The Joys Of Recess

  

On lunch break in Brooklyn, I walked past a park and saw a bunch of schoolkids playing during recess. They had no equipment other than a ball and no teacher or monitor telling them what to do, but they obviously were having fun playing a game of their own creation where one kid stretched out on the ground and the others had to bounce the ball over her prone figure.

Who doesn’t remember recess fondly — and these kinds of unsupervised moments are the most memorable.

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The Homeless Guy At The Window

I was in Brooklyn Sunday night and went to a Mexican restaurant near my hotel for dinner.  Because I was a single diner, the hostess asked if I’d like to sit at the bar.  I had a book to read and the lighting at the bar was a bit brighter than the table area, so I agreed.

I sat down at one end of the bar, ordered my food, and sipped at my glass of wine.  When I glanced up to look out a nearby window, a street person was there, staring in at me.  He was right up against the window, only a few inches from the glass, radiating that kind of aggressive, wild-eyed look that you see from some members of the homeless brigade — the kind that makes you give them a wide berth.  That’s weird, I thought.

IMG_6983_2I went back to reading my book, was served some chips and salsa and began munching away, looked over at the window again . . . and the guy was still there, giving me the hard-eyed once-over.  From then on, I became acutely aware of his glare.  And as my meal progressed, from time to time I would try to surreptitiously look over to see if he was still there — and he was.  And he saw me looking over, every time.

Why was he doing it?  Was he trying to guilt-trip me into going outside of the restaurant to give him some money so I could eat my meal without being eyeballed?  Was he just bored, and decided to pass the time by playing mind games with a random stranger?  For that matter, was he even aware of where he was, and what he was doing?  I didn’t know, of course, but I was sure that directly interacting with him, or acknowledging his presence any more than I already had, was not a good idea.

I began to wonder what would happen when I finished my food and had to walk past the guy to get back to my hotel.  I didn’t exactly relish the prospect of an unwanted encounter with an apparently angry man in a strange city on a Sunday night.  But finally, as I was finishing my food, I took one last glance over — and the man was gone.  I quickly got my check, paid it, grabbed my book, and hit the road.

It was one of those unsettling experiences that stick with you and make you wonder about the arbitrary elements of life.  I didn’t sleep very well that night.  Of course, he probably didn’t sleep very well, either — that night, or any night.

Bad Choice

So the Democrats have picked Philadelphia as the site for their 2016 National Convention, selecting the City of Brotherly Love over the other two finalists — Columbus, Ohio and Brooklyn, New York.

Apparently Philadelphia’s role in American history tipped the balance.  According to the New York Times report, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz touched the Liberty Bell and said:  “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering.”  Because both Columbus and Brooklyn presumably also were committed to having “a seamless and safe convention” — at least, you’d sure hope so — we can surmise that Philadelphia’s past role as site of the Constitutional Convention, home of Ben Franklin, and so forth was the deciding factor.

I’m a fan of Philly, but I think this is a bad choice — and not just because I’m a Columbus resident who hoped that both the Republican and Democrat conventions would be held in the Buckeye State in 2016.  The issue is whether you are forward-looking, or backward-looking.  It’s like the decision that was made years ago to change the location of the presidential inauguration ceremony from the east side of the Capitol building to the west side.  The east side had tradition, but the west side was spacious, with a vista spanning the Mall and its monuments.  The country’s future lay to the west, and moving the inauguration ceremony was a solid symbolic move — as well as allowing more space.

Which city best represents the future here?  Growing Columbus, with its bustling economy?  Diverse Brooklyn, which is constantly reinventing itself?  Or Philadelphia?

At Brooklyn Bridge Park

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If you walk from Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan, you will find the Brooklyn Bridge Park at the end of your journey. With its worn and comfortable benches, its shady vistas, and its beautiful fountain, it’s a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee on a cool and bright autumn morning. Fortunately, there’s a Starbucks nearby, ready to fill that need. (Isn’t there always?)

C’mon, Democrats, Come To Columbus!

The Democratic National Committee is trying to decide where to hold the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  According to reports, the finalists are Brooklyn, New York, Birmingham, Alabama, Phoenix, Arizona, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — and Columbus, Ohio. 

A few days ago Columbus city officials and civic leaders hosted a delegation from the DNC, trying to convince them to come to the capital city of the Buckeye State.  The tried to use crowds, reasoning, friendly signs and t-shirts, and a blue carpet to sway the DNC decision.  Given the audience, I think an appeal to naked political self-interest is far more likely to be effective.  So I say:

Democrats, you owe us — and you’re going to be here, anyway. 

DSC04160Ohio is the battleground state.  You pester us with polls, bombard us with ads, stop traffic for rallies, and hassle us in more ways than we can count in every election.  We put up with this crap in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, and we’ve spent countless tax dollars on police protection and the other municipal services that the constant campaigning requires.  You owe us!  We’re entitled to have your delegates fly into our airport, book our hotel rooms, shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, visit the bigger-than-life statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and — not incidentally — pay all of the taxes that such activity generates.  Fill our coffers, baby!  We’re entitled to it!

You’re going to be here, anyway, so you’ll all save on travel expenses if you start out here.  You may as well get to know the good new restaurants, and the excellent new bars, because you’ll be returning again, and again, and again as the election draws near.  Contrast that with Brooklyn or Philly, which are solid blue, or Birmingham, which is redder than Red Square.  Phoenix is red, too — red hot.  Those places are locked down, one way or the other.  In contrast, Ohio is so deep purple that its residents might as well hum the opening chords of Smoke on the Water with every step.  Wouldn’t you like to have some friendly, and early, firsthand exposure to the swing voters who inevitably will decide the election?

One other thing:  the Republicans are holding their 2016 National Convention just up I-71, in Cleveland.  They know they need to win Ohio, and they’re pulling out all the stops.  Are you really going to dis us and give the Rs a leg up on raking all of our crucial electoral votes?  It’s time for the Party of Jefferson and Jackson to make the pilgrimage and put its money where its mouth will be during the fall of 2016.  You want to win Ohio?  You’d better come to Columbus.

Across The Bridge

IMG_4872I like to walk in the morning.  If you happen to be in Brooklyn on a hot summer morning, what better way to satisfy your walking jones than to take a hike across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan and back again?

This morning the Red Sox Fan and I ventured forth before it got too hot.  It’s a trek that measures more than 3.5 miles, round trip, and takes you right down the middle of the bridge, over the traffic and under the massive stone supports and suspension cables.  It’s a wooden walkway with two way bike and pedestrian traffic that’s a tight squeeze in spots, but well worth it.  We hoofed it over the bridge, stopped for a cup of coffee in City Hall Park on the Manhattan side, and then turned around and walked back to the Brooklyn side.

It was a pleasant stroll on a sunny morning over a national landmark.  Reality intruded, however, when we passed some construction workers involved in the bridge’s renovation and overheard them casually talking about how the “jumper” last week had somehow survived his plunge.  That’s New York City for you, I guess.IMG_4880