news

I Spy: What we are seeing can be eye-opening

September 25, 2020 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

I Spy: What we are seeing can be eye-opening

These days, because of the need to stay put as well as fewer places to go, we find ourselves less busy in our daily routines. Yes, that virus keeps disrupting our lives as we learn of a spike here and there.

This has given us more time to examine the details of what might normally slip by our eyes. We now have time to pay attention to our surroundings and remind ourselves of the loveliness and loneliness that sometimes engulfs us, if we decide to see and feel it. Of late, especially as boredom has periodically set in, we have made a concerted effort to better spot what’s right in front of our nose—and eyes.

What we spy can be anything from something on the street to in our backyards and gardens, on a screen, in a magazine or book, or in our own rooms at home. We’ve spent a few days taking note and here is our list. As journalists, we’ve often been told that the best stories happen right under our noses if we just pay attention. That’s for sure, and so we do so daily!

What Barbara has spotted:

  1. With everyone staying at home and staring at their four walls—or more, I’ve zeroed in on all the things I need and want to do in my home, from repainting my bedroom to getting a front picket fence painted and a new board on a porch both repaired and painted. As I wander around my village for daily walks come morning and late afternoon, I see all the construction and repairs going on among neighbors’ homes. Two big houses are going up, another smaller home has been remodeled and listed for sale. Everywhere I see contractors’ trucks, ladders and more. I guess everyone thinks, like me, it’s a good time to improve your house when we’re stuck inside and can’t get out as much?
  2. As I Zoom with friends and family and walk around my village, I see men and women with shorter hair and women with less gray than right after the pandemic began. Hair salons and barbershops are open, and people must be going, though safely. My own salon stayed closed later, recently opened and has just started to offer blow dries. I looked at my own hair for five months and finally gave in to have it cut and colored. And I now recognize my cute grandson munchkins and handsome son-in-law since they’ve all had hair trims. Even Fixup, the beau, has started to go.
  3. I live in a very casual village where workout clothing was in years ago, even to go to the nicest French bistro and enjoy its fabulous fries, burgers, steak and more at a table or at the bar. In fact, the only time people seemed to dress fancier was the weekend of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding here when there were so many outsiders visiting to attend the nuptials. Then I spied some famous folks, too, including Madeline Albright, Bill and Hillary, Vera Wang, Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen to name a few. Now everyone seems to be wearing their most casual wear 24/7. I fit in perfectly. 
  4. As I also walk around my village, I notice more license plates from out of New York state, including California, North Carolina, Florida and Montana. Maybe, some belong to relatives of residents, but I’ve heard that many have descended on our little gem since New York City numbers spiked in prior numbers. And even now as the numbers throughout the state decline, many from the city still come for the less dense population, open fields, farmers’ markets and good schools. We’re considered a very safe destination, especially since stores and restaurants insist on face masks. If you do come, please be careful and don’t get us and our first responders list.
  5. I notice more animals foraging for food in my and neighbors’ yards, from the periodic groundhog to more aggressive squirrels and cute chipmunks, who really aren’t cute when they arrive in droves or multiply quickly. All seem hungry and maybe angry that I’ve eliminated growing vegetables and herbs and sprayed my bushes and plants to discourage them.
  6. I've noticed how much stuff I’ve accumulated through the years as I think about downsizing in the next year or so. The piles of papers, stacks of books, old clothing and shoes I never wear anymore. And my 250 or more snow globes dispersed on shelves throughout my house. All this stuff is inspiring me to start the purge. Heave ho! 
  7. Before I heave ho, however, I spy books that I want to reread, rather than just read new books. A few that deserve another look and read include history tomes and other topics: John Adams by David McCullough, Ben Franklin by Walter Isaacson, Jews Among the Indians by M.L. Marks, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart and at least one Nancy Drew since I’m dispersing my collection to two young girls, daughters of close friends. 
  8. Family photos throughout my house bring tears at times. I have seen each of my two daughters only twice and recently saw my grandsons after eight months for the first time. But in almost every room, I have framed photos on bookshelves, desks and on walls—early black and white photos of both of my folks from the 1940s, one of my dad giving the first flu vaccine in New York City at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, my first summer at sleepaway camp in Maine in 1958, my daughters’ high school graduation pictures, my younger one’s wedding images with my mom nine years ago and lots of photos of friends at weddings and baby showers and Bat Mitzvahs. Oh, we were all so young, hopeful and optimistic about ourselves and the world. I hope we can regain that spirit.

 What Margaret has observed:

  1. As I walk down the streets of New York City, I notice more couples than ever holding hands. I’ve heard many couples say that their relationship is better than ever after hunkering down together and having time to become reacquainted. Aww! However, for you couples out there holding hands, remember to wash them and keep the hand sanitizer nearby. 
  2. Boarded up. I spot so many bars, restaurants, music venues, little Mom and Pop hardware shops, shoe repair places and other businesses that have gone under. Some have survived, however, due to creative entrepreneurship. With the pandemic creating issues especially for dine-in service, restaurants have engendered a new way to infuse new life. Café Fiorello, an iconic Italian restaurant by Lincoln Center, used its noodle to convert its inside restaurant into a grocery store stocked with shelves of Italian products. Another popular restaurant, a favorite of my sister’s family, Pappardelle, became a grocery store and cooking consultant rolled into one. And when it was so difficult to find toilet tissue, my daughter in Los Angeles bought some in a wine store that expanded its inventory. Hey, whatever works! 
  3. People leaving the city and some returning after being away all summer as school is about to begin provide a busy sight. There are moving vans on almost every street corner these days. During the summer, the city was eerily quiet and empty. Now the streets have more traffic with cars, busses and taxis and starting to become crowded with people again. At first the quiet was welcomed, however, quiet is something many New Yorkers aren’t comfortable with as most are attracted to New York City for its energy and life. I took the quiet time as an opportunity to walk, to think, to listen and to really get to know and notice everything I could about my relatively new neighborhood.
  4.  A proliferation of pop-up or pull-up events. What’s the old saying: “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.”This can be a pop-up protest, a man hawking wares, someone registering voters or a group of musicians jamming in a park or on the playground of an empty public school. Recently, we read about a pull-up event. Folks spotted a red, white and blue rented Ford pickup truck labeled the New York Philharmonic Bandwagon containing musicians who for three days a week through mid-October are bringing music to all five boroughs. It made people happy to hear music outdoors. Social distancing is enforced, and masks distributed. Now that’s sweet music to everyone’s ears. 
  5. Wine and spirits stores are abuzz with activity for those who are stressed and need something to help them chill. Let’s face it, when people are down, sales of alcoholic beverages go up. Gone for now in New York City are inside get-togethers with gal pals for happy hour or going on dates to wine and dine in upscale venues. Some are quaffing their favorite wine and spirits at outside places. However, the safest and next best thing is to buy and then make a date at home with their favorite light-bodied red or chilled sparkling white wines. 
  6. Hordes of homeless in New York City residential neighborhoods. Enclaves like the Upper West Side experienced people passed out on sidewalks and slumped over nearby restaurants. There have been complaints too of lewd acts by those who seem mentally ill, drugged or drunk. The spike in homeless in various neighborhoods has been blamed on a controversial city-wide homeless hotel program, which has placed more than 13,000 homeless in hotels across the boroughs, including three that I know of on the Upper West Side--the Lucerne, Belleclair and Belnord. Accepting these people has kept the empty hotels in business. On the Upper West Side, two opposing lawsuits have surfaced. One group wants to relocate the residents out of the area, or it will sue. The other contends that the notion that the homeless are not welcome in some neighborhoods is an affront to basic decency. Where do you stand on this issue? 
  7. Lonely? People who need an unconditional friend because they’re feeling alone and isolated during the pandemic, are opting to adopt a pet. It seems as if everyone on the streets of New York City now owns a dog. Cats, dogs, rabbits or whatever are in high demand from adoption shelters that are running low on inventory. That’s a good thing to trim the pet population and find a happy home for pets who need love and nurturing as much as we do. 
  8. The number of people on edge who are belligerent, overtly angry and even hateful right now. Simply being asked to wear a mask to show consideration for others during the pandemic has sparked outrage with scowls and nasty comments. People are worried about their health and the economy, are feeling isolated, stressed, stuck inside going stir crazy, are out of work and unable to feed their families or pay the rent or mortgage as the pandemic looms. On top of this, most of us are furious about the shootings and killings, mistreatment and undeserved privilege, discrimination in our society and government in general. Anger can take many forms from frustration to rage, hence the looting, rioting and rising crime rate. Experts suggest talking to a friend, relative or therapist about your anger to assuage it. Most important, take care of yourself and focus on what you can control. And maybe consider adopting a pet!

 Share with us what you spy; we’re all eyes and ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 



2 comments

  • Betsy D

    Sep 25, 2020

    Wonderful blog – “I Spy” —— in our area, as well as many re-dis of homes and gardens—- I have met neighbors I did not know before on walks- and also, we are noticing how our streets and sidewalks are being beautifully restored!
    Kindness and thoughtfulness are so much more a part of our daily lives.

  • Margery Sher

    Sep 25, 2020

    You are wonderful Noticers!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published