Some folks save postcards. Many keep a diary. And yet others save hotel soap. Found at Tin Can Trading Post, one of my favorite thrift/antique shops in Callicoon. The proprietor, Sal Siggia, kindly let me borrow these. I find it so charming that whoever saved these, decided to write on the back of several of the soaps so that they would remember where they were from.
For a lot of people across the country, Walmart is pretty much the only gig in town. And, if you’re in a rural area and happen to need kraft paper and packing tape at 7:30 in the morning, it’s almost certainly the case. I try to avoid shopping there, but sometimes it seems unavoidable. This is how I ended up at the local Superstore last week. Since it was so early, I was almost entirely alone. After I found what I was looking for (if you’ve been to a Walmart, you know this is an aberration) I decided to wander around and look at what’s on offer. I don’t like what these stores have done to the retail and manufacturing world, not to mention the consumer habits they have perpetuated. But instead of just bitching about them and their practices, I thought I should see for myself. I wandered into the sporting goods area. After getting over my recurring surprise at the guns and ammunition on display (at least they no longer sell handguns in the lower 48), I found my way into the fishing aisle. Since I know virtually nothing about fishing lures or bait, it all looked good to me. With all the hundreds of different shapes, patterns and colors, I had a fleeting moment of appreciation. They’re nice, aren’t they?
When I was young (3-6 yrs. old) and living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, there was an abandoned house next door to ours. Actually, I think it was a garage with an apartment upstairs. But because I was little, it seemed huge. And scary. In part because Mrs. O’Brien, an ogre of a woman who lived in the main house, was meaner than mean. I believe she once hit my father with a rolled up newspaper, or an umbrella, because she was angry about our barking dog. She may have had a point. Anyway, my parents, heeding the laws and perhaps some hidden dangers, forbid us to go inside. But try squelching the curiosity of two small children eager to defy the rules. When we did finally sneak our way in, we found boxes and letters and lots of broken glass (the danger part!) scattered among three-legged chairs and the mustiest air imaginable. Sorry, I digress. I just found a few photos from a little jaunt my husband and I made over to Governors Island a year or so ago. The city decided to open up some of the buildings — the fancy officers houses and the red brick dormitories — to the public. It was truly amazing. Peeling paint, everything fallen into decrepitude, and many many closed doors. It brought back that crazy childhood impulse to trespass in a big way. The photographs don’t even begin to do it justice. So, this summer, if you have a chance, hop on one of the ferries, take the seven minute ride, and go! Read about the history of the island here.
I was tagging along on this particular trip to Home Depot. Something about my spouse wanting peat moss for the potato trench. All words I never thought I would string together in a single sentence. The gardening and landscaping section is at the far end of the store so there is little incentive to wander if one wants to get in and out in a clean sweep. And we both get a little cranky on these outings. Something about the big box retailer thing. All was not lost though. I found momentary happiness in and among the stacks of wheelbarrows, paving stones and watering cans!
This is a personal little tidbit: When I was 7 and my brother was 9, my mother decided to move us to Paris. She had visited a few months prior and left her notebook in a cafe. She decided it was fate. Or was it serendipity? Anyway, instead of relocating via airplane (boring!), she opted for the slow boat. The S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam. The very same ship pictured here. How she afforded it still baffles me. It was the last transatlantic voyage for this vessel and its Dutch crew. Any passage thereafter was spent in the Caribbean. We departed from a pier on New York’s west side. All the requisite streamers and champagne were there to see us off. It had to be one of the MOST exciting days…ever. Until my mother realized that she had left her luggage sitting on our porch back in Philadelphia. Oops. She was a trooper though, and made the best of an awkward situation. She also quickly made friends, all of whom were happy to lend her a dress here, a pantsuit there (It was the 70s). But mostly she just wore the same thing. We were supposed to dock in Le Havre, but there was a dockworkers strike so we couldn’t make port. Through some stroke of genius, or luck, or both, the trip ended up being extended for a few extra days before finally anchoring in Rotterdam. Photo via Old Chum via Electrospark.
Last week, on a dismal rainy evening, I trekked out to Coney Island Avenue to meet some old friends of mine for an evening of food from the Caucasus. We are an intrepid little band of eaters, and our cravings often take us outside the familiar bounds of Manhattan and Brooklyn. I arrived early, and a good 10 or 12 blocks from the restaurant, so took my time in getting there. As I was walking towards my destination, I passed by a large Russian supermarket and jumped at the chance to get out of the rain. Plus, give me a supermarket or a hardware store and I am at my happiest. I ended up walking back and forth through the entire store. Everything was printed in Cyrillic. No one spoke English. The odd shaped biscuits caught my attention (and were far easier to transport than the 50 types of feta, countless canned goods or the giant cow heart from the meat display). So familiar and yet totally strange. From the shape of the Russian writing baked into the diamond-shaped cookies to the green string holding together a necklace of vanilla scented, donut-like sweets. Always amazed at how the most mundane item can be such a clear reflection of another place.