03 January 2018

Blackberries and Fresh Milk

If you ride the subway, you know about Poetry In Motion - a public service project of the MTA wherein poetry replaces advertisements.

This morning, I was amused to find an advertisement masquerading as poetry, indeed referring to those "other subway poems.

I particularly like the fact that the sleeping man is obscuring the logo of the advertiser.

Poetry, for the win!

09 November 2017

The Almost 14 Year Old

On Sunday, I taught the girl how to make a pot of coffee. And then she delivered a fresh hot cup to my bed.

* * * * * * * * * *

A couple of weeks ago, she and I were in the supermarket, wandering down the bread aisle. A song from Footloose came on the PA. “Let’s watch Footloose tonight, Mama!” I - thinking about broadening her cultural education and knowing that she's seen Footloose rather more than once - asked her “have you seen Dirty Dancing?” She said “no”, and with that, a woman about 8 feet ahead of us whipped around and said “whaat‽” It was an exaggerated what, a go home this instant and watch it what, a spectacular moment of a stranger unable to stop herself from joining a conversation uninvited.

So the other night, we settled in to Dirty Dancing. Not far in, Baby’s mom makes an appearance. “It’s Emily Gilmore!”

Maybe you had to be there, but somehow, that was the icing on the cake.

* * * * * * * * * *

Tomorrow she turns 14. And the cake will be cheesecake, because the tagline on her finsta reads "I probably love cream cheese more than I love you".

I love her more than cream cheese.

08 November 2017

The Day After

Every year, the politicians campaign, standing around the train station, and in front of Starbucks, and at the farmers market, and anywhere else they can see and be seen. Last night, election night, all six of the people running for town office - plus a bunch of their surrogates - were on the train platform or in the overpass or at the bottom of the stairs. It was like running a gauntlet to get out of the station.

Once upon a time, we lived in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side. Our state senator was, for most of the time that we lived there, a liberal Republican named Roy Goodman. He was the kind of liberal Republican that won cross endorsements from the Independence Party and the Liberal Party - so I'd happily vote for him on the Liberal line. After a nail-biter of a last race, in which I voted for his opponent, he served one last term in the Senate - thirty three years altogether.

The thoroughly endearing thing that Goodman did after every election? He'd assume his campaigning position at the top of the stairs to the 86th subway station, wearing his utilitarian and slightly wilted trench coat, and hold up a sign that said "Thank You".

This morning, there was no one at the train station to say thank you. I don't need to be thanked for my vote, but I have to say that it made an impression.

29 October 2017

The Bachelor, Redux

So, you will recall that Peter was a bachelor, in the eyes of my grandmother.

Imagine my delight at finding a passage in a Miss Fisher, in which "if he was not a baptized bachelor, Phryne considered, he was certainly a confirmed one."

If you are in need of diversion, the Miss Fisher books are a delight.

22 October 2017

7 days, 7 black-and-white pictures, no people: CAPTIONED

End of day scotch on the rocks. Laphroaig if you're curious. One ice cube. In the last of my grandmother's little polka dot glasses. 

My mother bought this sign in a hardware store in France a long time ago. She had it in her garden and eventually the white letters chalked away. She repainted them, by hand. Last winter the sign fell over; the stake was rotten. My husband repaired the whole thing - new screws, new varnish, new stake. And no, there are no mushrooms in my yard. 

Spaghetti, right out of the pot, still in the colander. 

Every morning, I mind that gap. And I think about the angle of the sun, and how the shadows are different in October and May and December and August. 

I love my linen duvet cover with its retro sketch watercolor flowers. They're upside down because I was in bed when I took the picture.  

The view from my office, looking west. It was VERY early in the morning. 

End of week, last minute bonfire at a friend's house - complete with wine and burgers.

15 October 2017

The Health Insurance / Care Morass

A several weeks old issue of the New Yorker has been sitting on my desk, folded open to a page from an essay by Atul Gawande titled Is Health Care A Right? because I keep re-reading one paragraph:

The reason [that health care is so broken] goes back to a seemingly innocuous decision made during the Second World War, when a huge part of the workforce was sent off to fight. To keep labor costs from skyrocketing, the Roosevelt Administration imposed a wage freeze. Employers and unions wanted some flexibility, in order to attract desired employees, so the Administration permitted increases in health-insurance benefits, and made them tax-exempt. It didn’t seem a big thing. But, ever since, we’ve been trying to figure out how to cover the vast portion of the country that doesn’t have employer-provided health insurance: low-wage workers, children, retirees, the unemployed, small-business owners, the self-employed, the disabled. We’ve had to stitch together different rules and systems for each of these categories, and the result is an unholy, expensive mess that leaves millions unprotected.

Employer-provided health insurance is the problem.

If you have employer-provided insurance, do you know what the premium is? Not the premium you pay, that gets deducted from your check, but the underlying premium that often an employer splits with you. Or doesn't. My employer pays 100% of the premium for the individual employee - but if the employee has a spouse and/or children to add onto the plan, the employee pays that difference. That's a good chunk of change.

Right now our rates are:

Each employee gets the same benefit from the organization - an untaxed benefit of almost $700 per month.

What if it were different, and the organization paid 80% of the premium no matter what spouse/children were covered? The rates would look like this:

In this iteration, the single employee pays something, and the employee with any dependents pays a lot less than in the first version. On the other hand, the employer pays a lot more for an employee with a family.

[I lay these numbers out, because it seems to me that a lot of people don't realize that the $xx per pay period that's coming out of their paycheck is not 100% of the premium.]

Which is fair?  Consider it this way. If your employer coughs up $1600 a month for an employee with a whole family on the plan, isn't that shorting the single employee for whom the employer is only paying $560? Would it be fair for an employer chose to hire the single employee over the married with children one, because the cost to the employer is lower? Of course not - and it's probably discriminatory.

I don't know what the solution is, but I firmly believe that health insurance ought to be severed from employment. You're a person, your kid is a person, your mother is a person - all of the people should be provided for. How that happens, I don't know. But the patchwork we've got going on - where some people are on Medicare, and others covered by employers, and others elsewhere - is not cutting it.

Consider this: when you are on Medicare, Medicare is only covering you. Not you and your spouse, and certainly not you and your children. Just you. Your spouse has his/her own plan. Doesn't that make more sense? Each person on their own plan - a baseline provided by the government and the choice to buy-up via a wraparound plan. Each to his own.

How do we get there?

13 October 2017

Jeans, Genes, Jean

Yesterday's New York Times crossword was all about the homophones, but jeans/genes wasn't in it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an ordinary woman in possession of a need for new jeans must be in want of a pair that fit.

And yet, it seems impossible.

I ordered several pairs online – different styles, same size. I decided one pair was okay. I wore them a couple of times, and they stretched out in the waist so much that they started falling down. I could take them off without unbuttoning and unzipping. Hiking up your pants every few minutes is not conducive to living one’s life. I got out the big shears and the sewing machine and took a triangle out of the center back and put it back together like Frankenstein. That worked…for a while. I don’t know, they stretched out again? The thing is, they fit through the hips and thighs, but the waist is too big.

In desperation the other day, I reached around and gathered up another fold, marched over to my husband with a binder clip, took the pants off, and crudely hand-stitched the pleat with black button thread. I have never been so happy with a crude repair as this has made me.

jeans, repaired

But I would rather have a pair that fit without alteration. So – if you have any suggestions about where to find a pair of jeans that have an actual waist, I would be delighted to hear them.

Every so often, I get the genealogy bug. It’s been in the back of my mind that I’d like to go to Europe and visit the German island that my maternal grandfather’s family was from. He was born in the US, not long after his parents moved here from Föhr. Down the rabbit hole I went, and I was thrilled to find my grandfather’s paternal grandparents on Find-A-Grave! They're buried in the Friedhof Nieblum auf Föhr cemetery.

I haven’t found his maternal grandparents yet, but the internet is a deep and wide place, and Föhr is a small island.

My aunt Jean died recently, at the age of 96. She was a total pip – tap dancer, showgirl, puppeteer – and a delight.

When she was 89, she gave my sister a tiny little tap dance lesson. (She didn’t try and teach me, because she didn’t have any shoes that fit me.)

Here's to tap dancing in jeans.