Monday, April 27, 2015

Food Chain!

One of the many cool things that they do at Ganas is to organize a chain of people to get stuff up from the truck on the street that they use to get food to the pantry (or other places) in the houses way above.  (Since Ganas is on a hillside, you need to go up a long flight of stairs to get from the street to the houses.)  It’s sort of like one of those old fashioned bucket brigades.

Someone yells, “Food chain!” at dinner and anyone who feels strong and abled bodied goes out and helps.  Groceries are passed from one person to the next on their way to the pantry.  

I was watching the behavior of the chain with a systems theorist’s eye.  It was amusing seeing the people bunch up on one end and then on the other.  The whole thing reminded me of a slinky stretching back and forth in waves.

Fortunately, most folks are in a good mood while doing it and it really does make what could be a difficult task fairly easy and fun.  As a result, the whole thing works very well.  And then it’s done before you know it--and folks go back to dinner.  And all the food is now up the hill and in the pantry.

It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish with a little co-operation.

Quote of the Day: “Obedience may have its uses, but it is no substitute for willing, uncoerced co-operation.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The New New Yorker

Well, I’ve settled down.  In New York City, of all places.

I was talking with my brother on the phone and he was wishing me the best with my new community life at Ganas in Staten Island.

“Just promise me one thing,” he said.  “You won’t start rooting for the Yankees.”  (I think he was kidding.  I think. It wasn’t hard to promise though--I can’t imagine rooting for a team that wears pinstripes.)

I’m having trouble believing that I’m now a permanent resident of the Big Apple--the city that never sleeps, the largest city in North America.  It wasn’t where I planned to be and a big part of me is still wondering what I’m doing here.

I was involved several years back with someone who grew up in Brooklyn and I listened to her stories which to me seemed a mixture of the exotic and the familiar all at once.  Familiar because so much literature, so many movies, so many TV shows reference New York geography.  Now many of those places are part of my life.

I’ve been traveling all over the city. A few weeks ago we were doing stuff in Long Island City (sometimes abbreviated LIC--and LIC is part of Queens).  Then a couple of weeks ago, I met with a woman in East Harlem that wanted to buy property in the South Bronx.  Last week I met with another woman over in Bushwick, which I now know is part of Brooklyn.  After that I visited a food co-op in the East Village in Manhattan.  And this week I’m planning to visit a co-op house in Bed Stuy, which is also part of Brooklyn.

Daily I walk up the hill here  on Staten Island and look down on St George/Tompkinsville and across the Upper New York Bay over to Brooklyn.  The night sky of Virginia has been replaced with the lovely lights of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and once in a while, Manhattan.

And I get to take the marvelous Staten Island Ferry, passing the Statue of Liberty and with views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Governors Island, Jersey City, Bayonne, and Staten Island.  The few times I’ve taken it at night is when I’ve gotten to see the the lights of all of these place reflected in the dark waters.

I’ve learned or figured out all sorts of strange things.  There are five boroughs here--most people know that--but only one of them, the Bronx, is part of the mainland.  Manhattan is an island, Brooklyn and Queens are part of an island, and, of course, Staten Island is an island.

One morning we were talking about a part of the Bronx even many folks here hadn’t heard of: Spuyten Duyvil, the place where the Hudson River meets the Harlem River.  Someone said it meant “Spitting Devil” in Dutch. (Wikipedia says, “Spouting Devil” or “Spewing Devil”.)  It’s strange things like that that make living in New York so interesting.

And now, one of the things I’m doing is that I’m busy figuring out how to establish a New York City residency.  It turns out I live here.  I really do.  Go figure.

Quote of the Day: “Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of ‘Something's going to happen.’ It isn't peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.” - Dorothy Parker