Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Come on up, lay your hands in mine

To present any coherent collection of my thoughts and recollections from the past election-into-elect-into-Inauguration season is beyond me these days. I would, however, like to fire out some ramblings, errant-style, before the first heat of this historic moment passes completely.

To start, here are some jottings I made late in the evening after gathering with friends to watch the election results come in, back on November 4th. We met at an apartment in our neighborhood and then, as it was clear the rising was upon us, we joined a thronging mass of humanity up on Harlem's historic 125th Street to ring in the new era...


The hope is tangible. The joint is jumpin'. The fireworks are poppin'. Car horns and beams of light and chants and clapping and screams and high school girls dancing in the streets and traffic thrown off all over the area. All TVs I hear through open windows on an unseasonably warm night playing the same speech, in loud volume - people cheering out doorways and from rooftops and in living rooms and on street corners and more. The city pulses more than I've ever felt it - a throbbing "Yes we can" and "Yes we did", the realization of dreams of generations, of national pride unparallelled in my experience - "a new kind of patriotism" - we all in this together. Even those who did not vote for him, he WILL reach out to you. An articulate president again, an intelligent president again...

"I may not get there with you, but we'll get there."

Campaign songs blaring from car windows, on the crowd's lips, from the speakers of the rally at 125. 40,000 people at the New York State Office Building. Traffic is completely stopped. Riding in a cab, heading south away from the growing crowd along the main drag of Harlem - no need to hyperbolize the significance of the neighborhood in African-American history and US history in general (Is this a dream deferred realized?!) - riding in that cab, passing celebrating gaggles on sidewalks spilling into the street, buoyed by the spirit of the evening, listening to Barack on the radio, turning it up and nodding, clapping along with the cabbie.

And back at home still I hear the cheers, the honks, the yells - I imagine I will into the night. It's 12:28 and we are mere minutes into a new era. Fireworks. Even dogs getting in on the act - barking up a storm in fits and starts, lulls when the human voices have settled back from the ripples heading out.

Voices on the radio, calling in from their corners of celebration:
"America is full of wonders."
"Everybody is smiling. People are proud to be American again..."
"I have never seen the city so alive.'

Rep. John Lewis - "I don't know if I have any tears left to cry this week."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Manicotti and Musketeers

There is a restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx that advertises “Fine Family Dinning.” Does that mean you can bring the kids and let them make a racket? Is “dinning” like “dimming”? Or more like “dunning”? Neither of those sounds good to me. What does sound good is, “Hey, I’m going up to eat at Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue. You want to join me?”

I did have the pleasure of eating at Dominick’s this past weekend with my brother, father, and L. We combined the gustatory delights of that menu-less family-style Italian eatery with a basketball game at Fordham, vs. Xavier. Our cousin Mike is a trainer for the Musketeers and, as always, it was nice to see a friendly face on the opposing team’s bench. Go Rams! [Photo is a little fuzzy because either a) the kind woman sitting near us was sitting in a Sharper Image chair when she took it; b) the lens was covered with castor oil; or c) pick 'em.]

Dominick’s, for those unfortunate many who have not had the pleasure, is a treasure of the Bronx’s Little Italy neighborhood, a collection of bakeries, restaurants, specialty stores, and the like. Some of the restaurants have fine dinning, others no. Regardless, as yet another outpost of il bel paese, Arthur Avenue ranks with Court Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and the most famous Little Italy in NYC centered around Mulberry St. in lower Manhattan. 2009 – a year to shake off lethargy and explore those infrequently visited spots of your place in space. A hedgerow, a side street, a nearby valley, a borough. Get out there! Don’t forget your decoder ring.

And watch out for misspelled signs. They’re everywhere.


One sign you could not miss today:

C. H. A. N. G. E.

As one blogger put i: Black president, y'all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Something in the air

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek.
~ President-elect Barack Obama

2009 is the year of change, if we make it so. I’ve gone walkabout for too long now and it is time to come home to writing in this space again. I don’t know if anyone else missed “the old bike” as much as me, but I’m going to get back on, start pedaling, and see what happens. I resolve to change my no-good lay-about writing ways.

President-elect Obama’s inauguration is next week in our nation’s capitol; I plan on attending some of the weekend’s pre-festivities and look forward to sharing stories afterwards. Additionally, I resolve to be more conscientious of the part I must play in turning Senator Obama’s rhetoric to action. What role do I play? What about you?


Sometimes old adages prove true. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Example #1: it is interesting and encouraging to see a growing consciousness not only of more sustainable ways of doing things, but also of the need for a fundamental examination of the motivations behind those actions. As Sandra Steingraber points out in her essay in the current Orion magazine, the increasing trend towards Velcro and Croc-style slip-on shoes weakens our self-reliance by removing knot tying as an early childhood skill and deepens our petro-reliance by adding yet more oil-based products to our lives. Knot-tying as self-reliance? Yes. While arguments can be made for ease and comfort, do we not lose when we trade map for GPS, pick-up for delivery, post-cards for Facebook? The path of least resistance can be difficult to climb in reverse.

So what is staying the same? The ability of some old-fashioned technology to solve more than one problem at the same time. Sighting houses for light can also greatly increase energy efficiency. Reusing materials salvaged from the garbage cuts down on landfill and keeps your wallet fat. Drying your clothes on an indoor line in a winter NYC apartment lowers your electric bill and helps humidify a dry space. A little bit. Any which way you slice it, this last activity, drying clothes sans electricity, is a new endeavor we’re trying in 2009 – commonplace technology in many parts, outlawed practice in some, exciting pastime in a my TV-free apartment. But that’s another story.

Interested in learning more about clotheslines? Check this out. I resolve to pedal around and check more things out. For example: will President Obama plant an organic farm on the lawn of the White House? I don’t know, but thanks to my friend Dan I now know that these folks hope so – and more power to ‘em!

2009. Winds of change are blowing. Reap ‘em.