alexandra alger

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Archive for the category “Life”

If It’ s Tuesday, We’re in Tallinn

 

Actually, we were there on a Saturday, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration. Plus you know how it is when you’re doing one of those city-a-day trips. I’m on the tail-end of a cruise through the Baltic region with stops in Helsinki, Tallinn, Stockholm, Visby, Riga, Latvia and ending in Copenhagen. It’s been glorious, but here I am, sorting through my pics (uniformly mediocre… oh, well), and the trick is how to remember heart is didn’t about each city. They all have charming medieval old towns, complex intertwined histories, and, I couldn’t help noticing, pretty nice linens and knitted goods.

A stab at capturing each city in a few photos each.

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Helsinki’s Senate Square. That’s good ole Mom, looking quite youthful for someone nearing eighty (I have no fear about giving away her age; the chances she reads this are roughly and precisely zero). I didn’t count how many steps there were, but I’m glad I huffed my way up them. Mainly I saw rooftops but the sense of being high above the city was oddly exhilarating. The cathedral is beautiful in an austere, Lutheran way– but guess what, I can’t remember any of its history.

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Helsinki home furnishing store. The Finns put the fork and knife together on the right. And they eat this round bread that in centuries past was strung up on a rope in the home. They get really hard after a while. They look hard–inedible, really, but not to the Finns. Our guide Claimed he missed this bread when he spent time in the U.S.

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Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The medieval core is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you can see why.

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Charm abounds in the old town, where shops play up the medieval theme.

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In front of St. Nicholas, a Russian church. Our guide claimed these grannies in peasant garb were paid to dress up and beg. Well, thats what someone told me. There were similar grannies inside, praying and crossing themselves, clearly not actors. Interesting historical note: When the Soviets bombed the city In 1944, they saw fit to spare their church. Estonians have had a rough time getting rid of the Russians, to put it mildly. In 1918, they finally declared independence after three centuries, only to fall under the yoke again in 1940 for another 51 years. Nonetheless they call 1918 the year of independence.

Think I’ll break this up into two posts. Stay tuned!

Thoughts on Tennis, Post-Wimbledon

Watching Roger Federer defeat Marin Cilic to clinch a record eighth Wimbledon title at nearly 36 years old, something that nobody would’ve or could’ve predicted a year go, including the great Fed himself, I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we tennis fans are, to be able to witness this extraordinary period in men’s tennis, which is stretching on, with no end in sight. On the women’s side, though, I can’t figure out what’s going on.

Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, posting after the Wimbledon women’s singles final:

“….women’s tennis is in a weird—yet oddly intoxicating—place. The sport’s alpha female (Serena Williams) is profoundly pregnant, hasn’t played since winning the Australian Open and almost certainly won’t play again this year. The player who started the year at No. 1 (Angie Kerber) has been a non-entity. The new No. 1 (Karolina Pliskova) just lost with a whimper in the second round here. One multi-time major champ (Maria Sharapova) has been idled by a doping suspension and then injury. Another (Petra Kvitova) is coming back from a stabbing suffered in a home invasion. And who has risen highest? A bold 20-year-old, Jelena Ostapenko, who was outside the top 40 memorial and is now inside the top ten. Venus Williams, who has been to two of the three major finals. And Garbine Muguruza, now a multi-Slam winner.”

I’m not sure I agree this is an “intoxicating” time. When the top women don’t live up to expectations in a Grand Slam, it’s hard to get excited about them. Simona Halep—what happened? She should’ve won the French; it didn’t happen. Wimbledon? Nope. I’m sure Serena will be back, after giving birth, as dominant as ever, and she’ll be a wonder to behold. But who will be up there with her, challenging her to play her best? Probably not Venus, who lost to Muguruza in a dispiriting way (bageled in the second set!). Muguruza, maybe, who beat her in the French Open last year, in a mesmerizing match. And Ostapenko—she is as powerful and aggressive as they come, but green still. Lucky us, we won’t have long to wait. The U.S. Open is just around the corner.

What do Bagels and Beyoncé Have in Common?

Firecrackers are popping outside my window. July 4, 2017 is drawing to a close.
I’m going to crib from onetime colleague and FB pal Joe Colacioppo, who posted his list of who and what make the U.S. of A. the U.S. of A. Here’s a list of my own—partial, on the fly, heavy on writers (and in a few instances inspired by Joe):

Joey Chestnut, the Coney Island Cyclone, Alexander Hamilton, New York bagels, Muhammad Ali,  E.B. White, Serena Williams, the Kentucky Derby, Toni Morrison, Diane Arbus, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson Pollock, Gerry Trudeau, David Foster Wallace, Barack and Michelle Obama, James Taylor, Nora Ephron, Jon Stewart, Long Island beaches, Georgia peaches, Quentin Tarantino, Truman Capote, FDR, Edith Wharton, Laird Hamilton, Ella Fitzgerald, Beyoncé, Joan Didion, Justices Ruth Ginsberg and Anthony Kennedy, corn on the cob, the U.S. Constitution (flawed though it might be), the First Amendment and all those who have and are and will defend it.

A Saturday Moment

I was in the fish store today picking up some smoked salmon, not at all aware that I was in any kind of mood at all–good or bad–when a man came in with a thick paperback, textbook size, under one arm. I was momentarily charmed by the idea of this guy doing his chores holding a book that big, and nothing else. Was he a teacher? Mystery solved when I went to pay and there he was, reading out loud from what  turned out to be a Spanish cookbook. He was buying the ingredients for a seafood paella. “Let’s see,” he was saying. “Two pounds of shrimp, and….”

I walked out, grinning. Suddenly I was happy. Something about that man, bringing  his cook book to the fish store, filled me with joy. I walked toward the vegetable store, wondering who’d I see there.

Dump Trump/Trump Dump

By now we’ve all seen countless photos of the women’s marches that happened in nearly 700 locations all over the U.S. and on every continent (including Antarctica!). It’s thrilling and inspiring that women and men of all ages and races and backgrounds came together to reject Trump and everything he stands for.

Did the combined voices of 2-5 million people (the numbers are all over the place) have any affect on Trump’s thinking about any of the issues the marchers articulated (the biggies being, from what I could tell, reproductive rights for women; civil rights for immigrants and the LGBT community; Black Lives Matter; and plain old, LOVE TRUMPS HATE)?

Not that anyone could tell, right? Today he went ahead and banned federal aid to foreign health providers that offer abortions or even simply abortion counseling.

Here are my favorite pics from the Washington, D.C., march.

img_3945Megan, from my Brooklyn-D.C. bus.

 

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A Dump Trump and…img_3975

A dump by the name of Trump! (This was between Independence Ave. and the Washington Monument.)

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A number of fantastic men carrying this sign: “Men of quality do not fear equality.” Also saw a couple of white boys with this message: “Next-gen white men don’t fear equality.”

 

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Among the signs discarded at the Federal Triangle Metro (across from the new Trump hotel!), one of my favorites of the day: “MIKE PENCE HAS NEVER SATISFIED A WOMAN IN HIS LIFE.’

 

img_3952I’m rethinking my aversion to pink! My pussy-hatted friends Gwenn, Susan, Roseanne and I.

Ready for the March

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I’m ready! Now to bed, with hopes I won’t sleep through my 4 am alarm. Bus leaving 5 am for Washington, D.C. and the Women’s March. It will probably be total bedlam, but it’ll be women as far as the eye can see–and a few men, maybe lots of men! It’ll be something extraordinary.

 

 

Afro American woman with sign at protest

Credit: iStock/Shakzu
I’ve managed to avoid thinking about Inauguration Day and what it will unleash by consuming myself with preparations for the Women’s March in D.C. the following day.

I’ve paid $71 for a seat on a bus going from Brooklyn to Washington early on the 21st and coming back that night. I’ve never done anything like this before—joined forces with tens, likely hundreds, of thousands of American women, who are going to stand together and be seen. That’s because I’ve never before felt this scared about what lies ahead for this country and all of us. (I’ve been reading about how I’m supposed to feel ashamed and even guilty about being a white woman at this event. Really? Since I’m at the age at which I forget things, I’ll make sure to forget that.)

The reality of being outside in the cold all day—however buffeted by countless other bodies—has me fussing like a granny used to Boca Raton.

Things I’ve done to prepare:

—Bought prepaid Metro card

—Ordered cell phone battery pack.

Left to do:

—Figure out what to wear. Good news: according to weather.com, it may be warm-ish—40-plus degrees. Bad news: 60% chance or rain. The size of the bag we’re allowed to bring is so small, I won’t have room for an umbrella. I’ll just have to hold it, I guess. Or wear my yellow rain jacket with hood over my winter coat. if it fits. Going to a march without a backpack is kind of a pain, I’m starting to realize.

—Make sign

I’ve been trying to find info on whether there are restrictions on size of signs and whether wood supports are allowed (apparently forbidden in New York City, because they can be used as weapons) and only today found a list of restrictions on the Women’s March website. No wooden sticks. Fine with me. I’d already figured I’m simply hold my sign…or possibly add a loop at the top so I can string it around my neck when my arms get tired. Which they will, all too quickly.

I’ve been noodling around wording. I want something strong and pithy. Too bad pithy has never been my forte. My friend Laurel pointed me to a website selling posters with some pretty good slogans, my favorite being “Get your rosaries off my ovaries.” I don’t want to focus on just one issue, though; even one as important as reproductive rights. This what I’m thinking:

RIGHTS AND JUSTICE FOR ALL—NOT JUST PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE THIS—with a photo of Trump. Neither pithy nor clever, but it’s sincere–and if I can blow up a pic of the Donald wearing his usual smirk, his skin pasty, his sausagey lips bunched up, the kind of image that reminds us why we’re going to all this trouble–I’ll be happy.

Getting Merry with Book Buying

img_3866I’m nowhere close to Scrooge territory, but I don’t have my usual holiday verve. I’ve been dutifully shopping and wrapping presents and planning the Christmas-day lunch, all the while fighting a current of despair. That’s what a future Trump presidency can do to a person, not to mention the all-too-present suffering in Syria, Iraq, and many other parts of the world. In the last few days, I’ve amped up my efforts to get into the spirit of the season. Wrote a few more checks to nonprofits doing good work. Bought myself my very own quart of eggnog. Turned on the carols (a bit late, indeed).

My mood shifted yesterday when I my son sauntered into the kitchen at dinnertime and announced he’d gotten me and my husband Dan a gift that he thought we were really going to like. It was something that was so popular it was out of stock, and he’d had to go back to the store a second time to get it. Well. I couldn’t for the life of me think what this perfect gift could be, and I can’t wait to find out. He was so pleased with himself, this 21-year-old who, like many young men, doesn’t like to shop—I was all of a sudden ready. Ready to shower love on my family and make merry!

I have a few gifts to be buy last minute—the books. I buy them last minute, because I know I can, and because it’s like choosing the candles for a cake; the hard part is done, and all that’s left is the finishing touch. This year, I have another reason to leave book buying until the end. My neighborhood bookstore, BookCourt, is closing on Dec. 31 after 35 years and it’s going to be painful to say goodbye.

This is what’s on my list:

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad for my son, because everyone should read it. (I’m saving my copy for my husband, Dan.)

The late P.D. James’ The Mistletoe Murder, a collection of previously unpublished stories, for a friend who loves James.

Siri Hustvedt’s A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind, for my husband, because it sounds so damn cool.

And we’ll see what will be impulse buys.

Happy holidays, all!

The Tooth Fairy’s Wad of Cash

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Look whaI found—

I can’t remember what happened to her tooth…was it the one she swallowed? We told her the Tooth Fairy was just as happy with a picture as the real tooth. Oh, the magic of it all! Going to sleep with a tiny blood-crusted tooth under your pillow (or a picture thereof) and waking up to find one or two shiny quarters in its place. The Tooth Fairy never left much more than that, maybe a dollar at the most.

This was a while back, a decade or so. How much do kids get now, I wondered. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the Tooth Fairy’s is quite a bit more generous these days. In 2014, a writer named Michael Hingston, citing Visa research in salon.com, wrote that the kids were waking up to an average of $3.70, up 40% from 2011. That’s some serious tooth inflation.
Is the Tooth Fairy some kind of fat cat now, sporting rolls of bills that she peels out at the bedside? I did a quick check on recent picture books on the Tooth Fairy, just to see if she’s being imagined any differently. I didn’t find much, to my surprise. One book caught my eye: The Berenstain Bears and the Tooth Fairy, published in 2012. I love the B. Bears! And guess what, it’s all about what a tooth’s worth.

Sister Bear gets a quarter for her tooth, and she’s happy until she learns her friend Lizzy got a whole dollar for hers. Sister’s indignant (naturally): How come the Tooth Fairy gave her so much less? “Sometimes the price of things goes up, like gas,” Papa muses. “Maybe the same thing happens with teeth.” Sister hopes so. Sure enough, the next time she loses a tooth, the TF leaves a crisp dollar bill under her pillow. Papa, the price of gas may go up and down, but the price for a tooth? It’s only going one way.

Harvesting the Kids

 

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I’ve been trying to think of a replacement for the term “empty nester.” Which I now am, with my youngest recently off to college. I have nothing against “Empty Nest Syndrome.” It’s a catchy name for a real condition.

But people are using “empty nester” simply to describe someone whose kids are grown.
“How do you like being an empty nester?” Neighbors and friends ask me, in the same cheery way they might say, “How was your weekend?” I say that all’s well—of course, I miss Vanessa, and yes, the house does seem quiet—and incredibly neat—without any children around, etc. etc. The conversation moves on, just as it would if we were talking about the weekend, unless the other person is an empty nester, too, in which case I’ll get comforting words about how must fun empty nesting is.

OMG, it’s a verb, too!

The image of the mama bird sitting morosely in her sad egg-less nest. That’s not me.

There has to be a cooler metaphor, involving—animals. But I’ve been mentally flipping through animal lairs, and…hmm. Bear caves? Do bears actually live in caves? Rabbit burrows? Dens? “Den’s empty” definitely makes sense, and it’s even true. No teenagers are slobbing up the place. I was starting to see why “nest” was the obvious choice for whomever coined the syndrome decades ago. We all know what a nest is, and can picture it.

I thought I had an epiphany in August, when I spent four days biking through the vineyards of Chianti and Montalcino in Italy. “The grapes have been harvested,” I thought—our kids started out as grapes, and now they’re on their way to becoming a velvety wine. I’m not an empty nester, I’m a harvester.

Harvester! To the question “How are the kids?” I’d say, “They been harvested.” People could ask, “So how did the harvest go?” And I could say, “Good. It’s all done.”

Back in New York, amid the concrete and asphalt, it all sounded a bit out of keeping. A bit too …agricultural. My sister liked it, but her kids are in middle school—what does she know?

Then I had it—free agent. Free agent! “The feminists might take issue with that,” said my mom, a ’70s feminist (sort of). If Gloria Steinem ever talked about free agency, it didn’t ring a bell. But then I suddenly remembered there was a very common sports meaning for “free agent.”

I’ll do some “harvester” polling among my ED friends. And I’ll keep brainstorming. My younger friends will thank me.

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