April 29, 2001 +
My parents are amazing. (also posted here)
My mother is waking up at seven o'clock Sunday morning to help administer a benefit run for the Rachel Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding women in need.
On May 9 she is being honored by the National Council of Jewish Women with a lifetime achievement award. In her 30 years of involvement she has been a local vice president, founded an acclaimed teenage dating violence program and run a domestic abuse support group, among other responsibilities.
My father spent three years as the president of JVS, a vocational program that helps with job placement and English-language instruction. He is still an active member of its board. He also volunteers as vice president of finance for his golf club, a relatively thankless but essential task.
My parents have probably always been this way, yet only now am I realizing the scope of their generosity and caring.
I am unsure why I never noticed this growing up. I knew my mother volunteered, but it never meant much to me, even when she and Pop encouraged me to get involved in nonprofit functions (they always mentioned it under the guise of my meeting a nice Jewish girl. Amusingly enough, my nice Jewish girlfriend is a proud volunteer herself, although that's not how I met her). I never even knew my father did volunteer work until my mother called me one day to make sure I was free the night of his presidential inauguration dinner.
For a while I quietly accused them of not exposing me to their good deeds. I am starting to understand that they probably never felt the need. They were volunteering for their community and for themselves; they volunteered themselves in other ways to me and my brother. They must have assumed I would figure it out on my own.
I know now that my folks are two of the most selfless people I will ever meet. Nothing is as important as the happiness of the people around them, their sons first and foremost. Every decision is based on others; even between the two of them, it's always what is best for the other -- my mother took up golf because she knew it would make Dad happy, and my father takes care of his health these days because he knows how important it is to his wife. Both are happier people for their decisions, yet they were still made with someone else in mind.
Slowly but surely I am acknowledging and learning from their silent example, and I think my brother is as well. It's an interesting process. Right now, the main result is that no one will ever pick a restaurant when my family goes to dinner. In our car, the answer is _always_ "I'll go wherever you want to go." Which makes us bicker. Someday we'll get the hang of it.
But from this inauspicious beginning comes bigger and better results. I find myself doing myriad little things for my girlfriend that a few years ago I would never have bothered to do (making my bed, making _her_ bed, putting the toilet seat down -- y'know, the important stuff). I buy presents for friends without much thought of reciprocation. I throw in a few bucks extra to ensure no one gets stuck with the bill.
Doesn't sound like much, to be sure, but then, I was the one at the dinner table who used to get yelled at for not sharing.
I don't know why this is just happening now. Maybe I was too close to them. Maybe I was unwilling to recognize their greatness. Maybe I wasn't ready to understand, or to take on the near insurmountable task of being as good as they are.
Regardless, my eyes are open now, and I keep watching and learning, fascinated, amazed, and thankful.
My father wanted to drive me all the way home from New Jersey tonight, across and up Manhattan to my apartment, rather than have me take the inconvenient PATH train into town. When traffic wouldn't allow, he refused to not find an alternative, ultimately taking me all the way to the Hudson River waterfront and sending me on a pleasant ferry ride into the city.
At 7 p.m. on a Saturday evening.
Most parents would have plunked their kids on the local bus. Not mine. They do not know how to not give of themselves.
In time I hope to be every bit as selfless, and tremendous, as they are.
April 23, 2001 +
Matt moved to Brooklyn last month. He did it as a cost-saving maneuver -- why spend $2000 a month on Manhattan rent when you don't have to? -- and found himself a cozy place in Park Slope. I'd been meaning to visit for a few weeks now, and we found the perfect opportunity yesterday, on a beautiful spring day that demands you spend most of it outside.
I met David in Union Square and we took the subway, rather circuitously, to Grand Army Plaza. It's an easy nine-minute walk next to Prospect Park to Matt's place, a typical walkup (fifth floor -- I'm not the only one) one-bedroom in the Park Slope Historic District.
The subtle touches turn his place into a gem. There's a small, finished roof that serves as a bit of a balcony outside the living room window; the view from there includes the World Trade Center and Newport Center in Jersey City. The Historic District designation preserves the brownstones and quiet, residential streets of the neighborhood.
Two blocks away is 7th Avenue, the main drag of sorts, filled with shops and restaurants and people out and about. We had lunch at a quasi-Greek luncheonette that swung open its door-size windows to the avenue.
Prospect Park is half a block from the apartment in the opposite direction. It was full of life yesterday, in a non-Central Park sort of way: volleyball nets and kites mingling with sunbathers and folks out for a stroll, and the three of us smack in the middle of a field, throwing a baseball around for a while.
Everything in Park Slope seemed nicely multicultural, low-key, unassuming and warm. The vibe on the street is much different than it is in much of Manhattan, especially on a Sunday, when people are out strictly on their own terms, relaxing and impressing no one.
What a great neighborhood. What a great way to spend a sunny weekend afternoon.
Since February 28 I have gone from being way overweight to returning to my usual weight to becoming relatively thin like I wanted to be. If I keep it up I could get myself as skinny (not that a 6-foot-tall, broad-shouldered, 190-pound male should call himself "skinny") as I have ever been since I moved into the city.
I wouldn't recommend my particular diet, but you too can lose 15 pounds in seven weeks, given the right combination of tuxedo purchases, self-inflicted emotional stress, loss of appetite and religious observance. Worked for me.
April 19, 2001 +
And for a while there, the northwest corner of fourty-fourth and ninth was the greatest place on the face of the earth.
April 12, 2001 +
Diet tip: observing Passover cuts out two thirds of one's daily carbohydrate intake, Atkins-style.
Lesson learned: I never want to diet Atkins-style.
April 11, 2001 +
April 5, 2001 +
Man, Yankee Stadium gets cold at night in April.
Went to the second game of the Yankees' 2001 season last night. The game was over fast -- Yanks scored four runs in each of the first two innings, and other than new leftfielder Chuck Knoblauch gunning down Kansas City's Carlos Beltran at second base, things were rather uneventful -- but still great.
I always get excited going to the Stadium for a game. I probably always will. I've been a Yankee fan since my first trip there, in 1978, when I was five (I have the "1977 World Champs" pennant to prove it); someone hit a foul ball right near my seat, which captured my imagination and never let go.
So it was with no small amount of excitement that I bundled up before work Wednesday morning, long-sleeved tee, sweater, jacket, scarf, gloves, thick socks, who cares that it's not winter, who cares that it's supposed to be 36 tonight, I'm going to the Stadium today.
Took the B train to 161 St for a change after the D decided to go express at 145 St. Lots of Yankee fans filling the car, as always. Fast ride. My, they're almost done rehabbing the subway station. This is nice floor tile for the MTA.
I stepped out at street level, under the elevated 4 tracks, next to the row of chintzy baseball tchotchke shops and beer stops. Across the street loomed the back wall of the outfield. And a huge smile crossed my face as the realization set in: It's baseball season, and I'm back to see my boys once again. The big kid in me was in his element and loving it.
The evening was almost perfect, really. The Stadium was extremely quiet thanks to the cool April weather and the lingering opening-day hangover from the game before. Even in my upper-deck seats I could hear the pitches thudding into the catcher's mitt. And the Yanks finished their dirty work early, which made it easy to go home in the seventh inning for a change, to get out of the cold, content to know that I'll be back again soon.
Ah, baseball in the springtime. Nothing compares.
And then it was crisp and clear and beautiful this morning, the nip of winter chill gone at last, not a cloud in the sky, just the lingering hangover of giddiness as I said goodbye on the corner of 57th and 7th, long soft kisses threatening to make me cancel my day at work, just so I could stand there, in love with the world.
April 2, 2001 +