Tag Archives: Bronx

Tightening the Belt

My wallet is giving me an ass-kicking.

I stopped working full-time earlier this year. I’m now a full-time mom with part-time aspirations: we eat well, we’re more relaxed, and K-Pants mows the house with his rock ‘n’ roll walker.

But I’m still internalizing the new budget. In this economy, I’m sure others of you have gone through this…?

Some things aren’t an issue. I never got manicures, and my sister cuts my hair. However, my previous budget had a generous wine allowance. It also let me say “yes” to almost anything. Extra appetizers? Yes. New boots? Yes. Five-star restaurant? Did you even have to ask?

Now the answer is “maybe,” if I’m lucky.

The summer was a real doozie. As family and dear friends came to town, I shook off Maybe’s constraints. Dinner out? Sure! A new pair of jeans? Oh, yes: I’ll feel so hot!

Then the credit card bill landed like a piano on our heads.

Now I’m at “no” with a chance of “maybe.”

But I recently discovered Freecycle. You probably know about it: people post things they don’t want, and you pick them up. Freecycle and I are acquaintances using each other for mutual benefit. I just got a fabulous pair of rain boots and a new (old) sun hat.

My husband is horrified. You don’t need to go to a stranger’s house to pick up things they don’t want! Buy yourself rain boots. But I enjoy the hunt on Freecycle. Also, if I pick up your once-worn rain boots, I can transfer the saved money directly into the gelato budget.


My icecreamonomics would be more successful if K-Pants weren’t lactose intolerant. I thought he would be my ideal partner in spending down our ice cream money, but it just gives him tummy ache.

However, the Pants does love the all-natural frozen yogurt at our local Juice Factory (holla!). So, if you’re in the Boogie Down anytime soon, we’ll take you there with some ice cream money we just came into via a new (old) Diaper Genie.


Community Activist v. Hegemony of Feral Cats

I’m meeting the head of our sanitation district. Turns out, if you call NYC’s information hotline 311 and ask the right questions, you can get almost anyone’s number.

There’s an abandoned lot a block down that was once a beautiful secret garden. It must have been: hydrangea grows there between the black bags of trash, and hydrangea doesn’t grow wild in the Bronx.

The secret garden is a hotbed of  broken glass, dog poop, empty wrappers, and Fancy Feast cans left for the feral cats. Every time I come home, shaking off the insanity of the subway, carrying 20 pounds of baby, I wade through the trash pit. If there’s a breeze, the foil wrappers fly up like stinking confetti. I stomp past, growling Who owns this? We LIVE here. Doesn’t anyone care?? Haven’t you read Malcolm Gladwell? Anyone, anyone?? No. Cool, just keep chopping down that sidewalk tree for your Voodoo ritual, then.

The buildings around are generally well-kept. There’s a church that sells cake on Saturdays; there’s an apartment building with domino players out front. But the secret garden is total anarchy, where cats govern on broken plastic chairs. By the time I reach my building, I’m ready to stomp on a kitten or rip up someone else’s mail.

So I’ve been doing some neighborhood fact-finding, and it turns out, the secret garden is actually the back lot of a synagogue. If you are between sixty and seventy and grew up along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, you’re probably saying, “I know that synagogue. That’s where Danny and his brother used to go. We lived up on 171st. Do you remember when our sister, Bridgit, started going with Danny’s little brother?”

I know this, because I’ve met a lot of you. You also live on Long Island now, or possibly New Jersey. In the time since your sister dated Danny’s little brother (which did not go well), the synagogue has gone to hell in a hand basket. The plaster around the menorah is falling down. No one goes there any more and it’s for sale.

Well, Long-Islanders, do you remember who owned the synagogue? Because I need to find him. He clearly doesn’t observe the Sabbath in the Bronx anymore. In the meantime, I’m meeting with James Collins: Superintendent of our sanitation district. Mr. Collins lives on Staten Island, where he “doesn’t have to deal with this kind of thing.” (Staten Islanders are probably just dealing with Angelina from Jersey Shore. Which does not entirely excuse them from the trash scene….)

But Mr. Collins is more than happy to help us out. Apparently, the Sanitation Department can get a permit to cut through the chain link fence and clean up the cat republic at the owner’s expense. I would like to drive the backhoe that pushes through the fence. I think K-Pants would enjoy that.

Water Off My Back

We just got back from a trip to the pool, and I’m proud to say we’ve finally made peace with the wardens who run the place. If you’ve ever been to a New York City public pool, in particular, the Mulally Park Pool in the South Bronx, you will know what I mean. This ain’t no country club, or neighborhood pool, or public pool in any other city, for that matter. My mom came to visit and was contemplating going to the pool with us. “Is the water warm? I don’t like cold pools.” The water is not warm, although after a couple hot days it isn’t bad. But beyond the water temperature, other items might throw you off: the police barricades blocking off the entrance to the kiddie pool, and the pool attendant who is inevitably having this conversation on her cell phone: “Oh NOOO I DIDN’T STAY UP ALL NIGHT LAST NIGHT CALLING YOU for you to tell me you went to work with no keys and EXPECT ME TO BRING THEM TO YOU while you DAMN WELL KNOW I’M AT WORK.” Let’s just say the professionalism is high.

There are also about 67 random rules posted someplace K-Pants and I have yet to find. But the wardens are happy to bring them up every time. “Where is your lock? You MUST have a lock.” I show them the lock. “And your swimsuit?” I show them my swimsuit top. “Is it a two-piece? Because I’m going to need to see the bottom.” Really? What kind of issues in the past have made this necessary? Oops! I forgot to put on the bottom. That’s cool, right? So I show them my swimsuit bottom. “What about the baby? I need to see his swimmy diaper.” I pull down K-Pants’s suit. “And the suit. It needs a liner. I am going to NEED to see the liner.”

At the beginning of the summer, I was ready for a new rule each time. “And the baby needs to have his feet wrapped in packing tape. I am going to NEED to see the packing tape.” One time I brought a water bottle. “No water bottles on the pool deck.” But I brought one to the Central Park Pool. They’re allowed there. “This is not the Central Park Pool.” Right. You may rightly imagine that I have written letters of complaint and also spoken with the manager. So for a while I imagined they would see me coming and warn the others: “Here comes that bitch again. Is that brown baby even hers?”

But it turns out we’re all cool. It was too much effort to fight them. And I guess if you come enough, they start to like you. Plus, I have the routine down. In fact, they don’t even check for the swimsuit liner anymore. They just assume we have it. That’s rewarding customer loyalty if I ever saw it.

And we LOVE this pool. You can see Yankee Stadium looming nearby, and the elevated 4 train passes by every 10 minutes, which K-Pants enjoys. There are trees, and the water is refreshing. Plus, we always find people to play with, and they know us. “You’re leaving so soon?” they asked this morning. Yup. But we’ll be back!