Thursday, August 25, 2016


It was on Craigslist under the free section where I was looking for bubblewrap. The title of the ad read: Free Ticket to Yankees Game Tonight. I thought it might be a trick or some kind of spam to collect email addresses, because it's hard to understand why someone would give away a Yankee's ticket to a stranger. I took a chance and sent off an email. I got a quick reply with a name, Sol, and a phone number to call which happened to be a business in Brooklyn. We talked for a short while until I became comfortable that this wasn't a scam and he told me I could pick up the ticket at Yankee Stadium "will call." 

 It's not hard to get to Yankee stadium on the B-train, but it's a long trip. I had to leave right away.

I'd never been to a Yankees game, and to be candid, I figured the stadium was pretty much all I'd see. I'd sat in the high mezzanine section at a couple of Mets games and I could see so little.  It was like watching the game from the window of an airplane - that is, when I could see anything of the ball field since people were constantly getting up for snacks or whatever and blocking the view. [Again I will tout the Coney Island Cyclones games where every seat has a perfect view and the stadium is on the beach].

Anyway, this is how it worked out. I got the ticket and followed the number system around the stadium to find the gate number that was printed on my ticket. I walked down a ramp and I was stopped by an usher who looked at the ticket and showed me to the seat. I was six rows from the field, right behind the dugout. The players were right there. I had a very expensive field seat. And all around were loads of empty ones. A waitress came by and asked if I wanted to order anything - my hotdog was delivered to me. It was amazing.

I sat next to Sol, the man who gave me the ticket, and he explained that his usual baseball buddies were away, but they'd be coming back and he just thought it would be fun to give away such great tickets (he had 4 and only used his own). The other two seats were taken by teenagers that he knew.

The game wasn't terribly exciting - no stealing home, grand slams or fights - I don't remember much about it. I was too amazed at sitting close enough to hear the players talking and watch them warm up in the batter's circle. And it was nice to look around The Cathedral of Baseball. Although, I'm not sure why they had to build a new stadium - it has less seats than the old one and was designed to look the same. And it cost the New York taxpayers about a $1,000,000,000. 

Old Yankee Stadium
New Yankee Stadium
Seems to me the Yankees make enough money from the sales of their tickets and gear - besides the stadium shops and online, they've got five stores in Manhattan - to pay for their own stadium. But in New York, sports teams can make the front page of The Post or the Daily News and the Yankees have the best PR of any sports team in the country so maybe it was about tourism.

Anyway, that's the only Yankee's game I ever attended, and I don't see how I could top it. Field seats are not for sale generally. They are purchased year after year by the same people or businesses. I went back to watching baseball on TV which I prefer since you get to see the best plays in slow-motion instant-replay a few times.

But the evening ended on an up-note. Since he lived in Brooklyn, Sol gave me a ride home.

Tearing down Old Yankee Stadium

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Photo by Jim Henderson

You’d think given all the huge potholes and lumps in the streets of New York and the mad driving habits, especially the vans for the handicapped who didn’t hesitate to pull quickly in front of me and slam on their brakes, that I’d have had a bike accident in the street.  But no, I never did. I did meet a fellow who rode 20 miles to work and back and 60 miles on weekends who said he was hit by a car at least once a year.  Probably made some extra income that way.  I have only been hit by a car once on the bike and that was in Los Angeles. 

My first, and worst ever bike accident happened one weekend when my landlord and I took the bikes out to Rockaway Beach on the A-train. Rockaway is a long, skinny peninsula that juts out from Queens down toward Brighton Beach.  There’s a lot of carrying the bike up and down stairs for the subway and you’re supposed to have a license of some kind.  I didn’t know how to get one and I figure that might be the least of the worries of a Transit Cop on a Sunday morning. 

The train doesn’t go very far onto Rockaway, so you have to ride the bike down Rockaway Beach Blvd. and then choose one of the numbered Beach Streets to get to the shore.  The beach at that part of Rockaway is undeveloped – lots of dunes and beach grass – and has a low population of swimmers and sunbathers, but it’s the only place in New York for surfing. 

After wandering the beach looking for shells and sea treasure for an hour or so, I was ready to move on and I convinced my landlord it was time to go.  We rode down to the Gil Hodges Bridge (aka Marine Parkway Bridge) which connects Rockaway with Brooklyn near Floyd Bennett Field.  I got on the pedestrian/bicycle section of the bridge and that’s when things started to go wrong.

I got caught behind a group of lollygagging people.  My landlord zoomed over to Brooklyn and was long out of sight when I finally got past the group.  The pedestrian/bike bridge has horizontal steel bars on the side and while I was pedaling hard to catch up to my landlord, I must have veered a little and the handlebars of the bike entered between two of those bars slamming the bike to a stop, and I flew off.  But not totally.  My right hand caught between the handlebars and the brake and when I went off the bike my hand carried the bike around so that it slammed into me as lay sitting against the bars.  The crash of the bike caused a few hotspots down my right leg that would show up later as 5” bruises.  And, along with that, I felt a massive sprain from my wrist to the shoulder.  Yeah.  That was a painful twisting fall.  .

Okay, so I’m out in the middle of the bridge and I had to get up and get home.  I suppose someone might have called an ambulance and gotten me carted off for x-rays and drugs, but I had to find my landlord.  Some folks helped me up and I got on my way, my right arm dangling because moving it made me want to scream

My landlord was not waiting at the end of the bridge, so I followed a pathway at the side of Flatbush Avenue (that’s where it ends, or maybe where it begins) until it came close to the beach.  And that’s where my landlord was parked.  I told him about the bike accident, but he didn’t take it seriously maybe because his mind was elsewhere. 

I followed his line of sight and saw that he was watching two people having sex about fifteen feet away.  They weren’t nude, but all the strings of their bathing wear were untied and they were … never mind… it was all very clear.  The beach wasn’t jammed but it was definitely populated with kids and adults.  The couple looked to be in their 30s.  They surely had other choices of locale for their activities, but I assumed this was a stimulus, a bit of rebellion, some exhibitionism for a relationship that had gone stale. 

At any rate, my arm was draining me and I said I was heading home.  I carried my bike in my left arm up the subway stairs one at a time and was more than happy when I finally got home and got some ice on my wounds. 

It was a week before I could take stairs in a regular manner or use my right hand to type.  And I never went out to Rockaway again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Photo by Cancre
My landlord in Brooklyn was from Poland.  When he was a child, his father was arrested as a political  prisoner and murdered at Auschwitz. When I moved into the house on Ocean Avenue, my landlord was employed as an architect which was interesting for me because I love buildings and the stories that buildings tell about a place. 

He liked me because I had been to Warsaw while I was making the Marie Curie documentary (she was born and raised in Warsaw).  I talked to him about that trip.  To get there, I drove with my son from Berlin in a rental car.  The highway to Warsaw cut through a forest so thick you could only see about fifteen or twenty feet into it.  It made me think about fairy tales and stories of woodsmen.  The highway was only two lanes - one in each direction -  and cars passed in the center between them willy-nilly which was very scary.  Also got pulled over by the police for something, which was also scary.  I didn’t know what I had done wrong because I didn’t speak a word of Polish and they didn’t speak any English.  I just held out a wad of German marks, they took whatever they wanted, gave me something that looked like stamps, and I drove away.  We stopped for lunch at a MacDonald’s in Poznan because I knew what to expect on the menu even if I couldn’t read it..  I noted that every person in the restaurant, except us, had blond hair and blue eyes.  In Warsaw we went to a buffet in the hotel and they served cow’s lung soup at a buffet.  Of course I tried it.  It had a texture like boiled chicken liver and made me think that Communist countries didn’t waste anything and had a low carbon footprint.  Anyway, I’m too far from Brooklyn and so I’ll return.

My landlord loved a bargain and me too.  So when he invited me to bike over to a little Polish neighborhood in South Park Slope to grocery shop, I readily agreed.  It was just a few shops really – a couple of produce stores, a few deli-bakeries that also sold packaged goods and a butcher on one side.  Across the street, was a small Polish supermarket and some Indian stores selling shawls, spices and Indian foods. The ethnic stores in Brooklyn had their signs in their own language, in this case Polish and Hindi, as well as English. 

I will digress, again, to point out, again, that I have never found cheaper produce anywhere than in New York City.  Not in California where they grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables.  Not in Texas where they grow lettuce, greens, and citrus fruits.  Nowhere else.  At Christmastime in New York, I was able to buy a pint of blueberries for 50 cents. 
Okay, so my landlord and I went into this little deli-bakery.  My landlord ordered his sliced meats and bakery goods and then stood chatting in Polish with a blond blue-eyed woman.  I finished ordering ham and some rolls and I wandered around (a few steps at most because it was a tiny place) and found myself looking at a 4-layerl shelving unit – 12” x 12” – with cosmetic products.  And one of the items was a man’s cologne and the name of it …..BRUTAL.

I picked it up and asked one of the clerks if she knew what the word brutal meant.  She did.  I asked if this might be a mistranslation (because I’d seen some odd translations in New York.  For example a Chinese product claimed to be more cardigan.  And I figured they confused sweeter with sweater and came up with more cardigan to mean more sweeter.  And I once saw a package of black sesame seeds in Chinatown labeled as Black Sesame Sperm.  Although I suppose that isn’t really a mistranslation, just not a very appetizing one.

At any rate, the Polish clerk told me, “No.  That’s the correct translation.”

So.  Brutal cologne.  A Polish specialty.  What does it smell like?  Sweat and iron filings?  And who wears it?  Don’t think about that too much.  Think about this – who would be attracted to a man wearing that scent?

I never found out.

My landlord and I finished our shopping at the little supermarket across the street and went home. 

Post by Alana Cash

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Never give in.  Never give in.  Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. 
                                                                                   -Winston Churchill

She stands magnificent on her own island in the middle of New York Harbor.  And she is awe-inspiring.  I could see her from the windows of the train as I crossed over the Manhattan Bridge going to and from Brooklyn and Manhattan.  And for the first year I lived in New York, I stood and walked to the door, if there was room, to get a better view of her.

There are a lot of places in the City where you can view the Statue of Liberty – from buildings in the Wall Street District, from Battery Park in South Manhattan, from the Promenade or a hill in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, from Staten Island shore, from the top of Rockefeller Center, from the bridges –  Verrazon-Narrows Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge – from a hot air balloon.  You can take a boat and tour Liberty Island, crawl up inside the statue and look out through her crown.  I never wanted to do that, because she was more real to me, more alive, from the audience than backstage.  And my favorite view was traveling past her on the Staten Island Ferry.

Who is she?  305 feet tall, made of iron, steel, and copper that oxidizes green, she gets struck by lightening several times a year,   The official rhetoric is that the Statue of Liberty was a friendship gift from the French government to the United States government, but that is not really the truth and the truth is so much more meaningful.

The Statue of Liberty was created by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi who originally offered her to Egypt to stand as a lighthouse at the Suez Canal.  Bartholdi designed her as a Nubian slave girl of ancient Egypt (I appointed slaves as watchmen in thy harbour…Ramses III donation to the Temple of Re) and dressed her like a Bedouin wearing sandals.  When the Egyptian government declined his offer, Bartholdi then turned to the U.S.  It took fifteen years – imagine his passion – for him to raise the funds through donations from the French and the American people to manufacture his statue, our statue, our Nubian slave Statue of Liberty.  There is some irony here.

She represents something enormous, and I suppose each person has to decide what that is.  Liberty?  It seems a lot of us are captive to social pressure or criticism or the need to work at an unfulfilling job.  Or we are shackled with worry about finances or health issues or the meteor that is supposedly going to fracture the earth into pieces.   

For me, she represents dignity and strength in the face of all that.  Boldly holding that torch, look here, don’t give in to your fear or to the fear of others!  Don’t give in to fear and hatred.  Never give in except to honor and good sense. And find that honor and good sense inside yourself.  And PS:  It’s not always easy.

Post by Alana Cash