Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


There was a riot on the streets, tell me where were you?

Filed under : America
On April 29, 2012
At 2:00 am
Comments : 3

There is this moment in your youth when something you have only read about in history books, like war or assassination or revolution or riots, happens and it TOTALLY FREAKS YOU OUT. Because you assume that you live in some kind of post-modern era where those kinds of things are OVER. For me it was the Gulf War and then it wasn’t. Oh my God, we’re at war! Just like Vietnam! This woman I worked with at Sam Goody’s, Monique, met and married some guy while I was away for intersession. That’s about five weeks. When I got back I thought she was kidding. But no, they had to get married – he was going away to war! I watched the images on TV, agog. Wow, war! Then, it was over in like a week. Monique’s husband came back and in a span of time about equivalent to the length of the war, they separated. Some Vietnam.

When the LA riots happened. I was working at the Gallery Mall in downtown Baltimore. They closed the thing early because it was all glass. People were scared. By people, I mean the insurance people. I went home, grumbling about lost wages. But College Boyfriend, having graduated, was back in LA and when I got home and called him, all the circuits to LA were busy! It was weird, wild stuff. He couldn’t reach me either but more because he was out patrolling his neighborhood in the Valley in a pick-up truck. I believe guns were involved. If you knew College Boyfriend, who was from Alabama originally, you will realize this was the most exciting thing that could ever happen to a person. I was flabbergasted. And worried. And FREAKED OUT.

When I hear this song, which I do now and then when it pops up on shuffle, I remember all this. It was a freaky time. I think it was the true moment when I realized that history is an ongoing process and not just something that’s written about in books or shown in black and white documentaries. And that we don’t live in a post-modern society at all.

Title comes from:


Sunlight on the lino

Filed under : Life in general,New York City
On April 23, 2012
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 3

Here is my new strategy: stop avoiding the blog because I’m never inspired to write the posts I have on my agenda (and add to that my Blogoversary… I missed that, too) and just write posts as I’m inspired. You know, like I used to. In that spirit…

I’ve talked a lot in the past about the notion of home and even given a tour of places I have lived in two different cities. Last week marked my tenth year as a homeowner and specifically as an owner of this place. And even though my head has always told me to find a place to settle forever, because that’s what made me most happy, I have been really itchy lately to move on. But let me back up a bit.

Have you discovered the 1940 census? You should! Apparently, after 72 years, the census specifics are released and this time, they’ve been put in a searchable (by address) database online. It is awesome, both to find out who your ancestors were and what they did (my grandfather sold hats in Brooklyn but I’m not sharing his salary!) but also to find out the history of your own home, if it’s that old. In the city, mine is. I knew that. It dates from 1898 and it was gutted and renovated in the 60′s, so there’s no telling from this census who lived in my exact space, but only in my building. For whatever reason, the census people put down building numbers, but not apartments or even floors. This is what I knew about my building but had forgotten: it has six floors and when originally built, had six homes (cue the drooling over an apartment that encompassed the entire level). Some time in the 30′s, it was converted to SRO’s, or single room occupancy apartments. I don’t really know what that meant practically in terms of size or amenities. Then in the 60′s, it was completely redone to its present configuration of five 1-bedroom apartments per floor. Sometimes, I look at my window layout, which is a little odd, and try to imagine the original design of the rooms, but I really can’t.

What the census inspired me to do, because there were so many names listed for my small building, was to look up the occupancy permits online. I found one from the 40′s which declared that my floor, which, if you recall, originally had a home for one family and nowadays for five singles, couples, or tiny families, had thirteen SRO’s. I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute. I cannot even conceive of it. Certainly, some of them had no windows; there just aren’t enough. Some of these what had to be teeny-tiny apartments had several unrelated people in them. The census parlance calls them lodgers but I think that would mean if you were my roommate and not on the lease, you’d be my lodger. Still, how did they all fit? Did these places have kitchens? Was there a common bathroom? One of my projects this summer, which I may or may not get to, is to go to the library and find some of the records that would tell me how my place was set up. But I can tell you that most of these folks were born in NY, unlike in my father’s sprawling building in Brooklyn, and they had all kinds of trades. Then, as now, there was a subway right nearby which would have taken them straight downtown to jobs.

I never found my mother’s family. They were clearly never home to answer the door. Actually, when I recall how utterly persistant the census workers were when they came here two years ago, it’s hard to believe, but they skipped both my grandparents and a couple of the neighbors my aunt remembers in two or three passes at the neighborhood (you can see them circling back with later additions at the end of the book). I know my aunt is not recalling it wrong because I always remember my mother’s utter dismay that her beloved house in Massachusetts was now a convenience store parking lot. When I go to Google Maps, I can see that it still is. That would really haunt me. I totally get her.

After my previous post on my birth house (literally), you can believe that I have never gone back. I did look it up in the census but knew it was a post-war house. It was; it had been a farm which had a railroad station on the old New York, Westchester, and Boston Railway. I knew about this railroad growing up but never that it had been so close and that a station had been pretty much down the street. In fact, the path of the railroad is now some kind of trail through the woods known as “the Greenway.” I wish I could go back and look at it with fresh eyes but Google Maps is as close as I’ll go.

So you can see how sentimental I am on the notion of home. Or see further. This is the longest I have lived anywhere since I was a child. Ten years, wow! The longest between my childhood house and now previously had been four years. I think when you’re single and without children and remaining in the same city, there’s no clear indicators on when you should move. When you can afford a larger place? When your neighborhood changes? When you just get plain tired of it? I have been tired of my place for a little while now. There are issues which have become more irritating. The noise, for one thing. I don’t know how thick the walls were for those folks in the SRO’s but the renovation in the 60′s was done with paper-thin versions and a lack of insulation between floors. I am tired of hearing the thunderous footsteps upstairs…. and the fighting. I am tired of hearing the guy next door’s actions in the kitchen and the guy on the other side flushing the toilet. Most of all, I think it’s the light. I’ve been away a couple of times in the last month and each time, I was in a place with a lot of light. I miss that. I face a wall and get two hours of natural light a day. In the beginning, this did not bother me. I was too enamored of the great location of my place and the storage it had. If I want light, I will have to give up location (my salary has gone up but so have real estate prices), but I think it’s worth it.

So, as you can see, I am looking for a new place. Doesn’t mean I really will move, of course, but I am looking. I have a real estate agent coming next week to look at my place and tell me what he thinks I can get. I was going to do this over the summer but then I remembered how long this took last time when I was only doing half of the process (just buying, not selling). I have summers free but the fall will be busy. Better to get the bulk of the work done over the break, I think. People always ask about my kitchen: how can you move when you put so much work into the kitchen! There are many things that would be hard about moving. For starters, moving itself is such a bear, particularly when you’re as settled in as I am. Last time, my mother stayed with me all night and helped me move. Her method would be to pack little things inside big things and I remember finding hidden things for months afterwards. Oh hey, this empty cookie jar has a box of pasta in it! I’ll miss that. And my pharmacy where everyone knows me. And these built-in bookshelves which are the focal point of my home. And, yes, the kitchen. But if I find a place that needs a new kitchen, I’ll know exactly what I like. And if I find one already done I’ll know I don’t have to go through that awfulness again anytime soon. And whoever buys my place, I’ll try to imagine that they like the kitchen, too, and aren’t going to rip out my creation.

Of course, none of this may happen. Maybe I won’t find anything better enough to justify all this. But I do know that my notion of what’s home is really different than I thought. Unless I move to a rowhouse in Baltimore. That would be forever.

Title comes from:
Squeeze – Goodbe Girl


Nothing more, nothing less

Filed under : Life in general,Music
On April 16, 2012
At 9:00 pm
Comments : 3

You can sort of guess that I’ve gone back to work because I am again way too tired to write when I get home. The schedule of falling asleep at 9pm has re-started… bleah.

I have several things I’d like to write about but have not yet gotten to. When that will actually happen is up to my energy level, and I can’t really predict that, because just putting together this sentence has been exhausting. In the meantime, I suggest you go see the Hunger Games because it was Teh Awesome! Also, I offer this video because as I gaze dazedly at my TV each evening, I cannot muster enough strength to decide whether I am disgusted by hearing this in a commercial or ecstatic to hear its charming few notes. I just know I’d rather see this. If you are like me, the odds are now ever in your favor.


The most hopeful time of the year

Filed under : Baseball
On April 6, 2012
At 12:15 pm
Comments : 5

It’s Opening Day! Sunshine! Rainbows! Spring!

I’d like to take this post to wish a happy 20th anniversary to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I distinctly remember the opening, as all of us salespeople at the nearby Gallery Mall were given free Oriole caps to wear all weekend. It was a great time for Baltimore and I wish great times for Baltimore (and the Orioles, too) would come back.

So happy Opening Day! And may your team win… as long as you support the same ones I do.


In the seaside town

Filed under : Travel
On April 1, 2012
At 11:00 pm
Comments : 5

Tonight’s the last night of my spring break (sob!) and so it’s as good a time as any to share some pictures from the trip. I had a little slip and fall at the Giant’s Causeway and hurt my knees, ankle, and hand. Everything’s healed except my hand which is still bandaged in such a way to make it hard to type. Thus, the delay in posting. I was patched up by a nice guy from the National Trust who kept trying to make me look at the cliffs while he was cleaning the wound. More on him later.

Here’s the teaser: I liked Northern Ireland much better than I liked the Republic of Ireland. More on that later, too.

The Giant’s Causeway is apparently the #1 tourist destination in Northern Ireland. It’s a kind of basalt landscape that looks like thin columns and tessellated disks. But I really just loved the coastline. That’s why I go to the British Isles, for this particular landscape. I adore it.

Besides the landscape, the other big tourist attraction in NI, especially this year, is Titanic, which was built in Belfast. It’s a huge thing there. Everywhere. I could never figure out whether people actually cared or if it was all for the hordes of tourists who are expected when the big exhibit opens (coincidentally, today). But I did get treated to things like this throughout the country.

I had the song that the lyric in the title comes from in my head a lot of the time I was in Portrush. It’s about the classic British seaside holiday spot which has seen better days. And Portrush has. But I found it charming, especially on Saturday when all the families came. And just like TripAdvisor said, my B&B lady was the sweetest, most welcoming person you could want. And really, everybody was. Everyone talked to me. I had a conversation everywhere I went. It was kind of amazing. I talked to lots and lots of people. But not about everything. That’ll be later, too.

Answer to the last post’s teaser: the cake is called Fifteen because it includes 15 of several ingredients. It’s a traditional traybake (bar cookie) in Northern Ireland.

(These houses face the sea but they’re mostly empty… I wanted to buy one and eat fish and chips the rest of my life).

More to come…

Morrissey – Everyday Is Like Sunday