Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We all had our favorite things in New York.  Setting aside the NBA Store as a standard other things can't hope to reach, we have Sarah and Asian art at the Met, Suz and dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History, Kathy watching her nieces, and me . . . looking at water towers.

Yes, pretty much all the world at my feet, and I am smitten by what are essentially large barrels on the tops of buildings.  What is with that?  The humble water tower, like this one on a building directly across from our hotel, is something human in a city that seems to thrive on mechanized.  Its scale is all out of proportion to its usefulness.  All buildings are required to have water towers, in order to maintain water pressure.  Required.  So on top of every building, great or small, hidden or not, there is a water tower.

Some of them, on the newer buildings, are either concealed as part of the architecture, or made to look like squat pieces of machinery, like the innumerable HVAC systems that sprout everywhere.  But many of them are charmingly similar to barrels, great copper-bound wooden tanks, that apparently leak until the wood swells and seals them.  These look like little primitive huts on the tops of great buildings.  They're a small, organic touch in a city of colossae, unlikely African villages sprouting on the roofs, or yurts that have evolved to appreciate urban life. 

When I think of New York, the first thing I remember is not the cabs or the crowds, the press of humanity or the energy, but the water towers, perched on the roofs, benevolent little Buddhas, forgotten, but more necessary than the women in tall boots and the men in overcoats.  The city would not miss one human in ten million, alas, but it would miss water pressure pretty quickly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Favorite Things and Suz's Latent Talents

We have been to the Met, to the observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center, and the Natural History Museum.  We have been to St. Patrick's cathedral.  We have watched people ice skating and looked at the monstrous tree on Rockefeller Plaza.  Know what the girls' favorite thing is?

The NBA Store. 

Yes, the reason Suz looks slightly glassy-eyed is that she has her hand inside Tim Duncan's handprint.  This is the same look we saw when she looked at the dinosaur skeletons, and when she was taking a picture of Sarah with the triceratops.  It's a look that hasn't changed in 24 years, and I hope it never does.  Part of the fun of taking the girls on this kind of adventure is seeing the world through their eyes.  Suz's are wide open.  Sarah's probably would be, but she has a cold, and doesn't like to fly, something that's coloring her experience.

One thing the chicks agree on is that cab rides are fun.  It's like being in a giant pinball game where none of the balls ever quite touch -- they veer off at the last second.  When we got out of the museum yesterday evening, it was closing, getting dark, and chilly.  We could not get a cab for squat, until we flung Suz out into traffic, where she hailed one almost immediately.  My daughter -- cab bait.  Of course, since there were four of us, she had to sit up front with a man who turned out to be Mr. Smelly, but it was (for us in the back) a small price to pay.  Sarah got to enjoy a lot of young men pulling bike taxies, a win all 'round.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Girls' Weekend in NYC

What am I doing in New York on a weekend in November?  Because I couldn't be here on a weekend in August.  Every year my sis and I take a trip together.  We have prowled eastern Pennsylvania in search of gardens; we have been to the beach; we have mucked about in Kentucky horse country and spent a long weekend in a Shaker village. 

What we've never done is New York City, a place Kathy visits routinely for her job, but where I had never been.  What an obvious choice.  Then we decided this would be a fun thing to do with my daughters, and so the plan required really cheap plane tickets, thus, November.

And here we are, although perhaps Sarah wishes she wasn't, insofar as she took one look at the plane and would have backed out on the spot if she could have.  New York, home of more people than the entire state of Virginia, is also home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the big carrot with which we got Sarah up the steps and onto the plane.  (Our pictures will follow just as soon as we get home and have a cable to upload them.)  If there's one thing we all love, it's an art museum, and New York is full of them.

The Met is particularly lovable, because it contains millions of objects, carefully curated, and it's the best bargain in New York, otherwise known as home of the $3 Coke.  Our favorites:  Sarah -- Asian art; Suzanne -- Japanese armor; Kathy -- decorative arts period rooms; Janet -- Impressionists.  But of course, we perhaps, in our six hours there, made it through a third of the collections.  A lifetime might not be enough to sit in front of Renoir's sunflowers, or watch children react to the temple of Dendur, which has it's own plaza and atrium.  We sat there, in the afternoon sunlight, looking at the colorful trees in Central Park, and thinking peaceful thoughts, while a class of what looked like eight-year-olds lined up in front of the huge statues for a group shot.  One of them had his name tag on his forehead.

After we'd museumed as much as we could stand, we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel, and the girls napped like they were eight years old themselves.  At the recommendation of our concierge, we walked to a local restaurant, Luna Piena, for fabulous Italian food, including a fig and prosciutto appetizer that was out of this world.  The blood orange sorbet was fine, too, and so we strolled back through the early evening, tired but content.  A dose of urban life once in a while isn't a bad thing.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Leavin' for the Beach -- Eventually

It wasn't easy, all those months ago, to find a house in the Mirlo Beach section of Rodanthe for two weeks in July.  This is the house we came up with; it'll probably work.  Just thought it would be helpful to provide a backdrop for our adventures, if we ever get there, or have any.

Hank and I are in Pulaski, waiting for him to finish a day shift in the ER.  Sarah and Jeff are probably on Hatteras Island by now, but the 3.5 hour trip from Richmond took them almost six, thanks to the traffic.  Dave and Pam are on the road, too, as are, presumably, Scott and Autumn. Guy will be meeting Chip at the airport in Charlotte on Monday, and bringing him down straight from there.  Ashley will arrive on Tuesday, Suz and Brent on Wednesday, Kelly and Jill on Friday, and assorted Kilgores on the 11th.  Meanwhile, Sarah has to go back to Harrisonburg to work Wednesday-Friday.  My head is already spinning.

I wish someone could just knock me unconscious two days before time to leave, pack me up with the luggage, and wake me up when we get there.  No such luck.

Further bulletins, believe me, as events warrant.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Takeout in Kettering

This morning we took the Luck's Mixed Beans and headed south on I-675 to visit Uncle Bill and Aunt Ann in Kettering.  We wound up having lunch, and perhaps I'll talk about that, first.  Uncle Bill and I went out to DiSalvo's Deli and Italian Store to pick up sandwiches of an unusually yummy and Italian variety.  Hank stayed with Aunt Ann, and that was probably a good choice, because if he'd gone with us, he would have come back with 67 cannoli, some mousse, and seventeen slices of Italian lemon cake.

Here's the amusing thing, though.  I drove to the deli, which was maybe three miles from Westlawn Drive, and Uncle Bill backseat drove the whole way. It made me feel like I was sixteen again, and believe me, at this age, that's worth a lot.  I just about laughed out loud, and then couldn't tell him what I was laughing at. He's been telling us all how to drive for 35 years.  It's wonderful to know that some things never change.

That's because many other things do change.  I think of my aunt and uncle as they were when they were, well, my age.  Now they're in their 80's; Uncle Bill has lost 30 pounds, Aunt Ann cannot safely go to the refrigerator in the garage because of her walker.  Something about seeing these strong, capable, independent people struggling to manage in their own home makes me feel hollow.  I make jokes about aging, but on a deep, primal level, seeing UB and AA makes me realize how much it sucks.  And we all walk down that path, so the garage we used to haul everything out of and scrub becomes a place we can't even walk into.

Okay, enough of the melancholy.  The other funny story about visiting AA and UB is that a couple of their friends dropped in as we were leaving, and Mrs. Friend said, "Oh, you're the Janet who writes the funny column."  Bwahahahaha.  Maybe.

This evening we're going to Middletown to have dinner with David and Brooke.  I will, I promise, take pictures, because I know how boring it is to be reduced to looking at a can of beans.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chillin' in Beavercreek

Just a post to say that we will be making more noise soon.  Driving down from Ann Arbor was a total breeze, in of road (straight) and traffic (negligible).  In terms of boring, it was amazing.  Let's just say, the road is neither long, nor winding, but it can make you lose your cookies, and we did.  Further bulletins as events warrant.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stones in the River

The run-up to this photo will take a while, so first let's just talk about it, shall we?  This is the sculpture, Stones in the River, that lives under the stairs (I am not kidding) in the University of Michigan Museum of Art.  When I saw it last year, for the first time, I was stunned, partly because it is beautiful, and partly because it makes me think of Dad.  Every bit of it is wooden, from the hollow "stones" to the maple bench they rest on. 

Technically photography is forbidden in the museum, but a.) this is unfindable on the Web or on UMMA's website, and b.) no one was looking, and c.) I had my cell phone.  I suppose I could add, d.) I really want to keep this piece in my brain.  It's developed some kind of iconic status, possibly having something to do with a family history of woodworking and a longstanding fondness for rivers.

The art museum wasn't my intention today, because I've been there before.  It turned out well, though, because it's hosting exhibitions of Japanese kimonos and ceramics that were stunning.  I had no idea about the elaborate social language of kimonos, or the history of their beautiful lines, both in form and construction.  The item on the left isn't a kimono, but an haori, a short jacket that shares similar construction details.  There were also kimonos that featured Japanese tie-dying effects, called shibori.  Thousands of small ties make a fabric that looks as if it has been intricately printed.  They take months to make, and even though a shibori kimono would never be worn for a formal occasion, it can be more expensive than many formal kimonos.

My original intention was to tour the UM Natural History Museum.  That fell through because the city of Ann Arbor is using its federal money to make the streets around UM impassable.  After I encountered my third detour, I gave up.  I actually pulled into the bus parking lot for the museum, but didn't want to get towed, so I struck out for the library . . . only to have the same problem.  Sheesh.  The art museum has on-street parking, and that's how I wound up there, again.  I like Ann Arbor; it's not a big city, but it does have the University of Michigan, 66,000 students, all of them driving according to the customs of their state/country/planet of origin.  I was very glad to get back to the hotel.

Hank has finished his meeting, so we're packing up to head to Dayton. We're staying with Bruce and Shirley, delivering beans to Bill and Ann, and everybody will wind up as blog fodder.   Bwahahahaha.