Tag Archives: family

Sunrise/Sunset at the Rodeo

Despite the peripheral crazies on my job, my immediate co-workers are amazing. Back on one cold December morning, one of them took a picture of the sunrise from our office building rooftop. It was a reminder that we were close to shooting and at the “dawn” of our new project.

Seven months later, during an overnight shoot on a warm summer morning, he went up on our rooftop again to take a picture of the sunrise over Brooklyn. He called it our “light at the end of the tunnel.” Another co-worker remarked that for it to truly come full-circle, we should really take a picture of the setting sun, a full daylight cycle, marking the end of a very wild ride.

Sunset over Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn

It’s the little things like this that mean the most. We never let a day go by without laughing so hard we were crying, office QOTD’s are written down so we’ll never forget. These are my war buddies and this is what I love about my job, each show is so unique, the dynamics, the energy, the talents, the highs and the lows. Working on a movie is also called a “rodeo.” And, the name is very apropos. Each movie is like an untamed stallion, you start out with a beast, but by sunset, you can anticipate nearly every buck and kick of your trained equine. You’ve mastered it, and now it’s time to let the horse go out into the world, while you saddle up in time for the next sunrise.

–Downtown

Happy Father’s Day to the Mothers

As tough my mother was on my father throughout their lives together, and it wasn’t all misdirected, this Father’s Day, I pay homage to my husband, the father of my children. He is a truly good man, dedicated father, devoted husband. And yes, sometimes, he drives me nuts. And yes, he works all most of the time. But it’s for the good of many. Trouble is, I can’t help but see my mean frustrated mother shining through as I berate my husband for some perceived shortcoming. And then I pause, mostly, because it is father’s day. But of course, he’s not my father. I’m the mother of his children. They are the ones that should be celebrating their father.

I halt my fury on the heels of  Sandra Tsing Loh’s not so subtle message re marriage in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, the friend you wrote about not long ago here and Sunday’s NY Times Style Section review of single-mothers-to-be memoirs by Christine Coppa, a 28-year-old blogger and freelance writer; and by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, a 39-year old journalist.

On the one hand, I can’t help but express my profound respect for single mothers, some by choice, others not. Circumstances aside, their courage and commitment to their children is to be celebrated. But on father’s day, I am reminded of my good fortune to have partnered with a person with whom I share the joys and travails coupled with a smidge of personal and financial expense that comes with raising children. It’s not so easy. But neither is marriage. Just ask Sandra Tsing Loh. Like anything, raising kids takes work. and a lot of it. No matter who’s in charge.

Pretty Faces by Jackie of Elmhurst, IL with thanks to etsy.com

Pretty Faces by Jackie of Elmhurst, IL with thanks to etsy.com

h is for home

picture-18picture-19

What Makes a House a Home?

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You Can See the Sky, Mountain Man

sometimes it takes a bit of searching.

The New York Times, New York Observed

Mountain Man
By CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

March 8, 2009

“SIX months ago, I decided to move back to the East Coast from the West. This might not seem like much, but for me the decision was momentous: Thirteen years earlier, I’d struck out for Seattle — just about as far from family and familiarity in the contiguous United States as an Eastern-raised boy could get. Now I was turning around, leaving behind different friends, a different familiarity.

That day in 1995 when I’d pointed my battered Volkswagen toward the Pacific Northwest like some latter-day prairie schooner, I’d told my parents that a job awaited me there. But it was just as accurate to say that I went because of the mountains.

The year before, someone had shown this Virginia kid pictures of Washington’s North Cascades — ragged and uncompromising things of rock and fir that wore their snows deep into summer and held their feet in cold rivers. This was the West I wanted, the life I wanted, far from the quick wife/kid/cul-de-sac life the East had laid out for me.

Once I arrived, I discovered what I already felt to be true: I’m a mountain man. In the way that others need to live near the sea to equalize the saltwater sloshing inside of them, I grow dizzy if I’m too long without an uncluttered horizon.

“I’ll never move back east,” I told anyone who would listen, speaking in the absolutes of one who is in love for the first time.

And now, here I was, in a city I’d thought I’d never be, looking up at a thing I thought I’d never see: a mountain in Manhattan.

It was autumn. I was one month new to town, and indulging in one of the purposeless rambles around the island that newcomers enjoy but that longtime New Yorkers embark on only when disconsolate or drunk or unable to find the subway. And then, there it was: Rounding some corner on the Lower East Side, I came face to face for the first time with the Municipal Building.

The unexpected beauty of that hoary skyscraper, its blocky mass lightened by its Deer Isle granite, the cold November sun gilding the copper statue of Civic Fame against the blue November sky, stopped me. I felt the way I used to feel when I rounded a bend in the trail and confronted a peak I’d never seen before.

I’d returned east for the reason that so many over the past 150 years before me had packed their best suit and come east: I needed things I felt the West couldn’t give me. I needed the adrenal squeeze of this grasping, shouting, maddening city, this place where all lines converge, and at every convergence there’s somebody hustling, creating, working an angle.

I knew I’d miss the mountains of the West more than anything else, more even than friends or the amniotic comfort of routine. In Seattle, the mountains stand at every compass point. To drive over the city’s Aurora Bridge in the morning rush and see 14,000-foot Mount Rainier unveiled after a week of rain, its melted ice cream cone summit afloat on a raft of dawn-pink clouds, is to feel suddenly buoyant about the day’s prospects.

Seeing that first mountain in Manhattan, I flushed with the same delight, followed by something like shame, that this ersatz alp could give such pleasure. But I soon realized that whoever described the city as a concrete canyonland had his topography all wrong. We live in a little Himalaya.

And once you notice a mountain in this city, you begin to see mountains everywhere, much the same way that a new word, freshly learned, suddenly seems the favorite of every editorial writer. Walk outside in the morning and entire ranges have grown up overnight, massive tectonic surges taken place while the city slept.

One bitter cold December afternoon, I tumbled out of my fifth-floor walk-up in the East Village, looked north and found the top of the Empire State Building brushed with a rouge of alpenglow as delicate as any that night on the distant Monashees.

Other days I disappear from my desk for hours, zip on the yellow mountaineering parka that marks me as a newcomer and embark on an expedition. I walk past the Baruch College business school, whose sooty, sloping facade is a late-summer glacier slumping off the corner of East 24th Street and Lexington Avenue.

THEN it’s west to one of the benches in Madison Square Park, with their neck-craning Matterhorn views up to the great golden horn capping the New York Life Building. Can it be only happy coincidence that mountain climbers and architects share the same language to describe the objects of their passion, that both talk of slope and cornice, spur and buttress, fluting, pitch, spire?

Round another corner of the park, and the great limestone thrust of the Empire State Building strides into view. The city’s emblematic building doesn’t appear gradually, but stands apart, some sage zoning official having known that the very best buildings, like the most majestic mountains and most striking women, demand a little space to be appreciated.

My fellow New Yorkers see none of this. They walk with their heads down as if in prayer, worrying their iPhones. And so, among eight million, I am all alone in these mountains.

Of course, “alone” cuts both ways when you are a mountain man strange to a big city and away from your loyal mountains.

One Saturday night not long ago, in the meatpacking district, I passed up a birthday party of somebody scarcely known, too lonesome for the company of strangers.

I began to walk uptown in pursuit of a bright peak on the black horizon. A raw wind swept people into doorways and bars, leaving the sidewalks empty except for the solitary figure who pushed onward in a bright down jacket.

Finally, I stood at a corner staring up at the Chrysler Building, its Art Deco steel crown aglow in a fuzzy halo of its own bright creation. Sleet ghosted past the top as if spindrift carried off the summit of Finsteraarhorn, or Forbidden Peak, or the Gran Zebru, or any of a dozen other summits I had stood below, just like now, cold needling every finger yet still unwilling to move.

I leaned against a standpipe for a little longer. After that I was better, and I turned left on 42nd and went into Grand Central and stood under the main concourse’s pale vault of night: I had a sudden, overpowering desire to see the stars.”

Christopher Solomon’s work has appeared in “The Best American Travel Writing, 2006.”

WOW, I couldn’t have said it any more clearly. Thank you Christopher Solomon. Keep your chin and your eyes upward. I’ll try my best to do the same.

SnOw-Bama 3 of 3

Central Park, New York, NY       January 20, 2009

Central Park, New York, NY January 20, 2009

A new day dawns as the sun sets over Central Park on the day the 44th President of the United States was sworn into office.

It’s Always Something

The 11 year old and I headed to the Washington Heights Armory late this afternoon to watch a high school track meet img_3533 in which the 14 year old did her thing.

It’s a quick ride north to 168th Street on the No. 1 train during which the 11 year old noted that everyone in the subway spoke Spanish. Everyone but the two of us, of course, which is only fodder for the school kid to continue his language studies. He proceeded to conjugate ir/to go for me and told me how to say 168th Street in Spanish. In less than 20 minutes, we arrived at the designated subway station, with it’s high ceilings, globe lanterns img_3517, wall mounted lighting, AND an overpass (rather than the underpass to traverse the tracks, all of which looked quite different from midtown and downtown stations. One of the highlights as we headed toward the station exit was an obligatory elevator ride up to ground level. An “operator” sat on a stool nestled behind a yellow barricade of sorts while he pushed buttons. He played a recording of latin music for our listening enjoyment. No head phones, the real deal.

Once above ground, it’s hard not to notice NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center as it covers most of the surrounding blocks. Historically, Washington Heights was a refuge for eastern European Jews and for all I know, my paternal grandparents lived there before they “made it” in the garment industry and moved to Lawrence, NY. I’ll never know since there’s no one around to ask… Today, it’s said to have a heavy concentration of Dominicans but a Starbucks on a corner overshadowed any obvious ethnicity. Of course, our mission was to find The Armory, an indoor track and field situation for high schoolers. Who knew? The 100 year old building charged $5 for spectator admission but it was well worth the price to see the interior and cheer for the home team. When I asked the 11 year old, if he was enjoying our adventure north, he replied “every minute of it,” and smiled sincerely. It helped that his school had athletes racing in the boys’ heats.

Legwork complete, we headed homeward. Again, though in reverse, it was easy to ride the No. 1 train south from 168th street. We hopped off at Columbus Circle to catch the No. 5 bus across town. During the transfer, a series of police cars lined the circle, in formation, img_3542 red lights flashing. The officers informed us that “occasionally they are stationed at random points for surveillance.” Sure. Whatever. The bus came, we rode across town in time to see Bergdorf Goodman’s creepy holiday window decorations img_3553 being dismantled. The snowflake twinkling above the intersection of 57th Street on Fifth Avenue, however, still shines bright, img_35472 as a reminder of UNICEF’s efforts to help save, protect and improve the lives of children around the world through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. There’s so much to be done…

Salaam, City Dwellers

No sooner had I dodged nearly 15 black clad male paparazzi who were hot on the trail of Kate Hudson as she, together with two friends, exited Barneys on Madison Ave at 61st Street did I hear the chants of men img_3509 marching northbound on Park Avenue between 61st and 65th Streets.

I recalled a similar procession this time last year, when a group of Shiite observers, both men and women, gathered together, albeit the fairer sex stands at the tail end or along the perimeter, in memory of the death of Hussein, the grandson of Islamic prophet, Mohammed. Many of the male participants beat their chests as a display of their devotion to Imam Husayn and in remembrance of his suffering during the Battle of Karbala. Most of the people are dressed in black for mourning, there is a ceremonial white horse clad in colorful regalia and young boys carry signs and ceremonial banners. img_3484

A group of four or five men offered me a cup of tea from their truck img_3479when I asked what was in their cauldron. I accepted and learned that the procession takes place in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and serves as a way to remember the loss of a leader.

Bystanders from the toney upper east side neighborhood are used to seeing parades that flow along Fifth Avenue. There’s the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and last year, we watched the Pope in his Pope Mobile roll merrily along.

Because the procession spanned a space of four blocks, the police cars and their blinking red lights could be seen at the beginning and the end of the gathering. Larger gatherings, like the ones that residents from the tony upper east side are more familiar with, are also led and concluded by squad cars. Similarly, we watch the parades and observe differences, as in the German Day parade where Alpine men where lederhosen march to the tune of an oompah band.

One lady in her 70’s, who wasn’t Muslim, remarked that she’d never seen anything like this before in all her years in the ‘hood. A man in his 50’s explained that it wasn’t new, that they were Shias and that in other parts of the world, processions like the one today happen with regularity. A doorman told me that the procession ran along the Avenue up to the Pakistani consul’s office on East 65th Street. I didn’t stick around to follow the trail. Suffice it to say, for some the sight is new. For our children, it is their multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world.

May we all live together in peace and prosperity.

Post-Turkey Wrap-Up (aka Leftovers)

I was reluctant to leave the city the on Wednesday night. My original intention was to head up to the Museum of Natural History after work, grab a drink with friends, watch the balloons inflate and head back downtown to a party in my ‘hood with another friend and her six sisters. Unfortunately, come 9pm, I was still in Brooklyn, at work, plans foiled and just gunning to make it to the last ferry out of town. After finally home-holidaysheading out the office door at 9:30, I took the G train, L train, taxi to 39th and WS Hwy, ferry to Weehawken, NJ, and finally car to suburban NY, where I made it home on time to catch the tail end of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 with my 12-year-old neighbor, who was hanging out at our house with my parents and sister — her mother would show up at our door Thanksgiving morning with coffee and bagels, thanking us for allowing her daughter a break from their household chaos.

As I think I’ve mentioned in past posts, we really don’t have any family to speak of (or that we speak to). All of my “relatives” are basically old family friends who were christened Aunts, Uncles, Godparents and cousins, save for my maternal grandmother. So, our actual Thanksgiving festivities included my Godmother, Uncle and cousins, our neighbors and their daughters and our neighbor’s sister, her husband, and son, 20 people in total (and three dogs!) and a surprise guest, another family friend’s son showed up for dessert and Karaoke after attending his father and Step-mother’s “lame” (his words) Thanksgiving dinner.

We were all mostly thankful for the fact we were having Thanksgiving together, not with crazy relatives, not alone, and definitely not without laughter and 20-plus years worth of stories (from hospital rooms to hotels, summer vacations to Sunday dinners) to prove that these people are not just our friends, they are our family.
–Downtown

The Mother of Reinvention

I’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention lately. As I walk through the city or see her skyline change from afar, Manhattan might be the capitol of reinvention on a urban scale. The architecture melds old and new, the statue of liberty gathers together our “huddled masses,” Ellis Island was the original gateway to reinvention — even mother nature has a hand in it, shedding old leaves from the trees in Central Park, storing chlorophyll for the new. All of this reminds me that not only is reinvention possible, it’s cyclical. It might be an ambitious statement to say that I feel our country can reinvent itself, after all, our forefathers managed to remake themselves and establish this country on their own terms. But sometimes the fall is harder than the resurrection; the ashes more difficult than the rising.

I am trying to be positive amidst all of this, despite the fact I have wavering clients, a monthly rent, late paychecks, and work for myself — if I was a nail-biter, I’d be down to the quick by now. I panic a little when I think a month or two or three down the road, my dwindling savings account, wondering if the work will stay steady. I send out resumes and panic again thinking of a cubicle, monotony, boring daily banter with co-workers, office politics. ugh. But I come from a family of re-inventors. For my mother, it was a way of life growing up in a family where she had to reinvent herself as a adult when she was still a teen. For my father, the black sheep of his family, he went from country boy to city slicker (literally) overnight. When his business failed, he learned a new trade and started another and when that didn’t work, he tried something else — third time’s a charm in my family. Same for my mother, she outgrew her first job, floundered in the second and hit her professional stride in her third. My parents had a lot more to lose (house, car, kids, bills), but they still took the leap.

I learned from the best and looked to what made me happy, until it all came to an abrupt end — not one I wanted, but sometimes you have to cool your passion and let it come to you in another way. While I continue to work at that, I’m on job 6,000, career number three, and all I know is it’s definitely not something I want to continue. I miss what I love, but am not sure I can go back to square one with it again. I ate the dirt the first time, for a few years, until I made it to a reasonable level, but then it came crashing down, falling like pieces around me. I wasn’t able to put the puzzle back together myself and finally struck out for new, corporate territory — though that too proved to be a suit I wasn’t ready to wear. So I sit here, going through the motions of a job, waiting for something to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am looking and emailing and calling and networking, but in the end it’s still a waiting game. The irony is my quest for reinvention is reflected back at me in the state of our union, our election and our natural disasters. It makes the fight a little more difficult, melancholy. When I feel this way, I repeat a quote that became my mantra when I first read it in the book, Charlotte Gray, several years ago: “… You become an entirely different being every decade or so, sloughing off the old persona, renewing and moving on. You are not who you were, nor who you will become.”

I just have to keep remembering that, breathe deep and reinvent, yet again.

-Downtown