you’re interested in checking out the daily goings-on in our Uptown/Downtown lives beyond the blog, join us over here.

Down the Toilet

New York City apartments. We put up with a lot of things about them. The price, the size, the lack of closet space, their walking distance to public transportation, and sometimes even the proximity to the actual city itself (hello to our Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens readers!) but I am soooo tired of putting up with my plumbing. As earlier posts attest, I have some issues with the pipes in my bathroom ceiling. Those issues didn’t go away. Not the first time, not the second or third time and definitely not this time. Overnight, I went from having a nice, flat ceiling, to one that was swollen like the belly of a woman who is seven months pregnant. In came the Super and his workers to “fix” the problem, and out I went to try and find a place to make deadlines and conference calls. This was fine for a day, but when I went home and saw my bathroom was literally a pile of rubble, back out I went. Except this time, I went out of town for a few days to work and enjoy working bathrooms (thanks, mom and dad!).

But that was last week. Now it’s Tuesday and the work is finally wrapping up. I spent today ducking in-and-out of Starbucks to use their bathroom — not once purchasing any coffee. My daytime roommates who are inhabiting my bathroom to repair the damage don’t know that though my conversational Spanish isn’t great, I can still understand what they say when they talk about me. Their discussion went something like this (my translations are rough, to say the least):

Short worker guy: ¿cuál es su trabajo?

Mustachioed worker: No creo que tiene un trabajo.

Short worker: Deseo que no tuviera que trabajar.

Mustachioed worker: Si no trabajara, miraría la televisión de los deportes.

The next time the mustachioed one passed through my living room/office, I was on YouTube, watching a short video about Rwandan relief efforts. I saw him sneak at glance over at my monitor. Sure enough, my movements were reported to his vertically-challenged friend:

“Mira la televisión en su computadora.”

“Ohhh.”

After my “work police” left, I spent the evening cleaning up after them, vacumming, wiping the film of dry plaster off my floors, cleaning my toilet and then my whole bathroom. All I could think about while doing this were my repairmen saying:

“Quizás es una señorita de la limpieza.”

“Ohhh.”

-Downtown