And I said “shit!”

16 10 2017

I happily saw shit on Saturday.

Well, I didn’t see “shit”, per se; instead, I saw what happens to shit at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. C. had gotten tickets for a tour via OpenHouse New York, one of those nifty freebies available to New Yorkers which I always think I should do! and then forget to do. C did not forget.

The tour started with a lecture by an assistant director at the plant, during which he talked about the process by which water and waste makes it way to the plant, how garbage (whatever happened to fall into sewers) gets removed, what happens when its (BABY WIPES) are not and how non-removed trash (BABY WIPES) gum up the works and makes him very unhappy.

Guys, baby wipes in the toilet are bad. DON’T FLUSH BABY WIPES.

The wastewater is then cycloned and centrifuged and filtered and munched on by aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, biosolids (including food waste) is shunted off for re-use, and the 95%-clean water is piped into the East River. The assistant director (who hates BABY WIPES) pointed out that, not to brag or anything, but the EPA only requires 85%-clean.

Anyway, the lecture was good and informative and he had props of the water at various stages, but, really, we were there for the Digesters Eggs.

These babies:

There are two sets of four, and they sent us up to the top, 10 at a time, in a verrrrrry slow elevator.

The view was lovely:

I thought it might stink, but, really, it didn’t. There were portholes at the top through which you could look at the churning water, but absent a leak around these seals (which, okay, one or two of the eggs had leaky seals), nothin’.

I don’t know what these are, but you can see get a sense of how huge this site is:

This was and is a highly industrialized area of Brooklyn: Newtown Creek itself is hella polluted from over a century of industry, and goddess only knows what’s in the ground. Given that pollution is the ultimate anti-gentrifier, the area hasn’t been overtaken by lofts and hipster bars; instead, there are metal recycling businesses across the street from the plant, and National Grid (gas) has facilities in the area.

In fact, National Grid is in the early stages of building its own facility on the plant to capture, process, and use the methane produced via the Digester Eggs. Sustainability, baby!

The plant does try to capture and reuse the methane for its own power purposes, but their storage is limited; further, the bladder inside a storage facility had collapsed, so it was being flamed-off, here:

It was all very cool, and C and I agreed that it would be great if she (who’s finishing an environmental science degree) got a job here.

I know, most visitors to New York never leave Manhattan, and, honestly, that’s fine! There’s lots to see in Manhattan!

But Manhattan is onstage, and as much as I thought when younger that I wanted an onstage life, I have come to appreciate the gears of backstage. And it really doesn’t get more backstage than waste treatment.

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Shine a little light

11 09 2017

Last year, I didn’t go out to look at the lights.

They’re visible from the grounds of my building, two thin, blurred beams towering up through the night, disappearing into the beyond. All I have to do is walk down a few flights of stairs, across the lobby, out the door, angle a look left and up, and there they are.

I haven’t seen them every year since I’ve been in New York; in fact, I don’t know if I saw them before I moved to my current apartment. Maybe? I don’t know.

Anyway, I wasn’t here when it happened, didn’t know anyone (at the time) directly affected; those who I know who were here will talk about it, if prompted, but none of them will volunteer the memory. It’s personal.

It sometimes seems fake for me to claim those two lights as mine, to think that there’s anything to my witness of this annual rite. But I felt bad, last year, for not going out. Here or not, mine or not, it seemed disrespectful not to remember, especially since that remembrance costs me so little.

So, tonight, I took the short walk down and out, looked left and up, and there they were, grayer here and brighter there as they passed through the clouds and up into the beyond, farther than those of us on the ground can see.





Drifting this way and that

17 07 2017

These days I’m floating, a bit askew, a few inches from the ground.

I can touch down when I need to—when I have to teach or work my second job—but other than that, I’m untethered from the world.

This has been going on for awhile. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not, well, it’s not much of anything. Better than bone-crushing anxiety or quaking depression, a slow dissolve ends in sorrow, nonetheless.

I noted a coupla’ posts ago that I don’t know if I’ll remain in New York, if I can afford to stay here, but as real as the financial questions are, the really real issue is that I don’t feel really real. I’m not quite here.

Brooklyn, Chicago, if I’m not, here, I won’t be, there.

Again, not an emergency; the lack of urgency, perhaps, is part of the problem. I’m not drowning beneath, so am not fighting for air. I’m low in the air, not fighting at all.





Polka, tango everyone

5 07 2017

Niece #2 got married in June, to a rather nice gent.

They live in the Twin Cities area, so, of course, got married in Green Bay (where none of us lives). It was lovely.

My sister, who is very organized, was a bit frazzled on Friday morning: the Saturday forecast called for rain, and—did I mention this was an outdoor ceremony?—she (and N2) needed to decide whether or not to put up the tent.

Ugh, she said, that tent is so ugly. But we have to do it.

Saturday was hot and bright, and no one noticed the condition of the tent under which we so gladly sheltered from the sun.

The bride was emotional. The groom was emotional. The ceremony was short, and they both said I do.

At the reception, the maid of honor, Niece1, offered a funny, heartfelt speech, as did the best man (Niece1’s husband—why yes, the bride and groom met through the sister and the best friend), and my brother-in-law, witty and charming, welcomed the groom into the family with an unabashed I love you.

I danced with cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and relaxed with my sisters’ friends, who I see every few years when we all gather for celebration.

No one talked politics.

Oh, and I met my grand-nephew, who is the chillest baby in the Midwest. He was handed from stranger to stranger to stranger and reacted with, at most, raised eyebrows. My habibi.

It was strange to be back in Wisconsin, as it’s always strange to be back. I remember when I moved to NY and how the buildings pushed up next to the sidewalks took some getting used to; now, it’s normal to me, and it is the wide lawns and low buildings which startle.

Still, some things reassured: the (oh-my-god-how-incredibly-cheap) beer and the cheese curds. Some like the breaded kind, while I prefer the batter-fried: salty and super hot. The accompanying conversation with friends was also a bit salty, although a bit more relaxed.

I’m not certain of my future in NY—it is a costly and hard place to live—but it felt good to see the lights as the plane turned over Manhattan and we glided into Queens.

LaGuardia may be a shit airport, but for as many times as I’ve flown into and out of it, it is mine. And after a weekend in a place which is no longer mine, it felt good to be home.





On a rooftop in Brooklyn

25 01 2017

Yesterday both cats scrambled to get on to the windowsill to gawk out at what I figured was a pigeon.

Well, it was, but not in the way I was expecting:

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She really went to town on that thing:

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She hung around, snacking, for a good long time, before lifting off with what was left of the carcass and leaving just a puddle of feathers behind.

I’m not a bird-watcher, so even with the help of various online guides I can’t be sure, but chances are that bird o’ prey was a red-tailed hawk. They’re pretty common in the city, but this was my first up-close-and-personal sighting.

Pretty cool.





Wake up little Susie

3 02 2016

Jesus fuck:

subway sleeping

Subways are not for sleeping, says the man who has a driver.

[Y]ou make yourself a very easy victim and much more susceptible to a crime, says the man with bodyguards.

Why would you put yourself at that risk? says the man who thinks that telling tired people not to sleep is a way to reduce crime.

Hey, you want to protect me? How about paying attention to the jerk-off who’s trying to rob me?*

*Note: I have never been robbed on the train.

All right, all right, I get it: people who are sleeping are sometimes crime victims. And, as the story details, nudging people who are sound asleep in an empty car to wake up and tuck their iPhones back into their pockets is. . . not a bad idea, actually.

But jeez, Bratton, do you have to be such a dick about it?





Don’t let those Sunday afternoons get away

24 01 2016

It’s a snowy Sunday, so of course, the Jane Siberry song:

Last year we were told the city was going to get hit, so the governor—giving the mayor 15 minutes notice—shut the entire MTA system.

We got bupkes.

So I was a bit see-it-believe-it, but this is what it looked like at noon on Saturday.

009A proper storm.

This was the fire escape around noon:

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And then around 5:00:

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So, some decent accumulation.

It kept up well into the evening, at which point I headed outside; this was the entrance to my building:

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With the driving ban there were no cars on the streets, so I copied the other shadow figures I saw and trudged down the middle of the avenue:

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One bodega, at least, remained open:

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By morning the warm and the wind turned the fire escape sculptural:

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Beneath the blue, I headed to the park; I was not the only one with that idea, as every slope was smoothed by saucers, skinny cross-country skiers slowly glided along side trails, and snowmen appeared in fields and on fence posts:

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I’m a sucker for the melancholy view:

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But as I was walking out of the park, behind a guy smoking some skunky weed, and listening to David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes wobble out of the speakers by the ice rink, I did come across some incongruous green:

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It snows all across the north and the prairies; there’s nothing new about snow, there’s nothing special about snow in New York City.

Except it’s my city, and I like the snow, and I like the city.

And its incongruous green.