Family time in London

One of the great things about going to visit family living in a historic and dynamic city is that you get to experience non-touristy, neighbourhood life. (I hope all my UK and Commonwealth friends will appreciate my remembering to put the u in.) L, E, and ABC live with L’s parents in Plaistow. The row houses there remind me of ones that you see in some US cities.
Larry's parents' house in London
L’s parents love gardening. The weather in London is mild enough for flowers outdoors in the winter. There were definitely no flowers co-existing with Christmas wreaths at our house in upstate New York!

We were surprised to see a tree full of parakeets! Apparently, escaped parakeets have led over the decades to thousands of these birds flying about London.
parakeets in London!

We learned that while most of the utilities are underground, the phone lines are not. Londoners get a lot of use from one utility pole!
London telephone lines

While we sometimes went in a family car, we most often got around by train or bus. Never having lived in a large city with good public transportation, I appreciated the extensive network of routes. While people in the US tend to think of double-decker buses as tourist vehicles, they are the common bus on most routes. They can carry twice as many people as regular buses and there are definitely a lot of people on the move.
London bus station
ABC loves to go on the buses and trains, especially when she can sit in the front of a train car or the top level of a bus. She likes to pretend she is driving.

Another advantage of being with Londoners is that they can direct you to phenomenal neighbourhood fish ‘n chips shops that a tourist would never find. We decided on haddock and there was so much food it overflowed the plates!
London fish 'n chips
It was also great to have so many home-cooked meals, especially when we had Filipino dishes. Given that most of us came down with a cold, it was especially great to have homemade soup.

Review(ish): A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I may have made a mistake in my quest to catch up on movies.

Because I admire Tom Hanks as an actor and Fred Rogers as a loving and generous soul, I wanted to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I had appreciated the 2018 documentary on Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and wanted to see what more this fact-inspired fictional movie had to say. I knew that it was about a journalist who had written a piece about Fred Rogers, but little else, other than that Tom Hanks had been nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor rather than Best Actor.

I found the juxtaposition of the much darker story of the journalist, Lloyd, played by Matthew Rhys, with the gentle, caring, spiritual depth of Fred Rogers to be jarring. I also hadn’t known that the death of a parent is a major theme in the movie; while the situation in the film is very different from my own recent experience, that aspect of the story was still upsetting for me.

My reaction reminded me of my response to the film Julie & Julia, another film about an unlikely pair of protagonists in which I reacted positively to the elder and negatively to the younger. An aside: the link in the prior sentence is to a blog post I wrote in 2014 about my reaction to the film and blogging. Re-reading it just now was… an experience – and a chance to look back at a post from early in my blogging and poetry days and reflect on where I am now as opposed to where I thought I might be. At any rate, I think it still stands up as a decent piece of writing, so, if you have the time and are so inclined, check it out.

When my daughters were young, PBS was a mainstay in our house. I admit that I had a more enjoyable time watching Sesame Street with the girls than Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I wasn’t a fan of the slow pacing and I was not at all a fan of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Every time someone said, “Correct, as usual.” to King Friday the XIII, I cringed. Over the years, I’ve learned to think about it more from the child’s viewpoint and understand that the show was built to give children the time and space to deal with their whole range of emotions. This was not readily apparent to me as a young parent.

There is one episode that has always stayed with me. Yo-Yo Ma was Mr. Rogers’ guest and was playing a movement of one of the Bach cello suites. Fred asked him if he played it differently after he had had children and Yo-Yo Ma said that he did play it differently after he became a parent, that the emotions underlying his interpretation were changed because of his children. As a musician myself, this resonated with me and has stayed with me over the (many intervening) years.

Some of the most emotionally resonant moments in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood for me were ones where something Mr. Rogers was saying reminded me of my own family. For example, there is thread in the story about Mr. Rogers’ attachment to his puppets, like Daniel Tiger, even though they were getting worn. In an attempt to draw him out, Mr. Rogers asks Lloyd about his own childhood “special friend”, which turned out to be a stuffed toy called Old Rabbit.

My mind immediately flashed to a story of childhood toys that take on larger meaning. When my daughter E and her spouse L had to spend major amounts of time on different continents while doing research or while waiting for the visa process to finally complete, they would exchange their favorite stuffed toys. E’s cow “Kuh” and L’s duck “Pineapple” made quite a few transoceanic flights and are now ensconced in London permanently with E, L, and their daughter ABC. To show you the extent to which Kuh and Pineapple were connected to E and L’s love story, here is the wedding cake topper that a friend made for them:
Beth and Larry's caketopper

Back to the movie. When the journalist Lloyd finishes his piece, his spouse reads it, saying that it is brilliant but not really about Mr. Rogers. I feel the same way about this blogpost, which is why I said in the title that it is “review(ish)”. Fred Rogers’ greatest gift was caring about each person he met on a deep level, meeting them where they were and helping them connect with and express their own feelings. It is all to the good that this film, the documentary, the vast archives of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the non-profit organization he founded, re-named Fred Rogers Productions after his death, which now produces Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, serve as continuing reminders to accept ourselves and care for others.

Mr. Rogers often said or sang, “I like you just the way you are.” That message to me is part of the call, expressed in Christianity and held by those of many other spiritual paths, to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who taught by his example. I appreciate those who are carrying his message in the present and into the future.

The world needs to hear that message now more than ever.
*****
This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/09/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-9th-2020/

not the way to start the day

Yesterday morning, our doorbell rang quite early. I had Baby ABC on my arm when I went to answer it. Our across-the-street neighbor was there, letting me know that there was a dead cat in our driveway.

We do not have a cat and, due to severe allergies in my family, I try not to even touch cats, because the dander and saliva that cause allergic reactions can be carried on my clothing. I am also not a fan of people letting their cats roam the neighborhood because they tend to stalk the birds and chipmunks with whom we share our yards.

From my neighbor’s description, I knew the cat was one I had seen frequently in our backyard. It always ran in the direction of the neighbor to our right, so I had assumed it was theirs, as their previous cats had often wandered in our yard.

I had to leave soon to head to church to facilitate a study group, so I grabbed a towel, wrapped the frozen cat in it, and carried it to their house. All the cars were gone, so I left the cat near the front walk, instructing T to write a note to them and bring it over to the house. By the time T arrived, the grandma of the household was there, but it turned out that the cat wasn’t theirs. She had the idea to contact one of our younger neighbors who is a volunteer firefighter and out and about more frequently in the neighborhood and who stood a better chance of knowing the real home of the cat. By the time I returned home, the cat was gone, so I am guessing that the family must have been located.

A plea: If you take a cat into your home, please keep it safe indoors; if you do choose to let it wander, please put on a collar with your address so people can find you if need be – and a bell to help save our endangered songbird population.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/25/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-25th-2018/

 

Settled into Kaimuki

I am still in Honolulu, which probably seems to be the longest vacation ever, but it is really an extended visit with family.

It started out looking pretty vacation-y with B and I staying in a Waikiki condo/hotel, although he was working via Internet part-time and I managed to get sick for a while, which cut down on some vacation-like activities.

The real reason for the visit, though, was to spend time with our elder daughter E while her husband is away doing PhD research.  After B went back East to travel for business, I moved into E’s apartment which is in the Kaimuki neighborhood, mauka (toward the mountain) from Waikiki. Kaimuki is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Honolulu and the house in which she lives, now broken into several apartments, is old enough to apply for status as a historic home. Fortunately, that doesn’t preclude its having solar panels on the roof.

It is a mostly residential neighborhood, but includes some churches, schools, restaurants, and shops. Having never lived in a city, I am unused to neighborhood identity, but I’m glad that E and L live here because of the sense of community. President Obama’s sister lives in the neighborhood, although he doesn’t come to visit her when he comes to Hawai’i because the security would be a nightmare on the somewhat narrow and hilly streets. (I’m sure she gets to go visit him and his family, though.) When Ruthie Ann Miles won the 2015 Tony for best feature actress in a musical for her role as Lady Thiang in The King and I, E immediately knew that she was from Kaimuki. E and L were married at St. Patrick, the Catholic church in the neighborhood, where they are active in the music ministry.

I have been learning my way around and doing what I can to help out. I bring E to work and back with the rental car, which gives her a break from her usual bus routine and shortens her commute time by half an hour each way. I also do some of the shopping and chores while she is working so we have more time for visiting and relaxing when she is home.

So, I’m not really on a five week vacation – just lucky that, for now, my daughter lives in Hawai’i!

Slow recovery

Nearly every night on the news, there is coverage of devastation in some US state due to flood, wildfire, mudslide, tornado, hurricane, or ice/snowstorm. Solemn footage of some reporter surrounded by a tangle of building debris or downed trees and powerlines. If the disaster is widespread enough, the coverage may even go on for a couple of weeks. Invariably, though, the reporters and national attention move on to the next disaster scene, masking the truth that recovery, if possible, takes months or years.

I drove today though one of the neighborhoods in my town which was most severely affected in the September 2011 flood of the Susquehanna and its tributaries in the Southern Tier of New York. We had received ten inches of rain when the remnants of tropical storm Lee fell on ground already saturated by the fringe of hurricane Irene days before. First, there was flash flooding of the creeks, followed by record flooding of the Susquehanna. Some photos we took are here:

  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2019747698814.2103178.1397554070&type=1&l=f4365bbc43

 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2016067046800.2103029.1397554070&type=1&l=3df89ce2ba

You won’t see any of the neighborhood pictures here because it was cordoned off. Not even residents were allowed in for days. Even after the river had receded and water had been pumped out of houses and basements, storm water and sewage from the broken infrastructure system flowed into the basements, re-filling them. Some houses had to be pumped out four or five times.

Some houses were condemned. Some were repairable, but homeowners, many who had lived in their homes for decades, weren’t able to withstand the stress of rebuilding and worrying if it would happen again. A few properties were abandoned, while others were sold to speculators for pennies on the dollar. Some people were able to repair their homes with the help of federal flood insurance, while others relied on non-profits, friends, relatives, and savings to rebuild. Other homes were put on the market, some in a livable state and some not, but buyers were hard to come by.

There had initially been a tussle in Washington over funding FEMA’s response to Irene/Lee, but that was resolved. New York’s state government was very little help to us.

It wasn’t until the federal funding battle after Superstorm Sandy that New York State went to bat for us so that our area finally was able to get buyouts for some of our damaged properties, getting partial compensation to property owners and funds for the towns to tear down the houses and convert them to green space. It was too late for many of the affected homeowners, but it has helped some, and transformed the neighborhood into what I saw today.

The street is a patchwork of occupied houses with tidy lawns next to homes for sale – some repaired and some, surrounded by tall grass and overgrown shrubs, still in their flood-damaged state – next to lots where houses were recently leveled, covered in straw to protect grass seed, next to  larger-than-expected expanses of lawn where the demolitions were long enough ago  for the grass to have grown in. The nursing home that flooded is still sitting empty; they are building a new home in another part of town.

It still saddens me every time I drive through. For the neighborhood, nearly three years later, recovery continues, but it will never be complete.