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.

downtown school life

I worked for a great downtown ESL school for years – about seven.  Then it shut.  Long story really.

Now I ‘work’ for another.

Work in scare quotes.

Not because it’s scary, ha.

Although really.



An hour here. An hour there. Often two hours separated by hours, like today. An hour in the morning and an hour in the late afternoon.

The downtown school hires lots of other ‘teachers’ (scare quotes again!  Actually Entertainers!) who get way more work than I do even though I’ve been there for coming on a long time now.

Because I couldn’t get 4..8/5 regularly on student evaluations.

The students are 19 years old and the school is always training them to give high evaluations.

It’s all weird and hard to explain.

Here’s the thing – this downtown school is the ‘best’ of the bunch.  The rest pay much worse.

Meh – late fall/winter is always like this for me work wise – really slow and demoralizing.

The downtown school normalizes really rather horrible treatment of employees.

The beat goes on.

I’m going to New York City in a few weeks for 10 days.

Slightly gaga

Was never a fan of Lady Gaga.  Not so much that I wasn’t a fan maybe but more I thought not for me and is there actually talent to go with the meat dress.

Turns out so.

Her Netflix special has been rather panned by critics but I enjoyed it.  Her song, Joanne, from her album of the same title, is very powerful I think. Poignant.  Brilliantly sung in my Neil Diamond loving opinion.

If’ you’ve ever lost someone, listen to Joanne.  Joanne, Gaga’s middle name, was her aunt who died at 19 before Gaga was born.  In the documentary, she plays the song for her grandmother and her father.  Not a dry eye in my tiny abode.


Not much else to say.  I’m done at the university and back to very temporary part time at a couple of places. Same old, same old.

Oldness of the same.

Not feeling great (menopausal nausea probably, which is TMI but this is a blog! An oversharing and rarely updated blog) but will go to my writing group tonight.  I am bringing “Classic Caesar” potato chips.  Won’t eat any myself due to the aforementioned health complaint but what a fun flavour.  Maybe clamato-y?  Who knows.  We had cinnamon bun flavour once and that kind of messes with your salt-loving mind.

Madonna thinks Gaga steals from her – maybe, I could see that.  But I don’t think Madonna could create a song like Joanne but maybe she could.

Seems Gaga has almost 72 million twitter followers.  Seems a lot.  She was just here in Vancouver which I didn’t think too much about at the time.  Now I’m suddenly Gaga-aware.

I have woken up gaga.

The Los Vegas tragedy will be over-analyzed as per usual and the mourning of 59 lives will be lost in the dust of it all I think.

I should try to wake up to more musicians.  It’s kinda fun and poignant at the same time.

Trolling Scott Baio

Okay.  I admit it.  I troll Scott Baio’s Facebook page.

Phew, there I admitted to my wee fan base of half a person.

Now, anyone under 40 or so will have no idea who Scott Baio is.  But for people of my generation, he was Chachi Arcola on Happy Days.  He was so cute and and so dapper like Joanie said and they sang that song and he had dreamy eyes.

I think nostalgia is big everywhere.  None more so than when Glenda and I went to see Donny Osmond at the PNE several years ago.  Swoon.  Thunk.  Swoon.  And oh he knew how to play to us middle-aged women.  THUNK big time.  And I hadn’t even been that big of a fan.

Lately I have been on a David Cassidy binge – not how he is now but how he was back in the day.  Swoon, thunk.

So awhile back I began to look at Scott Baio’s Facebook page. Holy cow.  Holy horse.  Holy all that is holy.

He’s a big Trump fan.  He was asked to speak at the RNC you may recall.  His profile picture his of him and Trump (to heck with the grammar in this sentence).  Because I both love and hate conflict (my 50 minute hour and I are working on this, check back in with me in about 18 years) I’m in there counter commenting.  He and his fanbase are the type of Americans who not only love Trump but love him arrogantly and without any reason that is actually factually correct.   And anyone who doesn’t is hit with endless amounts of comments about how they are crazy liberals and swear, curse, and the like.

Scott also has a foundation that helps kids born with I believe mitochondrial disorders, as is daughter almost was.  And that’s an amazing thing.  The foundation helps out parents in a myriad ways.

But now,  it seems, Scott Baio has taken a liking to white supremacists. I would say he was one but I don’t want to get sued. His commenters also love white supremacists. And they pull out the most bizarre information and interpret ‘facts’ in the most bizarre and disturbing ways.

Scott waited for several days after Charlottesville to post anything as I think he wanted to wait and see what Trump would say. Trump of course said what he did and boom, at the races again.

But the question really is, why can’t I stay away from his FB page?  I know full well that trolling trolls, especially trolls who are supported by almost every other troll in the comments section, is a huge mistake.  It will never ever get anywhere – white supremacist types feed off of people like me.  It is food for them and I know this.  I know all of these things intellectually very well.

But there I go anyway.

I think some of it has to do with me not having enough to do (I should find enough to do) or and not having enough people in my life.  Online white supremacist trolls are creepy and horrible but maybe it is at least a connection?  That seems a bit sad really.  And it certainly doesn’t make me a happy happy person.

Go figure.

What is my point? The psychology of trolls is apparently being studied quite extensively now since it is no longer new newish.

My other thing is why is Scott Baio so bent on defending white supremacists?   And why do I care that Chachi is doing this? Heck, Ted Nugent is doing it too but I don’t seem to care about that.  Meh, I was never a Nugent fan.  But Chachi ArcolA . . . .




Oh, here I am


My dad died three weeks ago this very day.  Passed of pneumonia five days after I had gone to see him across the country where he was living in an assisted living home near my sister.  I hadn’t seen him in 2.5 years and his health had gone downhill quite significantly.  His mind was still mostly there although muddled, nearly silenced.  But his body was worn, exhausted, weak.

It was unexpected though – right after I left he caught pneumonia and passed away.  Tearing up.

Tearing up.

Most folks experience grief at some point in their lives – it’s a difficult one for sure.  Deep pain, intense sadness, different than I might have thought.  I wasn’t close to my dad, etc. etc. same old story but, alas, he was still my dad.  He was so vulnerable seeming the last year or so.

On it goes.

Grief I find compounds my anxiety and also makes me kind of agoraphobic.  When my mom passed,  I only felt ‘safe’ in my bedroom for the longest time.  I moved away from that over the years but alas, here I am again.

Breathe. Let it be. Let it be.

Or something like that.

My work is as chaotic as usual. I had been offered some full time work right when my dad died but turned it down in favour of part time work, simply because I wasn’t sure I could cope too well.  I kind of regret that choice now but there it is.  I end up with lots of ‘alone’ time which I both crave because it feels safe and don’t enjoy.  Etc.  I may be doing a bit longer on the part-time at UBC front this summer so that would be good. Three other part-time jobs I was supposed to have didn’t work out – Langara doesn’t have classes running, one cram school shut down for the summer and the other I quit due to its policy of allowing students to not show up at the last minute and not paying me for that.  So I’m down to two part-time jobs! – UBC for summer and downtown school.

Tis what it is there.

The weather has been lovely and I’ve been riding my bicycle to and from UBC – the to being much more uphill. Takes about 40 minutes.  The walk from the bus loop to my building is 15 minutes so it is a time saver really.  Legs are mighty mighty sore.  I cycle past a string of beaches and it is beautiful.  Then I go up a long and steep hill.  Then I feel like wonder woman after I complete that hill.

Someone was writing in another blog I read about how Jesus would appear if he showed up today (if he ever actually existed at all).  She’d seen a fellow on a bicycle who looked Jesusy  and wrote this Or is he just out there, biking around with no shirt, his pants rolled up to avoid accidents, making eye contact with the needy. (

I liked that description.  Or maybe he’d show up as someone starving in a war-torn country no one ever writes about,knows about, or cares about.

Or at the bedside of a dying 81 year old man whose proudest claim in life was that he was a Jewish atheist socialist.

You never do know about these things.



Boredom, bike rides, book

The rain and wind continue unabated here in this city.  March apparently broke rain records and April seems set to do the same.  The weather is warming slightly but still . . . . brrrr and dark and cold and etc.

Neverttheless, I have returned to the bicycle after a long winter not cycling at all.  As such, my legs are feeling rather wooden.  This morning, bored and bored and unemployed and you know the drill, I decided to go out in the rain and wind (I really should get proper cycling in rain gear) and cycle up to UBC and back.  I stopped in at a library or two and found this book in the fast reads at my local branch – “Strangers in Their Own Land,” by Arlie Russell Hoschschild.  She is a well regarded and awarded sociologist who ventured into ‘arch-conservative Louisiana bayou country’ to talk to and learn about the lives of Trump voters.  She doesn’t write it as an indictment but rather as a sociological look at the rise of the right.  Apparently it is more comprehensive than the recent “Hillbilly Elegy” book.    Should be an intellectually stimulating book to read and one my dad would no doubt like.

That’s right – some of my non-fiction choices mirror his.  The horrors.  Although I don’t think he reads People magazine, the New Yorker or Soap Opera Digest.  He also avoids fiction for reasons I’ve never understood.  He used to mock my mom for her fiction choices and that ticked me off.  My mom had to drop out of school in grade 11 (from a small town, certainly multi-grade school house) and yet read voraciously her whole life.  It was to her great relief once when she found out that my sister’s erudite and extremely intelligent father-in-law enjoyed one of the same writers that she did.   And what of the classics?  Silly old man.

Sorry, I got sidetracked.  So is my bored and understimulated brain.

“We have compassion fatigue,” noted my friend T.  “You’ve been talking about being unemployed for so long.”

“Shit or get off the pot,” suggested my long distance friend, D.  Not sure what pot I am on, ha.

I did send out my resume to another downtown school and got a response requesting an interview.  The phone call was odd from the director of studies, even odd for an ESL school.  Then I got to reading reviews of working there from Glassdoor and realized that that work situation would be far worse than what I have (or have not) now.  Ugh.  Apparently endless hours of unpaid work (marking and what not) and poor to no curriculum and etc.  Typical of ESL and I know I complain of unemployment – but that didn’t seem like anything near a good situation. I had all ready replied in an e-mail just now that I would happily come in for an interview but my gut (and bowels certainly) were like, no.  So I maturely simply blocked the interviewer’s e-mail.  There will be undoubtedly a time to work at (another) terrible downtown ESL school but now is not that time.  When my EI runs out in the middle of June – then will be that time.

I know, I know.  The industry is so so bad . . .

Is it better for me to be sitting around doing nothing nothing? Probably not.

The one other ‘decent’ downtown school isn’t responding to my numerous ‘here I am!’ e-mails.

I have also applied to Costco, the art gallery as a cashier, and a few other various and sundry.  No responses.  What’s a gal to do?

Did I mention I’m going to Ottawa to visit family for four days in May?  I think I did.  If nothing else, that will get me out of my brain and out of this city for a few days.

Oddly, doing nothing for so long I find rather physically exhausting.  Go figure.

I do regret a lot of things but not going to that downtown school interview is not one of them I don’t think.  Of course talk to me again in a few months.

Oh!  There is a bit of sun.  Someone run out and take a photo.

I’ve had my hair dyed a great rich colour and my hair shortened to a kind of curly bob.  Haven’t had my hair this short in years.  I still look 51 but I like looking at the colour – a rich brown.  Am I repeating myself?  Probably.

No work and endless blah blah is making me crazy.

I must cycle off soon to see my weekly high school tutee, V.  We are working on a very difficult essay. Poor fellow.




Not much to say today.

I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.

I am still not sure what to do.

I am barely working at all – pretty much not working and I don’t think that will improve as the busy summer season comes along.

I’m going to Ottawa for four days to see my now decrepit dad and my non decrepit sister and her family, including my 20 year old awesome niece, C.  C. is training to be a nurse so she will take my blood pressure.  Hurrah.

Meanwhile. There is no work.  There is never ever any work.

I worked for 1.5 hours today (yup), early this morning, and then boom, nothing.  Rode my bicycle to the grocery store before the rains came again and made some very very not tasty beef stew.  The potatoes were mushy for one thing.  No matter.

I am mired in molasses and have no idea how to move forward but then I never ever do.

Yup.  That’s the update.