Picking Up a Couple of Sailors

The Parachute Jump still stands as a recognizable icon of Coney Island.  It was moved to its current location in 1941 from its original spot at the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park.  The ride became part of Steeplechase Park, which closed in 1964, the year my family moved to Brooklyn from Long Island.  I don’t remember the ride running after Steeplechase Park closed and for that reason alone (or simple cowardice), I myself never rode the Parachute Jump.  My mother, however, did.

THE PARACHUTE JUMP THIS BEAUTIFUL, SUNNY MORNING.
The story I remember from my childhood — this is what I remember my mother telling me when I was 10 — was that she rode the Parachute Jump with my father when they were first dating.  She would have been 16 and he 17.  More of the story that I remember my mother telling me was that she went on it to impress my father.  Now, the Parachute Jump was not something I could imagine my mother riding.  In fact, I had never seen my mother go on any ride at an amusement park.  They all made her “too dizzy,” she insisted.  So, when she told me the story and I asked her why she didn’t go on rides any more.  Her response was, “Well, your father married me.”
YESTERDAY FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW, SHOWING THE WONDER WHEEL AND CYCLONE.
THE PARACHUTE JUMP IS BEHIND THE BUILDING ON THE RIGHT.
A few years ago, while my mother was visiting us in Las Vegas, one of my cousins was also visiting and we were talking about Coney Island.  My cousin was from LA and she had only seen Coney Island once when she flew in for my mother’s 80th birthday.  In jest, I began to tell my cousin how my mother had tricked my father into marrying her by going on the Parachute Jump and making him think she was fun.  But, my mother immediately corrected me (she does that quite a bit).
THE CONEY ISLAND BOARDWALK THIS QUIET MORNING AFTER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND.
“No. No,” she said.  “I didn’t go on with your father.  He was in the Army.  Harriet and I picked up a couple of sailors.”
What?!?
We all burst out laughing.  “YOU picked up a couple of sailors?” I roared.  (If you met my very proper mother, you would know how absurd the idea would be — even the fact that she could say something like that aloud.)
THE PICK-UP “ARTIST” MORE THAN 60 YEARS LATER.
And then the back-pedaling began.  “Well, Harriet did the picking up.  She was much more forward than I.  I would never do anything like that.”
I had tears in my eyes. “But you and Harriet picked up a couple of sailors?”

“It wasn’t like that.  It wasn’t nice for two girls to go on a ride like that by themselves.”

“But it was nice to pick up a couple of sailors?”  I was having such a good time.  “What about your husbands?”

MY PARENTS.  YEARS AFTER THE SAILORS.
(MY FATHER WAS NEVER TOLD.)

“Well, of course, we weren’t even engaged at the time.  Murray was in the Navy and your father was in the Army.”  My mother was actually blushing now and Jerry and my cousin Joan were wiping tears from their eyes.

“So, what did you do AFTER the ride?” I asked.

“They walked us to the subway station and we took the train home.  It was completely innocent.”

We recently took my mother to a local diner for lunch.  The diner is called “The Parkview” because it’s not far from the Coney Island amusements and you can see some of the rides from its south-facing windows.  I was gleeful when I saw the photos on the cover of the large (diner-sized) menu.  There were old shots of the rides and amusements at Coney Island, including the Parachute Jump.  And at the very bottom of the cover… my mother and Harriet’s sailors!

Brooklyn, a Couple of Slugs, and No Mermaids

We are both so tired from our travels and I think the excitement of what we’re doing that we arrived at my mother’s house (that’s what we who grew up in apartments call our apartments) and have become a couple of slugs.  Today, our second day here, we hung around the house in the morning, went out for lunch at a local diner, took hour-long naps, and then deserted my mother to walk the mile to Starbuck’s to get online again.  My poor mother must think we’re the most boring people around. 

A SHOT THIS EVENING OF THE RESTORED BRIGHTON BEACH AVENUE
SUBWAY STATION (THE EL… SHORT FOR ELEVATED) AT OCEAN PARKWAY.

This is a big holiday weekend (July 4th, Independence Day), and my mother lives within walking distance of the boardwalk and a very busy beach resort.  So, I don’t think we’ll be doing much for the next couple of days except avoiding the crowds.  (I’ll think like a New Yorker here and also mention that I don’t want to give up our good parking spot because we may not find another until Monday night.)  It might be fun, though, to take a walk along the boardwalk tomorrow and get shots of the holiday crowds in Coney Island.  Too bad we missed the annual “Mermaid Parade” in late June.  That’s a tradition that began in 1981, but I didn’t know about it until we stumbled on it during a stroll to Nathan’s (for hot dogs) while here for my mother’s birthday in 2007.

MERMAIDS ON THE SUBWAY.  SO, I DON’T THINK THEY’RE “REAL” MERMAIDS.
(I FOUND THIS SHOT ON THE WEB FROM THE 2011 MERMAID PARADE.)

Little Russia by the Sea

RUSSIAN, THE MOST COMMON LANGUAGE ON THE NOW-THRIVING AVENUE UNDER THE EL.

We are sitting at the Starbucks on Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, catching up on email and other things cyber.  This is about a mile from my mother’s apartment (which is sadly not wired), so Jerry and I strolled over here a short time ago after Jerry had quite a lie-in this morning.  We arrived yesterday at Kennedy Airport from Los Angeles at 10:00 pm (that’s 22:00 in Euro-time… for our dear cousin in Norway who always gets “a.m.” and “p.m.” confused; military time makes a lot more sense anyway).

“HOUSE OF BOOKS, ST. PETERSBURG” ON BRIGHTON BEACH AVENUE.

I plan to share lots of pictures while we’re here.  I don’t think there’s any place quite like it.  I can’t wait to have my first — and possibly last — hot dog and French fries from the original Nathan’s in Coney Island (the adjacent neighborhood on the beach).  But, right now we have to finish our coffees and get back home to my mother before I feel really guilty!

Visas and Veggies

ONE MAJOR STEP CLOSER TO SPAIN

We hopped in our rental car this morning and drove over to the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles.  We have passports imprinted with residency visas for Spain!  It was sadly anti-climactic.  We had, afterall, worked several months to get everything in order just to submit our applications.  We then waited two months to be notified that we were approved, and then nearly another month before we got back to LA to pick up the documents.  The woman at the consulate who gave us our visas this morning (the same one who accepted our applications in April) was once again professional, warm, and charming.  So, no complaints.  It just seemed that, after the build-up we’ve given this, there should have been a parade or at least applause, hand-shakes, and Spanish-flag stickers for our lapels.  I guess a picture of Jerry standing outside the door to the consulate and holding his visa-imprinted passport will have to suffice.  Oh, yeah, and the fact that we can now go live in Spain.  Less than two weeks to go!

LINDY, REPRESENTING, AT CAPITAL CITY FARMERS MARKET.
STILL EARLY IN THE GROWING SEASON.

KEEPING THEM DOWN ON THE FARM

Before we left Pierre, South Dakota, on Sunday we had the pleasure of spending quality time with Linda and Tom, as well as with our nephew Matt and his wife Lindy.  We can never spend enough time with our loving, kind, funny, enlightened, generous, and admirable family in Pierre.

SOMETHING EDIBLE (I THINK IT’S ITALIAN PARSLEY) IN FOREGROUND.
GREENHOUSE FILLED WITH SEEDLINGS IN BACKGROUND.

In recent years, Matt and Lindy, among their many interests and talents, began an organic farm business (B&G Produce) with Lindy’s parents on the family farm outside Pierre.

MATT (THE HAT, BACKGROUND CENTER) PICKING SOMETHING FOR US TO TASTE.

Matt and Lindy then co-founded Capital City Farmers’ Market, which they operate downtown Saturday mornings along with a variety of vendors.  B&G Produce not only offers the expected farm-fresh, organically grown staples like radishes, spinach, and potatoes, but they include in their repertoire beautiful fresh flowers as well as unusual specialty produce that isn’t traditionally grown in South Dakota.

I THINK I’VE GOT THE THYME.

Eating Stinging Nettles

Matt is a trained and very talented chef (he feeds us well whenever we visit) and he provides recipes and cooking guidelines for whatever he and Lindy sell, which is especially helpful when you buy a bunch of stinging nettles and wonder how to prepare them.  Apparently, they stop stinging shortly after they’re picked and can be cooked up to be similar to spinach.  (This reminds me of our great-nephew, Bennett, who sat with us at dinner one night digging into a salad his father — Matt’s brother, Ryan — had prepared.  It was one of those gourmet lettuce mixes.  Bennett shoveled some greens into his mouth and then quickly spit them onto his plate as he howled, “I’m eating thistle!”)

MATT.  SHOWING US AROUND.

Jerry, Linda, and I drove out to the farm last Thursday afternoon to see all that B&G has going on.  We couldn’t have found it without Linda — even if her directions were a bit creative.  We drove out of town and then were to turn past the water tower at some point (if we went over the ridge we would have gone too far) before turning right on a dirt road (just past a sign for something) and then right on another dirt road and then left down yet another dirt road at the end of which we would find the farm.  And we did it all on the first try.  The day was glorious and we passed wild pheasant, pronghorns, and deer along the way.

“GREEN MANURE.”
LOCAL PRAIRIE GRASSES AND MORE, GROWING SIMPLY TO ENRICH THE SOIL.

All In The Family

Seeing Matt so blissful on the farm warmed our hearts and is especially meaningful for Jerry.  There were many farmers in Jerry’s (and Matt’s) ancestry.  Jerry’s father and grandfather began farming again outside Sioux Falls for a short time after Jerry’s grandfather retired.  When he was a boy, Jerry spent summer breaks at the farm of one of his great-uncles outside of town.  And Jerry’s fantasy (well, one of Jerry’s many fantasies) was to have a “gentleman’s farm” — no relying on it to make a living for Jerry, just a place to grow good tomatoes and sweet corn and to enjoy some chickens, pigs, black swans, and the like.

NEPHEW AND UNCLE SHARING THE BLISS.

We were overwhelmed by the size of the B&G operation, which includes vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even fruit trees.  We got to breathe in the fragrance of chocolate mint and other herbs the names of which I can’t remember because that’s too much like cooking for me (remember, I consider it cooking when I open a package of microwave oatmeal).

MATT DISPLAYING SOME FRESHLY PICKED (AND RINSED) POTATOES.

And, if you’ve never tasted a South Dakota potato freshly picked, you don’t know what you’re missing.  It was like eating an apple.  (And that may be news to nobody but city boys like me.)

I COULDN’T RESIST (BECAUSE MATT WASHED IT FOR ME).

Returning the Car After Seeing the Art

TURNED IN THE HONDA.  RENTED A FORD.
We timed our move to coincide as closely as possible with the expiration of our 4-year auto lease.  So this morning, another major item came off our ever-dwindling checklist.  We returned our Honda Element to the dealership here in Sioux Falls (we originally leased it while living in Las Vegas).  When I checked the odometer, I saw that we had driven 3,281 miles (5,280 km) since leaving California June 2.

We’re back here in Sioux Falls for a few days before we fly to Los Angeles to pick up our visas; we then head across the country to New York to see my mother, brother, and other family and friends; and then we head off to Spain.  We can’t believe the big move is now less than two weeks away.  We’re anxious to get going, but it’s a joy to spend a little more time here in Sioux Falls with our other amazing nephew, niece-in-law, and their three exceptional children (and I speak of them all entirely without bias of any kind).

MURALS ON THE TOWN

On our way from Pierre to Sioux Falls yesterday, we made a little stop in Huron to meet “Lavon,” an old friend of ours (via Jerry’s mother).  We hadn’t seen Lavon in a long time and had a really wonderful lunch.  She’s 89 and still bowls (which is how she met Jerry’s mother in the 1970s) and golfs.  But she doesn’t just bowl and golf; she bowls and golfs well.  She’s got awards and trophies covering the shelves and walls of her apartment.  Buffets are standard fare in South Dakota.  So, we met Lavon at her favorite buffet restaurant in Huron; and it was good.  I ate healthy: an omelette and fresh fruit… I enjoyed it.  Jerry and Lavon had hearty food and gooey pastries… they enjoyed theirs even more.

THE COWBOY SITTING BY THE DOOR IS ACTUALLY PART OF THE MURAL.

THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
I had never been in Huron before.  It’s basically east of the middle of nowhere — two hours east of Pierre, which is in the center of South Dakota.  And, man, am I ever going to “get it” from Linda for equating Pierre with the middle of nowhere.  But, while I’m at it, I might as well mention two of my favorite Pierre T-shirts (especially since Linda bought me the first one way back in 1984; and I still have it; and it STILL fits).  1) Pierre, South Dakota, is not the end of the world.  But you can see it from there”; 2) “Welcome to Pierre, South Dakota.  Set your watches back 10 years.”  You would truly appreciate T-shirt #1 had you spent Christmas 1983 with us in Sioux Falls (where we were stranded for three days) and Pierre.  The windchill was minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63 degrees Celsius)!

BUT BACK TO HURON IN SUMMER
The city of Huron (population approximately 13,000) was surprisingly charming with a wonderful public arts project — outdoor murals gracing the sides of downtown buildings.  The murals are intended to “depict unique aspects of Huron’s history.”  After spending a life-enriching three hours with Lavon, we were anxious to get back on the road to Sioux Falls.  But, we made a quick circuit of the town so I could snap away at some of the inspired and inspiring public art.

THE PAINTER ON THE LADDER IS LAVON’S FAVORITE.