Archive for the ‘City Living’ Category

Service of Indoor Plants

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Ficus turned

My father nurtured plants in my parents’ NYC apartment and I’ve welcomed foliage and flowers everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve written before about one of my great aunt’s Ficus trees that I have at the house. I think I successfully propagated a bit of it and the offshoot [photo above] lives on my city living room windowsill. [The tree is too big.] My aunt died in the early 1980s and the plant and its connection to her, [her windowsills were filled with plants as well] have special meaning for me.

Same with my dad’s Dracaena, the mother plant of which dates from the 1960s. I have quite a few of its relatives at the house and one [photo right] seems to thrive in the Manhattan light, dust and irritants where its great grandfather once prospered some two miles north. A clipping of dad’s asparagus fern isn’t as happy in its overheated city digs. I have my fingers crossed it acclimates.

Michael Tortorello wrote: “FOR MANY PEOPLE, houseplants remain stuck in the 1970s, when it was entirely common to macramé a hanger for your 14th Boston fern while listening to Mac Davis 8-tracks and sipping Riunite on ice.” The approach of his Wall Street Journal article irked me. Its title and subtitle were: “Houseplants That Stand in for Art… Indoor greenery can make rooms appear bigger, function like art work, contribute character without adding clutter. Here, house-plant design strategies you’ll want to cultivate.”

I don’t think of plants as art. They’re fun to cultivate; I love it whenDracena plant 2017 turned they grow. The Steinbergs gave me my first orchid six or seven years ago. It thrives and blossoms on and off as do most orchid gifts from my husband and other friends. [I’m still waiting on a few to stop staring back at me with healthy green leaves and no flowers since they arrived in store-perfect blossoming glory.]

My husband isn’t such a plant fan but even he is pleased to detect an orchid bud that promises to open like the collar of an ornate royal brocade jacket, to display enchanting colors, shapes and patterns.

Certain things should not be subject to fashion, like plants, recipes, cats or dogs. You like them or you don’t and trends be dammed! Do you agree?

orchid in bloom feb 2017 turned 

Service of So Many Vehicles and No Way to Get Anywhere

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Traffic jam in Paris

The first time I felt stranded in a city swarming with cars was in Teheran long ago. The feeling of frustration, helplessness and dread is always the same. I think: “How will I get where I need to be on time or at all?” We were miles from our hotel, there were no taxis, we spoke not a word of Farsi and had no clue about public transportation.

The next time this happened was in Paris years later and years ago. The trick then was to know the number of a responsible car service. This didn’t always work either even when the concierge of a well regarded hotel placed the call. At least Paris has a superb metro system though it’s not fun taking public transportation very late at night when you’re dressed up and in uncomfortable shoes.

Back in NYC last week we waited 45 minutes for the cross-town bus at traffic jam in nyc49th and First Avenue, a jaunt from a subway. It never came. Everyone at the stop when we arrived eventually gave up. Meanwhile countless busses raced along First Avenue.

We left frantic calls on our friend’s mobile phone to make alternate plans. He held the tickets to Radio City Music Hall‘s Christmas Show and was waiting for us outside. My phone went dead. It needed a charge. We walked to Second Avenue hoping for better luck and mercifully someone hopped out of a cab which we dashed into. The driver charged my phone; we were able to connect with our friend but gosh–the stress to get there dampened our enthusiasm.

Lucky the show was spectacular as that’s what we remember when we think of that evening.

“There are rideshare options in your city!” some readers are yelling at their computer screens. My response: “I don’t have access to apps to hire Uber, Lyft, Gett or Juno car services. Does everyone?” Why don’t I? I need to set aside 3 hours to wait my turn at the Apple Store to acquire a new password/Apple ID in order to download apps. Something happened with my old one. The daunting potential time waste has put me off.

Second avenue subwayThe city is strangled by traffic. In addition to the annual influx of holiday shoppers and tourists eager to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the stroke in midtown traffic caused by security around the President-elect’s Fifth Avenue midtown office/home will ensure that for blocks we continue to suffer for four years. In addition, the Governor has promised to complete the first stretch of the Second Avenue subway [photo left] by year’s end. To satisfy his ego, he has workers at it 24/7 and the avenue shrinks to one lane around 72nd Street. This subway has been in the works for 70 years at least when the first bond issues were floated. So what’s a few more days?

A sidebar: To feed a MetroCard for access to busses in NYC a person needs access to the subway which is usually up or down flights of stairs. Doesn’t that eliminate people for whom stairs are an issue? Grand Central Station no longer sells the cards on the main floor. Maybe you can buy or feed a card in a convenient spot somewhere else in the city but I don’t know where.

So how should people plan on getting around in cities?

Lyft

Service of Ingenuity

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Bike 1 turned

I love New Yorkers. They think of ingenious ways of making the city work for them. Sometimes, though, they are thrown a curve ball for which even the most resourceful have trouble coming up with solutions.

Bike 2 turnedFirst the resourceful. Just down from my office on 45th Street near Third Avenue is a bank of rental bikes locked into place. Pass it at lunch time and you’ll find citizens perching on and leaning against parked bicycles to eat, catch up on texts and emails, sip a soda, watch the world pass by or to simply sit in the shade in midtown during a break on a hot summer day. The price is right, there are others to chat with if you want—it works!

But it doesn’t always.

I’m a fairly street smart lifelong New Yorker and yet I still haven’t figured out a safe way to get in and out of the parking spaces cobbled out of avenues, such as First, to make it safe for bikers to travel next to the sidewalk. [I first wrote about the dangerous configuration in a post last October.] The photo below best illustrates the challenge.

I parked in one of these spots for the first time over the Labor Day weekend so there was little city traffic and yet my heart was in my throat as I backed in hoping that:

  • I was quick enough not to be hit by impatient oncoming traffic.
  • I was accurate enough when backing into the space perfectly on the first try and
  • I wouldn’t hit a bicyclist.

Parked cars 2 turnedWhen my passenger joined me he had to dash across the bicycle lane, [looking both ways as bicyclists ignore traffic rules], and into the avenue to the passenger door, open it, jump in and close it before the red light turned green for galloping oncoming traffic.

Pulling out into a pause in traffic with a sedan was another heart-stopper. I noticed most of the other cars parked there that day were SUVs. Try pulling out into parking-lot thick traffic filled with frustrated, angry drivers. One furious driver, just before I snapped the photo below, took off in the bike lane instead of waiting for someone to let him into First Avenue. He broke into traffic with the light, ahead of the cars waiting to enter the avenue on 50th Street. Clever perhaps but God help any pedestrian or bicyclist in his way. I don’t recommend this solution.

Have you noticed other resourceful ways city dwellers in New York or elsewhere have made creative use of what’s around them? Do you have suggestions for how to use these floating parking spots in safe ways?

 

From the right, bike lane, parking lane and First Avenue morning traffic

From the right, bike lane, parking lane and First Avenue morning traffic

Service of My Space: Am I Invisible?

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Photo: businessinsider.com

Photo: businessinsider.com

 

I don’t require a lot of space when I walk through Grand Central Terminal [photo above] or on a crowded sidewalk—no more than an average pedestrian. Even when I’m pulling a large bright red suitcase-on-wheels, I wonder if I’m invisible.

In NYC there are no more unwritten rules-of-the-road for pedestrians that respect the space of others. Nothing’s changed in years: The city has always been crowded with thousands of tourists from here and abroad, all with unfamiliar walking patterns that bungle the pace of natives. But it worked before. Today we are increasingly unaware and unconscious of others.

Red suitcase turnedI’ve previously mentioned a friend who was knocked off her feet on Lexington Avenue in front of Grand Central. She’s short and the business man, engrossed in conversation with a colleague, neither realized he’d hit her nor noticed her tumble, she said. He continued on. Another pedestrian helped her up. Thank goodness she wasn’t hurt. [Over years I’ve also been slammed by angry, clumsy and sometimes nutty pedestrians—or their backpacks, shopping bags and brief cases.]

I’m not small; I know where I’m going so I don’t dawdle or hesitate.Yet at least once a day, especially in midtown, I wonder if someone—old, young, middling, doesn’t matter–is going to slam into me, especially at crosswalks. I find the solution is to stay alert but I am irritated that it’s up to me to defend my space and I miss a time where we respected other pedestrians’ and stayed clear.

NYC crowd turnedNothing new here. I wrote about this in “Service of We Get What We Deserve” in December, 2009: “When someone crashes into me, or my package, on a city sidewalk, I can’t remember the last time I heard an apology. Has ‘excuse me’ dropped from our vocabulary? Yesterday someone slammed into my niece and said nothing to her as she gathered her footing. If you apologize, be sure to check out the crasher’s expression: He/she will look angry at you!”

Is this the same where you live–on sidewalks, in grocery stores, in lobbies, airports or bus/train stations? Do you have techniques for securing the space around you? Do people do this because they enjoy a brisk game of chicken, is it illustrative of pedestrian rage or have we lost our personal compasses?

Crowded sidewalk NYC turned

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