Tag Archives: Providence

home


home n. the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

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I am often frustrated with my surroundings…especially when it comes to the place where I live; the place that I call home. When I lived in my childhood town of Teaneck, N.J., I wanted desperately to leave to go to school in Rhode Island. Providence was the place where my dreams were waiting for me. For the most part, this was true. Independence, my husband, my dog, my first real house – all of these things began, fittingly in a place called Providence. But after many a harsh winter and a dwindling economy without career growth in site it lost it’s luster and Brooklyn was where I was bound. Brooklyn – with it’s too small apartments and hipster neighbors. The flash and fury and life outside my door was home for a time. Yet after years of being stuck in subway tunnels and walking past piles of sewage smelling garbage, I ended up full circle back in Jersey with an expansive yard and looming maples – the picture perfect version of what every person thinks they want. Now I stand in my quaint, eclectic home with my husband of 10 years, 2 year old son, 9 year old dog, piles of things I have collected and made in order to call this house, this place a “home”…and yet I am still not sure that it is. My past homes beckon and the unknown future homes tempt…often. When I think about where I am right now, I don’t want to be here 10 years from now (good thing my husband agrees.) I used to think it was the places that I lived that made me bored and tired, yearning for change, but now I think I have a different definition of the word home than the sage and wise, old OED. Home is not just a “permanent place” – it is many things…

 “Hot and heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy Jesus Christ
Ain’t nothing please me more than you”

Perhaps it is my Italian heritage and upbringing, but home involves a combination of good food and people I love. One cannot exist without the other. Home is a sensory experience – the smell meatballs roasting in the over, musty old books on the shelf, the cadence of voices echoing off of the walls during a quiet night. The clanking of the heat in the winter and rain storms battling the glass of the skylights. My home is also filled with the people I love and the good and bad memories we make within the confines of our walls. It’s the times when the baby was sick and we spent the whole weekend in the family room playing with Duplos despite the beautiful Spring weather. The special occasions and family parties that bowed out the walls with people. Or just the evenings curled up on the faded leather sofa with the dog, some cheese and a few glasses (or bottles) of wine. These moments and sensory experiences don’t happen because I live in a 3 bedroom bungalow. They happen because we are home.

“I saw the streets all ripe with jewels
Balconies and the laundry lines
They tried to make me welcome there
But their streets did not feel like mine”

Just like every other 25 – 65 year old with some extra cash and living in the tri state area – I love to travel. I won’t bore you with my impressive list of cities and countries or tell you how I reminisce over the intricate ceramic tiles of Lisbon over glasses of Fonseca Tawny. That would be annoying, not about “home”, and just like every other New Yorker you know.  I love to travel because it makes me leave my home. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am on a daily basis. In some ways, the places I travel to feel a little like home in a few days, but never fully the way it feels when I actually am home. I’ve walked down countless cobbled streets and fallen in love with too many European alleyways. During my travels, I often daydream about what it would be like to make some of these new places my home, always leaving out the actual toil and strife that would ensue if we ever did make that decision. Because the grass is always so much greener and my brain seems to leave out the memories of how much work went into where I have ended up. In the end, I always look forward to being back; returning to hugs and familiar smells, dirty floors and dog hair squalls. The good and the bad that make up the everyday that I take for granted so often.

I suppose the word “permanence” is important when defining the word home. The fact that I can count on all of the things I return to and leave from every morning and night still being there at -my will – as long as I can get there – even if only in my memories. When you speak with someone about home, they often go back to their childhood or a time in their life, a memory or feeling they had that creates their definition of home. I remember my father speaking fondly of growing up in Manhattan and my mother lovingly of her childhood home in Leonia, NJ. The stories were rich and filled with countless memories and stories. Home is permanent in that we can remember it forever. It is not the city, the edifice or the bric-a-brac that make a place a home. Home is the stage, a diorama for our minds –  set for memories to be made. Our permanent and portable journal that inspires us, challenges us, forces us to leave and come back, teaches us how to love.

It’s where I want to be.

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gratuity


gratuity n. a tip given to a waiter, taxi cab driver, etc.

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I have known a life tipping and being tipped. It started back when I was 16 and was working at my first job and spanned all the way through college. I was a waitress at a locally famous ice cream shop when I was in high school. I still marvel at the fact that I was even able to hold down a job with high school classes, track practice and homework – and no car. I used to report for work at about 5 or 5:30pm, tie on an apron and not sit down until close – which was around 11 pm. I scooped ice cream and made sundaes, egg creams, and cream cheese walnut sandwiches (for the seniors that frequented the place.) I received an actual paycheck every two weeks, but the tips were the entire reason why I thought the job was worth it. Now, I understand that I was no waitress tour d’force. I was 16 and barely getting any sleep, but I was always courteous and made really good sandwiches and sundaes. However, the managers that employed me had a system of pooling all of the tips earned for the night into one big bowl and then splitting it up amongst the soda jerks, waitresses and managers. This was pure bullshit. If I worked my ass off and earned a big tip, it should have been mine outright…and let’s face it, the guys behind the counter had it way easier – far fewer customers and they didn’t have the job of scraping down the grille at night. So, needless to say, I was dishonest…and of course I kept those really big tips.  I was morally against giving them up. I had earned it! After working there for about 6 months or so, I was let go. Not because they found me out, but because I was calling in sick too much…I think. I always wonder if they were on to me.

Now that I am a stay at home mom, I tip people all day. At the Dunkin Donuts drive through in Newark, there is a little cup with a quote from Gandhi attached with masking tape waiting for me as I reach for my coffee: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I wonder if the girls that I see in the morning get the double entendre. Unfortunately, I don’t always tip them. I have a system…they get a dollar every few days because they aren’t really serving people like a waitress would. However, I have my favorite Dunkin girl who calls me honey and sweetheart and asks me how I am doing. She always gets $1, no matter what. I suppose somehow I think this is okay even though I am applying rules to my gratuity giving…and as I mentioned above, I have big issues with that.

It seems I have developed a system over time of how much to tip and to whom. If the service was good at a restaurant, I always tip well – over the required amount. Bartenders always do well by me too. The guys at the car wash also get a nice tip as long as they don’t dog the vacuuming too much and it gets at least 80% clean (I have a dog and baby.) Tips are a random sign of gratitude and kindness. When you give a tip, you don’t usually write it down or record it so you can claim it as charity later. Of course, when traveling for work you do, but in daily life tipping is an act of gratitude…unsullied by trying to take credit for something. I like to think that when someone is asking me for a tip, it’s their silent way of asking for kindness; a token of gratitude for a small good deed done. It’s an invisible exchange of well wishing between 2 people who don’t know each other and may never meet again. If you think about it in this respect, tipping is a pretty amazing act of random unblemished kindness. There are those who would say that we should always be nice to each other and serve each other well without having to be rewarded. I wish we lived in a perfect world too, but we don’t. Gratuity is a way of inserting civility into the daily chaotic, sometimes mean, place we live.

All of this thinking about tipping brings back a favorite memory of mine involving gratuity. My husband and I used to frequent the best bar (in my opinion) that ever existed in Providence, Rhode Island. It was called the Custom House Tavern and was tucked in the basement under an old historical limestone building on Weybosset street. The sign still hangs there if you walk by, but the bar has since been boarded up and the upper floors turned to condos. It had a wonderful hammered copper bar and huge glass antique windows that looked out onto a cobblestone street. It was dirty. The furniture was old and rickety, only there to serve the purpose of seating its occupant, not to look nice. This was before smoking was outlawed in bars and I can remember many a night that I had to step outside to get a breath. As much as I didn’t like breathing in the smoke, it created an ambience that doesn’t exist in bars anymore. There was a small bathroom right next to the bar whose window glowed green when someone occupied it and you had to squeeze around people sitting to get to it. Above the bar were old antique tavern puzzles hanging. I always wanted to play with them, but never did. It was a place where you could find psychotic poets scribbling in tiny notebooks or even homeless people wondering in for a cold Newcastle. But every Saturday night it sparked to life with the “Lullaby of Birdland” being played by a small, lovely, jazz band. There was a saxophone and a bass – sometimes a trumpet or drums depending on who could make it. The leader and vocalist was named Buzz and if you sat close to the bassist you could hear him singing out the chords quietly to himself to keep time. The could play the hell out of Ellington’s Caravan.

During the intermission and at the end of the evening, Buzz would pass around one of those clear plastic barrels that usually housed Utz pretzels, but whose chief employment now was to collect tips. “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank your bartender, thank your servers and the band. And always remember to spey and neuter your pets,” Buzz would say as the barrel made it’s way around the small room and bar.

The largest tips I ever gave were on those Saturday nights – and it was money well spent. A tip seems such a very small amount to pay for such music and company…and the sweet memory of those nights.

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locomotion


locomotion n. movement, motion, moving

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About a week ago my one year old took a dive into the bottom of my bed frame and opened a quarter inch gash in his forehead. Being new parents, we took our blood covered toddler to the ER immediately, where they closed his wound with 2 stitches – all the while, my son trying to continue the sprint he started at home around the empty emergency room. Later in the day, as I went for a jog to clear my head a little bit, it occurred to me that locomotion – specifically running – has been an ever evolving practice in my life.

One of the first things my mother said when my son started walking is that I never walked as a toddler – that I only ran. So it seems my son has inherited this trait from me. He walked for a few weeks and then quickly gained speed and now it seems he only runs. When I was about 4, I was put out into the yard because, understandably, my mother had had enough. I ran, played tag with neighbors, rode my big wheels and usually returned to the house at dinner time covered entirely in hardened filth. My parents bought me roller skates – the great old kind with the key – and I taught myself to roller skate on the gravelly concrete, knocking the wind out of myself quite a few times but keeping myself busy for hours. I was always moving.

When I was in the first grade, my school’s CYO started a track team and my parents were very enthusiastic about getting me signed up. My father had run the Steeplechase in high school and was tall and lanky and loved to run. After or before practices in Votee Park he would race me and I still crack up thinking about the time he lost his footing and fell flat on his face. Saturdays were always my track meet days as a kid. My mom would pack up a picnic lunch and lawn chairs and we would head to a day long track meet with other St. Anastasia Blue Knights. Back in those days there was no stigma about little girls and body weight. We were put into heats based on our weight, and since I was rather portly, I ran against older, faster girls. I placed a few times, but it was just fun to run as fast as I could for 50 or 200 yards. Although, the relays were the most fun. For an 8 year old, learning how to pass the baton mid sprint was learning the true meaning of team work.

In high school, I was a sprinter at a very competitive sprinting high school. Running became more of a worry on my mind, juggling a part time job and school work. Like so many things as I grew older, running became much more complicated. I had to make certain splits to qualify for the invitationals on the weekend and to be in scoring heats for inter mural competition. The girls that sprinted at my high school were thoroughbreds – the best in the state, even the country. I was always in their dust. I used to have nightmares the night before meets thinking about the starter pistol and the blocks that could add whole seconds to your time if you tripped up. Perhaps it was this complicated mind game that led me to injury and not competing. Nonetheless, my sprinting days ended in high school, but the way I would run as an adult began.

I attended Providence College – a division 1 distance running school and I am pretty sure everyone ran – in between beers and keg stands. Providence was a great, hilly city for running and I remember my long runs to the East Side near RISD and Brown. Running became a way to get out of my head. Where sprinting and competing once caused me stress, going out on the road and not worrying about time or distance was heaven. After a few weeks of conditioning and getting used to a slower, natural gait, running became my haven during some difficult times. It still is to this day.

When I was young, I wore shorts and a t shirt – nothing wicking. My sneakers were the fanciest thing I owned. I remember my first pair of New Balances and how great they felt when they were so new and bouncy. I used to have a bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman loaded up with a mix tape of music that I had recorded off of the radio. These days my 34 year old body needs a lot of gear to get up to a 5K distance a few times a week. I don head to toe wicking layers under a wicking, thermal fleece that has 3 zip up pockets – one for my Iphone, one for tissues, and one for my wicking gloves, which inevitably end up coming off mid run. I wear a head band, ear buds and if it’s sunny, sunglasses. I top it off with an occasional knee brace or compression cuff for my groin..all so I can be comfortable while running…a sad imitation of what once came naturally.

My son’s running has earned him 2 stitches in his forehead…a fitting entrance to a life of locomotion.

I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way.

I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way.

And where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within.

– Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire

 

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youse


youse pron. you (usually more than one person)

I am absolutely amazed that this is an actual word in the OED. It really shouldn’t be. They should have a note in there somewhere about Italian Americans or New Yorkers. I am almost tempted to start using this word in my vocabulary as I have heard it enough in my life.

Here is a list of media where you can find the proper usage of “youse:”

The Sopranos

Jersey Shore (Ronnie especially uses this word often.)

A Bronx Tale 

Rocky I or II

You can also head to Federal Hill in Providence, RI or Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn if you want some active usage of “youse.” Just stand on the sidewalk and wait for someone to walk by.

I have also located a poem by e.e. cummings using this word…not that I am convinced that this is an actual word…I can’t trust a poet who doesn’t even use proper punctuation. I don’t usually like e.e. cummings but I actually enjoyed this one:

mr youse needn’t be so spry
concernin questions arty

each has his tastes but as for i
i likes a certain party

gimme the he-man’s solid bliss
for youse ideas i’ll match youse

a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues

Now youse stop sitting at your computer and go get some fresh air!

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