Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The People Next to Me and Anton Corbijn's Control

One of the most beautiful things about living in a place like NYC is people watching. To top it all off, I recently got my first, very own iPod shuffle (right here at the ripe age of 32), which makes the people-watching that much more dramatic and cinematic.

Last night, I went to see Anton Corbijn's Control, a biopic about the late Ian Curtis and Joy Division.

But first, let me tell you about the subway ride there:

Sitting next to me was a young couple speaking in sign language. They were in their own world completely, laughing (silently, it all seemed), and totally unaware of all the wandering, curious, fascinated eyes and slight smiles stealing glimpses of their silent love affair. At some point, they stopped signing and started examining each others' hands - something lovers do, but these were hands they obviously already knew, hands that spoke to them, that held the key to everything between them in a way far more fundamental than in the beauty of their lines and muscles. They then started playing with each others' hands. First, slow, soft movements, then jokes -playful twists and turns of the wrists. He was speaking, she was squeezing to make him be quiet. Their fingers wrestled and tugged in this alien, communicative, sensual experience that they were both clearly completely lost in. Every single person on the bench opposite them was enraptured. An old, hippie couple - clothed in grey hair and glasses - riveted, eyes pointed over the newspapers that opened against their chests. A man with a bible - letting his eyes pass equally back and forth between the bible and the couple without noticeable preference for one or the other (he could have been a minister marrying them in this silent, emotional film). Another woman, piles of bags beside her, hid nothing in her expression as she watched the two - without reserve, unembarrassed to stare, and staring hard, like the intensity of a keen television watcher. And then me, beside them, watching them as intensely as all the others, but through the reflection on the window opposite. I had the special vantage point of seeing the watchers and the watched at the same time, and then the melodic filter of the music playing through my headphones to keep me at a safe, disconnected, anonymous distance. I stole occassional glances to my right to see them in color. In the window reflection, everything lacks bright tones.

I landed, several stops from the theatre, and much too early. I was in the West Village, so I decided to check it out. I thought of Berlinbound, and how he and HH must know those streets so well. I wished I had him as a guide as I walked in circles without a map through the cozy, criss-crossed streets.

I got to the cinema two minutes before the film started and had to take the LAST seat available in the second row next to a 60-something gentleman who was very well-dressed (business man style) and was hushing the chatty people behind us even while just the movie previews were playing. Being so packed into a theatre in seats so small, it is hard not to be aware of the strangers sitting on either side of you in a sort of forced intimacy. You can smell them. You can hear them breathing when the loud surround-sound pauses. This man was breathing so quickly, that I was worried he was going to die on me. The movie began, and throughout the film, he was reacting quickly in these funny laughs that made me think again and again that he was actually one of the people depicted in the film, or else used to have some close relationship to Joy Division. I even caught him feigning chords with his left hand during the performance scenes. Anyways, I thought about striking up a conversation with him afterwards to get the real scoop on Joy Division, but instead, just watched him swagger in this akward, jerky, mechanical way (much like Ian Curtis on stage) into the night, his suit pants actually hemmed about a half a foot higher than normal.

So I get back onto the subway, super late. I sit down, and again, there is a couple next to me using sign language. This time, they were older, more settled and mature. They weren't sitting together, but directly across from one another. They, like the couple earlier, communicated in a world that didn't seem to associate with the rest of the people around them, in that there were no voices to engage.

This is not to include all of the other people I "interacted" with over the course of the evening....people I asked directions from, people I made eye contact with, the waitress with the English accent and big glasses in the West Village. The personalities that come through in these small moments are so full, so expressive, so unguarded in a quick moving city way where people seem to be surrounded by walls, but when interacted with, are very quick to let them all down as though they are starving for human contact.

As for the film, it was beautiful. Well, to be honest, it was one of the most depressing films I have ever seen....but I appreciated the long, quiet spaces which say more than words...something one doesn't see in films or real life much anymore.

Good night and good lovin',
Love Mama Jens

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Supermarkets, Fillo Dough, Laundry, and School Updates

A couple of discoveries this week....

Fairway. Ever since we moved here, it has been like a buzzword...and finally, this past weekend, I went to check it out. Its a supermarket in Red Hook - about two miles away. It is right on the water and there are cool things to look at there like the Statue of Liberty. It is a supermarket which blends everything - your normal-chock-full-of-preservatives and packaged food items, which, let's face it, you gotta have sometimes, plus all the trusted organic labels that they have at the lovely, very inexpensive, fascist coop plus a huge fresh fish and seafood selection plus all the deli items and cheese you could ever lay at a German breakfast table PLUS all the gourmet and imported food items that we oh-so-savvy world travelers must re-experience from time to time. As if that is not enough, they have fresh produce for days and a perfectly French selection of fresh (hot) bakery and bread items, and even a goddamn cafe. And the prices, still much cheaper than Whole Foods and even competitive with the coop (but not the cheeses). So I went nuts and spent a million dollars there and loaded everything up in my car and drove back home feeling like a responsible and satisfied mother hen who is doing more than providing only one or two edible items in the refrigerator each day.

You see, I still haven't gotten the German-shopping-everyday thing out of my system, so the fridge always looks kind of paltry....but that's just how we do. You know, buy the stuff and eat it, and so there isn't much else there. So, when I really go crazy and stock up, it feels pretty awesome.

And it came just in time for the cooler weather, which I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT. First, a couple of days ago, it rained. This was awesome, because then our car got washed. And then the wind and cooler temperatures finally showed their reluctant faces, and this made Mama Jens Very Happy. So now things like leafs swirling around in little whirlwinds are happening on the sidewalks, and Mama Jens is starting to bake, which is always a sign of fall.

Fall and Spring are basically perfect in my book. These are the months where I don't bitch so much about the weather.

So speaking of what's been cooking, I have discovered the joys and beauty of fillo dough. I am excited as hell about this discovery....the family, on the other hand at this point, is probably like, "Are you gonna wrap every single one of our meals in this shit?!" Fillo dough, as it is spelled on the package, but is probably more properly spelled "Phylo" (but I am too lazy to google it right now) is pretty frickin' awesome stuff. I am sure the rest of the world is very familiar with it, but Mama Jens just discovered it, so let me just bask in my Fillo glory for a minute.

Fillo dough is super papery thin dough. It comes wrapped carefully - lots and lots of sheets of it. You have to let it thaw overnight in the fridge and then when you unwrap it, put a wet cloth or paper towel over it because it dries out very quickly. Then you make what you want, wrap it all up and bake it. The coolest part is that it retains its papery shape and so it has the creases and crevices of crumpled paper, and it is very flaky French pastry style.

So far, I have filled it with spinach and feta, quiche style but with far fewer eggs and also with apples that are tossed like you would if you were making apple pie, with cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and flour. Both turned out really nicely - delicious and also very pretty.

If you want recipes, just post a comment and I will share them with you.

And now time for the laundry update. I am still doing it weekly at the laundromat. Instead of breaking down and buying a machine, I have only come up with more reasons to keep doing it the hard way. One, a washer and dryer unit would take up a whole closet in our flat, which is Very Valuable Space. And two, I just realized tonight, is that it is a perfect time to call friends and family faraway. Load the washer. Call someone. Before you know it, the clothes are done. Load them into the dryer. Call someone else. Perfect. This is a good example of using your time wisely, my friends. Three, lately, there is an older woman from the West Indies who is watching over the place. I have enjoyed how she very unlovingly barks at everyone that comes in and innocently takes on the basically already unpleasant task of doing their weekly laundry. For whatever reason, she has taken a liking to me, and so I tipped her last week. And let me tell you, folks, tipping goes a long way in this country. So this week, she told me which were the best dryers, and this saved me HALF of my usual drying time. Plus, in between her freak outs on random people, I got to hear her life story. She has lived in this neighborhood for 43 years, and so scoffs (uncontrollably) at all the people who write her off as an "immigrant who can't speak the language" as she put it. At the end of her life story, she said, "This country is a loser!" And well, I gave her another tip, not necessarily for that, but because she didn't make my life double hell while I was out doing something I didn't want to do in the first place.

So laundry and food are all cool. Let's talk about schools.

So far, the preschool in Foxy Brown's neighborhood is turning out to be quite the gem. The teacher is awesome and our younger bundle of joy is excited about going there, which is all we really need for confirmation that it is a great place.

As for PS 321, well, it is everything you've read about and well, worth the insane INSANE INSANE rents. So, every month, as I write my rent check, instead of puking, I just remember that curriculum conference a couple of weeks back when the incredible teachers told us about what the children are learning this year and how, basically, they are teaching children to THINK. It is not about reading and writing and math, it is about thinking about those processes and problem solving and learning to love the process, and therefore loving to learn and learning more. It is also a place where they give the discipline guides in the form of "community codes." If you break one of them, you are responsible for solving the problem you created. Seems simple enough, but for a public school, I find it kind of revolutionary.

Good night and big kisses,
Love, Mama Jens

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

This is How We Roll vs. Park Slope Yoga

These are my new wheels. Thank the Good Lord Jesus for my new wheels. They only cost $14 at Key Foods and not only are they insanely practical, they make me feel like I have truly assimilated into the Park Slope lifestyle (I am sure they are all over New York City, but I can't honestly say I have seen them navigating the streets of SoHo). Not only that, they have spared my upper back many a neck massage and my stretched out post-baby stomach muscles many a hernia. And I know that these are the kind of wheels that would normally fall under the Non-Hip-Accessory category, but since my cart is black, the dang thing even matches all of my Jewish Mama outfits. Fuck yeah!

I don't actually know the name of my new accessory, but I have heard it referred to as a "Granny Cart," which I personally find a little offensive, but I am willing to deal with that, because:

A. The thing handles curbs and broken sidewalks as though they were smooth as ice.
B. The handle is well designed, with this slidey sort of grippey plastic-y material that makes turning a dream.
C. Never before have I felt so light and carefree when hauling 4 loads of laundry or 10 bags of squashed groceries.

If you don't have one and you live in the city, you should go get one right away. If you live in Berlin and have noticed that they don't exist there, you should contact an American company that produces them and see if you can start exporting the lovely things and make a shitload of unexpected cash (I would have loved to have one of these things in Berlin). If you just enjoy the pain of all that muscle damage from hauling your shit all over the place, then I have something else for you....

Park Slope Yoga. This is the new place where I like to hangout when all the kids are at school, when I want to distract myself from getting a real job, and where I find peace and comfort in doing yoga to indie rock music. Go there, enjoy, stretch your brains out.

Good night and good lovin',
Mama Jens