Saturday, March 29, 2008

Roadside Rescues

As I drove Emily back to her apartment after a long day of moving, we turned onto 24th Street and were startled to see the street was a dead end into a culdesac rather than connecting 1st and 2nd Avenues (first day driving in the city, remember?) Annoyed to have to turn around and prolong getting back to my apartment for rest and dinner, my eyes widened with excitement when I saw a desk and other furniture piled in the culdesac - waiting to either be rescued from the road by someone like me or waiting to be picked up by the garbage man...whoever got there first.

I schreeched the car to a halt and we both jumped out and ran to survey the pile - no, desk not right; no, cabinet too big; but - looky here! I rested my hands on the top of the wooden chest of drawers - just the right height and depth, and full of potential. Though my eyes definitely saw the flaws, I tried to make my brain ignore them - nothing a little cleaner, strong scrubbing and light hammering couldn't fix! After several assurances from Emily that yes, it could be cute and no, you're not crazy to pick it up from the side of the road, we unloaded the drawers and lifted the chest frame into the trunk. And sat it back on the ground. Wouldn't fit. Let's try the back seat! Uh-uh. At this point I was slightly in love with the chest, so I couldn't just walk away with an "Oh well."

"Where are we?" I ask Emily.
"24th Street between 1st and 2nd," she says. I see her see what I'm thinking.
"And the apartment is on 29th and 2nd. That's only five blocks. I can carry it."
"Are you sure?" she asks.
"Totally. I'll just carry it on my shoulder like this." I hoisted the top of the chest so it hung on my right shoulder, and I steadied the front side with my left hand. "See - easy. You load up the drawers and stay with the car and I'll be right back."

A lesson I should have learned from horror movies is that you never say, "I'll be right back."

I had barely made it to 2nd Avenue when I was feeling a little winded. "It's okay. Power through," I urged myself. I rested on the corner for a second then set out for my next goal - the corner of 25th Street.

"Okay, this is heavier than I thought" I said to myself as I plopped the chest down on the corner of 25th and 2nd. Not to mention enduring the quizzical looks of people passing by and the now really hurting pain of the middle bar of the chest banging into my right hip with every labored step I took.

The quest to get to the next block was not only hindered by my lack of strength to carry the chest, but by its lack of strength to stay together. The little crack along the top left corner that I had chosen to ignore a few minutes ago was now completely split in half, and the back panel was loosening with every step. As I faced the reality that in another block or two I was going to have three separate pieces - and I still had three blocks, around the corner and up two flights of stairs to go - the chances of me or the chest not making it to our destination were increasing with every step.

Just as I was feeling defeated, a man stopped and asked how far I'm going with that. "Oh, just a few more blocks up the street." I was kind of embarrassed to admit how far I had planned to carry it all by myself. Before I could protest or show him how it was completely falling apart, he shoved his book at me to hold and lifted the chest to his shoulder and started up the street. "You really don't have to!" I called out as I ran along beside him, trying to keep the back panel from flapping as it loosened even more. "Let go - I have it!"

As we passed 27th and then 28th, I began to worry that he might expect me to pay him for his assistance. I only had my cell phone and keys with me, and honestly I didn't want to have to pay him anyway - this was supposed to be my free chest after all!

I instructed him to leave it on the corner (didn't want him to know which apartment was mine!), although I'm pretty sure he would have carried it inside and nailed it back together for me.

"Thank you so so much. I couldn't have done this without your help, but I have no way to repay you."
"You don't have to repay me," he said.
"Well, I just feel terrible, you carried it all this way."
As I handed his book back to him, he just looked at me and said, "Just pray."
Startled, I said, "Well - okay!" And then we hugged (yes, hugged!) and he went on his way.

I left the chest in front of the fire station and ran back to Emily waiting in the car. Out of breath and trembling with excitement of my new chest, I told her the story of my roadside rescue as we drove the drawers back to the apartment.

And while I fulfill my little angel's request for prayer, I'll also throw in a few prayers for the poor broken and dirty chest - it, like all of us, needs a lot.

After cleaning every inch of the chest, I hammered a few nails in the side to keep the frame together and a few in the back to stick the board in place. Oh, and that bar you see is what was banging into my hip and left a nasty bruise!

Wa-la!! Isn't it retro cute?! Fits pefectly where I wanted a chest of drawers, and it will look great with the mirror Jane gave me hanging above it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Move On

The gang gathered to wish Kimberly and me well as we move on...we're losing our sweet and fun Kimberly back to Birmingham, and I'm moving in to my "first" New York apartment in a few days!

Mary Jane, Jane, Meredith, Arthur, Walton, Kimberly, Jen, Cameron, Rebecca, Lynn Ellen, Emily and Katie.

Don't we have the best party games?! Who can spot Rebecca on the TV??

Walton and me - soon to be neighbors on East 29th Street!

We all love Janet...she lives several floors above us, but she's an official "33P girl"!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Walk to Remember

I decided to walk the mile home tonight from the gym rather than take the subway so I could enjoy the slightly warmer weather. It was nearing 9 PM, and I was looking and feeling tired from a long day and work out. I was just a few blocks from the apartment - on 3rd Avenue around 53rd or 54th Street - and catching up with Ansley on the phone, when my gaze landed on a guy with blond hair walking toward me in a group of three other dark-haired guys. I don't know why I paid any more attention to them than I did to any of the other people I had passed by during the last 30 blocks, but my eyes locked on the unassuming blond and I did an about face as I whispered into the phone, "Oh my gosh, I think that's Ryan Gosling."

"Whhaaat??" Ansley yelped.

"R-yan Gos-ling," I said again through clinched teeth and barely moving lips.

"Are you serious?!"

"Yes!" I hissed. "Well, I'm walking behind him so I can't totally see his face," keeping my voice at a low mumble. "He's just walking like a regular person, but I swear, it looks just like him. Keep talking to me, and I'll try to see his face."

For the next block or two I kept pace with him. Sometimes walking beside him, sometimes walking in front, and sometimes walking behind - stepping my foot into the exact spot his had just left. I hung up with Ansley but kept the phone to my ear and the now one-sided conversation rolling as I discreetly switched the phone to camera mode. As we waited at a corner for the light to change, he turned away from the road to look back at his friends and, by default, me standing right with them. As they chatted, I kept animated with my phone "conversation" - I can't decide what to wear - what are you going to wear? was the best I could think of to say while I kept my eyes locked on who I was now sure was Ryan Gosling. I angled my phone in his direction while keeping it to my ear so I could snap a picture without him knowing.

I continued following for a few more blocks - stealing a few pictures from a sneaky sideways back angle - until they crossed over 3rd Avenue. I didn't want to be obvious or anything and follow them across the street...but just as we parted, I heard one of the guys say, "Hey Ryan, see that building? That's where-" Hearing his name was all the confirmation I needed, and also all the ammunition I needed, to wait a few seconds and cross the street with them.

I'll stop the story there because we all know I usually go a little too far with celebrity encounters, and I don't want to repeat my embarrassment for all to enjoy.

Although Ryan is known for his role as Noah Calhoun in The Notebook, a movie based on Nicholas Sparks's bestseller by the same name, my Wednesday evening stroll with him actually gave me the title of my favorite Nicholas Sparks book - A Walk to Remember.

The Giving Tree

I can't describe the shock and saddness I felt when I saw this tree being cut down a few months ago. The words of the plaque that Madison Square Park recently added at the base of the tree actually make me feel better about seeing the stump that used to be a huge, flowing old tree. It's kind of like a real life The Giving Tree - my favorite book from kindergarten.

From the plaque:
English Elm
This trunk is all that remains of an English elm that already stood here when the park first opened in 1847. The last few branches of the dying tree were recently cut back as a safety hazard. The trunk remains for now as a reminder of a beloved friend that shaded park users for many generations.
The park's elms are the oldest trees in the park dating back perhaps 200 years. Two elms of similar age survive in the north end of the park.
Like Roxy Paine's stainless steel sculpture Defunct across the pathway, this majestic trunk represents the end of a long and proud life cycle.

Roxy Paine's Defunct across the pathway.

Then and Now...sitting on a bench under the tree this past summer...even when the green leaves of summer return, sitting on this bench just won't be the same.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I found the Golden Egg!

Normally I keep my face smashed into my pillow much later than 6:45 AM, but God must have sent me a nudge to wake up early this Easter morning and be amazed by the view out my window. It was actually more of a jolt than a nudge, because I popped right out of bed and onto the cold balcony to take a picture of the glowing golden moon! I imagine my jolt awake was similar to the one Mama delivered to Julie when she was a little girl at her play school Easter egg hunt. It makes me laugh every time I think about the jolting push - the image of poor little Julie falling to the ground and the determined and excited look that must have been on my mother's face. Mama, sorry to "out" you after all these years, but the world needs to know the shenanigans you're capable of pulling!

You see, Mama spotted the glorious, prize-winning golden egg laying unseen underneath a bush. Frantic to have Julie find it before the other little rugrats hunted into the area, Mama took Julie by the shoulder and pushed, er-urged her in the direction of the egg.

Doubled over with laughter at my thoughts of Julie with a mouthful of dirt and yelling up to Mama "Why did you push me?!", the story always ends there for me. I don't know if Julie did see the egg and claim victory, or if the fall brought her tears, causing a commotion and allowing time for another kid to run in there and grab the egg. If she did get the egg, what was the prize? And, Mama, was the prize worth compromising the safety of your eldest child?

Since the incident lives on as one of our favorite Easter memories, I'd say "you betcha" the push was worth it!

The moon was glowing so big and bright, followed by a brilliantly colorful sunrise. I was awake in time to enjoy it for about 10 minutes before the moon dropped behind the buildings and the sky faded to blue:

The sky was lighter than it's showing in this picture.

The sunrise over the East River.

Thanks for the Easter box filled with goodies, Mama and Daddy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

City Looks

The weather has been so pretty the last few days that the bright blue sky has made the buildings I walk by every morning on my way to the subway even prettier. So I thought I'd share!

This building at 57th Street and Lexington Avenue should look familiar to you if you watch Lipstick Jungle because it's where Brooke Shields and Kim Raver's characters work.

Taxis are so commonplace they almost fade into the background but this picture captured the vibrance the yellow adds to my everyday scenery.

I really should know the proper names of these midtown buildings because they are easily recognizable in any skyline view. I just call these the "slant top building" and the "lipstick building".

This is a new apartment building on 53rdish and 2nd or 3rd.

Looking up at the "lipstick building".

The north side of the "slant roof building" with the Chrysler Building in the distance as seen from 57th Street and Lexington Avenue.

So you want to live in Soho?

In case you ever fancy living in Soho so you can hobnob with all the celebrity residents of the neighborhood and have the poshiest New York shopping right out your door, you should be prepared to pay $2,275 per month (plus utilities) for a fifth floor walk up the size of a glorified closet. Hey, at least it has running water.

The "den" and the door to the bathroom.

Now, turning a little to the left and voila! It's the "kitchen"!

This is the BIG bedroom.

This is the not so big bedroom. I think my head could probably touch one wall while my feet touched the other!

I think we'll keep looking.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not since the 5th grade...

Bangs. Never thought I'd have them again, but lately I couldn't help but long for straight, blunt bangs every time I saw a stylish girl walking on the street with her forehead fringe fluffing in the wind. I was so craving the look that I even convinced myself that my naturally wavy and frizzy hair could handle it - that's what straightening products and flat irons are for, right?!

So Saturday afternoon I strolled into the salon, confidently sat down in the chair and enthusiastically stated: "I want bangs!" There! That was easy! But the more the stylist snipped my hair, the less confident I felt about my decision, prompting her to promise she would ask before she cut. I accepted the plan, content that I could regulate the severity of the shortness, and I told her not to worry, I wouldn't get mad at her.

As she held the piece of hair that would be the first lock of bangs, she looked at me in the mirror and tilted her head with an inquisitive look, seeking my approval to cut. The fear in her eyes must have been a reflection of the anxiety in mine, "Okay, " I said resolutely, "just cut it." We both yelped as the long hair fell to the floor. "Keep going!" I urged her. "Cut!" As I watched more long pieces fall and more short hairs frame my face, I felt the girl in the mirror transforming into the stylish girls on the street.

For the next few days I enjoyed my fun new bangs and the exclamations of friends and coworkers when they saw my new look. It was startling to catch a sideways glimpse of myself in a store window and remember, "Oh yeah! I have bangs now!"

But everything changed with Wednesday's weather - rain and 75% humidity. Not since the 5th grade have I had to deal with an out of control mess poofed on my forehead. Every piece of hair was curling in a different direction, and none of them would fit under a head band, pull back in a ponytail or lay flat no matter how hard I coaxed, yanked or pleaded. It was like they were taunting me with bottled up bang rambunctiousness suppressed for the last 17 years.

I managed to get through the day with my dignity still in tact (nevermind the ducking around corners to avoid seeing people and vowing Lauren - who sits four feet from me all day every day - to never mention this frizz again). And as for the bangs, they've been warned that if they ever, EVER! act that way in public again, I know where my Dad keeps his Flowbie, and it'll be off with their heads!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Shamrocks on the street.

Empire State Building shining green.

"Where did you get that pretty red hair?"

This question is the stimulus for my earliest memories - always asked in the same way, always responded to with the same answer, and always eliciting the same wild laughter response. The way I remember it usually happening is one adult stepping forward from a group of my parent's friends, leaning down to look into my timid little face, and asking in a sing-song way, "Where did you get that pretty red hair?" I'm sure the first time the question was posed my eyes widen and I stepped back into my parents legs and turned to them with a scared look of "what in the world do they want to know?!" I can't imagine if it was my mom or dad who first thought to whisper the answer into my ear, or why they thought it would be funny or if they had any idea it would have such an impact on my young life, but they told me what to say and I repeated it back to the waiting crowd.

"From the milkman."

I became accustomed to being asked this question any time I met someone new, and by those who asked me every time they saw me, just to get a good laugh. I never knew why everyone laughed so or what it meant, but I delivered my line just like I was taught - learning to love a captive audience, I guess!

So, for us ginger-haired folk who have endured a life of red-headed step child comments and "rather be dead than red on the head" jokes, NBC's Today Show called all flaming heads to Rockefeller Plaze to celebrate the beauty of red hair. You can watch a clip from the Today Show website

I don't believe the report that in 100 years red hair will be extinct, but I do know I love being distinctive - and my normal "look for the red hair in the crowd" was impossible this morning!

Hi from the Today Show!

A view of the "red head pit".

Red Alert! That's right - you don't want to deal with that many red head tempers at once!

My view during the segment filming. Thanks, Lester, for standing right in front of me!

Meredith Viera before giving me a hug and a kiss on the cheek!

Al asking me why he can't get his picture made too. So why you lookin' down, Al?!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why I don't stand on the NW corner of 55th St & 1st Ave

Because I don't want their party on my head.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

NYC crane - too close for comfort

As sirens blared outside Saturday afternoon, I milled around the apartment and chatted on the phone, trying to push the sound to the background and wondering what kind of parade might be going on today. It's the Ides of March, but I didn't think there would be a parade for that, and the St. Patrick's Day parade was scheduled for Monday. After more than an hour of constant sirens, I got off the phone and decided to investigate. I stepped out on the balcony and looked around - I couldn't see anything on the streets and I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. As I stepped back inside, Jane came in from walking Roxy and I asked her, "What in the world is going on?!" She turned on the TV, and the first image we saw was practically the picture you will see below with the caption, "Midtown Crane Collapses." We screamed and ran back to the window. Sure enough, the crane was gone!! As freaked out as I was about the terrible disaster, I was equally freaked out that I had studied the scenery and not noticed one single thing out of the ordinary.

The view of the crane from earlier Saturday morning. My friend Gina from Birmingham had come by the apartment and taken pictures of the view around 12:30...the crane fell around 2:30...

Zoomed in from the last shot - the crane snapped under the worker cabin. See the next picture.

A similar shot of the remaining part of the crane propped against the building is what kept being shown on TV.

Of course I had to go and investigate. Considering I could see it out the window AND I walk by there to get to the 51st Street stop on the 6 train was my duty to check it out!

The crane fell on 51st Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Onlookers and firemen everywhere. The roads around the collapse were blocked off all week, and an investigation of the city's 260 cranes began immediately - others have fallen in the last few months.

The view of the crash site at night - bright lights were used to keep the area lit all night every night as workers cleaned up the crushed buildings.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

You've got a friend in Pennsylvania

My grandparents moved from Pennsylvania to Alabama around 1955, leaving behind a whole slew of Mummerts and Wileys in the north. My parents drove us from Muscle Shoals to Pennsylvania one time - one time - when my sisters and I were really little. It felt like we were in the van forever, although I think it was just one full day. The main things I remember about the drive were the little pallet we had in the back to take naps on, the workbooks and games Mama had gotten to entertain us, and stopping alongside the road to use the bathroom - and I mean using the side of the road as a bathroom. As far as memories from the trip - everything is a little hazy, but I do remember going to Gettysburg, touring the Hershey Chocolate Factory, "shopping" in Aunt Jean's basement, walking all over Washington D.C, driving around Dillsburg where Daddy grew up, and taking a very bubbly bubble bath with my sisters!!

The last of the four Wiley sisters, my Grandma Mummert's sister Marzella, celebrated her 65th wedding anniversary this month. Her sons planned a surprise celebration to honor Marzella and her husband Harold, so my parents, my Granddaddy Mummert and Jean and my aunt Sheree all flew up to Pennsylvania from Alabama to celebrate. I took the train over and had a wonderful time seeing my family, and also seeing the places that bored me so as a child, now seeing them as a window into where I came from.

Doesn't Daddy look cute in this picture?!

Weekend shoulder friends - Mama befriended Barb's "Tiki", and I found a friend for Daddy at Hershey Chocolate Factory.

Daddy, Sheree and Granddaddy standing in front of the house they lived in on Welty Avenue.

The old hotel on South Baltimore in Dillsburg where they worked and lived for a little while - now apartments.

Wish I'd gotten more of the red door in the picture - so pretty.

I'm named for my great-grandmother Abba Rebecca Wiley.

Daddy standing in front of what used to be the barn on the old Wiley Farm (my grandmother's family farm). He's pointing out an area in the field that he and friends once set on fire with fireworks!

I hope it's not another 22 years before we all go back!