Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sept. 11 - Dust to Deliverance and my own story

I have been doing a 7 book covers in 7 days challenge over on Facebook, invited by my wonderful Aunt Kathy. She challenged me last week and I realized that my 7th day would be September 11th, and I knew what cover I would be sharing today.

In doing so, I ended up sharing a short version of my own story, so I thought I would just share that here today.

 Jessica DuLong is an old friend from my Pier 63 days. She's an engineer on the Fireboat John J. Harvey, which, although retired, served so well at the WTC site. She is also an author, and after untold hours of collecting stories from so many of us who were there on the waterfront that day, she crafted an amazing retelling of the story of the maritime evacuation that went on that day.

I had fled the WTC during the attacks and ended up at Pier 63. I was a partner at the Manhattan Kayak Company at that time, and we were based at Pier 63. I was in the subway station when the 2nd plane hit and managed to get onto a train that pulled in moments after the boom. I didn't care where it was going, it just seemed like the safest way out. It was northbound, so I got off at 23rd street, still not really knowing what had happened. I had been going into the WTC's ground-level mall from outdoors when the first plane hit, fled into the building for shelter without looking up to see what had exploded above my head, and gone into the subway station when the police began evacuating the mall and stopped me from going out the same way I came in - so all I knew was the sound of screaming engines ending in a noise like a gigantic firework, and then, a few minutes later, another boom that set everyone in the subway station running again.

I'd ducked into a turnstile to get out of the stampede, saw the train pulling in downstairs, and made a run for it. When I got off the train at 23rd street, I first stopped at the Moonstruck Diner, where I would often stop for breakfast on my way to a day of teaching or guiding at MKC. Everyone there was looking at the television and that was when I saw what had happened.

 In those days Pier 63 was like my 2nd home so that is where I went next. John Krevey, the owner, saw what was needed and called some of the party boats that would use Pier 63 as a boarding location. The funny thing there is that I didn't actually know how we ended up running a ferry to Weehawken that day until Jessica interviewed me - I think I was still a little bit in shock and just didn't even think to wonder where the boats came from - there they were and that's what we were doing. And to this day I am so grateful that I was there. It was so good to be given a purpose on a terrible day.

Full version of my own story, as written for my family that evening: Link

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Unintentional Neil Simon Tribute Weekend

Saturday - Yonkers

Sunday - Brighton Beach

Actually made for a wonderful weekend. I was in Yonkers yesterday for the 3rd leg of the annual set of races for the Joe Glickman Cup (of which the longest is also the Mayor's Cup) - the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club are great hosts and ran a great day of racing and paddling. It's always so nice to see old friends at the YPRC, and this year I was very happy with how I did in the races, too, taking 3rd place in the 400 and 800 meter -- and this time not because there were 3 of us in the race and all I had to do was find the finish line - that's happened more than once.

I have to say that I am getting quite a collection of 3rd place medals. OK, I did have to throw in my 1st from Empire Kayak's old May Day on the Bay race That was a fun one.

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The Neil Simon connection just hit me as I was on the train to Brighton Beach to go swimming today. We had another beautiful day and I thought about going for a paddle, but the end is in sight for my 2019 outdoor swimming season as the water is cooling down fast. I once again got there early enough to swim as long as I wanted to, and that turned out to be 1.2 miles.

More pix from Yonkers coming soon! 

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Paddling Cayuga

My friend Louise shared this on my Facebook page after I started sharing recollections of the lovely weekend I spent with her helping out with another great Women Swimmin' for Hospicare.

Unfortunately, I did have to hit the road back to NYC on Sunday the 11th of August, but I didn't particularly need to rush off, so we were able to get in a lovely paddle from Taughannock Falls State Park to Lake Ridge Point and back. Conditions were much calmer than they'd been for the swim on Saturday, too bad we couldn't have switched days!

Our original plan had been to paddle and then get in a short swim ourselves before heading back to Louise's place for a light lunch before I headed out, but we had such a good time beachcombing at Lake Ridge Point that we skipped the swim. Cayuga is famous for "lucky stones", smooth beach stones with holes in them. Louise has a very sharp eye for these and I found a couple too, plus a stone bearing the fossil impression of a tiny, ancient clam.

Here are a dozen photos from that lovely afternoon.

Louise's happy little dragon figurehead was inspired by the travels of the Draken Harald HÃ¥rfagre and her Norwegian heritage - she got a local ironworker to craft him for her, with the specific request that it be a friendly dragon, not a mean or scary one. The ironworker succeeded admirably! This was the first time I was seeing the figurehead in person and it's absolutely charming.

Click on a photo for a slideshow view. 

Rainy Labor Day Cooking Post - Venison Stroganoff!

This was a really interesting experiment. I think that for a lot of us middle-class suburban Generation X kids, stroganoff was a dish made with an inexpensive cut of beef and a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.

 My mom is an excellent cook in the hearty Pennsylvania Dutch tradition - she learned at her mom's elbow and then passed it on to me. Outside of baking, where there's some precision required, recipes are more suggestions than rules, and with the exception of foods I just plain didn't like (like succotash, lima beans kinda just suck) I don't remember her ever serving us something that wasn't basically yummy.

The Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup was definitely part of her repertoire. She made stroganoff and also a chicken dish, both of which I loved as a kid, both of which I cooked for myself for quite some time when I was starting out on my own, and both of which I would enjoy if my mom made them sometime when I was visiting them in NC.

But as cooking got to be more and more something I would do for fun (my mom enjoys cooking but she was feeding the family every day, so shortcuts made life easier), and as I started to get better about reading nutrition labels and realized that there was a lot of sodium in the canned soups, I got away from having them as a cabinet staple.

 I haven't made stroganoff since then, but recently, when I was thinking of something other than chili (good, but I'd done that a couple of times and was ready for something different) to do with some of my prized Jonesville venison (hunted by my own cousin Sharon's husband Scott on the farm that's now been in the family for two generations), stroganoff just sprang to mind. So that's what I did with my lovely free and unplanned day today!

 Not the Campbell's Soup version though. Not for the venison. This was entirely from scratch. Instead of the canned soup, there was heavy cream, homemade stock, a bit of brandy, and 2 kinds of mushrooms (the fresh oyster mushrooms I'd gotten yesterday and then some very expensive dried morels that jumped into my bag while I was waiting out a rainstorm at the Flatbush Food Co-op, a dangerous place to wait out a storm, especially if your last meal was a few hours ago). Which I think is basically your cream of mushroom soup right there. Only with way better mushrooms and a lot less salt. And then of course some spices, and thickened up with sour cream and yogurt at the end (that stayed the same). 

Ingredients on hand in the morning - just needed to get sour cream and yogurt

Perfect rainy day cooking project and came out absolutely delicious. TQ loved it too. Neither of us are sure that we've ever had a stroganoff that didn't involve Campbell's but I will definitely do this again!

BTW, like my mom taught me, I didn't really follow a recipe, but I did look at the one in my Grandma J's Fanny Farmer cookbook and then also a few on line just to plan out what I was going to do with the ingredients I had to create something stroganoffish. This one had a lot of the elements I was looking for. 

Early in the cooking
Dinner is served!

 ps the asparagus jumped into the bag at the co-op too. It was flavorsome but disappointingly stringy. Must be past asparagus season.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

End of August swim at Coney Island

Labor Day weekend came in with some beautiful weather, and I decided to take advantage of it with another swim at Coney Island. I set out with the idea that I would swim a mile; end up swimming a one and a third as I'd gotten there early enough that I could just keep swimming as long as I felt like it, and I kept deciding to go one more jetty. Found these cormorants who were posing so nicely with the Parachute Jump as I made my turn to head back to my starting point at Grimaldo's Chair, where the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers gather through the swimming season.

I rewarded myself with a couple of corn dogs and a lemonade at Paul's Daughter, then stopped to grab a picture of the modern Steeplechase rollercoaster. Sometime I want to go back with my Lumix and see if I can get one where you can make out the horses better, but I just loved the swishy clouds today and had to at least try.

My final stop as I meandered to the train was at the Coney Island History Project booth. They have a really interesting exhibit there right now, Salvation by the Sea: Coney Island's 19th Century Fresh Air Cure and Immigrant Aid Societies, talking about places that were set up for the poor to be able to come spend some time by the sea. I've read a good bit of Coney Island history but this was new to me, so I'm glad I dropped in. Also the cyclops is weirdly adorable, isn't he?

Just a few more pictures after this - click on any of them for a slideshow view Don't forget to see the cormorants in full screen - it was a little tricky to get while treading water, and with the bright sun making it hard to see the screen, but I took a bunch and hoped for the best. I was pretty happy with how it came out!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Cayuga Adventure Continued - Finger Lakes Food, Fun, and Floofs!

Well, ugh, I've had sort of an unexpectedly rough week here in NYC, so I'm going to take another dip back into my lovely weekend in the Finger Lakes region a couple of weeks ago.

Louise and I had originally talked about getting out for a good paddle after Women Swimmin' wrapped up, but with the high winds, the paddlers (both Kayak Safety Team and the escort boats) all got a bit more of a workout than we usually do. By the time things were winding down at the afterparty at the Ithaca Yacht Club, we were pretty wiped out, and there were solid whitecaps out on the lake so it was going to be energetic paddling conditions. I was still game if Louise was, but when I told her I think I'd phrased my willingness in a less than enthusiastic manner - something like "If you still wanted to paddle I guess I could". She didn't hesitate to say "Nope, but thanks for being willing" and then I said "You know what else sounds good? A nap..." and she said "That sounds perfect". So we went back to her place and did just that and it was just the thing.

Before we went to sleep, though, she'd mentioned something about peach picking. I think I slept for about an hour, then woke up, but not hearing any activity from the sun porch where Louise was (I thought) sleeping, I went back to bed and crashed for what ended up being a couple more hours.

When I woke up again that much late, I thought I'd probably messed up the peach picking expedition, but it turned out that we still had JUST enough time, so off we dashed to the Finger Lakes Cider House
This isn't the u-pick type operation I was envisioning when Louise first suggested picking peaches, they have a restaurant and tasting room where where you can try their cider with a nice bite to eat, with most food offerings either grown on the property or sourced from nearby farms. 

And the peaches were LOVELY. This is a variety called "Vivid" - I wonder why? Louise has a friend who works there who'd let us know that these were ready  and heavenly. We each picked a full bag; they were a little bit hard coming off of the trees but a nibble of a windfall promised that they were going to be amazing after a couple of days to ripen. And oh, were they ever. Ate 'em like candy until they were getting so ripe that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish them, at which point I took them to Sebago to share after the August Full Moon Paddle. People's faces as they bit into the slices for the first taste were just priceless!  

We went back into the shop to have our peaches weighed and get a bite to eat and a sip of cider - or so we'd thought. But oh, the horror - their lunch service had ended at 4 and the shop was closing at 6. And it was 5:55! 

Well, this turns out to be an excellent way to get yours truly to run quick and buy everything in your shop. Cider, ginger beer, apple liqueur, jam, a "honey flight", cheese, I basically grabbed stuff until I couldn't hold any more. And it was all delicious! 
We packed up the goodies and headed back towards Louise's place, where she had plans for a most delicious salad with chicken and beets and cranberries (oh my), but then she mentioned something about a nearby place called Brews and Brats. Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, just brews and brats, popular with local folks. I thought that sounded fantastic so off we went.

This was something local, I wish I could remember because it was very nice.

Their lot was literally carved out of a cornfield, as you can see. And oh, the brats, and oh, the baked beans (appropriately called OMG Baked Beans) and oh, the German potato salad. And with 2 sides I had enough left after getting completely stuffed for a great little breakfast the next morning. 
After dinner, we adjourned to Taughannock Falls State Park for one of the wonderful entries in their summer concert series, the popular local band Maddy Walsh and the Blind Spots.  
Another nice evening by Cayuga Lake with some good music and...
oh my...
Oh, the floof. Hello there. Hey Louise - can you remind me, are we here to hear music, or pet dogs? 
Oh, definitely here to pet dogs. No question!
A few of my Finger Lakes goodies, everything was delicious
And I got utterly silly with the Honey Flight earlier this week. Buckwheat, with its distinctly stronger flavor, remains my favorite Mainland honey. Would still trade it for Hawaiian kiawe honey, which tastes like small-kid-time memories, but in the absence of that, I do love the buckwheat!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Women Swimmin' 2019 - A Big Success on a Challenging Day

Trusty Romany likes car rides!

Time for a trip in, if not the Wayback Machine, at least the Back A Couple Weeks Machine.

After skipping last year's Women Swimmin' For Hospicare because of grievous levels of overscheduling, I was delighted to head back to Cayuga Lake this year. I've loved participating in this event since the year when my friend Louise, who organizes the Kayak Safety Team for the event, first invited me to come out. 

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the swim itself or the after party this year, so you just get a writeup. I was running late for the early morning "Star Meeting" (so called because the Kayak Safety Team meets on the water and raft up with our bows all touching in the center, making a star-shaped formation, for last intructions) and in my scramble I left my camera in the car. The event had a bit of an extra challenge this year in the form of a wind forecast that was higher than perfect, starting at 8-10 mph and going up from there, and coming from the NW, giving a fetch (distance wind travels over water, which correlates directly with the size that the resulting waves can get to be) of over 30 mile. Everybody really needed to be at that meeting to make sure we had all of our final instructions before things got going. 

The Kayak Safety Team was going to be OK with the forecasted winds - everybody in that group is an experienced paddler paddling a sea kayak, a craft designed to handle conditions much worse than that - but Louise was rightly concerned about the boats that actually escort the swimmers. That group ends up being a much more diverse set of craft, paddled by people with a much wider range of skills. There are a lot of recreational kayaks in this group, which can run into some trouble if the water gets choppy enough to start splashing into the cockpit - the more water it takes on, the harder it gets to handle. Less experienced canoe paddlers can also have trouble as wind and chop picks up. Also, this is not a race, it's a social swim; some of the swimmers would be fine if things got choppy but some of them might need help. 

The senior safety folks (including Louise, which is part of why we went in separate cars and I ended up being late) actually meet at 5:15 to make the go/no go decision. The forecast looked like there would just be time for the women to do their swimmin' before things got too rough, so they made the "go" decision - but I'm sure there were a lot of fingers being crossed and wood being knocked. 

And everything worked out OK - but not by a whole lot. Probably the best call of the day was to kick off the swim a good bit early, I don't remember by how much but I think it was between 15 minutes and half an hour early. The busses (oh, there was a really sweet story about the bus drivers but I'll tell that in another post) had gotten the first group of swimmers there, the escort boaters for the first "pods" were there, so the word was given to get 'em going. And they did, and that may well have saved the swim for the last few swimmers - the wind was picking up and conditions were approaching seriously borderline right at the end.

For all that, the escort boaters all did an especially great job this year. I've done a few of these now and I've never seen the swimmers stay on such a straight course to the yacht club as they did this year.  A line of buoys is set out to mark the course, and ranges and markers of various sorts have been used at the yacht club, but it's hard for a swimmer to see very far while they're swimming, it's really up to their escort boats to guide them, and that went so well. In addition, in other years I've done this, the Kayak Safety Team kept pretty busy getting swimmers who'd broken from their "pods" because they were either too fast or too slow matched up with a group that's a better fit (one hard and fast rule in Women Swimmin' is that no one swims alone) - this year the escort boaters were really taking care of a lot of that themselves, and filling the KST in as they did so. Excellent group of boaters all around this year!

As the wind picked up towards the end, things got roughest in the middle of the lake, of course, and the very last swimmers were given the very unusual offer of a lift on a jetski to the last course marker before the Ithaca Yacht Club, where they come ashore. A couple of them who were finding the going rough accepted; the ones who didn't were well attended as the Kayak Safety Team joined up with the escort boaters as the last swimmers came across. I'd been keeping an eye on one swimmer at the point the ride offer came out; she'd been laughing and joking with her escort so I was pretty sure she wouldn't take it, and that was the case. She had a couple of escort boaters with her in rec boats and although it was getting bouncy out there, they were doing great too, riding over the waves without letting their boats get swamped.
That swimmer ended up finishing last, because the swimmers behind her had taken rides; it turned out it was her birthday and she'd been talking this up big and had a lot of family waiting for her at the finish line. Louise radioed that information and as the swimmer approached the yacht club, the Yardvarks (the band that plays at the party at the finish line) launched into "Today's Your Birthday". Such a fun way to wrap up a day that had really begun with a lot of concern.

Final stats for the day - 340 swimmers, 170 escort boats, 172 volunteers, and over $410K raised for Hospicare of Tompkins County. The most swimmers, and the most money raised, on the most challenging day of any of the swims with which I've helped out. I'm so proud to have been a part of it - and congratulations and thanks to Louise and all the other organizers for a wonderful day! 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Summers Need Swimming

Grimaldo's Chair, Brighton Beach, NY

I had such a good time helping out with the Grimaldo's Mile event earlier back in July, and that reminded me that I'd meant to renew my membership in the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers

Took me a while to actually do that, but I finally did on Sunday afternoon, then headed for the beach, where I was greeted with a cheerful shout of "Here's our newest member". They'd been a little surprised to see somebody until they saw it was just me finally getting around to renewing - I get so busy with the paddling in the summertime nobody's surprised that it takes me a while to remember that summers need swimming, too. 

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I'd been puttering around at home and ended up getting out there pretty late. There were thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon, but I got there in time to squeeze in a good half-mile swim. Felt great. Here is me heading home in a very good mood. More beach hair, still don't care! 

And also in the "better late than never" category, I finally signed up for after-work lap swimming this week. In summers past, I've always done evening swimming at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center on Carmine Street; it's a few minutes closer to work, and the staff there was really nice, and the pool area features this wonderful Keith Haring mural with merfolk and sea monsters and dolphins, oh my - but it's a small pool, and the laps are laid out width-wise to allow more swimmers to fit, so a lap is really, really short. I found out about the Hamilton Fish pool through another Tony Dapolito swimmer on FB - she's somewhere where it's considerably easier for her to get to the Carmine Street center, but I think I mentioned I was coming from near Broadway and she mentioned that the Olympic-sizedat the Hamilton Fish Park Pool might be something I should check out. I did, on Wednesday night, and had a great 3/4 mile swim under enormous puffy peach sunset clouds. Fine first visit, and there's time for a couple more good swims before the outdoor city pools shut down for the season.

Sorry no photos of the sunset clouds, they were gorgeous but I didn't have a camera, but here are a few more photos from the beach, plus fog coming in at the Brighton Beach subway station and storm clouds at Newkirk Plaza. Click the first photo for a slideshow view. Ah, summer.