Every morning Sweetheart makes his way downstairs before me, puts on coffee, stokes the woodstove, blends a thick green juice the color of cedar boughs that is undoubtedly very good for you, and then he puts on the radio. WNYC streaming at us live from his hometown, just like we used to do in our Brooklyn apartment every day (except for the part about having a downstairs, a woodstove, and space for a blender). We are such oldballs. We love the radio. One of Sweetheart’s most mystically endearing qualities is his utter mastery of the radio in modern times. Using the TuneIn Radio app he mines for hours of perfect programming. Weekends it’s music. We spend Saturdays with the Rhythm Revue (WBGO, classic soul and and motown from 10-12), then WKCR funk + soul from 12-2 with Across 110th Street, then Sunshine Daydream on WTJU (the Grateful Dead Hour) at 6pm. On Sundays we take WKCR’s Moonshine Show (old time bluegrass), into The Tennessee Border Show (Early country), and then onto WFUV, which has American Routes into Rich Conaty’s Big Broadcast. For us, because we’re pretty much 137 years old, Sunday nights mean making dinner listening to big band music and doing the Sunday crossword. We pretty much live by the radio like it’s 1923 and we really like it that way. Weeknights, it’s cooking to WWOZ out of New Orleans. Weekdays, it’s talk. Move over, Ira: We LOVE Brian Lehrer. Today he did a thing (that got me thinking about how much I love the radio, see above) where he asked all of his listeners to take a picture of the morning sky wherever they were at 7:10 am and post the shot with the hashtag #BLS710 (Brian Lehrer Show 7:10 am). What a simple pleasure to capture that moment, all of us, radio lovers under the same sky, what commonalities we share, and what perfect evidence of what a great humanizing (and unifying) force the radio is. Lest we not forget. My shot started out the post and here are just a few of the hundreds of shots taken this am at 7:10 (beginning with Sweetheart’s):
And as you probably know by now, this was the first and last year in our lifetimes (and for another few lifetimes yet) that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlapped. Hanukkah has always felt exactly like a time of miracles. By virtue of timing, it was one of the first Jewish holidays I spent with Sweetheart’s family, where I rode the Staten Island ferry for the first time (and drank a beer on the way, because a) you can, there’s a bar on it! b) I was a little nervous). It was raining that day and I wore a scarf tied over my hair, and when he picked me up from the ferry, Sweetheart’s Uncle Bill said “You look like you belong”. Always a bustle of sisters in the kitchen, I volunteered to fry the latkes. This, I know now, is the most detestable of tasks, uniformly disliked by all mamelahs, so that ended up a point in my favor, but all I knew then was that though I might not know all of the traditions, I at least knew how to fry. One of my best, earliest memories of Sweetheart’s divine Aunt Sheila is her coming into that Staten Island kitchen like a ship, peering over my shoulder and giving me the benediction in her wonderful storyteller’s voice I love so: “You’ve fried before”. This, the exact center of the Southern-Jewish venn diagram: deep fried potatoes and the honor of the matriarch. This year, we took it down south, Sweetheart consulted the oracles (his mama, his aunt, and Mimi Sheraton) and made and cooked the latkes (a point in his favor) in lieu of mashed potatoes, we had a brisket, we lit the candles, we said the words, and we had this electric menorah that made it through the flood and still worked. A season of miracles, a year of family, a feast of thanks.
A year ago today we were pouring on the coffee, shimmying into longjohns and sweatshirts and thick socks and rubber boots in the cold dark of the Brooklyn morning and heading out out out deserted Flatbush over the supposedly closed Marine Park Bridge to Rockaway. To Sweetheart’s childhood home with his dear Mama to see what Hurricane Sandy hath wrought. The masks and gloves and headlamps and axes and contractor bags and endless silty funk that covered everything like a fine dust came later, but today was a day for taking stock, and, in a way, every day since has been too. By now, everyone knows what we found out there, the grand scale of the devastation, the losses, tangible and intangible, but a year out my mind settles on the little things… Sweetheart’s grandmother’s handwritten recipes tucked on a low shelf with the love letters and yearbooks discovered with a gasp and plucked from the sodden pile and laid out to dry. Baseball gloves in the middle of the street as if they were left there in play, dropped at dinner time. The rainbows in all of the oil-slicked water eddying down each street. Books buried in the morass. The little moments of humanity in the face of the storm giving way to the big moments. A year out, we remember.
I found my new place. This happens about, oh, once in a New York Blue Moon. It hasn’t happened to me since 2006 when I found 7B covered in fake snow and possibility a block from my first-ever 6th floor walk-up. It goes like this: you stumble upon a place by some wild and karmic circumstance, you’re in your own neighborhood, maybe the bar you thought was your place inexplicably had a $5 cover and sheerly on principle you refuse to pay that and you happen down some stairs you’ve passed before in the strange new one-way-warren of Bed-Stuy, and behind a caged door is shangri-la with a Little Richard doorman and an exquisite jukebox immediately playing Jennifer Holliday and then Ray Charles and then Al Green and the lights are pink and there’s hardly anyone there and whoever’s been there has been there for years and you know there’s food but there’s no menu you just have to guess that they’d have fried whiting and chicken wings with bright red sauce and french fries and good cold beer. I didn’t take any pictures, out of respect for the Sasquatch-like-awesomeness of this place, but I found the one above, my new place, The Tip Top Bar.
Today we head to New York (the great experiment continues). Seedlings on pause, Sahadi’s awaits. My what a world this is, this morning it was all fresh daffodils and birdsong, tomorrow we’ll wake up with the mists swirling over the river and the Manhattan Bridge lifting up her skirts to keep them dry. Or, depending on how the city summer’s swinging, these swirling misty platforms may have already burnt off by 8am. You never know until you’re in the thick of it. But this, I love. From Meags:
Manhattan Dawn (1945)
There is a smoke of memory
That curls about these chimneys
And then uncurls; that lifts,
Diaphanous, from sleep
To lead us down some alleyway
Still vaguely riverward;
And so at length disperses
Into the wisps and tatters
That garland fire escapes.
—And we have found ourselves again
Watching, beside a misty platform,
The first trucks idling to unload
(New England’s frost still
Unstippling down their sides).
To catch blue truant eyes upon us
Through steam that rose up suddenly from a grate . . .
And the grin slid off across the storefronts.
Dawn always seemed to overtake us, though,
Down Hudson somewhere, or Horatio.
—And we have seen it bend
The long stripes of the awnings down
Toward gutters where discarded flowers
Lay washing in the night’s small rain—
Hints, glimmerings of a world
And office towers
Coast among lost stars.
Yes, this is me riding on top of a moving piano welded to a shopping cart with lower Manhattan in the background. nbd. Let’s just say that this weekend marked the umpty-umpth anniversary of the Brooklyn Idiotarod. The Idiotarod is modeled on Alaska’s famous Iditarod sled dog race except that instead of sleek sleds and beautiful mush dogs, the Idiotarod features shopping carts and idiots. In short, teams of morons decide on a theme and build, weld, and decorate shopping carts (secured via various nefarious dealings of which I have no knowledge) according to that theme, and race from neighborhood to neighborhood, from checkpoint to checkpoint, competing in games of wit, battle raps, and feats of strength to learn the location of the next stop. Brilliant. This year, we were a mobile speakeasy- replete with illegal gambling, a speakeasy bar with punches and teas that would surely give you the jake leg, and an ACTUAL PIANO for prohibition-era ivory tinkling. That’s right, a Piano. And, obviously, all on wheels.We battled snow and salt, the ample hills of Brooklyn and her painful BQE crossings, teams of Pac Men, Nuns with Bad Habits, Game of Thongs (feat. House Stark Naked), bubbies from behind the Iron Curtain, knights in armor, a circus menagerie, apocalyptic steampunkers (whose cart featured a working woodstove, wtf omg), and Charlie Sheen.And, of course, the race finished at the Gowanus Ballroom with a drag show, a brass band, and a giant trebuchet called the cart-a-pult specifically designed to hurl the carts from the race against a wall. On fire. (more info on that here).Only in New York. Bless you Brooklyn. And bless Rav and Stephen for coming up and really making it something special. Images from flickr (thank you), Gothamist for the first and flaming cart images, and Tony and Evan, fellow idiots and dear friends. Oh. And we made the news.