Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Cassettes

My mom recently purchased a lightly used vehicle previously owned by an elderly couple. Looking to bridge the gap between analog and digital, they had both a tape deck and CD player installed. Although our modern family has wholeheartedly adopted the use of CD's, why not take advantage of a tape deck? It's fun! It's nostalgic!

So I bought my mom six cassettes for Christmas.

The selection of music at the tiny local record store was pretty sweet, and I walked out of the shop with some Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rush, Eric Clapton, Motley Crue, Cheap Trick and James Taylor. After mom unwrapped her gift with a laugh, I had to make it clear the gift was meant to be functional. I made sure to go the extra mile to personally fill her center console with the tapes so they would be located a forearm's reach away. A storage area that probably could have housed ten CD's is now crowded with the six cassettes I purchased for a buck each. Was I having too much fun with this?


I had a feeling the cassettes would only get played if I initiated the their use with my mom in the car. So this morning when I drove her to work, I excitedly asked if she wanted to listen to a cassette. She smiled and selected the Cheap Trick "One on One" album. After a few moments of no sound, we both realized with a giggle: the tape needed to be rewound. So mom hit the "Rev" button, and we wistfully listened to that familiar whirring sound before the tape finally played from the beginning. We sampled each of the songs before skipping to the next track, laughing in between songs as the tape wound around and the musical silence stagnated. Skipping songs on a tape takes what feels like a millenium compared to how swift this function is on a CD. Playing music on a cassette is an enthralling experience, building suspense as we wait, feeling like our hair has grown an inch before the next song finally plays. But it's all part of the charm.

The tricked out control center

Forget CD's, play the tapes!

Uncontrollably Laugh Your Way to Medical Attention

I was watching TV with my grandma this morning when a commercial came on that triggered bouts of laughter from both of us. The irony is, the commercial was explaining the pseudobulbar affect, which is a medical condition characterized by episodes of uncontrollable laughing or crying, also referred to as "emotional incontinence." The ad seemed like a cheesy fake commercial in a Saturday Night Live episode, except this commercial was no laughing matter. The pseudobulbar affect is listed and explained on the National Stroke Association website.

But isn't it kind of cruel to create a commercial identifying this condition in such a comical way? Maybe a little, but it certainly got my attention. So if you have recently had a stroke or some other brain related incident or illness and you are experiencing emotional incontinence, you're not alone. Get your PBA pamphlet today!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Forest Graffiti

Washington Grove is a popular 100 acre forested area in the ROC, and features a unique artistic attraction. Graffiti smothered water towers rest on a hill surrounded by hiking trails, and no hike is complete without taking a spin around the two water towers to view the most current images. The artwork is constantly changing, so if you see something you like, you better snap a photo. Chances are it won't be there next time you visit. A recent adventure to the towers left me stopping every few feet to photograph my favorite creations before dashing to catch up to my two hiking companions. One of my friends was visiting from Brooklyn, and I may have missed out on some important conversation, but the impressive graffiti kept drawing my camera phone out of my pocket.

Gary the ubiquitous cartoon snail

After reviewing my picture plunder, I noticed floating animal heads were a recurring theme. I was also amused by one particular artwork that took me by surprise with it's simple execution. I couldn't help but take a photograph to contrast the demented creature donning a bubble gum pink sweater vest with the more elegant and sophisticated work that dominates the water tower walls.

"I'm special."
The water towers provide a creative outlet for artists of all aesthetics and levels of experience. Hopefully this artistic gem can continue to provide a vast canvas for graffiti artists. With the recent loss of 5 Pointz in Queens, we can be glad no one seems too interested in converting rusty old water towers into ritzy condos. Of course, no one is about to develop land in the middle of a park either, so the water towers hopefully have some added immunity.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sidewalk Garnish

Leaving Jeremiah's Tavern on Monroe Ave today after a tasty lunch with the family, I noticed a peculiar growth by the edge of the sidewalk. As I inched closer, it was impossible to ignore how eerily similar the lettuce-like foliage looked to the lettuce garnishes that often accompany a restaurant meal. The rich purple and green hues of the leafy growth tempted me to take a little taste, but the thought of eating street lettuce stopped me in my tracks. My uncle noticed the vegetation and jokingly exclaimed, "fertilized with cigarettes!" I'll keep wondering how that strange lettuce specimen managed to sprout and thrive in a tiny dirt patch by the edge of a grimy, well-traveled road. I hope Jeremiah's acquires their garnishes elsewhere.

Lookin' pretty good considering the cold and salt and all

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Communication Breakdown

Ahhh the holidays, a time when doting grandparents can finally reunite with the beloved grandchildren they are lucky enough to see but a few times a year. I can't help but chuckle as I observe the interactions between my grandmother and her toddler granddaughter. They sit at the dining room table together, making art from a pile of yellow construction paper, crayons and craft scissors.

The young girl mouths of wordy, half coherent sentences while Grandma attempts to translate and respond accordingly. The pile of once whole sheets of yellow paper is slowly but surely being transformed into a heap of dissected squiggly strips.

Markers with missing caps littler the tables, and other young children join in the fun, adding to the squiggly paper mayhem.

Little girl: (proudly holding up a shape she just cut) "That's a guy. I love it."

Younger boy: (planning to cut out a boat from some black construction paper) "I was thinking one with a banana end and one with a dragon tail end"

Younger boy:
"Does that look like a butterfly to you?"
"That looks like a dragon."
"My mom used to eat snails. I never want to eat snails in my life."
"Cranberry sauce tastes bitter to me."

Grandma talking to little girl: "Do we have glue on the scissors by any chance? It looks like we might... Nope you're good, keep cutting."

One older little boy chimes in, "The great thing about these scissors is it's not really messy." And he's absolutely right. Even a three year old just learning to refine her crafting abilities can cut artistic squiggly lines without having to worry about making them too straight.

And it doesn't really matter if Grandma can linearly translate what her adorable granddaughter is trying to tell her. They're conversations are as squiggly and haphazard as the paper shapes that litter the table and floor. As long as they're making art and spending time together, that's all that matters.

Younger boy on the left, little girl in the middle
holding the magical craft scissors, and Grandma
on the right facilitating the discussion