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October 3rd, 2016

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delphica
Related to some recent conversations with friends about the 23&Me DNA testing, my mother recently had it done. I have been giving her a hard time (in a fun way) because she paid them to tell her what she already knew (no surprises for us, 1/2 Eastern European and 1/2 Irish) BUT it's also kicked off a bunch of conversations about various family history stories. Which, I shall try not to bore anyone else with.

One that was intriguing to me, though, was about my mom's mom's family (so, my Nana). Her father and two of his brothers came to the US from the Ukraine around 1905. After WWII, there were a lot of Ukrainians who became displaced persons living in camps (DPs). They usually needed financial sponsorship to be allowed to come to the US, and many were sponsored by family members or cultural organizations. In the early 1950s, some Ukrainian DPs arrived in the US, and brought a letter from a cousin of Nana's father, addressed in an open way to "any family of [the three brothers]." The letter made its way to my Nana's family, and so what they have is this cousin and his wife and children who are stuck in a DP camp. Nana's family scraped together as much money as possible, and leaned on the local Ukrainian immigrant community and eventually assembled enough money to bring the family over, and set them up in a little apartment on Broadway in Buffalo (for some reason, my mom is really taken with the location of the apartment). Nana then took the train to New York City to meet them and bring them back to Buffalo -- which, for me, is AMAZING TO THINK ABOUT. It was an ordeal for my Nana to cross Seneca Street. She was really not a person who enjoyed travelling even AT ALL (I mean this in a clinical way, she really had some issues with being outside of her familiar zone.) At this point in the story, I kept interrupting my mom to ask ARE YOU SURE? NANA WENT ON A TRAIN TO NEW YORK CITY? NOT SOMEONE ELSE? It might as well have been a trip to the moon. Marvels. My mother assured me, yes, it was indeed Nana, and that mom remembers it clearly because she was about six years old and Nana brought her back a Roy Rogers costume. My mom, by the way, was obsessed with Roy Rogers as a kid, and she is still a wealth of information about Roy Rogers.

The end result, obviously, is that according to Nana, she felt something was off right away when she met them (note: my Nana is not always the most reliable reporter in areas like this), and by the time they got to Buffalo it was revealed that they were not in fact her father's cousins, but had purchased their papers on the black market. And then the family got off the train in Buffalo and no one ever heard from them again.

So it was all completely a scam, although I don't think quite like a Nigerian prince scam, in that there were a lot of families who were in that situation and ended up with their actual, real relatives so certainly the idea of bringing over your cousin's family was not ridiculous right out of the gate. My mom also noted that Nana and her siblings were not even totally disillusioned after this experience -- they continued to volunteer with helping new arrivals in the local area with translating and other transition assistance.

I'm now really curious as to how the other family fared, and where they ended up.

September 22nd, 2016

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I went to an amazing lecture program at work today, it was a multidisciplinary thing with two neural scientists and one classicist (whose specialty is Greek theater), and the general topic was perception and cognition. It's hard to summarize, but it was indeed one interesting fact after another. One tidbit I thought was especially neat was that apparently people are very good self-reporters of their own imaginations. As in, when people have their brains monitored for activity in perception areas (visual, aural, etc), people who claim to have very vivid imaginations sure enough show more action on the scans, and people who report average imaginations have average scans, and so on. Which is a nice take-away for me, because previously I had assumed people who talked about their vivid imaginations were only being insufferable; how could you know how what goes on in your head compares to anyone else's head? Well, it's probably still insufferable to talk about it a lot.

It was a little, hmm, bittersweet? for me to realize, while I was there and being really jazzed about the lecture, is that I so seldom go to this kind of university event these days, and I used to be at tons. And it's such a solid benefit to working at a college, to -- to be able to take advantage of these programs. One reason is purely logistical; so many are held in the evenings, and nowadays there is so much kid stuff to do in the evenings that I have to very carefully ration any work-related time after hours, and almost all of it gets used up with things that are actually my job. And the other part is related to my job -- I hadn't really focused on this too much, but as I've been here longer and have more dedicated things that I am ultimately responsible for, I'm less in the swim for other stuff that is going on around campus. It's even counterintuitive for me -- if you had asked me, I would have said that where I am now professionally involves more flexibility with my time so I could easily structure my day if I wanted to attend something, but in day to day stuff it works out more that I'm less involved with the events side of things.

August 15th, 2016

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Last (some day, all the days are blending together because I was on vacation), I took Lu to this carousel museum, which, confusingly to me, is the Herschell Carrousel Museum, spelled with two "r"s because that was the company's actual name, but then in all their materials, they use carousel with one "r" when talking about the thing that is a carousel. Which is more in keeping with modern usage, but I think if ANYONE is going to continue to use the two "r" carrousel, they are a good candidate for it.

Where was I going with this? Why do all my LJ entries start this way? Oh. Okay, POINT THE FIRST is that I posted a picture of their working historic carrousel/carousel on instagram, and it was built in 1916, so I tagged it 1916. And I was going to share that year tags are often really interesting browses. I only ever remember to look if I post something Olde Timey and tag it, but it's always random and fun to see what other people used the tag for. And sometimes the year ends up being a number of some other significance and I entertain myself by trying to figure out the pattern.

POINT THE SECOND is that this company also made steam organs, the ones that use the giant paper rolls, and that part was unexpectedly fascinating. My grandmother had a player piano (after years of disuse, it hardly worked, but the upside was that no one cared that we liked to open it up and poke around in it) and the rolls were so mysterious and smelled strongly of old paper. I don't think I ever realized that the ones for commercial use were ENORMOUS. Like the bagpipes, steam organ music annoys a lot of people but I find it oddly soothing (it's probably how a clown will lull me into a stupor right before the murder).

I thought she would love the carrousels/carosels, which I guess she liked them well enough, but what she REALLY liked was a replica of one of those carnival games, the kind that has wooden figures on hinges, and you throw a baseball to try to knock them down. This was a kid version, so the hinges were pretty loose and it was bean bags instead of baseballs. But man, she would have done that for hours.

June 6th, 2016

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We were at the AMNH again this weekend -- family in from out of town. The 4th floor, which everyone calls the dinosaur floor but also covers anything in the prehistoric fossil record including the evolution of mammals and other non-dinosaur stuff, but sure, dinosaurs, has a volunteer group of people, who seem like mostly retired people, who serve as docents. They wear these sort of dorky field vests and hats, to look like people who are digging up fossils, and buttons that say something like "Ask me about fossils!" But very clearly, their job is to provide information to visitors about the exhibits.

As we were looking at the apatosaurus, which is one of the most famous ones -- it's one of the earliest ever mounts of a dinosaur of that type (the Anne Elk type of brontosaurus, the ones that "are thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle and then thin again at the far end", which I think is literally the only Monty Python sketch I have time for) and it's been at the museum for FORever, someone asked me where it was dug up, and I thought it might be Montana but I wasn't sure, so I turned to the closest volunteer and asked. This guy. THIS GUY. He was awesome. He was like if a slightly older Harvey Fierstein was going to be a fossil volunteer. First, he told me he was going to sit down, so he sat down on a bench. Then, as to the question of where it was from, he kind of rolled his eyes and said "Out in the WEST somewhere" in a classic "New Yorker's View of the World" way. So I said "so like maybe Montana?" and he sighed, and said "yeah, sure, like that AREA. In the WEST." (It is from Wyoming, if anyone is hoping for facts here.) Then I asked if he could tell us anything else interesting about it, and he said "Well. As you can SEE, it's very BIG." To his credit, he then pointed out that if our heads were in the same proportion to our overall bodies as the apatosaurus's head is to its body, our heads would be the size of golf balls, which I thought was an excellent image to drive that point. I think I'm making this exchange sound like it wasn't very good, but I really found it to be sort of a joy. This is exactly what should happen when you ask a New Yorker about things in the Natural History museum.

And for another museum update, I went to the Museum of Mathematics for the first time, and it was really A+. I was a little, hmmm, the web site seems to be trying hard to present it as a museum for people of all ages, and FOR SURE there was stuff going on, in terms of the math, where it was really a challenge for me, personally, to try to keep up with it, and a lot of the activities were things that a kid could do and have fun messing around with, OR an adult could do that same activity and really take it to the next level of focus and concentration ... so content-wise, a solid portion of the stuff covers all ages. BUT, the environment in general is pretty geared for kids. It's very run-around-and-make-a-lot-of-noise friendly, in a lot of ways it looks more like a play space than a "real" museum. All this is by way of saying I'd give it a high recommendation (and plus, it wasn't crowded at all on a weekend, which is something that is said NEVER about a Manhattan attraction, and it's reasonably priced) with the understanding that it's more of a kids-first experience.

June 1st, 2016

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As many people probably do, when I was younger, around high school age, I went through a spate of reading a lot of mysteries. It was that transition from reading mysteries for kids -- even things like Nancy Drew, to mysteries that were intended for more of a YA audience (although that was barely a term back then), to mystery novels for regular adults, and for all of these, I'm talking about the types of series that you can easily churn through, and after it's hard to remember which events happened in which particular book. And, for me, this was also at that stage of reading development where I didn't have THAT much discernment in the quality of what I was picking up. It was partly that I didn't have a real grasp of all the tropes yet, so plot issues that would jump out as shopworn or overly obvious were not, in fact, that obvious to me, and while I could tell that I really got into a good Josephine Tey (for example), I wouldn't have been able to articulate, exactly, why it was better than a series of mysteries about a lady who has a lot of pet cats who keeps stumbling across murders to solve.

One thing that stuck out for me, that seemed to happen A LOT in mysteries, is that there would be some issue with not being able to see the license plate of a car because it was splattered with mud -- and this was presented as something that could go either way, like maybe there was a witness to a crime who perhaps doesn't even realize he or she has valuable information and this person cannot be tracked down because of the muddy license plate, like this muddiness was a coincidence that happened, or the criminal would put mud on the license plate ON PURPOSE to obscure the number (MASTERMIND!) and apparently this wasn't an immediate tip-off that the driver had something to hide. But, in all my years of driving, this mud-covered license plate is essentially a non-thing, come on. I'm sure it's regional -- I've been to farms out in Oklahoma where the main thing they are farming, as far as I can tell, is this red mud that covers both the exterior and interior of the car as well as your own person, and it's like glue and doesn't come off with water, but that's pretty specific. I don't think ALL these mysteries were happening in Oklahoma. And a lot of those books were probably written when it wasn't a given that backwoods roads would even be paved, I suppose. However, in all my years of driving around the industrial Northeast, mud is not this invasive, and so, on the extremely rare occasions when I have seen a car with mud splattered all over the license plate, as I did while driving back from the lake, my immediate thought is CRIME GET-AWAY CAR! CRIME GET-AWAY CAR! I wonder if I should have called that in.

That was a lot more about the license plates than I was planning on writing. I was really going on comment on our local Memorial Day celebration, or on one aspect of it at least. And that was the reading of the winning essays of the Memorial Day essay contest, which happened in the cemetery, following the parade. Now, I don't expect THAT nuanced a take on Memorial Day from kids who write essays. The high school winner, and the elementary school winner, both had essays that were pretty much things you could come up with off the tops of your heads -- Memorial Day, it's important to remember the brave sacrifices of those who served our country, let us to be honoring them. USA!

But the middle school essay winner. OMG, I weep for America. This young lady could go on the Make American Great Again tour. Even her reading tone was petulant and whining. She had a long list of things that are a DISGRACE, including people having cook-outs on Memorial Day and people going to the mall on Memorial Day because things are on sale. She hammered away at this, at how SHAMEFUL it is ... and her audience was, naturally, people were were not at a cook-out and not at the mall, but people who had walked behind a short of parade of Boy Scouts and cute elderly veterans to a cemetery and were now standing around in the heat to listen to the program. (This is related to my annoyance with my least favorite kind of sermon, the one about how hardly anyone goes to church these day. Okay, but seeing as the people who are hearing this sermon are literally the few people who have GONE TO CHURCH, what message do you have for church-going people?) She talked about how people lack courage these days, how Americans are soft, how citizens don't appreciate the liberties we have. It was so full of hand-wringing and crocodile tears. Never before have I felt such a strong urge to heckle a twelve year old girl. We were then admonished for our failure to properly thank veterans. "You don't even BOTHER to THANK a soldier for keeping us SAFE!" Oh yeah kid? Is it keeping us safe, or is it keeping us chained to the teat of our nation's dependence on fossil fuels? My gosh, what is she hearing at home that this was her essay? And the crowd LURVED IT. I hope all the ISIS sleeper agents in the audience were taking note that she WILL NOT STAND for any incursions on her freedoms.

May 6th, 2016

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I forgot how tiresome it is to put a picture in an LJ entry, so you're gonna have to follow me on this one -- you know the kind of door handle that is not a door knob, and not a horizontal bar, but like a vertical handle that has a thumb press tab on the top, which is the latch for the door? The more industrial kind that are in office buildings, I don't think I've ever seen one in a home. ANYWAY. That's what I'm talking about.

The door on our storage room at work has type kind of handle, and it's a heavy door, and the tab needs a firm press. I'm in and out of the storage room fairly often, so I know that when you goes to open this door, you have to approach the endeavor with a strong, hearty grip and throw your whole arm into the unlatch and open movement. At some point this afternoon, the door was locked -- I'm not clear on what happened here, we generally don't lock it during the day -- so it was locked unbeknownst to me. And then when I went to open it, I went to it with my usual zest, and it was like a lesson in inertia because nothing on the door latch was moving. It was so unexpectedly painful, can you sprain all your hand and arm muscles at once? Holy cow.

It was also amazing (although not pleasant) to then realize, for the rest of the day, that a lot of those muscles get called into action whenever you use your opposable thumb.

May 2nd, 2016

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Three recent cross-cultural observations:

1. I had a bunch of errands to do at lunch the other day, and the route had me ending up near a Subway so that became my plan for lunch.

When I walked in, there was a group of female students, about ten of them, who I would put at high school age or maybe college freshmen, all wearing traditional abaya and head coverings. They were with two male teachers, or maybe grad students, and as I was eavesdropping on them (duh) they were all speaking French. The two guys had that sort of young Gallic athlete look, like Jean-Claude Killy, like they're going to eat at Subway and then maybe sprint up Mont Blanc.

As a group, they all seemed so chatty and happy, and hmmm, maybe I am making assumptions about assumptions, but I feel sometimes like there's a belief out there that Muslims as a universal group don't value education for women, or would refuse to allow young Muslim women to be in contact with male persons under any circumstances, and I wished there was a way of giving the world (or, more specifically, the American heartland) this reminder that Muslim people can choose to be traditional in things like dress, and still go to school and take school trips with teachers and have fun in Subway.

Then of course, things took a turn for the horrific when it became apparent that this was their first time in a Subway, and that the teachers had to translate what every option was (and the teachers themselves are not native English-speakers and had to ask for clarification from the Subway employees for a couple of things). Because they are high school girls, it didn't occur to anyone to listen when the options were being translated to her friend, so essentially the teacher had to run down each step of the choices for each individual girl. But even with the ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF TIME THIS TAKES WHILE I WAS WAITING TO ORDER MY SANDWICH, I was still trying to be very zen about it, and appreciate that the two dudes working at Subway were extremely patient and pleasant for this entire process. Way to be an ambassador for America, Subway!

2. On the subway, I saw a Chinese woman, maybe in her 30s, with her parents sitting with her. And her dad had his subway map out, and was matching it up to the subway station diagram on the wall, and asking questions and trying to point things out to her, which she was politely nodding along with and then ignoring. None of this was in English, but dads are gonna dad, and it was clear that her dad was figuring out the NYC subway system on his own and letting her know the BETTER way of taking the train to wherever they were going. The DAD way. And this lady had the thousand yard stare of a person whose parents are visiting NYC for a week, and she's made it to Day 5. I sent her invisible sympathy.

3. The cutest. Also on the subway. Huh, all of these stories have involved the subway, or Subway, which is so odd because I probably go to Subway (the fast food place) once a year. Although of course I take the train almost every day. ANYWAY, this was a family of Chinese people -- a grandmother and grandfather, a mom, and a little girl, about 6 or 7, who was the most adorable little kid, who was talking in an extremely animated way to her grandparents, in English, all about Littlest Petshop, and what happens on Littlest Petshop, and how the best episode is when Blythe has a reality TV show about a dog pageant and how the next best episode is when Russel gets lost at the high school because he was hiding in Blythe's backpack, and the next next best would be the episode where Blythe goes to the International Pet Fashion Expo, and how she has gotten Zoe, Penny Ling, Sugar Sprinkles, and Pepper in blind bags, and for the next blind bag she gets, she first hopes she gets Minka, then next best would be Sunil and then next next best would Buttercream. The mom cut in a few times, to remind her that her grandmother and grandfather don't understand English ... but the grandma just waved her away and continued beaming and smiling and fussing over the granddaughter. So cute, right? She was just so taken with watching this sweet little girl, obviously so bouncy and excited to be telling her grandmother all about one of her favorite things, I think the grandmother was perfectly content seeing the little girl be so happy and enthusiastic. Also, no one actually wants to hear about Littlest Petshop, so dodged a bullet there by not speaking English.

April 20th, 2016

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delphica
Something that always cracks me up: when you see babies in strollers, at about the "recently learned to sit up by themselves" age, maybe in the ballpark of 6 - 10 months, and they do that thing where they are sitting straight up, instead of leaning back into the recline of the stroller, like THEY HAVE SOMEWHERE TO BE, DAWG. And they look dead serious about it, like the somewhere is not the park, it is definitely a meeting of the Joint Chiefs.

Moving topics, I often find myself wishing that museums and museum-type institutions would give more tours of the architecture and design of the physical space, and how it reflects past (and/or present) ideas of curating. I was recently at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) two times! The first was an outing with friends including kids, and it was a nice visit, but the other mom and I were talking about how we have not absorbed ANY new knowledge from a museum since having kids, because essentially all of our time is spent making sure our kids don't climb up on anything, or get lost (I totally lost Lu at this same museum when she was 3, btw), or run around and knock over littler kids (a surprising hazard that I really didn't anticipate). So, I was really excited when I had the opportunity to head back to the AMNH during the week for work, to sign some contracts for student events (and go to the gift shop). After the meeting, I took the long way out, via the dinosaur exhibit.

One of the things I find fascinating about it is that it's a relatively new exhibit. And I should call it the Fossil exhibit, because it's other non-dinosaur things as well, like mammoths, but you know, you say "dinosaurs" and everyone gets it. You can picture what this is. Wait, where was I? Oh, it's a relatively new exhibit, it was closed down for YEARS around the time I was in college and just after, and let's face it, I wasn't doing that much museum-going for various budgetary and sleeping in late reasons. It (re)opened in around 1996, but there is something so 1940s about the overall look and tone of the space. Not about the science of the fossils -- that's all very cutting edge -- but about the colors and the typefaces and simply the presentation. There's a lot of that really muted green, that in my head (and my heart!) I've always called "swimmy green." I know a lot of people aren't wowwed by this color, it's too closely associated with impersonal institutions like hospitals and public elementary schools. But I love it, I've always thought of it being the "in the public trust" in a WPA way sort of color. Anyway, this comes up a lot as an accent, and the floor tiles in the Ornithiscian Hall particular look so green and public school. I took about a million photos of the floor. It's nice to go on a Monday when it's less crowded than on weekends. I even wondered if it was a floor from either of the last major resigns of the AMNH dinosaurs, either from 1955, or 1940 ... but after looking at lot of pictures online, I don't think so, I think it's really a newly designed floor. Also, you'd be amazed at how many pictures of a dinosaur museum do not feature a very good view of the floor.

So overall I think it's so interesting that this latest iteration is designed in a way that's evocative of an earlier era, design-wise, although not specifically the design of this actual space from that time.

All my online research, or "research," as it were, was valuable anyway (to me), even if there wasn't a lot of information about the floors. The overhead lighting fixtures are all original, they're very nice. I had always wondered why, exactly, the museum originally decided that the heaviest possible exhibit should go on the fourth floor -- there is ONE dinosaur whose exhibit weighs TWENTY-TWO TONS. How much did they possibly spend on the construction of that floor if they are putting a twenty-two ton thing, which is just one of many things, on it? Shouldn't you put that ish in the basement? (and also, great, because now I will have visions of falling right through the floor every time I am there in the future.) But I was reminded that at least the bones (heh) of the Fossil collection, part of the original Geology collection, have always been on the fourth floor, in part because the original halls weren't electrified so you needed big galleries with lots of windows for people to view the exhibits. And having all that natural light is still a wonderful feature, which you don't always get at museums. A lot of the time I feel very out of the environment when I am at a museum, because anything could be happening outside. At the Buffalo Museum of Science, which also had some upper galleries with windows (that housed the Egyptian artifacts), I remember going on school field trips when it was gray and raining outside, and how that created a difference experience from visiting when it was blue skies and sunny.

April 7th, 2016

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delphica
I don't listen to a lot of podcasts, but the one that I've been the most avid about is Serial, which means that the streaming service is always trying to recommend other types of true crime stories, in that "if you enjoyed Serial, you might like ... " way. But I probably won't necessarily, I'm not that into true crime on its own. However, I did decide to try out one of the recommended shows, a Canadian cold case show ...

The story is very sad, it's about the case of a 5 year old boy who went missing while on a family fishing trip in the early 1970s. Literally missing without a trace. It's very heartbreaking. As a parent, it's hard to listen to a mother, even all these years later, talk about missing her son.

YET. Yet, the most fascinating part of this is HOW DARN CANADIAN this show is. It's actually become a delight. The host is Canadian (and the hook, I guess, is that he's from this same small town in Canada where the child went missing), and obviously, so is the family, so it's like listening to the nicest people in the entire world talk about this horrible occurrence (which was probably a crime). OOOOOH GOSH. Early on the host turns up this friend of the family guy, and I'm not sure I completely followed this but the gist is that he was along on the fishing trip (as an adult), and then either the police (at the time) only spoke with him briefly or maybe even not at all. The host tracks this guy down, and goes to his house, with the commentary of how nice it is (in a homey way, because it's like a cabin in eastern Ontario), and essentially he asks the guy "so, do you think maybe there is anything you remember about that day now, that maybe didn't get into the police report or was overlooked by investigators?" which I *think* is the Canadian way of asking "so, did you murder a small child and not tell anyone at the time?" and the guy's response was "Oh gosh, I don't think so, no." And then they both talked about how sad it was. And then the host talked about how you can see these lovely birds from the woods behind the guy's cabin.

There are also a lot of parts where a lot of air time is spent on ambient sound, like the birds chirping in the backyard, or when the host drives out to the lake where the family was fishing, parks the car, and then walks down a trail to the fishing area. He says "I'm walking down the trail to the lake" and then you hear him walk down the trail to the lake, step, step, step, step, etc with that crunchy walking on a path in the woods sound. Step, step, step, step, step until he gets to the lake. The podcasts are about half an hour long, and I swear, by US standards they have about 7 minutes of content. I fully understand that these are intentional creative choices, to give time to these sounds in order to establish a setting or a tone, but still, they are the most charmingly Canadian of choices.

LOVE YOU, CANADA, NEVER CHANGE.

April 4th, 2016

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delphica
In what is now simply comic, we didn't make it to Maple Weekend because Maple Weekend was cancelled due to snow. In fairness to the Maple Weekend people, I suppose, they had activities and demos scheduled all day Saturday and Sunday, and we were free on Sunday so that was when we planned to go. The Saturday activities went on as planned, but then there was a snowstorm on Saturday night, and so it was only Sunday that was cancelled.

But we still had a nice time visiting with my friend up in the Catskills. Every time I am there, I always think about how much I like that area -- obviously there is a lot of nature, and that's really nice, and a lot of the little towns are extremely quaint and adorable. Overall, I'm always thinking "wow, I really like it here, I wonder why I don't make more of an effort to get up here more frequently?"

This trip we went to breakfast at a little diner located in a real caboose, like a cute little red caboose. There used to be a HUGE rail network through the Catskills, I'm really not entirely sure why -- to support logging, maybe? I have no idea, but it's all defunct now. In many of the villages, you'll see how the old timey train depot has been converted into an info center, or a restaurant, or a little shop, and there are a few areas that run a "scenic railroad" sort of thing, like a vintage train that goes back and forth between two areas on a remaining spur of track. In other places, the track is completely removed, or has been converted into a walking path. This particular diner is in a converted caboose, and there's a kitchen built on the to back of it. Even with the addition, a caboose is NOT THAT LARGE. It's super adorable, did I mention that?

It's a mom and pop type place, and, it turns out, what you do is order at the counter, and then go find a table and your food is brought out to you (on paper plates) when it is ready. There is also serve-yourself hot coffee and tea, and a cooler with Snapple and pop and whatnot. There were three little tables in the caboose -- two in the back and one in the front (and more outdoor seating, but it was being a snow storm). They were all occupied when we arrived, but one table seemed to be at the point of wrapping things up while we were ordering, so I was keeping one eye on it so that we wouldn't miss it. While this was happening, a guy came in, by himself, and stopped to chat with some people at another table. The coat-gathering people got themselves together and left, so I started toward it, and said to Lu "okay, a table is available, let's go put our drinks down" and naturally she's doing that thing where she was facing me, so her back was to the table, and instead of like, LOOKING AROUND, she said "what table?" and I, trying to juggle our coats and our drinks so I didn't have a free hand to point with, was trying to nudge her along, in this narrow diner. TURN AROUND, KID.

This is one of those parenting things that is always maddening in the moment, but interesting to me when I contemplate it, but it turns out that kind of body positioning awareness is one of the last things to come in developmentally. I notice it ALL THE TIME. I know she's reasonably bright but still does those things where she'll ask me for help zippering a jacket, and walk across A ENTIRE ROOM toward me, but then stop just short of where I can reach the zipper. TAKE TWO MORE STEPS. And she'll be flummoxed when I ask her to move closer, or in this case, to TURN AROUND AND WALK. Instead of moving, she looked up at me and said "okay, where?" Literally just turn around so you can see the table! I am making this sound like it took five minutes, but in reality, it was maybe adding in a 20 second delay as opposed to how long it would take me on my own to walk six feet to a small diner table.

And, in that 20 seconds, in which I was in a small room and saying, in an outloud voice "let's head over to that empty table" ... THE GUY SHIMMIED AROUND THE PEOPLE HE WAS CHATTING WITH AND SAT HIS BUTT AT THE EMPTY TABLE. Jaw. Dropped. And that got resolved almost immediately because the people at the lone third table waved my friend over (she was at the self-serve coffee) and told her they were getting ready to leave. I think this was just a coincidence, I don't think they even realized we were together or saw the Dramaz of the Empty Table.

But you know, this guy, he was like everything that annoys me. And I got to base this on more than merely his table-sneaking, because he continued his conversation across to the other table fairly loudly. He was a bit older, and dressed head-to-toe in his Ralph Lauren "woodsy casual" and Sperrys, and was going on about how no one appreciates all the work he does as president of his condo association in the city. You guys, he only does it because he has invested a lot of money and time into his condo, and he just wants things to be nice for everyone. Then he switched gears and was talking about immigrants. He's all for immigrants, immigration has made our country great, his grandparents were immigrants ... BUT. BUT. It's really annoying when immigrants work in restaurants and don't speak English, because then it's hard for him to get what he wants. Maybe even more maddening is that he said all this with a chuckle and shaking his head, like it's SO ABSURD that he's the only one who's noticed this obvious thing -- gosh, maybe people working at restaurants should learn to speak English! So basically I hated him, and realized that the answer to the question "why I don't make more of an effort to get up here more frequently?" is "NEW YORKERS." Older, white, male New Yorkers who have weekend homes up here are the reason I don't want to come here.
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