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May, 2006:

Park Hill House Tour -Sunday May 21

This is something that Stephanie and I have been meaning to go to– to see the houses that are not ours in spectacular states of repair, and lust after all those things in a historic home that we can’t possibly afford, in a neighborhood that is less than a half mile from ours in geography, but miles away in stature, safety, and general feelings of ease.

Seriously, I think it will be a lot of fun (and our friends Mark and Beth, who have a fabulous house in Park Hill of their own) will be shepherding the music (at the Park Hill Racquet Club, which will also have a variety of tasty delicacies available for sale.) The Music is part of their project that they’ve got going on, Musician’s Anonymous.

(and a special thank you to Lesley, my yonked blog buddy who reminded me of this!)

Sunday, May 21, 2006
11:30 am to 5:30 pm – Rain or Shine

11:00 – Ticket booth opens
11:30 – Houses open
12:00 – Guided Tour of Park Hill with Gary Brewer
1:30 – Historic Lecture by Barrymore Scherer
2:30 – Guided Tour of Park Hill with Steve Byrns and Mario Caruso
4:00 – Historic Lecture by Barrymore Scherer
5:15 – Raffle Drawing at the Host Area
5:30 – Houses close

Tickets are $20 at the Host Area.

For more information, visit www.parkhillyonkers.org

Yonkers artist Chris Semergieff

In between all of the witty and pithy comments on the renovation travails, let’s not forget that part of this blog is to help us discover the beauty that is Yonkers.
I found a very good website by Yonkers artist Chris Semergieff (website at www.semergieff.com) that does just that.

Chris (and truthfully, I’m not sure if Chris is a he or a she, and it doesn’t actually matter) does a really good job of capturing the urban beauty of Yonkers.

While I think it might seem a little cleaner than the Yonkers that I know, the art captures something of Yonkers mercurial beauty. It seems to me that most industrial cities that are past their prime (Yonkers and Providence being the ones I have most experience with) have the ability to seem either terribly beautiful or excruciatingly depressing based on the day (and the sunlight) Sometimes it’s the same day,even!

Chris has been able to capture a little bit of the beauty.

Check out Chris’s website for a larger gallery of paintings, plus a curriculum vitae.
www.semergieff.com Chris also teaches at SUNY Stony brook and Manhattan Community College.

Around the world in 8 days

As has been usual so far this year, I’ve been flying around the country like a madwoman, with barely enough time to reload my suitcase let alone get anything done in the house. Last week I did a 28-hour trip to Austin (left at 5:00 am on Thursday from NYC, left at 5:00 am on Friday from Austin). Then I came home for one night, went to a major synagogue function on Friday night, reloaded my suitcase, flew out on Saturday afternoon to Chicago, saw my best friend and her new baby, had an all-day meeting with my colleagues on Sunday, did a tradeshow for three days, stayed with my family, and came home on Wednesday night (well, actually, Thursday morning) at 1:00 am. So, I got one short night of sleep on Wednesday actually with Adam in one bed!, then Adam left for Providence on Thursday morning.

I think I can count on one hand the number of nights we’ve spent together in the last month; it’s less than we used to spend when he officially lived in Providence and I lived in Riverdale. Why did we decide to move in together? When does this living together thing actually start?

On Thursday evening I came home to the beautiful smell of oil-based paint – apparently the painter decided that the oil primer that we’d bought for the tin ceiling in the kitchen was the right primer for the old bathroom (remember that one, it’s the only running water we have in the house?). So, by the time Adam realized what was happening, Victor (painter) had primed the bathroom with oil thus necessitating (according to him, anyway) that the paint we use in the bathroom also be oil. So Thursday night, when I’m finally able to kick back and relax a bit and watch the next-to-last West Wing (before this weekend’s finale), I’m instead burrowed under the covers, with all the windows open, holding a cloth against my nose and mouth because the smell is so bad that it makes my eyes water. At about 9:30 pm, after finishing WW, I had two thoughts: either drag the Aerobed to the 3rd floor and sequester myself up there, or decamp to my friend Marni’s house for the night. I was too tired and lazy to do either, so I opened the windows wider and hunkered down for the night. By the morning the smell wasn’t so bad – but Victor was there at 8:00 am, ready to put on a fresh coat of primer….ooh, can’t wait.

So, unbelievably, given all my recent travel, I’m considering it good news that I’m on the road again this weekend, this time to Providence via Amtrak to spend Mother’s Day with Adam’s mom and his brothers/sisters-in-law (and sister-in-law-to-be). I don’t think Adam has anything more lethal in his Providence apartment than a dirty bathroom, so I’ll be fume-free for two days. The painter promised to try and finish on Monday, but his promises have been pretty empty lately, so I will probably have to set up camp on the 3rd floor after all. I worry about Joey the cat hanging out in the house, too, though he’s smarter than I am and probably spent all of last night on the 3rd floor without me.

Weedwhacking The N-word, or "Toto, we’re not in Riverdale (or RI) anymore"

Stephanie was out of town visiting her folks in Chicago and doing some work at a conference, so I had the house to myself this week (well, if you include the parade of workers that come by here on a semi-regular basis, including the mysteriously named FX, who is a good egg and has proved helpful.

So, the big question on that everybody likes to ask is “How’s it going?” And the answer is: S ……… L ……. O ……. W ………… L ………… Y .

We keep on making schedules and ideas with Aaron, and cutting back what we thought we were going to be able to get done… And the list of things we are going to be able to do is getting longer, and the things that are done is getting shorter, but much more slowly than the first list. The truth seems to be- the house is going to be fixed on the timeframe it chooses.

As Aaron said to me, when I groused to him about how slowly everything is going “Listen, I wish it was going faster too. A lot of this stuff is meticulous work that needs to be done right. I could do a poor job a little bit faster, but you don’t want me to do that either.” Which is true. Aaron is a hard worker, and he is meticulous about it. But what it means is that we had our cabinets, tin ceiling, floor tile, and just about everything else delivered WAY too early. It’s disheartening.

So about the N-word:

On Sunday, I decided to pull out our old friend the weed-whacker and see if I could give the gardening thing a go. Well, I managed to figure it out, and not cut off my shins in the process. I’m busy working on the front yard (which was truly jungle like) when a group of guys starts talking on the corner where our house is. One guy is saying “The po-lice rolled up on my crib last night” and another guy is saying “They didn’t bring you in, did they?” And other stuff like this. So immediately, I am a little wary of these fine young gentlemen, who for whatever reason have decided that in front of my house was the right place for all this. And I’m busy trying to whack weeds, y’know?

I’m not sure if I mentioned, but every other word out of these guy’s mouthes is the n-word. (I’ll write it once here, so you know which one I mean– nigga.) And as those of you who know me know, That’s not the way I roll. I’m a little more whitebread than that. And I feel a little uncomfortable with the word, as I’m sure most white people do. And suddenly it’s being bandied about on my block.

I’m trying not to pay too much attention to these guys. It’s Sunday afternoon, I’m trying to do a little gardening. Then the guys get a little vociferous, and I hear one say, “If you robbed that guy’s sister, you crossed the line, N!” And then they start bumping chests, getting in each other’s faces, and one of them takes off his shirt, and it looks like there is going to be a fight or something, and I am thinking “Okay, leave the weedwhacking, don’t get involved, go inside, and if guns get involved DUCK!” But I don’t, I play it relatively cool and just go about my business. And as this continues, my neighbor (who’s a black guy) comes up and says “Do you want me to break this up?” and I say, “Well, I’m not happy about it, but I don’t really want to get involved at all.” And then I continue with my weedwhacking. And next I hear, my neighbor is wading in, saying, “Hey you are disrespecting the house owners” EXACTLY, what I didn’t want him to do. I’m half afraid that now these guys will forget their differences, and unite against a common enemy– the guy holding the weed whacker. (which by the way, is ME!)

To make a long story short– those guys eventually calmed down and left, but I am starting to have doubts about the wisdom to purchase our house. Later that afternoon, I went up to Park Hill to visit the last remains of a yard sale my friends were having– and sitting on their beautiful stone wall, drinking lemonade as the sky slowly gets darker and the twilight sets in, and it’s beautiful and seemingly private, and I’m thinking “Whose awful idea was it to live down there?”

Hey, I like diversity. I like that our neighborhood isn’t one color, and that a lot of the language you hear around here is Spanish. I don’t have Fear of a Black Planet–I like different cultures, and the Mexican ice cream place, and the Middle Eastern restaurant, and the Peruvian joint, and the El Salvadoran joint, etc, etc. I like that we live in a neighborhood on the way up (and truthfully, that’s what we could afford) I like that there’s a bodega block away, and that we’re close to the bus, and to shopping, and that there’s an urban feel here. But I want to feel safe and secure in our neighborhood and house. And while it’s a good block– this incident did not inspire confidence.

Up above I said I like diversity, but I guess there’s a diversity that I don’t like –the diversity where you have criminals and victims. (Because I don’t want to be a victim, and I’m not a criminal) Our neighborhood is on the rise, but it can’t rise quickly enough for me.

Yonkers Recycling Schedule-NOW ONLINE!

Yonkers is on a every other week recycling schedule– one week it’s paper, the next week it’s mixed media (plastic, glass,metal) It’s confusing to remember– and they have a very cool book, but I am always misplacing it! And the City of Yonkers website has it, but you have to download the whole thing as a PDF .

Long story short, I’ve captured the Recycling schedule, and am putting it online right here. Hope it helps everyone else in Yonkers, but at the very least, it will help us!

Spring is springing (has sprung, done sprang, etc.)

Things are going a little crazy here. In addition to all of the stuff going on inside– there’s all this green stuff growing on the outside of the house. And apparently somebody has to tame it. And apparently that somebody is me.

Considering that our house has a little plot of green among a sea of stones, there is a lot of foliage growing on it. And it’s all crazy-ass– growing everywhere, haphazardly, randomly, and with great aplomb. It’s jungle like out there.

I am of the theory — mow it all down and let Evolution take its course– but of course that would require having a mower. Which I don’t currently have.

I went to the local version of Ocean State Job Lot (which is National Wholesale Liquidators— a lot bigger, but not nearly as quirky) and bought a large shears, and then went to Sears and bought a weed-whacker and some weed-killer. I got talked into the electric weedwhacker– the cheap gas one had to mix oil and gas in it, and I guess I’m a little nervous about the whole (keeping gas on the premises)

Can I mention that I feel a little inadequate when I’m buying power tools? The guy’s like “And this will do that” and I feel that maybe I missed the part in high school shop class where they covered the weedwhacker and it’s relative benefits. I have real adequacy issues (and then have to pretend that I know what the guy is talking about– the same thing happens when the Robison guy comes to fix the oil heater– he starts explaining what is wrong “Ah– it’s the ground wire that’s attached to the non-attached wire here, see?”

You know, if I knew what was wrong, or if I could figure it out, I wouldn’t need him. I could fix it myself. But I don’t.

Which is why I feel so damned inadequate sometimes.

I met the guy next door, who is a truckdriver who is selling his house– it’s a 4 apartment monster that is bad on the outside, but he’s been fixing it up on the inside– if I had the money, I’d buy it (but I don’t, and he’s already in contract on it) He’s had the house four years– if I’d bought the house 4 years ago, I could have probably sold it and bought my house! Anyway, he was mowing his lawn, as I was out there with the clippers, trying to clip away some portion of the monster on the side of the wall. He was like “yeah, you should just do the work yourself, even if you don’t know how. Don’t be afraid to do it. Even if you screw it up and have to do it again, it will be cheaper than hiring somebody to do it.” Which might be true in terms of the painting, or even the sheetrock stuff. But I am afraid. I don’t want to do it wrong and have to get somebody else to do it again. I don’t like to fail. And between my skills and Stephanie’s picayune attention to detail, I feel like I’d be doomed to fail.

Of course, in a couple of weeks, whatever’s left over I will have to do myself, as I won’t have any money to do anything else.

Won’t that be fun!