Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


One more covered sigh

Filed under : Fancypants Prep,Life in general
On June 3, 2012
At 11:10 pm
Comments : 4

I have to say, the whole working in a school thing totally feeds my “navel gaze sentimentally at your childhood” issue. Sorry! But remember that feeling, at the last week of school, when suddenly there was nothing serious left to study, classrooms got hot and lethargic, and all those “I can’t wait for freedom!” feelings shifted to “I will miss these people!” Yeah. Like that. This is the last week of classes and I am finding that as I write DONE on each class’ sheet in my book, there’s a bittersweet sensation. I’ll miss these kids and some of them even say they’ll miss me. I got to sign yearbooks! I haven’t done that since I was 17.


I just reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and liked it less than I did as a kid when I adored it and read it a hundred times. I found parts of it dull and trite, but that’s probably since I have outgrown the intended demographic. Anyway, it does this neat trick of making you feel nostalgic at the end of the book for the beginning when the heroine was abjectly poor, had few friends, and suffered in school. I’m not sure how it does that. But it’s often possible to have a tough time and a great time. Francie knows.

And now….UPDATE!

I got the grant!!!!1 So I will be doing two weeks of curriculum work. Also, I will be away most of the month of June after school ends next week (for me, after the kids go) on a grand tour of Lesser Visited But Great Cities of Our Nation. Then I’ll mostly be around. I am thinking of getting access to a pool around here, but it might cut into my Netflix time. Also, that whole “buy a bathing suit” aspect. We’ll see.

Summer. I can smell it.

Title comes from:


The home stretch

Filed under : Life in general
On May 28, 2012
At 10:00 pm
Comments : 5

As you can tell from the relative sparseness of posting lately, there’s not much going on these days about which I can write, so, alas, empty space. There are just a few weeks left of school and I am trying to get a handle on the end of my first year in a new job and career. I am very, very lucky to have chosen something which allows this breathing room, but on the other hand, the gig is so intense, I’d probably keel over without it.

Summer plans are going like this:
If I get a grant for which I applied, two weeks working on curriculum. If not, two weeks working on curriculum without a grant.

A week at Carnegie-Mellon to study robotics. Fun! I love robotics. I love learning. I have never been to Pittsburgh. Naturally, I’m taking the train.

After, I am going on to Cleveland to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, something I’ve always wanted to do. Because it’s getting tacked on to the professional development portion, all I pay is the fare from Pittsburgh to Cleveland and the hotel. Woot!

I am trying to fit in a trip to see a dear friend, and a place I have never been. I mean, I will go, I just have to find the best time around her and my schedules. It will be awesome. I do not think it will be a train trip, though.

The Great Real Estate Hunt. I think this will take up a lot of the summer, but it has been revised somewhat. As soon as it comes together a bit more, I’ll be able to talk about it without seeming insane. As insane.

Decluttering! I must declutter, whether I sell this place or not. After ten years in one apartment, you accumulate stuff without having reason to get rid of anything. Soon, you are stepping over piles of things to reach other things. Not good. This summer. This.summer.

Books! I have a lot of books I want to read. I need a hammock and a view, but maybe I’ll just sit in the air-conditioning and look at that spot on the wall that needs a picture but I never decided which one after the remodel.

Seeing people. Do you live here? Want to see a movie or have coffee? Or hey, do you want to visit? Come visit! You can tell me what to do with that spot on the wall.

And of course, The Open. David Nalbandian lost today at the French. I just hope he hangs on long enough to allow me to see him lose live in August.

So there you have it. I probably won’t have much in the next few weeks unless some other musician dies. By the way, Donna Summer was my favorite singer when I was in elementary school, the same age group I teach now. I didn’t understand any of her lyrics but I love love loved her music. My siblings wouldn’t let me play her records on their turntables because she was disco. As an adult, I got her greatest hits and play them whenever I feel like it! So there. Which is a good thing, because there is a freedom to her music, a “be happy and do what you like” vibe. We could all use some of that, am I right? RIP.

This was my favorite song by her back then.


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.


Happy the man (or woman)

Filed under : Life in general
On February 22, 2012
At 8:30 pm
Comments : 10

Tonight begins the month of Adar and as I’ve written before, Jews are advised that it’s a month to be happy. Again, as I’ve written before, sometimes this can be challenging, as it was for my mother after her own mother died during Adar. But she tried and did a good job.

I’ve had my own issues lately, as you know, but right now, I’m still stunned and saddened for a dear friend and friend of this blog whose husband passed away unexpectedly this week. I am so sad for her that any happiness I feel is dipped in sorrow. But she herself once advised me not to lolligag in sadness. And so for her sake and for my Mom’s, I am going to give myself an Adar challenge. This is a first in the history of JBall! I am sometimes so uninspired about what to write that I’ve always wanted to take on one of these challenges that make you post on a certain topic every day. There’s a Depeche Mode one going on now called “30 Days of Depeche Mode” that I thought of doing but in the end, didn’t. But I’ve enjoyed reading several other people’s.

So during the month of Adar, from tomorrow through March 23, I am going to attempt to post a happy thought or song every single day (except Saturdays, my blog’s day of rest). Yes, it will be a cheer-a-palooza! And believe it or not, it’s harder to find happy songs in my collection than happy sentiments in my brain (you’ll notice there’s a “Rants” category but no “Yay! one) so those totally count. Too bad I already posted “Super Karate Monkey Death Car.” Oh well. Maybe there will be other happy videos in your future! Now there’s a jolly thought.

There has also been a recent Jew & A question (well, I lied, it wasn’t recent, I just haven’t gotten to it) so we’ll try to make that a joyful post, too. As an aside, there really aren’t enough synonyms for happy and I would like gay back.

So here we go, and have no fear, “Don’t worry, be happy” will never, ever be posted on this blog.

Title from:
The Cure – Happy the Man