Are You a Bibliophile?

I have always loved books. My earliest memory of my relationship to books and reading is walking home from the local library as a child in Ridgewood, Queens, carrying a tall stack of books. I was probably carrying whatever was the maximum allowed number of books and I do recall usually reading them all in a day or two; then back to the library for more.  I remember having my own library card and the pride I felt in using it. I am guessing I might have been about 7 or 8 at the time.

No wonder, then, that an article in today’s NY Times caught my attention…about a bibliophile in….you guessed it…Ridgewood, Queens, NY!  He and his book collection reside in a warehouse type building in a more industrial part of Ridgewood than where I once lived. My neighborhood was predominately inhabited by people of German descent; my mother was a first generation American born of two German parents. At that time, most of the local businesses were run by Germans and German was spoken everywhere.

This dude, featured in the Times article, is a different type of bookophile.   He is an uber-Collector! Don’t get me wrong; I, too, have many collections of books throughout my house and in my basement.  But nothing like his.

(Click on the title for the complete article.)

Of course, now I have a reason to visit the old neighborhood and his warehouse.  He’s definitely unique (and maybe a little strange????)!

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A Soul Restoring Getaway on Easter Weekend

(Briermere Farm on North Fork of Long Island)

With no guests coming this Easter, this allowed my husband and I and our daughter to undertake a last-minute outing on Saturday to one of our favorite places…the East End of Long Island. There are two forks on the East End: The North Fork and the South Fork with its infamous Hamptons and celebrities.

Long ago we decided we prefer the North Fork. It’s quiet, bucolic, inviting with its authentic farms and farmsteads, old farmhouses, and signs of lives of average people hard at work. When the kids were young, we visited twice a year: once in fall to gather pumpkins, wander in the fields, stop by one of the local beaches, and picnic. In Spring we liked to visit for walks on the local beaches and a quick lunch at one of our favorite spots. It was the ideal getaway just a 90 minute drive from our home.

We fell in love with a particular area called New Suffolk (just beyond Mattituck)  which reminded me (still does) of the undeveloped Long Island I knew as a child. The homes are modest, the lanes are narrow and inviting, the beaches are rocky and the water crystal clear, and the quality of light and air are very special. We often fantasized about owning a home here, which we could no longer afford. In the past decade the area has been “discovered” and home prices have skyrocketed. Sigh.

Our first stop on our journey is Briermere’s Farm Stand (see featured photo) which has become a widely frequented stop for all tourists and locals. We used to go there for our Thanksgiving pies, but gave that up when the lines began to trail out the door. We try to go on odd weekends now, hoping the place won’t be so busy. Today was perfect: we grabbed. peach-raspberry pie and a bag of chocolate-chip-pecan cookies.

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It’s too early in the season for fresh vegetables, so our visit was a quick one.

Our next stop was our favorite eatery: Love Lane Kitchen on Love Lane.

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It is my go-to stop for a Lobster Roll lunch which consists of a hefty portion of lobster salad atop a brioche bun, accompanied by a sizable portion of garlic fries. It is pricey, but I consider it one of my few culinary indulgences…and heck, I only do it once or twice a year.

We love the ambiance of the place: working and middle-class clientele; local artwork along the walls; quirky seasonal decorations; a young, local waitstaff;

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and a very sunny interior for bad weather days, or a quaint outside patio for good weather days. You won’t find any celebrities here; just a bunch of people happily eating delicious food.

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It’s a Norman Rockwell vision of a warm and welcoming community eatery. Every town should have one.

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(My husband and daughter at Love Lane Kitchen.  Do they look happy to be there?)

Our third, planned stop is the local beach. This stop had an unexpected surprise. An osprey nest, perched on a pole opposite the tiny post office, was occupied by two osprey who happened to be “at home” when we stopped by.

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We are big fans of osprey since their comeback after the DDT years nearly rendered them extinct. They are magnificent, wild-looking birds. In flight their wingspan is enormous with very attractive bands along the edges.

We tried to sit on a bench at the beach, but it was colder and windier than we had anticipated, so after about 10 minutes of gazing at beautiful Peconic Bay, and a bit of fantasizing about how we’d still love to live here, we retreated to the warmth of our car.

Our final stop was Pindar Winery. The North Folk is loaded with wineries and has been for several decades now. Pindar was one of the first to arrive and we haven’t been back in maybe ten years or more. Outside it was freezing!0331181803-2.jpg

We found the inside quite inviting, however, with many small groups scattered throughout the tasting area, some at the bar, some at tables. We purchased a bottle of their Chardonnay and sat at a sun-drenched table, gazing at the warmth of the wood-clad barn which once served as a potato barn, one of the East End’s primary crops. The stained glass window occupying one corner of the barn was magnificent, and I’m sure it was not part of the original barn.

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By chance we struck up a conversation with the cashier who turned out to be the son of the original owner, a Greek doctor. We traded some memories of days long ago when the East End was not a “destination” journey. We felt like pioneers going out to the original opening of this winery three decades ago.

Well fed, well imbibed, well rested and restored, we got back into our car as dusk began to arrive and headed for home with our peach pie, a bottle of Reserve Merlot, the memory of a tasty and satisfying lunch and another memorable day on the East End.

March Challenge: Beginnings and Endings

“By the end of the month we have all grown personally and professionally.” Arjeha (This line is lifted from a recent comment on one of my Slices by a fellow-Slicer.)

This is the end of another March Challenge
But it is the beginning of weekly Tuesday slices

This is the end of challenging myself daily as a writer
But it is the beginning of relaxing as a weekly writer

This is the end of worrying about missing a post
But it is the beginning of not-to-be-missed Tuesdays

This is the end of the overwhelming flurry of Slices
But it is the beginning of a year of enjoying each Slice

This is the end of meeting so many new writers
But it is the beginning of following old friends again

This is the end of amazement about the diversity of Slicers
But it is the beginning of enjoying that diversity

This is the end of learning new tricks from Slicers
But it is the beginning of practicing some old ones

This is the end of daily writing under pressure
But it is the beginning of writing weekly for pleasure

This is the end of four years of the March Challenge for me
But it is the beginning of a fifth year of Slicing!

Congratulations and best wishes to everyone who participated in the March Challenge this year. We’ve all shared another amazing month with our TWT mentors and fellow Slicers. Long live Slice of Life!

When the March Challenge Ends I Will…

When the March Challenge Ends I Will…

When the March Challenge ends I will
go back to making my bed every day.

When the March Challenge ends I will
read the New York Times every morning

When the March Challenge ends I will
pick up with friends left on the back burner

When the March Challenge ends I will
sit less and exercise more often

When the March Challenge ends I will
go to bed earlier and get up earlier

When the March Challenge ends I will
miss the discipline of daily writing

When the March Challenge ends I will
miss the excitement of reading new posts

When the March Challenge ends I will
miss receiving comments every day

When the March Challenge ends I will
return to projects left undone

When the March Challenge ends I will
began to prepare for my April trip to Italy

When the March Challenge ends I will
have more time to enjoy early Spring days

When the March Challenge ends I will
be proud I and so many others stayed the course…

When the March Challenge ends I will
resume my “real” life

When the March Challenge ends I will
start looking forward to next year’s challenge!

Sending love and
Feeling the love…
Barbara

Volunteering for Walt Whitman

I found myself getting up today at 6:30 am and out the door by 7 am. This hasn’t happened for quite some time. I really hate getting up early and indulge myself by staying in bed until 9 or 10 each day. But today I did some volunteer work that required me to be at a high school by 8 am to set up for a Volunteer Fair. Driving there felt like deja vu since this high school is about 10 minutes away from where I taught until three years ago.

The Walt Whitman Association, which I have written about on this site, has been a part of my life since I left teaching. I did a big project with them last fall, in cooperation with a local high school, so they called me to ask if I could help out with another event. They needed someone to represent the WWA at a high school Volunteer Fair. Of course I said yes.

(This is not me in the photo.)

This is an organization that depends on volunteers for its survival. And I knew that the director would not have called me unless she thought I’d be the right person for the job. She knows I’ve taught in schools and am familiar with working with students.

I haven’t had much contact with students since I retired, so this was an opportunity for me to interact with some high school kids. The first thing I noticed is that this district, which was in the 60’s an almost completely Caucasian district, is now about 75-80% minority students. Demographics in some communities on Long Island are changing rapidly.

The students were tentative about approaching a poetry institution for volunteer work, but I managed to engage them in a way that brought them closer to the table. I explained who Walt Whitman is (since many were immigrants) and how he is translated into many languages around the world because he is considered by many to be America’s finest poet. I described the WW Birthplace to them, telling them what a special place it is: “You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The grounds are lovely with beautiful plantings. The tiny museum is very welcoming and interesting. The people who work there are really nice.”

I enjoyed giving my little speech over and over because I really do feel that way about the WW Birthplace and museum. I explained the various volunteer opportunities to the students and told them it would be so nice to have more diversity amongst the volunteers; most of the students were southeast Asian or Hispanic. I knew Walt Whitman would agree with me.

The fair ended after 90 minutes. I packed up my things, and headed for home with four pages of names and emails to reach out to. My next volunteer task is to contact them and invite them to a gathering to be held in the near future for those who are really interested. I offered to arrange the gathering for the WW Association.

At about 5 pm today I was overcome with fatigue. A dose of reality.  I am, after all, retired. I enjoyed my volunteer “moment,” but this is not something I can do on a regular basis any longer. I did a good job today, but it will be a while before I next agree to get up at 6:30 am!

Easter Bunny Inflation

Today I did a little shopping when I realized I hadn’t done anything special for Easter. With no small children around, it’s easy to forget these things, although I did get some Easter egg dye a couple weeks ago. Compared to Easter when I was a child, Easter has become practically a non-event. (We are not religious.)

So I set out for Marshall’s which is one of those discount department stores that has markdowns on everything. I fully expected to find lots of chocolate bunnies at very reasonable prices. I needed one for my daughter’s Easter basket. Yes, she still gets a basket at 34 years of age and loves it.

Much to my shock there were no bunnies at all at Marshall’s. There were gift boxes of chocolates, and marshmallow candies galore…but no bunnies. I looked through the entire store, including the Home section which has kitchen items and gourmet foods…but no bunnies.

Of course I bought a few other things I didn’t really need, including a metal folding chair with a bird perched on the back for me to use when I sit on. my small stoop outside the front door…but no bunnies.

I browsed the cosmetics section and picked up hand creams, soaps, and body lotions and moisturizers for Easter baskets…but no bunnies.

D… it! Now I’ll have to go to another store just to get the bunny. I drove to the bakery in town which was always a source of chocolate bunnies in the past. But it’s under new ownership so I wasn’t sure. Yes! They had chocolate bunnies…but very few, and they were quite expensive. I deliberated a while, decided to buy only the smallest one at $8.95, and thought about how my parents had to provide 8 chocolate bunnies for their 8 kids every Easter!

Next stop was the pharmacy. There I picked up a cheap chocolate foil-wrapped bunny for my husband while my RX was filled and a funny Easter card for my daughter.

I lugged home my Easter loot and then some. Unpacked the car; put the new chair on the front stoop (it fits perfectly) and hid the bunnies in my closet, along with the sundry gifts.

Is it just me, or is everything getting ridiculously expensive? Even chocolate bunnies.

Mothers, Daughters and Friendship

Today I had lunch with a good friend of mine and her mother. She and I used to teach in the same elementary school. I retired almost four years ago; she retired almost a year ago. We were close friends as teachers and our friendship has lasted despite an 11-12 year old age difference.

I had texted her yesterday to ask if she were free today, and could we meet for lunch? She texted back: “My mother is with me.” I texted back: ‘No problem, I’d love to see her, too.”

One of our favorite topics has always been family matters, so I am pretty well informed about hers and she is about mine. We share some similar values like an old-fashioned upbringing and the importance of hard work. We’ve also shared some hard times: both her daughter and mine have a similar psychological disorder and I was able to help her a lot because my daughter is older. She and I have both had cancer…she’s had it twice…and we both had advanced cancers but we both survived.

I admire how she has taken on the burden of caring for her aging mother who at this point has dementia. Her Mom will ask the same question every minute or so, yet my friend will patiently answer her each time. She is devoted to her Mom, despite some difficult teen years. I, too, cared for my mother, also despite some very difficult teen years, when she developed metastasized breast cancer and began failing mentally. I know that one day, my friend’s daughter will take good care of her Mom because her mother has been such a good role model. I know that one day, my daughter will do the same.

I have seen my friend lose her beautiful black hair; unable to get off her recliner because she was so weak from chemo treatments; terrified that she would not live to take care of her two young children (who are now in their early to mid-twenties. She, in turn, has listened to my struggles with my daughter’s five open-heart surgeries and subsequent depression. She has supported me through my own bout with late-stage cancer three years ago, and I know she would do whatever she could for me if I needed her.

This is a true and rare friendship; one I hope never ends except for natural reasons like age. We laughed together today as she taught me how to use emoji’s on my relatively new Android phone. We glanced at each other a number of times as her mother repeated the same questions over and over to us. She smiled as I told her mother how pretty her hair looked today.

We’ve been through a lot together; we’ve also spent time apart. But I think we both know this friendship is special and will endure.