Category Archives: New York

Laundry Wars

I hate the laundry. I’ve been doing it since fourth grade, but still, the washer, the dryer, and I are archenemies. I’ve melted red crayon into new school clothes; I’ve bleached and shrunk things.

I recently packed for a weekend trip and then pulled out my central outfit—a black, lined, wool jumper—only to realize that I had shrunk the jumper in the dryer. The synthetic lining didn’t seize up, however. This became very apparent when the lining presented itself a full two-inches below the wool. And my snafu was difficult to conceal over the laser-pink tights I packed to go with it.

Oh laundry: you’ve exacted your revenge again.

I’ve washed the dry-clean-only pile, I’ve made whites dirtier, I’ve twisted and generally destroyed. For something to become a lasting part of my wardrobe, it needs to be practically indestructible.

Luckily, in the past I’ve lived with roommates on a chores-bartering system that allowed me to trade cooking for laundry. Then I moved to New York and instead of spending the day in the Laundromat, I splurged and had the laundry people wash and fold it. That’s right: I had people.

When I started dating my husband, I quickly found out he did laundry, and if my clothes were at his house, he happily washed and sorted them not only into colored and white loads, but normal and delicate loads. I married him.

But now I’m a full-time mom, and suddenly I’m fighting with the laundry demons again (not because we abandoned the laundry people, but because K-Pants and his Paris Hilton wardrobe get special treatment).

Our laundry is in the basement of the building. The room is filled with old machines that often break down, and it seems like everyone in the building (me included) waits until their very last pair of underwear to do the wash (or in my case, K-Pant’s last pair of pants). That means everyone arrives with about 150 lbs. of clothes to pile into a small, under-trained army of rickety machines that often don’t work.

I know there’s some laundry magnate out their, living in a $5 million dollar mansion in Franklin Lakes, NJ, built solely out of quarters, hobnobbing with the Real Housewives. I bet he has a red Electrolux washing machine with a woman named Rosalinda who comes to use it. He probably doesn’t even know where his Electrolux is in the house, and he surely can’t hear it because it’s so damn quiet.

Well I can see the George Washington Bridge from my block, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to find the Laundry King and steal his Electrolux and haul that fire-engine-red beauty back to the Bronx.

Because today, as usual, I had to take out other people’s finished laundry to fit mine in, and on top of that the dryers did not dry my clothes. I’m pretty sure their only purpose is to dry clothes.

Maybe they’re having an existential crisis.

Or maybe they think their job is to simply warm up the clothes like a nice bowl of soup: warm and wet! I can certainly go for that combination, if you get what I mean, but when I’m on a tight schedule and the Pants is napping alone upstairs, I only have 10 minutes before he wakes up or the authorities come.

Laundry King, today you have won the battle, but this multi-book-saga-hopefully-morphing-into-a-movie-deal is far from over.

Two Tales in a City

When attacking industrial New York with a Brit, Charles Dickens comes to mind. On Saturday, my dear British friend Fizgig (also a very talented actress and jeweler) met K-Pants and I for a Brooklyn adventure walk. To feast your eyes on Fizgig’s version of what happened, click here. My version of the truth is below.

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Sometimes I need New York to show me a secret. After living here five years, I’m often on edge and apathetic. (Recognizing my issues is the first step, right?) My relationship with the subway—for instance—is incredibly rocky and bordering on emotionally abusive.

I’ve flipped off MTA employees (I love me some CityMini stroller: you can drive with one hand and flip the bird with the other). I’ve tried airing my frustrations in writing: All I get are do-not-reply-to-this-email messages. I don’t think counseling will work. The wheels on those tracks are grinding me down and pushing me toward the third rail.

But then on Saturday, as K-Pants and I escaped the transportation netherworld and our eyes adjusted to the light, Auntie Fizgig appeared with sweet fruit cake from Narnia, a dog who acts like a dressage horse, and plans for a walk filled with glass-tiled sidewalks, hidden, rusted alleys, and secret food-truck getaways.

Here’s Auntie Fizgig; just what the anti-cynicism doctor ordered:

And here’s Dressage Dog:

Armed with two cameras, K-Pants, and Dressage Dog, we headed to the Gowanus Canal—an area that is one of Brooklyn’s rough diamonds being polished.

The canal has been ridiculously polluted, but is on the mend. Here’s a photo of the Gowanus—kind of reminds you art history geeks of a dirty Flemish landscape painting, right?

Fizgig pushed us into a hidden parking lot where New York City street trucks go to rest up on the weekends. This is like sneaking up on your favorite celebrity in her local hangout.

Our gallant guide showed us a street mural by Shepard Fairey (of Obama poster fame).

Bright, bold textile prints…

Technicolor grafitti plays with nature…

…and the grafitti also poses as stained glass in the broken windows.

So, if you are in New York and looking for urban refreshment, sneak up on the Gowanus Canal. Just take the R train to Union Street and head west.

Sticking Up for the Smallest

I live in the Bronx and I’ve been following a few of the stories about bullying lately. Two weeks ago, however, they seemed to be following me.

K-Pants and I were returning a book to the library a few blocks from our house the last Tuesday in October. On the way back there were five or six news vans on 161st Street. Some of the Latin Kings—the alleged perpetrators in the Bronx anti-gay beatings—were about to come out of the borough courthouse. We watched as camera crews and reporters followed them to their cars.

On Monday, a friend and I took our kids to the Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge. When you’re standing under the bridge, it doesn’t seem so far from the river. You watch the kids playing at the edge of the water and the bridge grows right out of the ground like a giant beanstalk. And though it doesn’t seem far to the solid, beautiful span, you know Tyler Clementi—hopeless—jumped off and died.

After Tyler’s death and the anti-gay attack here in the Bronx, I recommitted myself to showing love and care with all people.

But I discovered it’s easy to promise yourself you won’t post videos of someone on the web, or that you won’t invite someone over so you can beat him up. It’s even easy for me to promise I will never say something derisive to a gay person; I will never tell a black child she can’t play with my child; I will never spread rumors about someone because of her religion.

It’s simple to name these things, because I would never do them. It’s like saying I recommit myself to avoiding American cheese. Even so, I felt good about myself for a few days.

But then I realized the things I would do. I would cut off the fat woman who’s headed to the subway elevator taking my stroller spot.  She’s probably had a long day at work and two knee replacements, but I’m happy to clip her ankles and shove her out of the way telling myself that she should just lose weight. I would look away from every homeless person on the subway, thinking how they are ruining my ride. And I would forget to speak up for the disabled people who can’t use our city amenities, because my son and I can get around just fine.

I got this wake-up call by going to the Yankee Stadium parks redevelopment meeting (a thrill-a-minute, as one might imagine). I wanted a child’s safety gate installed at our park so kids can’t run into the street. Prior to the meeting, my neighbors and I had written to the parks commissioner. He told us we should watch our children better.

Them’s fightin’ words, Mr. C0-mish-on-her.

So I arrived at the meeting with seven pages of photos and admonitions I would use in future litigation once the first run-away child made for the street. However, the parks people stood down and said: Consider it done. Voilà! Child safety latches. Wind out of my sails and faith in government restored.

But other attendees were not so appeased. There were two people at the meeting from New York City Park Advocates, a group that pushes for accountability and inclusiveness in our parks. Did you know, for example, that there are 997 playgrounds in New York City and only 5 are completely accessible? Only five allow children and parents with disabilities to play like the rest of us. I mean really play, not just wheel around and watch other people climb on things.

I was like: Fo’ real?? I took this not only as an affront to the city, but a personal slap-in-the-face—I thought I was aware of stuff like this. When our new park opened, I thought: Great! Look at all these ramps and wide pathways.

But I learned that what I thought was open-access really isn’t good enough.

Sure, kids in wheelchairs can come in and use the ramps, but there’s a step stopping them from getting to the play equipment. They can push their friends on the tire swing, but they can’t get on. They can play in the water feature—when it gets hot enough. And if I were a parent in a wheelchair trying to keep my able-bodied child safe at the park—forget about it.

New York City Park Advocates calls this a culture of isolation. They asked those of us at the meeting for one thing: If you are able-bodied, speak up for those who aren’t.

I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t speaking up. So now, instead of recomitting myself to things I already do, I’m searching for the things I overlook.

To find out more about New York City Park Advocates, click here.

Little Red Lighthouse & the Big Gray Bridge

I’m a member of a small shenanigan team here in New York City. We’ve been operating under-the-radar since 2005.

Our 2006 blow-out involved pretending to drive the J Train with our noses pressed against the glass of the front car, downing pommes frites at the eponymous dive-joint, getting blessed with holy oils at the Ukranian Orthodox Cathedral, checking out the Japanese toy scene, eating Afghani food on pillows, and having a little Turkish Delight at Russ & Daughters—all in about six salty, religious hours.

The Shenan team has reproduced and lost disposable income matured, and on Monday we went out with our Shenan-lets for some kid-friendly, wallet-approved adventure. Nothing like a round-trip ride on the Bx13 bus from Yankee Stadium to Washington Heights to entertain some toddlers.

However, the true highlight was the Little Red Lighthouse. It’s the little lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge made famous in the 1940s by the children’s book by Hildegarde Swift.

You may think this is a nice afternoon outing, but a rather tame shenanigan. However, the official website instructions on getting to the bright beauty include phrases such as “cross the railroad tracks” and “walk under the overpass.” That’s about as much shenan as two mothers can take on a lovely fall day. But, oh, is it worth it! Turn a corner on a small little path, and suddenly you are on the banks of the majestic Hudson looking at the New York City skyline flirting with you in the distance.

Here’s a pic of the Shenan-lets doing their thing.

And here’s the adult pay-off.

After you make it back up the hill from under the overpass and across the tracks (to grandmother’s house we go…), stop at Moscow on the Hudson, a Russian/European gourmet food market on 181st, strangely nestled in New York’s Dominican capital. You can buy a Barak Obama matrushka doll (apparently he’s not Muslim, he’s Russian Orthodox), but we opted for some pastries that everyone could shove in their little faces.