The Great Water Race and Barbecue to help build sloop Eleanor’s Spars

EleanorThe Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society Inc. invites all to the Great Water Race and Barbecue at the Roe-Jan Creek Boat Club in Germantown on September 6th, from 2 to 5pm.  Proceeds will go to support Sailboat Eleanor’s restoration – specifically to restore the mast, boom, and gaff of this lovely landmark vessel.

The racing sloop Eleanor was built in City Island in 1903 and is on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places.  Being well over a century old, with materials of mahogany, oak, cedar, iron and copper, she will provide invaluable restoration experiences for both master craftsmen and their apprentices.  Eleanor is the last surviving example of a class of boats known as “raceabouts” that were designed for speed, and represents a unique chapter in the evolution of sailing.  This is an opportunity to have a wonderful afternoon and contribute to a unique cause as well.

Duck and FlamingoThe Water Race will begin at approximately 3:30 pm.  Ten ducks and ten flamingos, who have gathered from various point on the map and are staying at members’ homes, have been studying and swimming the waters of the creek for the past month or so, will vie for the finish line.  Racers, at $50 each, can be sponsored before September 6th by calling 618-568-8832, or at the barbecue if still available.  Five hundred dollars will go to benefit Eleanor, $250 will be awarded to the sponsor of the first place winner, 50 to the second place sponsor, and $100 to the third.  The racers will have the option of remaining with their sponsors as honorary drink floats or returning home.  Guests can bet on their favorite racer. Enjoy the view of the river and the mountains as you cheer the racers on.

Music will be provided by The Livingston-Blackiston twins, Sky and Sandy, and by Mike Pagnani and Friends.  A menu of hot dogs, chicken, local potatoes contributed by Staron Farm and fresh corn contributed by Holmquest Farm, salads, and home baked desserts will be served.  Call 518-567-8832 or email eleanorrestorationproject@gmail.com for tickets or get back to me in my comments — only $15 a person.  You may also purchase them at Anglers Marine at 12 County Route 31or Bruno’s in Hudson. .  Tickets must be purchased before August 29th.

Come have a great afternoon and learn more about Eleanor.  Visit HRHBrass’s website at www.hudsonriverhistoricboat.org

Thanks to Hudson River Sampler from whom I happily stole whole sentences!

 

 

 

Chinatown Update

No trip to NYC is complete without our last minute shopping spree.  My birthday celebration in the city was no different.  We ventured out from our Mott Street apartment into the daytime bustle of Chinatown.

Pig headsI worry about the endurance of this neighborhood.  Just today I read in the Times “that New York needs to be lofted back into global competitiveness. That the city isn’t modern enough.”  And that the Department of City Planning is “envisioning a taller, denser, shinier future for the neighborhood around Grand Central.”  How soon before the entire city is one tall, dense, shiny complex dotted with gentrified neighborhoods for the super-wealthy and not so-super wealthy?

At least not yet.

We scurry from one stall to another buying baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, mangoes, cherries, pomelo and whatever else we see that looks good.  The cost is always considerably less than what one would find locally.   But the biggest incentive to shop is that it is so much fun to be part of the activity on the streets.  Lee is a pro and his interactions with the vendors are swift and smooth.  He can’t speak the language but he’s got the brusqueness down pat.

We bring home more produce than we think we could ever eat but always seem to consume it all in one stir-fry and soup after another.

Then we pop into the markets for all kinds of noodles, sesame oil, sauces, and black beans.  Lee has his favorites.

2013-04-22 13.01.39

We go to Kam Man on Canal Street when we need more tea blossoms, a teapot, or other kitchenware.  I’m more at home there.  The store has American structure with check out lines and cash registers, and now New Kam Man has a web presence, but we still pay in cash, which is the norm in Chinatown.  Hank C, the “Perpetually Hungry,” on Yelp says he see more tourists in Kam Man than locals, and that could be. The store is  doing something right, at least for me and the other tourists. Hank recommends the Hong Kong Supermarket and other shops on Elizabeth Street and perhaps we’ll give them a look-see when we are down again next week.

Yee Li

Our last stop was Yee Li for lunch and to stock up on meals to bring back home.  We were delighted to see that our favorite restaurant is freshly painted and has earned its “A.”  The ambiance is still the same however.  We were tickled to see two men carry a large glass canister to one of the tables.  They dumped out a big pile of cash and started to count the bills.  No pretense here.  No fear either.  The waiter smiled when we took our photo.

We learned from Lee’s Chinese family that this was the tip jar.  And of course since they grew up working hard in their family’s restaurant they added, for their enjoyment and ours, a few stories of their childhood in the business.

The future is what it is all about, but when life seems meaningless and we feel lost, these small vibrant connections to our past can help us remember the way home.

#66

My birthday was at the end of March.  One of my dog-walking neighbor pals had her birthday last week, and yesterday we had a birthday lunch with a third dog-walking neighbor who celebrates hers later in April.

It seems like it has been my birthday for quite a while.  Because it has been such a happy experience, I have wanted to write about it.  Until today tho, I hadn’t found the way, hadn’t the time, and hadn’t wanted to bore people.   But if it isn’t on paper it will fade from memory.

charles lloydMy celebration began two weeks before the big day when my sons treated Lee and me to dinner in the city.  That was a whirlwind trip – we saw them Thursday.  We attended Charles Lloyd’s 75th Birthday concert at the Temple of Dendur in the MMoA on Friday, after a few hours of frustratingly looking for each other among the exhibits.  We topped Friday evening off with a drink at Duane Park in their new digs in the Bowery.  We’ll go back for a late night Saturday dinner when we can meet up with my son, a piano player in the band. We met recently acquired friends (the female half of which was celebrating her 70th birthday) for lunch on Saturday and then drove up to Rosendale for a party that night.  Even a meter maid gave me a present.  We spent the next two days catching up on sleep.

Most of that activity was not related in any way to my birthday but usurping the purpose and fun of these events for my own hurt no one and gave me great joy.  I enjoy joy.

Lee doesn’t believe in birthdays, so I don’t fuss about his.   I’m 99% sure, however, that this is all talk, as I am sure it is for most of those who belittle birthday celebrations and Valentine’s Day.  He certainly got into the spirit of mine this year.

When I suggested going up to Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, where we had spent a wonderful night when were “courting,” he said do it.  We weren’t the only guests in the inn this time, the cat no longer prowled the halls, and we were visiting New Hampshire at its worst.  Mud season really does make for dreary landscape.  We had so much fun that we’ll go again.

chutters

We spent one day in Littleton, stopping at Chutters.  My husband Clark and I had scoped out the store as an alternative business venture back when we were looking for our retirement b&b.  It screamed out to us:  “You will regret this.  I am more work than any b&b!”  Chutters has lost its old time general store atmosphere, but the famous candy counter is still there. The store-as-it-once-was probably did prove to be too much work.

IMG_0744As we started our walk on the main street, a carved chair in the window of The Art Works caught Lee’s eye.  We went in – what else do you do when you have nothing to do?  Lee admired the workmanship that had gone into the chair and we asked its history.  The owner’s sister had found the chair on the side of the road, restored it to its former glory.  I sat in it and we left.

We continued down the street, popped into a few more shops, had lunch, and then Lee took me to buy my birthday present – a new old handsomely carved, caned, and pillowed chair to go in front of my new old desk which I had found on the side of the road while walking the dog.  A matched set.

The next morning we left for Concord.  We were hoping to find Dan Dustin, New Hampshire’s colorful and uniquely talented wooden spoon maker.   First stop – The League of NH Craftsmen.  Happily Suzie, the executive director, was in.  I had organized the League’s archives and image collections.  Susie gave me a hug and gave us a whirlwind tour of the new gallery, education facility and headquarters.   The League should be so proud that people believe in it and have demonstrated their support by helping to provide it with this crisp, comfortable home.  Long live the League and its annual craft fair!

IMG_0746Dan is a member of the League. They called him, we talked, and we were off to his studio/home.  Lee knew him from his craftsmen’s fair days.  I knew of him through the League.  He showed us his “gallery” of hand crafted treasures bought and bartered for.  Each had its own intriguing history.  His enthusiasm for his collection helped me put Lee’s clutter into perspective.  Lee and he shared craft fair gossip.  We left with four gorgeous “spoons found in nature” that we will use as door pulls in our Spoon Cottage addition, and Dan had an unexpectedly good day.

The next morning we were off to Mass MOCA.  We traveled down Route 2, which turned out to be the scenic leg of the trip.   I seemed to see my life go by as I remembered different drives down that road – fitting for a birthday vacation.  The best views were of little clumps of windmills, stark against the blue sky.

If you look real hard you can see them through the trees.

If you look real hard you can see them through the trees.

Not knowing what we would find at the museum, we wandered around looking at   installations and art  — some creative and interesting, but some not.  Then we entered a room lined with large packing cases and encountered Xu Bing’s Phoenix, a masterpiece with a fascinating story attached to it.  At least one of the two homeless birds is scheduled to roost in at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York in October.  If it does, be sure to visit.  Can you imagine?  From factory to Gothic revival.  It will be a whole new experience. I’ll be there.

Xu Bing Phoenx : Art Evans: Globe

I like to treat myself kindly on my birthday, especially those years when nobody else does.  Sometimes I even buy birthday cards for myself.  I used to think they were for friends but recently I noticed the ones that spoke to me have been accumulating in a box.

As years go by I’ll remember #66 as one of the finest, that is, if I can remember to read about it here.

Empty Chairs by Yellow Fields

Exploring the Costa Brava a year ago Lee and I were under the spell of abandoned villas, sea and mountain landscapes, living medieval towns, highways that turned into dirt roads no wider than a private driveway, wisteria laden stucco walls – my list could go on and on.

It was Lee’s first visit to Spain.  Actually it was his first visit to Europe.  It was his first passport.  It was a delight to relive the excitement of my first European visit through him.

We spent a few nights in Barcelona and then drove north to L’Escala, our base for the rest of our stay.  We gradually approached the coast, winding our way through the mountains and the sea.  Lee had brought me out to California and taken me for my first drive along the Pacific Coast just a few months before.  I ooooohed and aaaaahed my way in California but I OOOOOhed and AAAAAAhed on the Costa Brava, stopping here and there to eat, walk and look.

We spent a day in Besalu, and one driving up to L’Alt Emporda and through the Pyranees to Cap de Creus where the Pyrenees drop precipitously into the sea. Our plan for the next day was to “do” the  Dali triangle but after the open road we found the congestion of the streets of Cadaques uninviting and instead of a quest for Dali, we traveled to France on a quest for the perfect patisserie.  Unfortunately we did not find one, but perhaps we will make that the focus of a trip to France in the future.

Puente de Besalú – 12th Century

Saturday’s article in the Times about the trafficking of foreign women for prostitution in Spain brought back the good memories of this vacation but also the puzzling ones. While driving through the Costa Brava we kept coming across two unusual images.  One was of yellow flower fields.  We kept thinking goldenrod or yarrow, wildflowers familiar to us.   But the fields appeared very neat as if cultivated, and we speculated on the commercial value of goldenrod and yarrow.

Català: Camp de colza, amb la muntanya de Montserrat al fons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CampdeColza.JPG

Empty chairs along the highway were the other strange image.  We’d drive along and see a folding chair at an intersection or under a tree.  Was it’s someone’s chair left there while they were waiting for a ride or for the bus?  Was it a place where a farmer would arrive to sell fruits and vegetables?  Later we saw provocatively dressed women sitting in chairs along the road, and even though we found it hard to believe, we surmised that these women must have been prostitutes. We wondered about their safety.  Where were their pimps or madams?  Who watched after them?  Who came to their aid if they were in a dangerous situation?

When we came home we checked online and learned that indeed, prostitution was legal in Spain, but pimping was not.   In my naiveté I wanted to believe that these women, having no other source of income, turned to prostitution as their livelihood.  Perhaps their brothers protected them?  It seemed from the articles that someone in the establishment had their safety in mind.  A 2004 law required pedestrians on roads to wear reflective jackets and the prostitutes were fined 40 euros if they did not.

Reports since the Times article have detailed the sordidness of the sex business in Spain. It is not unusual for the women to be tattooed with barcodes that show who owns them and how much money they owe to their pimps.

Doing research on the yellow flowers I learned that they are fields of rapeseed.   Searching more I find that these fields have attracted others’ attention also and they appear in literature and photo logs.  Rapeseed is grown as a feed for livestock and its oil is used both for human consumption and in the production of biodiesel.  In 1981 more than 350 people died from ingesting rapeseed oil that was produced for industrial use but was sold as vegetable oil – not a mistake, but a scandalous abuse of power by the government and business.

Sadder but wiser.  Perhaps I should just let the unexplained go unexplained, stay away from google, and live in uneducated bliss.

Our Favorite Chinatown Restaurant

I have a favorite Chinatown Restaurant. Me?

When I was a little girl my parents brought me to Chinatown in Manhattan.  I don’t remember what we did there but I do remember feeling frightened.  Nothing was familiar — the sounds, the faces, the smells, the signs, the crowds.  It was sometime in the fifties.

Now I go to the city at least once a month, and I stay with my friend Lee in his apartment on Mott Street.  Lee is not Chinese.  He inherited the apartment from his late wife.  He feels Chinese.  I don’t. This is my second Chinatown experience, and I feel just as much a foreigner.

We have two dogs – a sixty and a one hundred pounder. They are large dogs and very conspicuous in Chinatown and so are we. We take them down to Columbus Park and if the weather is good and we have time, we walk them out among the city and state government buildings and parks.  We are more or less just part of the city outside of Chinatown.  My dog has leash aggression and the whole time we’re walking I’m on a vigilant lookout for “other” dogs.  For two country dogs, they do very, very well in the crowded streets of Chinatown, where so many of the people are elderly and slow and there is so much food out on display in the markets in the streets, and incredible smells coming from the trash bags along the sidewalks. Most people smile at them.  The dogs are less intimidated than I am.

Lee and his wife frequented two restaurants, both owned by the same family.  They were very friendly with the owners, and they would joke about matching their children up.  When we go in for dinner or for meals to bring back upstate, they recognize him, and now me.  It is always nice to be welcomed into a restaurant with a big “hello again” smile and the food is great.  One of the great days in my friend’s “getting used to being in Chinatown without his wife phase,” was the day he approached the owner to work with him on the menu for a banquet for some family that were in town.  Sitting around the table with the waiters bringing out one delightful, authentic dish after another and with his family beaming, made him feel as though he really was Chinese.  (Our neighbors know him for his excellent crispy noodles and stir fry and we’ve been joking about opening up Lo Fan’s Noodle Shop in the mid-Hudson Valley region.)

Last fall we went to Hsin Wong, one of the two restaurants, and noticed a big “B” in the window.  New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had initiated a new two-step restaurant inspection process in 2010 that requires restaurants to post their ratings in the front window.  My son Morgan has a career in public nutrition and food policy and I had read about this program with interest, as I read anything which makes me feel more connected with my sons, when it first was announced.  He had worked in kitchens a good part of his high school and college life, and had told me stories that I don’t want to repeat about kitchen conditions.  I thought the city was doing a great service by conducting the inspections and letting diners know the results.

But now, I was confronted with a dilemma.  Did I want to not eat in this less than pristine restaurant that I had eaten in with relish before?  Did anyone that we knew ever get sick from lack of sanitary practices in Hsin Wong?  There was a lot of conflict here.

Of course we went inside, had a wonderful dinner, bought our see yu gai  and Chinese broccoli and went home.  We were correct in following our instincts.  After all Thomas Farley, MD, MPH, Commisioner of the Department of Health, wrote that:

“In the first year or so of grading, we expect that most restaurants will earn a B grade. Restaurants with B or C grades should improve their overall food safety practices, but the Health Department immediately closes restaurants with conditions that may be hazardous to public health.”

The next time we were in Chinatown we went out to eat and found Hsin Wong closed.  No sign literally or figuratively of what happened – just a overhead metal gate where chickens and roast pork used to hang.

We went to Yee Li, formerly known as The Big Wang, the other family restaurant down the street, chatting with the owner while we ate.  He told us that they had lease renewal issues at the Hsin Wong and that was that.  Besides, even I was quite aware since my short re-acquaintance with Chinatown, that stores and restaurants were always opening and closing.  Business there had dropped considerably since 9/11 and the “fortification” of the NYC police headquarters made it difficult for downtown workers to get to Chinatown for lunch.

We were in Chinatown just last week, and much to our surprise we found a big C in the window of Yee Li.  Oh no.  What will the owners do?  Clean up or close up?  We don’t know any of the facts and it is better not to even venture a guess.  We had another wonderful meal and brought back chicken and pork and ribs and had friends over for dinner and everybody is feeling good.  No General Tso’s revenge.

But we are curious what will happen to Chinatown.  The city has recently designated it as one of its more than 60 “Business Improvement Districts”  and there is a movement among local groups and committees to preserve the character of the neighborhood.

The apartment house on Mott Street shares a stoop with a popular restaurant.  The shop on the other side of the door sells fans, hats, Chinese jackets and dresses, t-shirts, tote bags, and scarves that drape over onto the stoop.  Every time I walk out onto the street I squint in the bright sun and I look around and wonder how I got to be where I am.  We’re going down for Chinese New Year.  We’ll sit on the fire-escape and watch the dragons.  I can’t wait.

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We were down for a visit a few weeks ago.  Yee Li has it’s A!  — April 2013