Happy Mother’s Day (and so help me, you better be mothers)

So I’m coasting on some great spring weather and good visit-with-my-mom vibes, and decide to pop into a bodega before I head home. It’s not my usual spot: it stinks of cat, the lighting is sketchy and there’s always some young neighborhood person who vaguely guards the door. But it’s closest to my house and so for that, I have only myself to blame. The following took place at about 5 pm. It’s approximately 5:20 now.

I’m buying two rolls of toilet paper. The storekeeper wishes me a cheerful “Happy Mother’s Day,” to which I genially reply, “I’m not a mom but thanks!”

The below conversation was transcribed verbatim.

SO: (astonished–kiddingly, I think) “Why no kids?”
Me, chuckling: “I’m an auntie to many, many children.”
SO: “What are you, 35?”
Me: flinging hair and pulling off glasses in dramatic reveal. “Thank you, I’m 41.”
SO: His sudden pounding of the counter deadens my sails. Pounding does not mean kidding. “WHAT? And no kids? Can you have them?”
Me: “Theoretically? Me-Medically? I think… I mean…” (not prepared for this level of interrogation when picking up tp) “Yes, I’m pretty sure I could…” (trying to count out change simultaneously)
SO: Pounding again. My posture keeps tightening. “Listen, you go home & tell your boyfriend, you tell your husband to give you babies NOW. You must have babies. Babies are life.”
Me: “Uhhh–” (contemplate telling him I’m single, decide I’m way over my head already)
SO: “Without babies you become these women with the dogs and cats. They walk them and they have 5 and 6. It’s NO. GOOD. Don’t wait till 50. No babies after 50.”
Me: “Fifty,” I repeat dumbly.
SO: “Tell your husband TODAY. Babies are the answer!” He pats my black plastic bag and with that, I’m dismissed into the bright sunlight, slightly dazed but knowing I need to share this ASAP.

This entire ‘chat’ was over so fast it would take me a full day to process. But if I’m honest with myself, is it really Mother’s Day unless a stranger remarks on my fertility? I feel oddly at peace now.

(Note to self: never be nice to anyone AGAIN.)

eta: Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and women who have been moms to me. I hope my chronicles make you smile, or just shake your head in disbelief, as I think that’s funny too.

choc lab

New Year’s Cuisine, Clinton-Hill Style

Before I get to MTV, a quickie on growing up on Myrtle and Clinton Avenues in the ’70s and ’80s.

My grandmother, a southern woman from Virginia, always made New Year’s dinner, including collard greens for money/prosperity, and black-eyed peas & pork for good luck and health. Unfortunately, my family enjoyed every part of pork I hated: pigs’ pigs_feetfeet, pigtails, hog maws, fatback, chitterlings/”chitlins” (the smell of which still makes me dry heave) et al. To make fun of me—the only child and the youngest in a small family—my aunts, cousin, and uncle would all exaggerate eating their meals, dramatically gnawing on gristle and fat, shoving a pungently vinegared pig’s foot under my nose for my horrified Pavlovian response, and generally making me nauseated.

Grandma, however, always had my back. She’d go out of her way to fry one lone pork chop just for me. “No one eats Nira’s chop!” she’d yell, wrapping it in foil and setting it on the pilot light to stay warm while she finished making cornbread and other sides. While everyone mixed their food together, I had my sides on a dinner plate and my chop on a separate little saucer. Nobody was feeling my pathetic little piece of meat (which never looked like the picture on WordPress)–unless I couldn’t finish it. (Then, everyone was putting dibs on the bone.) But the inclusion always made me very, quietly pleased.

My aunt grumbled once she took over the cooking later on: “She needs to try these pigtails. Does she know I can’t buy just ONE of these things?” I was around 20 when I gave this any real thought; I never remember grandma buying a pack of pork chops. There were still butcher shops in the area though, and I’m guessing she was able to politely request one chop, every year, for her granddaughter, who was a picky eater but needed to be a part of this annual family tradition. Because of her I always think of New Year’s meals with fond, giggly memories. I was the one-chop girl, and she helped me be proud of this.

I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Day with friends, family, or quietly reflecting in solitude. Now, let’s dig into 2014, with its comfy, hearty classics and shiny, new customs yet to be discovered. Cheers.

ny dinner

Yellow cabs or, trying to avoid felony charges

My friend Leslie hates cabs. She’s athletic, enjoys exercise and if she had her way, she would walk everywhere. She shows up at restaurants and lounges without a hair out of place, despite having walked four miles from her house to whatever bar we’ve schlepped to.

I’m the exact opposite. I will take a livery cab five blocks if it’s cold enough,  if my feet hurt enough, or if the neighborhood is sketchy enough. I can quote cab rates from my house to Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, Canarsie…most areas in Brooklyn. Things get vaguer in the city, but I know most cabs charge at least $20 just to go over the bridge, and it’s about a $25 flat rate from my place to JFK or LaGuardia airports.  

I do pretty well when I can call a livery cab. My favorite is a Dominican-run company with drivers who show up on time in clean, new cars. They’re reliable and charge fair prices (and a call to the dispatcher squashes the hopes of those who try to be cute; he knows me by voice and by address if not by name). I even do OK hailing gypsy cabs; if the car looks like a hoopty or is missing any inspection stickers or TLC license plates, I wave it past. (I hate to admit it but in my 20s, on particularly bad-weather days, I’d sometimes take a questionable sedan operating as a taxi).

Then there are yellow cabs. I know. By now everyone’s had their experiences with them.  I’m cautious to even talk about them: the drivers might put up some sort of taxi signal in the sky and leave me out trembling in the rain the next time I really need them. But nearly being hit by an off-duty cab the other morning reminded me of my worst two yellow cab incidents. I’ll recount them for your enjoyment, because I like to make people happy.

Continue reading “Yellow cabs or, trying to avoid felony charges”