Thursday, March 31, 2005

It just goes to show how little shame I have left…

How obsessed are you with the world of blogs? Do you really really want to listen to Dave Edwards on NPR talk about blogging? With the tiny (and oh so absolutely ditsy-stupid) one minute sentence contribution by the author of Ocean? Go ahead. Listen. Click here. [Webster's def. of ditsy: eccentrically silly, giddy, or inane.] I promise you, in real life 1. I don’t quite sound so much like I just got out of bed and am wrestling with a significant hangover; 2. I am way more intelligent (the bar's not set high by my little contribution). But listen anyway, because the Pew analysis that follows the little Wisconsin blogger snippets is quite informative.

Go ahead, say it out loud: behind (as in, behind every great person…)

What did I just hear? B-hind. From you and on NPR this afternoon, no less.

When did we, even in clear, standard Walter Cronkite English, start incorporating pronunciations into our speech that are not being taught to the foreign-born (like me)? So that the foreign-born always sound…foreign-born?

I am especially confounded by the “b” words. I had to look up in the dictionary my colleague’s rendition of banal (she says it’s b-A-nal, I say it like b-hind, dropping the first vowel: b'naaaal), because I was confused by the sudden appearance of that A. It turns out that I am correct, b’nal is an accepted alternative, but who cares that I am right, if the world listening to me smiles benevolently and says – “how quaint, she follows the textbook.”

So, as I process all the new subtleties and I b’come like one of you, let me just ask, on b’half of all who have the b’lief that the first vowels are there for a reason, don’t drop them or add them without warning. Otherwise we, who don’t know any better, sound b’zarre as we enunciate our syllables, as the good Webster’s d’rects us, or drop them, not knowing that they ought to be retained. Or is it r’tained?

Krakow leading the way, continued

After rhapsodizing about Krakow’s progressive move toward creating a wireless Hot Spot in the Main Square (as well as in a number of other places, such as Kazimierz – the city’s old Jewish neighborhood ) I took a step back and considered the drawbacks (I was assisted in this by an email from Aaron, an American living in Poland).

Indeed, you can bring your laptop, open it up and surf away, right there, amidst flower stalls and groups of school children. True, you need a place to sit. The two or three benches may be unoccupied.

The numerous outdoor cafés! Yes, there are those. But they pose challenges. For one thing, you can’t plug in your laptop anywhere. Thus, it’s at best, an hour’s worth of surfing or writing. (Why do batteries give out so quickly? Why why why can’t they invent a power pack that will keep a computer happily breathing for a whole day?) And there is the weather problem. I just don't see this as a viable option when I travel to Krakow in December.

I am told that if you do take out your laptop, most definitely you will be the only one doing this. And so you will be stared at. Ah well, this in itself can be gratifying. It makes you feel like you are doing something Very Important.

I don’t worry about theft so much, but I do worry about the pigeons. I may be one of the few people around who does not think it’s charming to feed pigeons on St. Marks in Venice and Rynek Glowny in Krakow. I always feel like I want to wash the soles of my shoes when I return from a hike through the Square.

Okay, I’m still shouting yay Krakow from the sidelines, but it’s a quieter shout.

In my Inbox: an email in support of one of the candidates for the presidency of the State Bar

He’s really a warm and fuzzy kind of guy:
He plants flowers and shrubs.
He feeds the birds.
He watches reruns of “Leave it to Beaver.”

My kind of man.
(does a blogger have to explain when she is not serious or will the readers catch on?)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Krakow leading the way

Not many people know this about Krakow: it is one of the few cities in the world that has created two major Hot-Spot neighborhoods, where you can take your laptop to any café or even outdoor bench and surf away to your heart’s content.

But today’s Krakow newspaper reports that thus far, the project has not had a high success rate: few people take advantage of the wireless option. What was intended as a ploy to generate excitement among both tourists and locals, results, on the average, in fewer than 40 hits per day.

The newspaper blames this on an absence of advertising. Letters to the editor express concern with theft. Petty crime is common in Poland and people feel rather protective of their expensive laptops.

These concerns notwithstanding, I have to say that it thrills me to see Krakow once again take a bold leap into experimenting with new ideas. The city’s main square is one of the most beautiful urban spaces on the planet. Filled with antiquity, with a vibrant city life, where cafés are so numerous that in the summer you cannot tell where one ends and the next begins, Krakow's Square is a place where it would be extraordinarily enjoyable to sit and write (blog, if that’s your preference) on a laptop.

To me, wireless services are yet another way of connecting with others. I spend a good portion of my days traveling alone and having my family and friends farther than I want them to be. To take the time to sit in a spot as supremely beautiful as Krakow and reach out to others through this new way of talking (i.e. email or blogs) is priceless (yes, I know I am hijacking an expression from an overused MasterCard ad campaign -- it fits).

Hats off to you, Krakow, for creating spaces where people can link with the world and share a moment or two, so that ours becomes less and less of a lonely planet.

Waxing lyrical

Everyone knows about my special bond with Jason. He may be one of the few men around that has complete power over me. He says run, I run.

In truth, he is not always very talkative and neither am I. Enjoying a quiet hour with him is equally satisfying.

Jason is half my age and he is in a committed relationship. That doesn’t matter. He and I relate in one limited way. Our encounters, for the most part,* are to consider and discuss and eventually deal with the length and color of my hair.

But yesterday, Jason introduced me to something that women the world over have known about for centuries, yet I have never even contemplated: waxing.

It turns out there is a whole subculture of people out there, all dedicated to the idea of waxing portions of their epidermis (beginning with the eyebrows and working their way down) to eliminate all signs of hair in places where you want there to be none.

When Jason says look into waxing, I naturally look into waxing.

I have never thought much about the shape of eyebrows, but as I stared at my fantastically rejuvenated (by Jason, of course) hair yesterday afternoon, I saw the potential there. Waxing ensued.

In Poland, women care about skin. In cities, there are as many cosmetic boutiques (where women come in for facials on a very regular basis) as there are hair salons. I am certain that my friends there would be amused that it took Jason to lead me to contemplate the finer points of waxing away undefined eyebrows.

And part of me just wants to wax and transform all possible surfaces with brittle stubs into peachy smooth terrain. The other part, the rational, unwaxed-for-51-years part, says I have strayed into a world that I don’t fully comprehend, where women think nothing of spending $100 for smattering mud, salt or seaweed on their faces.

Still, Jason was right. Of course. A pair of waxed brows makes more of a statement. The frown becomes more pronounced, the raised brow has more height and depth to it.

The buck stops there though. For now. Okay Jason?

* I admit that I have also been known to give him travel advice. We've exchanged emails on Paris hotels, etc. He looks after my hair, I pass on my views on Michelin rankings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

From summers in the deep Polish countryside to hot days on crowded New York beaches: didn’t I notice that suddenly there were people around me?

Is it the summer-like weather that makes me ask this question, or is it that, upon returning home to Madison, I became curious about photos from New York taken some forty-plus years ago? Here is the issue: at what age should children wear clothes suited to their gender requirements?

Because I came across several photos that I was tempted to post – thematically they fit into my New York musings about Coney Island, or even about Bulgaria (under the banner: I survived the flight to Sofia and here I am to prove it).

The problem is that in the vast majority of my Coney snaps and also on the Bulgarian beaches, I seem to have forgotten that girl-swimsuits have a top part to them. My sister, my senior by a mere one year, is jumping waves in a nice little suit with a ruffled skirt and a tight string bringing up the top part firmly all the way to her neck, and I am running around in some ratty underpants, enjoying the splash of water, in complete, immodest oblivion to my surroundings. On Coney Island beach, no less, with a crowd of several million around me.

True, I was only seven (six in Bulgaria) and so scientifically speaking, there was no reason to run a halter top to my neck. And I cannot imagine this was the work of my mother who had a habit of dressing her daughters in identical clothing, on the same days, up until the day my sister threatened to not leave the house if she had to look like me. (It was a fifties dressing thing I guess.)

I could print the photo and add a painted-in red bar in the place that matters, but that only draws attention to the embarrassing truth: I seem to have enjoyed having skimpy attire. Either that or I let the waves wash away that band of polka-dot fabric that should have matched the polka-dot bottom I seem to have worn that day.

No Coney photo then. Nor Zlote Piaski in Bulgaria. Ocean feels like maybe little Nina should have been a little less of a free spirit.

End of break

It stopped being fun three flights ago, in Colorado: the sitting on the airport floor near the one plug (for the computer) within ten miles of the gate, the so called bad-weather delays, the crowds, ill-tempered and ill-mannered, the babies who want you to smile at them even though you want to be far far far away from them in seat assignment, the cab drivers who do not have change for a ten thereby commanding a tip in excess of 40%, all our bulging suitcases of things, irrelevant things – if they fell off the plane over Lake Erie, who would miss them?I am suddenly not a fan of the tedious process of getting myself from one place to another.

The above was written at LaGuradia where I waited for many many hours for my NW flight to Madison, connecting in Detroit. I’m home now and I want to put a more positive spin on things. No one likes a whiner.

DAMN IT! Why is the flight to Detroit delayed two hours? And why are there no seats available to Madison on any other flight today? I teach tomorrow (or: I have a guest coming to class tomorrow and I HAVE to be there), help me out here, Northwest!

La Guardia is one crappy airport. I admit it: I don’t really enjoy sitting on the floor, hearing some raspy CNN station recount the Schiavo story over and over and over again. I am well aware of what was at issue and where we’re at now. Leave me alone, I do not want a replay of it all.

I fly a lot. I mean, a beastly amount. But I can confidently say that the flight from NY to Detroit today ranked among the top five in terms of horrible turbulence. I think my maiden voyage abroad, from Warsaw to Sofia in 1959 was worse, but this one may come in as a close second. The flight attendants were ordered by the captain to sit tightly buckled for the entire duration of the flight. That one dip right in the middle was grounds for a lawsuit. Though I appreciated the captain’s words reassuring everyone that all the planes passing through New England were screaming at the air traffic controllers to get them out of the swirling air current mess. Our plane went up to 38,000 feet and still could not shake the storms.

Remarkably, I made my connection in Detroit (naturally; the flight to Madison was delayed, even though the entire Midwest is under a canopy of calm clear skies). So Mr. Pilot: explain why, in these perfect conditions, where you could see the Madison runway all the way from Milwaukee, why did you miss it? And abort the landing at the very last second?? I have lived through about a half dozen aborted landings in my life, but NEVER one this close.

Yes, of course, Northwest lost my suitcase. They have no idea where it is.

No, it does not end there: the only cab I could get was one of those communal ones. They are the biggest scam in town. You stop at all these horribly distant places, take forever to arrive at your destination and you still pay pretty much full fare. And you have to listen to everyone’s story. Because everyone gets all friendly-like and chatty. Not me. I was in no mood for reviewing my spring break for the lot of them. You want to know, talk to me tomorrow, or read about it on the blog.

So here I am, back in Madison, with no suitcase, worse, no sign of life in this huge empty house. Wee. Hoo.

Monday, March 28, 2005

New York break: don’t know when I’ll be back again…

When I was a kid and leaving a city like New York, I never thought about when I would be returning. Even when I left it "for good," (not really, but I should have believed it) I looked more at the place where I was next going, than at the place from which I was bailing out.

I’m leaving the city in the rain. A March rain – wet, trashy, sticky, cold, the kind that will cling to whatever you expose to it – coat, face, shoe.

When I was very young here, in New York, I never noticed the rain.

Late last night, the train pulled into Grand Central around midnight. It had been sunny in Connecticut. It was raining in the city. The train was crowded. It is always crowded. Who is returning on a Sunday night to the city by train?

Heads bent low, gray masses, pushing toward the exit, like in the movies: dark times, people moving rapidly and purposefully, pushing their belongings onto a train, leaving troubled cities. Only here, they are returning to a city, a closed up for the night city, where it’s damp, dark, with no welcoming noises, no bright flashing lights at all, just a few cabs pulling up.

And still, these images notwithstanding, I love trains now as much as I did forty years ago.

Mondays in New York are especially brutal. Museums close, businesses open for another week of work – who can be smitten with a Monday? Good Monday morning! That’s our Madison weather man, faking it every week. Sorry, Charlie, can’t trust that day
March Monday in NYC: week-end trash, wet dog, cold owner... Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 27, 2005

New York break: ...and you'll find that you're in the rotogravure (or blog)

An Easter parade? Of sorts. More like very many people walking. I did not know that this really took place: along Fifth Avenue, in front of St. Patrick's.
Hurry up, little one, we're going to see some cool Easter bonnets, just like yours... Posted by Hello
This is February and we're at the Mardi Gras, right? No??  Posted by Hello
Don't mess with my girl, I mean guy, I mean... whatever. Posted by Hello
Step aside, cat-in-the-hat. Posted by Hello
It's all in the pearls... Posted by Hello
Dogs with hats? strange world... Men with baskets -- now that makes sense. Posted by Hello

New York break: the Cloisters, 2005

Exactly forty years have passed since I last visited the Cloisters in New York. To the month.
I do believe the Cloisters contain the finest pieces of Medieval European art on this side of the Ocean. But that’s not why I went there – not this day, not forty years ago.

On a bluff, overlooking the Hudson River Valley, they are magnificent.

I never understood, when I was little and dragged there by my parents, that the Cloisters were real – that the columns and the art within were brought over from Europe.

I remember going there in my childhood on the off-Sundays: when my parents hadn’t the will to go elsewhere (Bear Mountain in New Jersey! Miniature golf! Coney Island! Please, not the Cloisters!).

My last visit was when I wasn’t quite twelve. My mother’s closest friend in New York was dying of lung cancer and my mother had gone to see her one last time – to say good-bye. Afterwards, we went to the Cloisters.

My mother wore sunglasses frequently (she liked to imitate Jacqueline Kennedy in this) and so it was not unusual to see her hidden behind the dark lenses.

But that Sunday, she was also unreachable. Baricaded in her own grief, she was unavailable. I have pictures of her then – I always carried my little Kodak with me – and even those little snapshots demonstrate this side of her that I was only then beginning to understand: when tragedy struck, she accepted no consolation.

Exactly fifteen years later, again in spring, after freshly moving to Madison, my own good friend died of cancer. I saw it coming: soon after we became close, she said to me: I did my research, I will be dead within a year. She was.

The Cloisters are the most peaceful spot in all of New York, of that I am certain. I went there yesterday morning, the day before Easter. I went alone, but I was not as alone as on the day when my mother drew boundaries around herself or when my friend faded away. There are good and not so good ways of being alone.

To my Ocean community of family, friends, bloggers and readers -- if you celebrate Easter, have a happy one. And in any event, may we all stay happily connected to each other, in the many good ways available to us.
Finding spring joy, in a Cloister courtyard Posted by Hello
in her other hand, a bird... Posted by Hello
the Cloisters on the Hudson Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 26, 2005

New York break

March 26th, Central Park:
one day snow, the next -- these: Posted by Hello

New York break: next time, do your research, kid

I mentioned in my previous post the invitation I got to join a couple of journalists* on their hike this afternoon around the jazz hot spots of Harlem.

I have actually not a thing to say about the walk.

Oh, fine, I will bravely post on, though I’ll limit myself to just four points:

1. It is remarkable (albeit depressing) how little I know about jazz (after the conversation moves beyond Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzie Galespie, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey and Benny Goodman, I’m out of it);

2. It is remarkable (and again, depressing) how little is left of the jazz scene in Harlem (the Cotton Club? The Paradise? The Savoy Ballroom? Rhythm Club? Mother Shepherd’s? – all gone, without even a single plaque to commemorate them; no wonder I could not find them on my own);

3. It is remarkable how much territory I had already covered here during my solo trek last week (in a state of jazz ignorance and in hellish weather conditions, true, but with time to take out the camera and shoot; today I was totally traumatized by having jazz journalists with me and so I kept my camera, for the most part, in its case, as I mumbled things like “that’s okay…” each time someone asked me if I’d like to take a minute for some camera work);

4. It is remarkable how beautiful the music is of the people whose work I don’t know at all (I was given a handful of CDs, I’m sure out of benevolent compassion for my state of almost complete lack of knowledge about almost everything).

Just two photos then: one of a row of beautiful houses that I had somehow missed last week, and the other of the Lenox Lounge – one of the few spots that is still up and running.

* One of the journalists, Paul Blair, does (as a hobby) walking tours with a jazz focus in and around the city. If you’re ever in NY and want to join his groups, look up his operation at The guy knows a hell of a lot about jazz.
A surprisingly well preserved row of central Harlem brownstones, with balustrades still in tact. Posted by Hello
Lenox Lounge, with one of the journalists peering in. Posted by Hello

New York break: hanging with the big-time boys

When I was twelve I had an autograph book. Every girl in my class (I was in New York then) had an autograph book. We wrote little messages about how we’d be each others’ friend forever. Boys wrote little messages about how great they were.

On the title page of the book you had to write certain things about yourself, including what job you’d eventually like to hold. I put down “journalist.”

I don’t know why I wrote that. I had the label in class of being “good in math.” I didn’t especially like my English teacher. She had milk-breath. I read no Nancy Drew type books about women reporters. In fact, I’m not sure women were very visible in the 1960s world of newspapers, were they? Yet, in my mind, it was clear as anything: I wanted to be a reporter.

Moving back to Poland the next year put a lid on that career choice. Journalists, lawyers and cops – all ratty jobs for the unimaginative, the corrupt, the apologists.

And now, here I am, almost thirty years later -- a blogging member of the legal profession. Ocean is like this fantasy bubble where I can pretend that I have something that resembles a column, with a handful of readers who actually glance at the first sentence of each paragraph (just like in reading news stories).

Today, my circle is complete, because I actually get to hang with my heroes – a handful of reporters and photographers. I have Ocean and the Net to thank for this. I am set to spend the afternoon roaming the upper blocks of Manhattan with people who are professionally documenting life and the music scene of Harlem. I couldn’t be happier.

[What do I wear?? A black turtle neck and washed out jeans? Will they make fun of my dinky little camera? Of my yellow and navy note pad?]

Tune in later.

Friday, March 25, 2005

New Haven break: the other side of whatever

At Atticus books, they claim that March is “umbrella month.” Makes sense. Tends to be wet now. The window display pulls together books with umbrellas on covers.

Which month is railroad track month? I’m on the Metro North now and so I cannot Google this important question, but I am curious.

This morning, I walked over to Wooster Square, which is on the other side of the tracks from Yale. I am interested in things that are “on the other side” – of oceans, tracks – it has implications about how you regard yourself.

Wooster Square is the Italian enclave of New Haven (see photos below). Yalies cross the tracks for a slice of Pepe’s (that’s right, Mr. know-all-about-pizza, it’s Pepe’s, not Sally’s). I cross the tracks for the cookies and the houses (Pepe’s lines are so long!).

The cookie store was closed this morning. My images of tiny Italian confections had to be pushed aside (replaced by a cake slice from Claire’s – see photo below). The streets were empty and no one was buying the Easter bunnies casually displayed in front of a store.

But there is something very reassuring about crossing these New Haven tracks and placing yourself in a neighborhood where eateries and shops have signs indicating a long, if not always prosperous, existence. You leave behind a university-focused set of blocks and enter a neighborhood. Crossing railroad tracks (and oceans) can displace you or place you. They are like oceans, only a hell of a lot more narrow.
There's no argument: the best thin crust pie is at Pepe's Posted by Hello
bunnies for sale Posted by Hello
very red white and green Posted by Hello
a Wooster house Posted by Hello
from Claire's: a delicious alternative (blueberry pound cake) Posted by Hello

New Haven break: Bright college years with pleasure rife, the shortest, gladdest years of life…

Parents have a way of labeling their children, weighing them down with the burden of their own impressions – ones that you either cannot live up to or are desperate to get rid of. I had both. Their “sunshine” thing was just plain wrong and I proceeded to spend much of my adolescence trying to disprove it. Unfortunately, my parents hardly noticed, being themselves then firmly ensconced in an anti-sunshine phase of life.

The other one – “meet our daughter, she is the perpetual student!” was a blatant apology for my academic indecisiveness. They were not saying – meet Nina, always the learner. They were saying – meet Nina she will never get out of the classroom, ever ever; we’ve basically given up on the idea that she would actually be done with pursuing an academic degree of some sort.

I thought that was unfair for reasons I do not want to go into now. Ocean has long renounced the label of “a blog where one relives one’s grievances against one’s parents.”

But there was a grain of truth in both labels: I was (am) (on the surface) as cheerful as they come. And I do seem addicted to adding fields of interest. I don’t drop them so much as I add on others. A friend told me yesterday about a dissertation being written on the topic of Venetian art and I thought – now that sounds like something I would like to write, even though my knowledge of Venetian art is limited to what I read in guide books. Not worthy of dissertator status, of that I am sure.

In part, I do admit, I simply love universities. I pass Hunter College (part of the NY City College system) almost daily when I am in New York and I get a thrill seeing students pile into the urban halls, plastered with notices of lectures, events, apartments to sublet. The Jagiellonian in Krakow is equally wondrous. I could do the Copernicus tour each time I am in Krakow and each time I will be awed. Yale – say no more. I choke at their alma mater song and it’s not even my song (see lyrics in title of post).

I’m in New Haven for one more day (Brooklyn visit has been moved to another day – keep checking!), as a chance meeting with a law prof forced an extended further meeting today. But I am secretly glad I am part of campus life for just a few more hours.

True, this morning, as I walked up and down New Haven, looking at the beautiful play of a morning sun on the towers that dot the campus, I was very much alone. What academic gets up at dawn these days? But it was a lovely walk, invigorating and inspiring, so that I indeed could imagine myself as a happy student again. This, in turn, lead me to conclude that my parents, in their infinite ignorance about their kids, nonetheless did recognize within me these two strands that are always threatening to disturb my firmly engrained Eastern European angst: I can wake up buoyed by a sunny day and I am indeed deeply in love with the unreal world of academia.
window whimsy at Yale Law School Posted by Hello
in the earliest light... Posted by Hello
A student at Starbucks, at dawn: pulling an all-nighter or leading the life of a secret blogger? Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Take note: a modest suggestion, humbly stated

If you like Ocean, do click here and cast your vote in support of it. Ocean has indeed been nominated (it's one of ten) in the blog contest sponsored by MKEonline and though I’m not in it for the win (really truly), I would be a tiny bit traumatized if I collected only ten votes -- from my immediate family and closest friends who feel duty bound to register their approval (they’d vote if I wrote "padooooka" each day ten times and left it at that).

Thank you!

New Haven break: Question: Why is a Wisconsin law professor sitting in on a Yale Law School class?

Answer: To get to the other side.

Really. How else am I supposed to understand the “student perspective” (on computer use, boredom, tension, etc.) if I am never on the side of the audience? ...If I have lectured for more than fifteen years, but have never sat amidst the students, taking notes on my computer?

One objection raised by faculty who conduct classes in this Internet-driven climate is that flashing screens are a distraction to those (few? many?) who are paying attention.

I am simul-blogging this class, trying hard to have my screen remain as dull as possible. I want to blend! Be part of the pannelled walls! The room is full and every single person is using a computer. A few are, indeed, reading the NYT (though he is talking about the Schiavo case, so the NYT is not irrelevant), a few are emailing. But he’s pacing, moving into the room. Interesting.

New worries for the connected generation: did I remember to mute the volume on the computer? To turn off the cell? Did you know that a NY museum will fine you $50 if your cell phone goes off on its premises?

Oh dear, why does my computer give out occasional puffs, as if it’s revving up for something big, pushing itself to make that extra leap, then giving up? No one else’s does that! I am learning something about the age of my little Dell. And my age as well: dear prof, you are mumbling the ends of sentences. Keep your energy ‘til the end: the last words are not mere shadows of the rest.

Oh! He’s taking a five minute break… says he has something in his eye. Maybe he’s crying?? Everyone of us has had this happen: a lecture must be delivered, even though our emotional world is a complete bloody mess: we enter class and we push ourselves to be in control and we can barely make it until the end. He does seem sad...

And now I am sweating for him, for myself as the interloper, and for the students who are on call. I’m looking at the clock. It’s tough to be in the middle. Next week I’m at the podium again. Nice and safe, with my notes and the seating chart.
Welcome to Yale; have a seat: spring has come to Old Campus. Posted by Hello
this is the last of it, right? right?? Posted by Hello
a snow cap on a bike seat says it all... Posted by Hello

New York: Louise's on a wet day

I cross the street and finally I see it: a diner that is open. I have been walking for hours, past blocks and blocks of closed and boarded up houses and stores, barber shops without customers, funeral homes – lots of funeral homes, and every once in a while a grocer with Coors beer flags flapping in the strong gusts of wind. Every square inch of me is saturated with wet snow. And then, on the corner of 121st and Lennox, I see Louise’s.

This post is about nothing at all. Because nothing took place there, I saw nothing of note, heard not a whole lot, ate little, talked less. And yet, it may have been my favorite half hour of the day.

I walk in. Shut that goddam door! --shouts a patron, seated on a stool at the counter. Ten stools, three tables, that’s it.

Sorry, I say and I close the door. I didn’t know that it didn’t swing shut.

It’s open, isn’t it?
You’re right. It’s open. And now it’s shut.

From the woman behind the counter: It’s dinner time now. (at 1 pm?) Here, we have these. I am shown a sheet with a list of hearty dishes, all below $10. Way below $10.

Hmm. I was thinking more like a cup of soup.

No soup today. (Bad timing. Today seems like a soup day if ever there was one.)

Okay, just tea then. I get my tea. The news is on the TV. One of Louise’s crew is eating eggs, sausages and pancakes. The others are sitting, watching – first me, then the TV. Finally, one says: would you like something with that tea?

Like what?

We have cornbread.

I’d like that.
She (Louise? Probably not. Why do I think there hasn't been a Louise around for years...) smears butter over two pieces (Okay! That’s enough, thanks! – I say, and then I catch myself. Maybe it tastes great with lots of butter). She grills them until they’re good and crisp.

Want jelly on that?
Is it better that way?
Lay it on.

The cake under that dome, it’s home made?
It is.

Horrible weather. Came as a surprise, didn’t it?
Yes, it sure did.

The one decoration is a big poster describing what to do if a customer chokes.

The first patron leaves having ordered nothing, a second comes in, sits down next to me, orders toast and lemonade. He stares at me taking my picture of a cup of tea. [Sometimes blogging is impossible to explain and so I offer no explanation.]

I hate to leave. It’s so warm – the kind of place you can doze off in. I watch the weather on the grainy TV screen. More snow-sleet-rain. Check please. I look at my total for the tea, cornbread with butter and jam: $1.45.

I’m energized. I take on the next several dozen blocks of my Harlem walk
Louise's: open and warm. Posted by Hello