Nothing new under the sun

Well actually clouds. It is cloudy and drizzly today. A bit windy but not cold really. This is what Vancouver does, rains and rains and rains and a few times a year the sun it comes out.

Further to isolation, I went for a morning walk to the beach. Lots of people swimming in the pool. I swam yesterday – it was cold and cloudy but the water is heated and after on 137 metre lap it doesn’t feel so cold anymore. It’s the getting out that’s the drama but I live a 10 minute walk away and so I skedaddle home for a hot shower. No drop-ins are allowed at the moment per the PHO they say which is odd because they allowed it yesterday. Ever changing. Rumour is the circuit breaker will be over tomorrow so restaurants will re-open and etc. Seems premature to me since hardly anyone (myself included) havd had the second dose of the vaccine. Open, close, open, close. LIfe in a pandemic.

I crumble in isolation. I think all the thoughts. I may go back to teaching at the downtown school for a month or two – I gave my random availability date of June 7th so I could have time to become more isolated. Uh no, so I could apply for jobs related to my new career. The school may or may not need me – it is randomly increasing the number of allowed students August 1st so they won’t need me after that. I guess going back will be my own circuit breaker from the isolation of it all.

Prince Harry has teamed up with Oprah but of course and seems to be doing his therapy as entertainment on TV.

My writing well is dry here. Oh a new season of In Treatment is on Crave/HBO and it is okay but nothing beats the original witth Gabriel Byrne. It is also nothing like therapy really is and I should know having had many therapists in my time here on earth.


Crumble cake is a delight. Starbucks has a poor man’s version of this in the form of coffee cake. Any port in a storm I suppose.

So I virtually know a guy right. I have followed his story for a long time for no real reason – Mormon, gay, was married to a woman for 15 years, four kids. Then they both figured out (long process) that they had been sold a dangerous lie for years so they divorced, she re-married and he got together with a guy. They all seem super nice and he is kind and a therapist actually. He has a super popular blog – thousands of readers. So he monetizes it, calls his stuff ‘content.’ Content creators. Once in a blue moon he’ll write an advertisement for someone else’s business. Naive little me of an older generation – I think one generation up from him – I was like yeah, people monetize their blogs now of course. I’ve known this for years (see for an original example of this) but it feels weird to me. I mean I know I am a good writer but don’t know that I would ever feel confident enough to try and monetize it on a blog. Mind you, I have two readers a week so yeah. I remember the good old days of blogs when people wrote just to write. Alas, times they are a-changing and I’m definitely showing my age here.

You can Google the writer I speak of – check out his blog. His name is Josh Weed. When he first came out in 2012 (and how I found his blog I have no idea) he was the talk of the town. Their initial thing was that they would stay married and they went on Nightline, Ricki Lake and all sorts of places to express this. I remember thinking (it is good that I can remember that far back) that now that the cat was out of the bag, they would be divorcing sooner or later. In 2018, they announced they were divorcing. Seems their journey brought them to meeting actual gay people and realizing that what they had been told since birth was incorrect and damaging. Unfortunately between 2012 and 2018 lots of Mormon parents were telling their gay Mormon kids that if Josh can live a straight life, walk the straight line, so can you. That kind of a thing. I’ve never met Josh although he does live in the state just beneath the province I live in. But we’ve e-mailed and Facebooked and he is a decent guy.

So that was a tangent. Any Mormon I’ve ever met (not that many) always seem to be super kind in that squeaky clean kind of a way.

Thankgodinheaven that a friend is coming to sit in the rain in my yard with her dog later today for an hour or two. My brain needs it. My soul needs it here people, not to be dramatic. I need to see people in person versus online. Somehow someone liking my Facebook post doesn’t feel like a relationship.

Next blog entry I might get into virtual Laughter Yoga.

Hello again

In an effort to actually have a hobby – because let’s face it in obituaries they always mention hobbies – and to have a regular thing that I do do I am starting forth, heading out, bringing the blog back to life. Regular readers is not an event that often happens so this will be mainly for me.

There you go.

I’ll start right in I guess. Some people smoke or drink or kill, skin, and cook their own rabbits when they feel the angst, the fear, the terror, the horror. I tend to buy books. I have a zillion on my Kindle that I bought with just one click, mainly during the pandemic.. But reading on my phone tires my middle-aged eyes eventually. Over the last week I have purchased two actual books. Way to expensive for my unemployed self but I need that hit of whatever hits in my brain.

  1. Non-fiction – The Day the World Stops Shopping by J.B. MacKinnon. Got this at kidsbooks which oddly enough has a fair selection of books for adults.

2. Fiction – The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Got this one at Book Warehouse on Cambie and Broadway mainly because I popped in after a long time of cycling to and fro an outdoor Scrabble game (three people and we all live alone, and we all masked, in an uncrowded park). It was far away on a bicycle and I’m older and haven’t done that much cycling since last summer. I was hot, tired, and felt re-isolated so in I went a half hour before it closed. I had a $5 off coupon so why not.

Again, I can’t really be out buying books but I did it, I got the brain hit and enjoy looking at them. I won’t start them right away because they were expensive. That makes sense in my brain.

I’m thinking that isolation will be a common theme in this blog – wait maybe not that could turn off the fanbase, especially my Facebook friends who read all about it there. But geez, isolation is an actual thing. I was a student for 2.5 years but now I’m all graduated and just an unemployed person again looking for work in social services – specifically in a job where it is difficult to find non-exploited work situations. I knew this but now I really know it holy cow. There also seems some call for me to drive a mini-bus around but for the safety of all humanity, I shall not. I could spend $1,000 and take a course to help me learn to drive a mini-bus around with vulnerable people in it and then take the driving test but almost 40 years ago it took me five tries to pass my regular driving test, mainly because of the parallel parking situation. I have really poor spatial skills – almost a disability I think so let us protect the masses from me.

You are wondering by now if I have a family. I do not. This will be a problem in several years or sooner when I need a walker and support such as that but for now it is just what it is.

On to cheerier things. The inside of a depressed brain is not the most fascinating of places for many. Anxiety maybe, hard to say. I have both.

Speaking of which – I had to take a first aid course the other day for my new career. Well, I should have taken it last year but pandemic pandemic. Seven of us plus instructor sat in a room with no air circulation on a hot Vancouver spring day. Masked and gloved of course.We all had our own little marked off pods in the room and those CPR dummies that you can probably picture. The company that runs this course is super well known and respected. I had no idea how difficult it would turn out to be! Nine hours with a total of a 50 minute break. Lots of videos and in the morning the drill sargeant instructor (the instructors are not instructors but actual in the field rescuing types) barked out CPR instructions till my ears bled. He would show us once – just once. Off we went. 30 chest compressions! Two breaths with your CPR mask! He kept singling me out – chin lift, Karen!! You won’t pass unless you do the chin lift!! I sweated through everything. My anxiety climbed and made it harder to listen to the one-off instructions. When we got to the baby dummies (again, not real babies. They didn’t bring in dumb babies to be practiced on) I tilted mine so violently that I got told (barked at) that in real life I would have snapped that baby’s neck. Well make up your mind, drill sargeant! The one male student was sufferering a bit too it seemed. The drill sargeant asked him why he was doing what he was doing and he said he didn’t know, his brain was dead. Well yes because so much information was being thrown into our heads. In the washroom another student said to me that this was so intense and it hadn’t been that way when she first took a course three years ago.

I felt frustrated that I couldn’t function well under the stressful conditions and my difficulties in learning hands on things. Around 1:30 pm, four hours before the end of the class, I started to feel faint as you do in a hot room with no air circulation wearing a mask and gloves, sweating about an inability to fold the bandages correctly. I felt trapped but knew if I left I would just have to come back to do it another day, the horrors. Often when I feel this way I have to leave where I am and go home. Not that this has happened a lot in the last while but yeah. As you get older your body can’t physically take the anxiety as well. Tis a fact. So I had all all of these self defeating thoughts while I was holding up the adult dummy and giving her five quick back blows followed by five abdominal thrusts while telling a bystander to call 911. Then it came back during the pretending to bandage a hand where the thumb had been amputated. My legs felt like jelly. The room didn’t spin but I was sweating more profusely and my thoughts were of public embarrassment at having to run outside and get air. This all has a long history, of course – when I was I think like 11 years old I used to have to run out of movie theatres because I felt anxious, something that upset my sister to no end (I do not blame her for this. Who understood anxiety when I was young when the dinosaurs were still roaming and David Cassidy was on my wall in poster form. Also Leif Garrett and briefly the Bay Cith Rollers, rest in peace Les Mckeown). But yeah, that kind of shame stayed with me. Anxiety can make non dramatic events quite dramatic.

But somehow I pushed through the whole thing at some expense to my body I am sure. I aced the simple written exam – words and simple written exams are my thing. My new career will be more hands on-y which is what I am not great at although the building relationships part is what I will enjoy. I just need one non-exploitative work place that will hire middle-aged me. We shall see.

I have read a lot of ‘memoirs’ people have written about their anxiety. Lots of people write those now along with stories about their alcoholism, how plants saved them for years of misery, tales of triumph over all kinds of horrors. And don’t get me wrong, anxiety manifests in a zillion and one ways. But I’ve never found resonance with other stories of it – not that I’m special although aren’t we all special kumbaya. Oh lord, kumbaya. It”s the thoughts that I have the most difficulty with – the shame, the constant self recrimination etc, etc. It’s exhausting I just realized.

So I bicycle too far and try to work some of it out that way. I buy too many books. Etc. etc.

Fear not, this blog won’t be all about my mental health although surely that would be fascinating. I’m going to try to write it in every day because that will be a little piece of consistency. Might write about TV shows next time or Hitler or I’m not sure. Stay tuned if you like. Or switch channels. Heck, I’ll never know.

Oh and I got 42/44 on the written first aid test and walked out with a certificate and what turned out to be a passing need to vomit all over the ground. Was hot in there did I mention.

Long time no post

And I call myself a writer.  Wait, do I call myself a writer?

So here it is June 1st and it is a bit of winter outside – cloudy and very cool. I closed the windows and I’ll see if heat comes out of the radiators.  Yikes.  Tomorrow is the one maybe sunny-ish day, then rain and cooler weather for awhile.

I’m teaching in the Exp___ program at U__ again – the five week  English language program exchange thing. I taught it in 2012, 2014 and last year part-time.  I’m doing two classes: part-time in the mornings and full afternoons. It is a very busy program and some of the students are only 18 and I have  whack of those students in the afternoon and EEEEEK and there was complaining and it’s dramatic and all sorts. Sigh.  The morning class is awesome.  I’ve also just started teaching a one night a week course at Langara. Eight weeks.  It is all women this time and they are eager and all have a rather low level of English and they just really want to learn. Most middle-aged like me which is usually the case. From China mainly and one from Montreal!  Her English is not too bad actually. I think they will gel together nicely.  The commute remains dumb.

It is mostly good for me to work.  The stress of the afternoon class has felt not worth it but we persevere I guess.

I am not typing out the full name of the program or the university as I don’t want it to show up on google searches. Paranoid probably as I’ve written about it in the past but you never know.

I’ve been having horrible insomnia though every night – I fall asleep fine but then wake up at 3 or 4 am and don’t go back to sleep.  Sigh.  It’s kind of a vicious cycle.  I’ve tried exercising earlier in the day and etc.  Nothing seems to help.

Lord have mercy.

I’m about 91% sure I will be taking the gerontology program at Langara this fall – it is a new two year program.  Hopefully they will get enough students to run it!  It is a bit scattered at the moment and of course that stresses me the heck out. Everything is so chronically uncertain.  Aaaargh. I would like to go back to school – the first time would be not too intense and the second year (of two years, Sept-April so I can still teach Expl__!) will have a practicum.

Aaargh on the uncertainty.

Maybe sun tomorrow so a bit of Kits. Pool I guess.  Here in Vancouver we wait all year for the sun after months of gray and rain.  And . . . it doesn’t come. Hopefully July and August will be better.

Shockingly, the downtown school is offering a free staff yoga evening in a few weeks – restorative with massage or something. I am in.  I like yin yoga but have never liked the standing poses of Hatha because I fall a lot, although I know that actually doing it would help that.  And then my hands really really shake now and I’m so conscious of that and etc.  So I’m hoping the focus is on the sitting/lying down poses.  I would do more Yin but yoga studios in Vancouver have really hefty drop in rates – like $25 for a class.  Vancouver, especially Kitsilano, is very yoga and lululemon. Heck, the lululemon head office is kilometre or so away from me and I pass it everytime I cycle downtown.  Yoga as vastly overpriced yoga wear but I think the thing at the downtown school (free!) should be just great. Mats provided!  People apparently cry often in this particular yoga-version because of the massage element or something. So I’ll shake and cry.

Oh the downtown school I’m not there at the moment (and even when I’m there, I’m barely working) but do get the e-mails.  Apparently students are complaining because other students aren’t speaking English and the downtown school advertises heavily that they prevent this. So I e-mail back, uh, the students are constantly speaking their own languages in the student lounge.  The exception is for them to speak English so maybe they should get a monitor in there.  This did not go over well with the boss who wasn’t fired right before Christmas.  “Do you tell them to stop when you are there, Karen?” was the one line e-mail from the boss who wasn’t fired right before Christmas.

I meant to offend no one I wrote back.  Didn’t hear back.  Oh downtown school.  But I mean really.

My U_, boss told me I am quirky.  You have to admit Karen that you are quirky, he said.  So I admitted it, ha. Yikes, I’m 52 years old and still don”t like myself or feel settled that who I am is okay.  That quirky is okay and etc. If not now, then when. When when when and finally, when.

Interesting. I was walking to the bus stop this morning and I sensed that my boss would be driving by and pick me up.  This has never happened.  And yet there he was! We had a lovely conversation on the drive up.  Weird how we can sometimes sense these things.

Roseanne went nuts and photos of Drake in blackface went quite public.  Neither of these things do I understand.



and then, snow

My niece was rather amused by my video on Facebook that showed the newly falling snow in Vancouver blanketing everything.

“So late in the season!” I noted.

Heck, said my niece, this is typical mid-winter in Ottawa.  Well, yes, and even more so in my hometown of Winnipeg where I lived for the first almost 21 years of my life. I also spent part of my 20s in Medicine Hat, Alberta,, which also knows for snow.

But that was years ago.  One forgets.  Five years ago when I was in and out of a Winnipeg winter visiting my terminally ill mom and then for her funeral (sniffle, Christmas Eve, 2013) I couldn’t quite believe the cold.  It was -50C with windchill, the wind blowing snow off the ground.  I’d forgotten about the hard packed snow/ice on the sidewalks.

“This is, it’s, it’s inhumane!”

Tomorrow morning I have to commute out to L. College which was closed today but which is promising to be open tomorrow.  Goodness knows how long it will take me to get there and I can’t imagine many students showing up.  Dread.  Dread.  There is less sanding in Vancouver, less shovelling of common spaces.  Lots of falling. Slipping, falling.


Apparently the snowing will stop at 5 am and then return tomorrow night.

Tis how it is.  Here’s hoping I don’t fall. Godspeed and all of that.

My brain is not too well and I’m hoping that doing some part time work at the university for three weeks will help.

Things are not well but perhaps as well as they can be under the conditions.

Well, that was vague but necessary.


Drivers were still driving down the street I live on, even though it is very steep and not in any way plowed.

Terminal exceptionalism – the idea that one’s situation is always different than other people’s.  Like no one else can drive down this street because of the danger of slipping and sliding but I can.  That kind of a thing.  Thanks to Rob Lowe for explaining that definition.  In his case he was speaking of Charlie Sheen and a different kind of snow.

The evening news is showing video of the highway and people sliding off, their cars often turning upside down and all sorts.

Brains are tricky.

Wow, a woman not related to a dog that fell through the ice at Trout Lake jumped in to save it.  Holy wow!

R. is a good friend.  ‘Sometimes your Facebook comments can make you seem mean and grumpy.  And you’re not but that is the impression you can leave.”

He was right although I am mean and grumpy. His was a good point though.  When the brain’s not up to snuff, the mean and grumpy FB comments come out.

Winter needs to go in preparation for spring.  I want to ride my bicycle.



Downtown shrove Tuesday and gee

So. Working a two hour shift – that is right 120 minutes – is not illegal apparently in the ‘education world’ as one might, on a randomly strange day, call the downtown school.

Then I’m not working until Thursday evening in the fourth of eight classes at L. College.

That’s right, things are still silly and difficult in the work world.

My brain is not on – had some insomnia then some weird nightmares where I moved to Mexico and had a breakdown and the late actress Esther Rolle was there to offer support.

You can’t make these things up. Well, I guess you can but why.

Oh, right, New York, I was going to write about that.

Let’s see.

Nope, I have nothing at the moment. A return trip for me this year  seems more unlikely since i’m never working and also now have the Samsung 8. A lovely phone and a lovely improvement from my 2.5 year old Samsung Grand Prime that no longer held a charge for very long, had no space, and the charger thing was wonky and I kept having to buy new charger cords.  I got a good deal from Fido (local carrier, owned by Rogers) and now have 10 gigs of data which I in no way need that much but it was part of the good-ish deal.

So there we go.

Lots of space on the phone and I have been enjoying adding apps and games.

The phone was $110 (tax in) plus the 2 year plan obviously – if i break the phone – that will be $1,000 please and thank you.

I hope I can enjoy it for a few minutes before the breakage.  No more cell phone while taking a bath!

Have I mentioned that I need a job?  I can probably fake my way through a spring/summer with a bit of work here and there but come September I am oy oy oy.


and finally, oy.

Let us get our minds off of all this, shall we?

I think I ‘d like to go back to NYC but not necessarily the whole flight madness and weird Air BnB weirdness (double weird).  The thing is (here is the thing) NYC is so expensive that it would be hard to find a cheaper place to stay unless I found another Air BnB but better the devil you know, you know?

I don’t think I can eat pancakes for dinner, so ixnay on that Shrove Tuesday free deal.

Some more

I am hearing an entire phone conversation under my window (well, one half of it).

“Cindy!  How are you?  I’m in Vancoooover and I’m just finishing up my walk with my dog Alfie.  So when’s your last day?  Yeah, yeah.”

I’m assuming she doesn’t mean her last day of life.  “So when is your last day of life?”  Yeah, oh yeah.”

That would be kind of weird.

I wonder what city the caller is in and does she think Vancouver is pronounced Vancooooover.  Cindy, where are you and how do you pronounce Vancouver?

I am bored.  Yup.  The winter is endless this year in Vancooooover.  Rain rain rain rain rain.  There is talk of a sunny day coming up.  Glory be.

Glory be.

Oh, wee wee very wee fan base here at – I am still job searching!  Isn’t that crazy!  Well, I’m currently clinging to two hours a day for a few days at the downtown school and a bit at L. College.  It is craziness all around.  Tedious as heck.

I’ve applied at a few random places – BC Ferries to be a ticket taker! But have heard nothing of course.

So much tedious.

One can only watch so



My birthday is coming up and I will officially be in my early to almost mid-50s goodness gracious.

Good lord.

What the heck.

I am trying to think what else to write about New York City.  Well, I recently read an excellent book on gentrification there – “The Creative Destruction of New York City: Engineering the city for the elite.”  Academic, well-researched.  Having read that, reading “Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its soul,’ is disappointing and I’m glad I got it from the library and didn’t buy it.  The writer writes with passion which is good but he is short on facts and the facts he does have he seems to have cut and pasted.  He has a blog as well by the same name.  It is hard to go from a very well-written book to a much less well-written one, tis true.

The tedious time totally terrorizes me.

That’s dramatic but lots of nice ‘t’ sounds.

I don’t know how to change my life or take advantage of the time so I, I.

Well, at least I am blogging again I guess.

I have a “swipe again,” postcard I got in New York.  Oh who cares.  Sorry, that is the tedious in me.  It refers to the Metrocard and how often when swiping to get to the subway, it says Swipe Again.  And you’ve got a line up behind you.  It’s a bit of a crazy thing.  I read that New York City is finally going to be set up for Smartphone use so I guess you can get through with that.

I also have a postcard of a young Elvis’s face and neck, shoulders.

I have been working Saturday mornings at L. College (will be 8 Saturdays in all. I’m replacing another teacher who had to take last session and this session off.)  A good little gig it is.  Anyway, this weekend the college is closed for Family day weekend so I signed up for an “Invisible Disabilities’ workshop at a downtown church.  Should be very interesting and informative.  I am looking forward to it.  I am pleased that it fell on a Saturday that I could actually make it. (R. if you are reading this I can still make it to book club.  Everything at once.  Won’t be tedious at least!).

Have you seen Vancouver winter skies?  So many clouds it is just one giant dark cloud of darkness. Sigh.

Oh yes, I took a couple of great tours in NYC. Run by Free Tours on Foot, they are free but of course you tip after which I did and generously – great tours.  I did one of Greenwich Village and one in Harlem.  The guides are generally older folks, probably retired and making a bit of extra money.  A good gig – they may work three or four days a week and the tours are about two hours.  The more people, the more tips of course.  I think it is a great idea.  The Greenwich Village guide was super knowledgeable and had a ton of interesting information to share, three quarters of which I forget oh well.  The Harlem tour – it was freezing cold that day and I almost didn’t go but I did, I did.  Also very interesting. The Harlem tour started at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is part of the New York City library system.  I was early (surprising) so went inside and looked around at a little gallery and a great bookstore/gift shop.  Everywhere in NYC the gift shops/bookstores were awesome I found, especially the New York Public Library’s on 42nd Street.

What else, what else.

No, really, what else.

Nope, that’s it.


Housing Works works

What I had been looking most forward to in New York City was going to Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in Soho on Saturday, December 16th (2017).  It was the day of the annual ‘A Christmas Carol’ marathon where for 4.5 hours or so, various authors and actors would read from Dickens’ book.  Prior to it there was to be a Christmas carol concert by the New York City Master Chorale.

The event took place on my eighth day in the city and I was tired but exhilarated in many ways.  Travel for me means nightly insomnia no matter how relaxed I tell myself to be.  And travel is tiring in its way – the coming, the going, the ins and outs.  The subway.  The this, the that.

I Google mapped my way on the subway – and actually found that the bookstore was within easy walking distance of the second line I had to take. Hallelujah!  Well, I did walk the wrong way initially but I eventually made it.  I arrived about a half an hour before the carolling was to start.

Holy Hallelujah

The bookstore, part of Housing Works that was established in 1990 to help those with HIV and AIDS to have housing, was beautiful.  Lots of wood, an upper level balcony, a cafe at the back, and tremendously helpful staff at the front (all volunteers).  The selection of books was terrific and inspiring.  My intellectual thirst, for lack of a less pretentious way of saying it, was firing on all cylinders.  Yee haw!

There were seats set up for the event and I, after checking out the books on the balcony, saved a seat for myself.  I got some healthy goodness from the cafe and settled in.

The crowds were starting to gather.

At 11 am, the New York City Chorale began to sing.  It was glorious.  A free concert that would cost a lot I imagine under normal circumstances.  It was a small segment of the Chorale, I believe and they were giving their time to sing – and have folks sing along as they liked.

For an hour, they sang.  They took requests and had people from the crowd come up and sing with them.

Holy cow holy cow holy cow holy cow.

There are places like this that are non-profit and that care for others and have volunteers and have marathons and professional choirs sing carols and I was verklempt.

I stayed for part of the Dickens Marathon after and that was also amazing.  The actors/artists/writers read from the two balconies and the audience was entranced.

I don’t know that I am a good enough writer to do this event the justice that it deserves.  This was a highlight of my 10 days in the city.

It is something to travel alone in a city and have to figure out what you have to figure out on your own – not that NYC is the jungle (well, an urban one to be sure) but still, it is a thing. It is a thing for me anyway.  And there I was sitting in Housing Works and just feeling tremendous about it all.

Then I broke my leg.

No, ha, I joke.  No such drama.  Well, the only drama was that I then went in search of the Chelsea Market which was a crowded misery of the opposite of Housing Works I thought.

I stumbled back up to the Air BnB and waited for the evening when I would be going to the Apollo Theater to listen to some Christmas music. I don’t think I will write about the Apollo because that just feels too much like ‘white tourist has incredible Harlem experience and writes about it in her blog.’

New York City bookstores

A big part of my focus on my wee 10 day trip in New York City was to break my front tooth on a chain store bagel. I accomplished that almost immediately! Bravo. It was a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered in awesome amounts of cream cheese at a DD (full name withheld to protect the chain name) very near where I was staying. I knew that if I didn’t eat at the Air BnB, then I was less likely to be called out for crumbs on the floor (see previous note for more on that). The bagel was chewy (‘Well, of course, a chain store bagel,” noted Air BnB hostess when I told her. I hung my head.) and then suddenly, it was also crunchy. Crunchy-chewy. Chewy-crunchy. Crewy? Chunchy? Forgive me, I have had insomnia and had to work a two hour (yup) shift early this morning. This is tough on an older gal.
Where was I? Oh yes, so then it was crunchy and I thought hmmm. Then I ran my tongue over my two front teeth, both of which had cheap veneers to make up for their extreme chipped-ness because no mouth guard for years and an ice chewing obsession. Sure enough, one tooth was back to its old self. Gack! So there I was on the subway taking selfies of my front teeth so I could see what the heck. Later, when I called the dental receptionist back in Vancouver, she suggested that I don’t eat on my front teeth at all over the next week until I could see the dentist.
My other focus was bookstores. Vancouver used to have bookstores other than the big chain one, but now it really doesn’t. It has about two independent bookstores and a few used bookshops but nothing that makes me go wow wow wow. I went to six bookstores in NYC and here is the list – might be of interest if you ever plan to visit or just like reading about bookstores. I love reading about bookstores.
1. Strand Bookstore – main store – 828 Broadway – I know I shouldn’t have been but I was disappointed. I’d been to Strand in 2005 and was so excited about going back. Strand is a mix of new and used books and it is huge. It also has some neato non-book items. Part of my disappointment might have had to do with the fact that I went on my first full day when I was still jetlagged. Dale, Luc, and I (see previous post to see who these fellows are) went together and while they found a lot to buy, I didn’t find anything. Not sure why – perhaps if I had spent more time in the used section, I might have found more. We also went on a weekend day so, yeah. I didn’t find their selection of new books that interesting. I wouldn’t worry about Strand though, it is super popular. It shall carry on without me I am happy to say.
2. Sisters Uptown Bookstore – “The only black-owned bookstore in Manhattan” 1942 Amsterdam Avenue. I googled bookstores as one does and found out that this was a short-ish walk from where I was staying. I got lost but a nice gentleman showed me the way. New Yorkers aren’t assholes and in fact are nice to tourists. He showed me to the door of this small bookstore and cultural center and awesome levels of awesomeness abounded. The employees were super friendly, the art on sale amazing, and a great selection of books. Very cozy and lovely and thank god it exists.
3. Book Culture – 4 locations. I was at the 2915 Broadway store and the one near Columbia University, 536 W. 112th Avenue. I didn’t even know this store existed but found it as I was heading back to the subway from a visit to a Barnes & Noble location. A lovely layout in both stores, some nice non-book stuff and a great selection of academic and non-academic books. The second floor of the Columbia University location has a lot of excellent used books. The Columbia store is much more focussed on academic books.
4. Bluestockings – 172 Allen Street, East Village. I happened upon this bookstore on my way to the Tenement Museum. It is a pretty hardcore feminist bookstore and there were some interesting titles.
5. Barnes & Noble – 555 5th Avenue and 2285 Broadway – say what you will about chain bookstores and I’ve never found Barnes & Noble in Bellingham to have anything of interest. But the 5th Avenue store in particular was excellent – and the staff super knowledgeable and helpful. Lots of cool New York City stuff too. A great magazine selection, particularly literary magazines.
6. Housing Works – 126 Crosby Street. This used bookstore was so amazing that it is going to get its own note at another time.
I had also wanted to go to Greenpoint Books in Brooklyn but I never made it to Brooklyn.
I ended up buying a good number of books and a few magazines. And the thing is, there are many, many more bookstores to be discovered when I go back to the Big Apple.
I’ll write about Housing Works Bookshop and Cafe in the next installment. It was an oasis. It was incredible and great Christmas carols!!

New York City Musings, part one

Nobody talked much in New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum. Why I was there I’m still not sure. I was almost a week into my ten day tourist trip, one funded by an inheritance from my recently deceased father. I’d been to New York City years ago in early summer. It had been holy hot as hell. I was still staying in hostels in 2005, somehow able to sleep in a room with a dozen other people.
Now I was over 50 and staying in my first Air BnB , located in Harlem, very close to the 155th Street Station. The apartment building was a typical New York one for the area– small, old with a kind of scary elevator ( although that there was an elevator at all was quite the perk), and steam heat so hot that many New Yorkers kept their windows open even in the bowels of winter I had read.
I was there in early to mid-December, before the bomb cyclone winter weather hit. It sometimes snowed during my stay and the streets were pretty gloppy but almost instantly salted, although I did hear a woman say that she’d nearly fallen six times in two blocks. Uh yes. Outside I walked stealthily as I had learned to do growing up in Winnipeg – kind of like a penguin. This was familiar.
All else was not. I was travelling alone as I usually do – my friends were either too broke or had families to vacation with. I’d always travelled on my own, something that had been good and bad. The good was that in 2003, I’d met Dale at a hostel in London. Fifteen years later and by pure coincidence, he and his husband were in New York City on a business trip. His last day in the city was my second day so we met up for lunch and gleefully browsed at Strand Bookstore in the East Village. He then ran me around the city – there were chocolates to buy at some shop I don’t remember the name of and a pet store to visit so he could get their dogs NYPD vests (which turned out didn’t fit but their neighbour’s dogs are enjoying them). We climbed up and down more subway stairs than can be counted and by the time we hit Times Square I ran away from them.
“But how will you know where the subway is?” Dale called after me as his husband looked for a cheap backpack in one of the zillion luggage shops in the square.
“I’ll find it,” I shouted back. Okay, it took me 30 minutes, a Google map, and asking four different groups of people for directions before I stumbled onto the C Line.
Well, you don’t so much stumble as wander aimlessly and march up and down stairs and more stairs into the bowels of the city. Under the city.
“The subway is more challenging these days,” a building mate in Vancouver had told me. She had lived in New York for 10 years and still had many friends there.
“Oh,” I’d thought at the time, no problem. The subway hadn’t been an issue back in that hot summer of 2005.
Turned out the subway was more challenging this time. You didn’t know if your line was running and if it was, when it might be coming. And if it came, it might sit at the station for five minutes or an hour. And when it moved, it often stopped dead. The train conductor mumbled. A lot. Something like ‘Bzzbzz bzzz thanks for your patience,’ was often heard. I decided to take my cue from New Yorkers crammed in the subway car with me – they generally looked resigned and no one even sighed with impatience. Apparently a fairly common reason for subway delays was a sick passenger somewhere along the line. Union rules stated that subway employees couldn’t take a sick passenger out of a car but had to wait for EMT’s. I could understand for sick passengers when I was standing, jammed in between other straphangers. Winter coated, it was a sweaty time. Don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint, I told myself. Such a strategy had never worked but oddly enough it did in New York. I had travel insurance but I couldn’t imagine having to use it and holding up a whole subway line because I had passed out. The reverberations of a sick passenger went on seemingly forever – backing up other lines unto infinity. I also hadn’t figured out how to get crosstown – from east to west – on a subway, especially uptown. One afternoon after a visit to The Met Museum, I got on an M6 bus I think it was. It apparently went uptown to the cloisters which in my mind meant it would go near 155th Street. As we crawled along the streets that didn’t look close to anything I recognized, I stumbled over to the driver.
“Oh, no no,” he said. “Get off here and wait for the M3.” The M3 sidled by 40 minutes later while I was trying to figure out where I was so I could pin it for an Uber driver. “What street is this?” I’d asked a thundering group of middle-schoolers. There were no street signs anywhere nearby. “Don’t know,” one of them mumbled. “No idea?” I said. “No one knows the name of this street?” A nameless street. Ah! The M3. It was busy, busy. Mainly parents taking their kids home from school.
“What part of my saying do not open up your juice box on the bus did you not understand?” asked a father to his little girl. “What part was confusing to you?”
A somewhat confused man sat beside me to the amusement of some grade school boys behind me.
“There’s no, there’s no, there’s no, there’s no,” he kept repeating . “There’s no, there’s no, there’s no-“
“Justice?” I finally asked him. He looked at me.
“Fifty, fifty, fifty is a big age. Big age big age.”
“Yup,” I said.
I turned to the boys – “Does this bus stop at St. Nicholas and 145th?” Fancy the street name at Christmas time. You can’t make this shit up.
“Yup, three more stops,” said one of the boys.
Three stops later, thank you boys, I walked 10 blocks and then took the ancient elevator six floors up to the Air BnB. Alicia, the hostess, Air BnBed two rooms in her rental apartment and she and a roommate lived in the other two. There was no common space, other than a tiny kitchen and equally small bathroom.
I unlocked the door and felt no small relief at being out of the constant noise, crowds, and subways to nowhere. “Were you thinking New York City wouldn’t be busy?” A friend asked me upon my return. “I did, I did,” I said. “But I didn’t. I’d forgotten.” Part of me loved the busyness but anxious me often needed a bit of a break.
Alicia was just going out. She was 28 years old, cute and hip. She hadn’t been in to making conversation, something extroverted me was coming to slowly accept.
“Oh, Karen, hey is that your loaf of bread in the kitchen?”
“Uh, yes,” I said.
“Well, there are crumbs on the floor.”
“So the broom,” she laughed. She’d laughed the other evening too when she told me that the pan I’d cleaned wasn’t clean enough. Nervous laughter.
“Got it,” I said, chastened. I knew that both Air BnB hosts and guests wrote reviews of each other after a stay had ended. I’d checked out a few of hers and she was big on guests leaving things spotless. So much for the cleaning fee I’d had to pay, I thought.
I rarely used the kitchen, mainly to eat the offending loaf of bread and boil eggs and one time, I’d made macaroni and cheese, hence the great unwashed pan issue. Pangate. Potgate. But I mean really, who makes macaroni and cheese whilst in New York City. I do, I do.
Alicia’s other issue was the door not being double locked when people left the apartment. I had made this mistake only once. One day, I noted that it hadn’t been done by another guest so I texted her. Not realizing it was me, she texted back that she would tell the ‘older lady guest’ to be more careful.
“Um,” I’d texted in response, “This is the older lady guest! “
“Oh god”, she texted back. “So sorry!”
I laughed my butt off on the subway until I got to the stop near the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I was exhilarated from a day of bookstore shopping and Christmas marketing but also exhausted. I figured I had one museum left in me for the day. On my first visit to New York in 2005, there’d still been a great hole where the Twin Towers had stood. Now there was a $700 million memorial museum that after endless delays had opened in 2014. It was controversial, and I’d read that some families of 9/11 victims were unimpressed with what they felt would become a money-making tourist attracting monstrosity.
Not sure why I chose to go there but there I was. The entrance fee was $24. The museum was a huge open space. And blissfully .which is surely the wrong word to use here, it was mostly silent. It was pretty much as I’d expected, even though I hadn’t read much about it at that point. There were bicycles and bicycle racks covered in soot from the day (no one had ever claimed the bikes), there were parts of machinery horribly twisted. There was a New York City firefighter by some of the wreckage, giving tours.
There was a room filled with photos of the murdered – those in the towers and those in the planes. You could click on each picture to find out more information about the victims. There were voice recordings of frantic calls to 911. There were pictures of the missing posters – so many of them – that relatives had put up in their desperation to find their loved ones. It was haunting of course as it was meant to be.
I was dizzy after leaving the room – mainly from insomniaed exhaustion and hunger. I wish I could say I was more touched by what I’d seen – and it was horrifying of course of course. But . . . I had seen it so many times before everywhere.
I left after noting the recorders where people could leave their own memories of 911 and on my way back to the subway noted that the Jewish Museum was also close by. It would have been better, I thought, for me to have gone there.