Saturday, October 01, 2016

Pins and Cigarettes and Falling Down the Stairs

Over coffee on the upper west side, Ricki told me a long-ago story about her two aunts. One of these aunts happened to be my great-grandma Minnie (“a piece of work, your great-grandma”). The other aunt was Minnie’s younger sister Sarah. Minnie and Sarah learned to sew in the old country and kept it up after they immigrated to New York just before WWI.  We're from a long line of dressmakers, my mishpocha. And Minnie and Sarah— boy could they sew. Beautiful garments. To die for dresses. 

Ricki was eight years old and she needed a fancy dress.  She told Tante Minnie and Tante Sarah her favorite color was blue so her aunts went out and bought blue satin and white lace. Minnie and Sarah stood Ricki up on a milk crate and fussed.

“She should have cap sleeves” said Minnie.
“The lace collar should go like this,” said Sarah.
“We’ll put the waist here,” said Minnie.

Minnie’s words ran together, muddled and messy. She had pins clamped on one side of her mouth and a cigarette dangling from the other. Ricki remembers the pins and the cigarettes most of all. The mumbles in Yiddish and a little English here and there. The pins and the cigarettes.



Ricki’s memory reminded me of an incident as told by my grandma, Minnie’s daughter and a piece of work herself. Sometime early last century, my grandma decided she hated her real name and insisted everyone call her “Cindy.”

It didn’t last long, the Cindy phase, but during that time, Cindy got together with her mom and Tante Sarah and they made a dress together. It was a beautiful red sexy dress. Very tight from top to bottom with a little slit, just  long enough to show off your high heels.

Sarah put on the dress. Or maybe it was Cindy. She tottered forward taking very very small steps because this dress, the dress was very tight. She minced her way out of the apartment and into the hall… and fell down the stairs. Oops. Design flaw.





#ancestry 
#minnie lulov frimmer 
#sarah lulov oringer
#dressmakers
#newyorkcity




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn

Tom took a snapshot of the napkin from the Golden Unicorn

If you are going to Chinatown for dim sum, I highly recommend going with someone who speaks Chinese. If you can't make that happen, take Matt.

Our morning got going when the determined underaged hostess barked our number into her microphone (#118). I did a small inner fist pump. We were whisked into a three-banger elevator and taken up to the middle banquet floor. 

I say the middle banquet floor because on a floor below us and a floor above us, diners scarfed down dim sum. I say banquet floor because the place was plush-- as plush as you can get when the floor is linoleum and there's gold lamé curtains and you're seated at a ten-top with two people you don't know who are already halfway done with their lunch.

This was no backwater dumpling honky tonk. This was a major dim sum command central.

Carts of dim sum flew at us from all directions. It was a frenzy. Up until that moment I had been going through my Sunday morning in a very pleasant haze. But shit got real-- battalions of ladies with their carts hard-selling mystery dumplings hopefully not filled with strange animal parts. They were everywhere, all at once. Had I been born with the right gene sequence, I could easily have enjoyed a lavish epileptic fit.



Then came the duck guy. He pottered around, making, by hand, one at a time, these fluffy little dumpling sandwiches filled with duck. And these ducks, by the way, were delicious.

Matt struck up a chat with the duck guy. By the end of four handcrafted duck dumplings, Matt and the duck guy were best friends. This turned out to be important. Gravely important.

Because later, we wanted more duck. While we waited for the duck guy to come back around, a woman in a striped dress from a table up on the dais strode purposefully over to the duck guy. She said to him, "Six ducks, up there." She strode purposefully back to her table.

The duck guy took his phone out of his pocket. No one could inject more withering contempt into a small break to check his text messages than the duck guy. After that, he left his cart. Just took off. Awhile later, he came back.

And he made Matt four more duck dumpling sandwiches for our table.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Pop's New Favorie Portmanteau

A portmanteau, in case you are unfamiliar, is when you take two words and smash them together so hard a brand new word plops forth from the wreckage. An example is "smog," which is the bastard child of smoke and fog.

Random shot of Pop poking a street sign.
My Pop, reading a magazine or paper or something he randomly picked up off my kitchen table:

"Fugly?"

(no one says anything.)

"What's fugly?"

(Tom looks up, weighs the pros and cons of engaging, decides against it, goes back to what he was doing.)

(Three minutes pass.)

"Oooooh. It's a portmanteau! Ha ha ha. Fugly. Really clever. Fugly. You know, the f comes from..."

(I throw Pop a couple of raised eyebrows and props for speedy code cracking. Also bonus points for managing to drop the word 'portmanteau' into a statement concerning the word  'fugly.')

(Three minutes pass.)

"Ha ha ha. Fugly."

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Be still my bleeding alien heart! it's Willow Ware


At our ice cream social on Saturday afternoon, I was lured into a conversation about china patterns. Translation: Laura asked me about my plates, and I swaggered right up to an overly large answer. 

I buy my plates at flea markets. I got a whole bunch at that weird little auction in Boonton years ago. Whenever I spy willow ware, I'm sidling up to the table, trying to remember which brands are old and valuable and hoping the shop proprietor has suffered a bout of angina and left her unemployed idiot son-in-law in charge so I can dicker myself a big-ass deal.

Willow ware is appealing because it comes with an ancient Chinese story, which is probably only slightly more ancient than yoga. And yoga, it turns out, bears a suspicious similarity to turn of the century Swedish gymnastics. Don't worry about it and follow my lead.  I choose to believe the marketing when the actual facts prove tragically dull.

In the willow ware story, a princess falls in love with a lowly worker. He must have been an eyeful, this worker. Scandalously, the two lovers decide to elope and take off across the bridge outside the pagoda. 

This sneaking off to get hitched does not go well. Dad goes chasing after them and kills the both of them. 

Check out the altercation in the image above. 

But they are so in love their souls flitter from their dead bodies and become the doves hovering at the top of the scene staring lovingly into each other's beaks.

*sigh*

Here's the great part. I funded some dude's kickstarter because he made this plate:

calamityware.com - go buy a plate
It's willow ware, you see, but WITH A UFO.

The UFO. calamityware.com

There is also a cat:

A steely-eyed cat. calamityware.com

I set the table with a couple of these mixed in and no one ever notices. 

On a mostly unrelated note except that I'm still on the topic of porcelain with a tenuous nautical theme, I saw this beauty a couple years ago at the museum of art and design :

by Jessica Harrison.

Gawd. I love fine dining.

photocredit: hyperallergic, by jessica Harrison.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Ancestory may not be gluten free

My mom gave me a DNA test kit for my birthday to learn about our ancestry. The results came in the other day.

If your property overlooked a lake, my family tree would be the kind of tree you'd you go in for. Because it wouldn't block your view. Turns out, my tree has only two honking big branches:

Normal family trees are more full-bodied. See me compared to an average German below. You certainly wouldn't want a German family tree outside your picture window. All those twigs and leaves, you wouldn't see shit.



At first, I was keen on the idea of such pure simplicity. But then I remembered something. I remembered I did the "swab your cheek" thing while I was eating crackers. Turns out, crackers are unexpectedly sticky. This became clear when I was jamming the swab into the tube.

Where did the crackers come from? Because maybe my genetics lean savory spelt crispy with chia seeds.

I expressed my concern to Tom. He replied, "Do you think if you eat Tortilla chips you could become Mexican?"

All I know is that Tom is 2.6% Neanderthal and I'm only 1%. So at least I have that going for me. Or the crackers do.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

My First Impressions of Omaha Nebraska

We flew out of Newark and flew into Omaha. We picked up our rental car and headed out of the parking garage.

In Omaha - Pulling out of the Airport Parking Garage

"We're not in Jersey anymore, Toto," I said to Tom.

Our hotel billed itself as 'located in the heart of downtown Omaha.' Which confused me. All I spied nearby were flat-topped concrete buildings sprinkled along wide-ass four lane roads with passing lanes separated by expansive empty parking lots. No pedestrians. Basically, no traffic either.

Downtown Omaha


"Where's the city?" I asked the front desk clerk. She gave me a funny look. 

"I mean, where are all the things?" I continued. 

"What kind of things?" replied the front desk clerk. She was really very pleasant.

"I mean, where's your downtown?"

"We're right in the middle of downtown, actually."

I took a moment to regroup. Clearly I've lived east coast way too long.

Basically, it turns out, Omaha consists of three high rise-ish buildings in a cluster. They call this "Midtown." And then a couple miles away, there's a block or two of revitalized warehouses lined with cute shops and restaurants. It's kind of like a tiny little meatpacking district, but with fewer streetside pharmaceutical peddlers, B&Ts and blond Russians in stilettos and micro minis. 

Someone also mentioned a neighborhood where "all the immigrants live" and where the tacos are amazing; but I never got a bead on the specifics.

I decided to go out for a walk and investigate what lay in between this "Midtown" and "Downtown." 

Midtown in the distance
A few blocks out, I passed a yard, patchy brown grass and a car sitting on the grass with the hood open and a guy in a wife beater bent over it. A woman stood nearby talking loudly and shaking her finger. A cat ran by. 

At some point it became clear that although Omaha boasts 400,000 residents, it might be because it covers like 200,000 square miles.

But seriously, the people were lovely. They put up with my shenanigans and puzzled blank stares. They are very proud of Omaha for many excellent reasons. It's just not really a city is my only and main point. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Every Four Years

photo credit: SBNation.com


The expertise in my family unit is amazing, especially when it comes to synchronized diving (“Obviously the Chinese dominate in both synchronization and execution”), uneven parallel bars (“Oh boy, that hop on the landing will cost her”) and the Nigerian men’s soccer team (“Well played in the backfield although clearly outmatched when it comes to that side-of-the-foot maneuver.”) 

On the whole, we are easily qualified to take over the expert commentary. Or maybe the color commentary.

Or at a minimum just commentary.





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