Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where New Yorkers Buy Christmas Trees

Have you ever wondered where New Yorkers buy their Christmas Trees?

You and I would go to a huge tent to buy our trees or maybe go cut them down at a Christmas tree farm, but in the great New York tradition of comical convenience, New York City folks buy them from Christmas Tree stands just down the block.

Last night, after taking the picture attached below, I went up to the operator of the stand to make sure it was alright with her that I took the picture.  She said it was alright, and I explained why I took the picture:  I wondered where New Yorkers bought Christmas trees and wanted to share the picture with people at home.  Her name is Brooke, and we agreed that I would buy a tree from her if I decided to buy one for my apartment.  She and her husband have set up their shop in my neighborhood for the Christmas tree selling season; they came all the way from California to sell trees.

I saw Brooke again yesterday evening as I was walking home from work.  We had a nice conversation a couple of blocks away from her establishment.  I'm glad she remembered me, and I'm looking forward to passing by her in the coming weeks.

Brooke's Christmas Tree Stand at the corner of 84th Street and Broadway
in the Upper West Side, just two blocks from my apartment.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time with teachers

When the Baylor Graduate Accounting Program took its annual trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, the faculty sponsors and I spent some time together on one of their free evenings.

Charles Davis, Gia Chevis, and Tim Thomasson were the faculty sponsors on this year's trip.  We went to dinner at Heartland Brewery, a Times Square favorite of mine (mostly because it brews its own root beer, but they never put quite enough ice in it; it's remarkable how consistently low the ice level is).

We had the chance to catch up on life at Baylor, and they asked me about my time in New York.  After dinner, we got a cup of coffee at Starbucks (actually, we got multiple cups of coffee; we didn't all share one cup of coffee) and walked around Times Square.  That evening was a great time of fellowship.  It was nice to get a taste of Baylor.

I remember being a student on the same trip last fall.  I was a candidate for the researcher position in New York, and the trip was one week before my office visit.  I remember hoping that I would get to visit with the Baylor folks if I were selected for the researcher position, so this time with my teachers was really special.

Before we parted ways, we took this picture to remember our evening - and to put on the blog.
From my left, Charles Davis, Gia Chevis, and Tim Thomasson.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Old Friend Comes to Town

One of my good friends from high school, Sarah Redding, visited New York City a few weeks ago, and I got to see her while she was here.

Actually, Sarah is planning to move to the Brooklyn soon (or she might already have) to start a new job.

We had brunch at Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village a few Saturdays ago.

Sarah and Scott.
We served as the Boerne High School
drum majors back in the day.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shabbat Shalom

Rebecca Ann Sasdlk;jfa (again, not her last name; we are just avoiding her dad getting a Google Alert) is going through a conversion to Orthodox Judaism.  

Rebecca's faith and her religious practices are of great interest to me and to the other researchers, and she is always willing and happy to share with us.  

Orthodox Jews observe the Jewish Sabbath, or "Shabbat" from sundown on Friday evening to sundown on Saturday evening.  During that time, they do not perform tasks that are associated with the construction of the Tabernacle (e.g. starting a fire (using electricity)).  

On two occasions, Rebecca has hosted the researchers in her home for Friday night Shabbat dinner.  Those two nights have been some of the most fun and fulfilling evenings of my time here in New York so far.  She prepares a wonderful meal, and we all eat and have a great time of fellowship, playing games and visiting about the week.  

The phrase "Shabbat Shalom" is customary to say as a greeting once Shabbat has come.  I usually say it way more frequently than is probably appropriate (the first time I usually say it is on Friday morning, about nine hours before Shabbat.  But it's always respectful and in the "spirit of Shabbat."  

From all the researchers, we thank you, Rebecca, for inviting us into your home, into your life, and into your faith.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Long Island Labor Day

On Labor Day weekend, the researchers had an incredible opportunity:  to go yachting off the coast of New York's Long Island.

Mary Katharine's dad, John Farnell, in his capacity as the general manager of the Marine Max, a boat dealer and broker, in New York, has access to very large and very awesome yachts.  In his capacity has a gracious and awesome man, he invited the researchers to go yachting.

On the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, Will, Mary Katharine, Caitlin, and I took the Long Island Rail Road to Lindenhurst, New York and met Mr. Farnell for our trip.

We embarked from the Marine Max marina into what I think was the Great South Bay.  We rode around, got off at beach and touched the Atlantic Ocean (the first time for me), ate on the yacht, celebrated Mary Katharine's birthday, and enjoyed the perfect weather.

We are all grateful for for that unique experience.  Thank you, Mr. Farnell.

Relaxing on the yacht.  From left to right:  Will, Mary Katharine, Caitlin, and Scott.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My new friend, Anne

In order to cool down after my late afternoon runs in Riverside Park down by the Hudson River, I usually exit the park and walk around the streets of the Upper West Side.  I never walk to same path twice and never have a plan about which path I am going to take.  I am convinced that the Lord leads me into those paths for specific reasons - like meeting my new friend, Anne.

Tonight after my run, I was walking around with my headphones in, and I came to the corner of 89th and Broadway.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an older lady flagging me down.  I stopped and greeted her. She asked me to help her across 89th street because "all of the curbs are beaten to shreds" (which is true, none of the curbs/ramps are in good shape).  She took my arm, and we began to walk.  

We crossed the street, and she said that she would just hold onto the scaffolding from that point on, but I insisted that I walk her all the way home (it was only one block more, not out of my way, and the scaffolding was going to end halfway down the block which would not have been good for her).  

So we continued to walk and I began to get to know this amazing, storied lady named Anne.  After asking me about my profession, she told me that she is a musician by profession; she plays the violin, viola, and all of the keyboard instruments.  She spent 15 years as the principal violist for the Frank Sinatra Orchestra and traveled all over the world with him.  They were friends! She was a player in the New York Philharmonic and was a family friend of Leonard Bernstein (whom she affectionately called "Lenny" as I'm sure his friends did).  She has played on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr and has played on David Letterman's show.  She knew those guys personally.  

When Anne gets bored, she looks at words and makes anagrams from them.  She once made 29 words from the word "philharmonic" in her head with no pencil or paper.  She recalled a time when one particular conductor she worked with conducted Mahler, "It was so boring; he had no heart for it.  Some people would dig their toes into the ground to keep from falling asleep.  I just did anagrams."

"I did my work, did my homework, I've traveled all over the world.  You know the only place I haven't been, the one place?  The North Pole, but I figure I can just go to Macy's to see Santa Clause" she said.  Anne is very witty and charming, and she "doesn't like old people."  She said, "I don't want to need help because I don't want to annoy people as much as they annoy me!"  She was awesome and hysterical.  

I took her all the way to the door of her building where her doorman helped her inside.  She said, "Well you know where I live and you're in the neighborhood, so if you ever want to stop by, just ask for Anne."  I said I would, and I think I will.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

If I were a non-author reader of this blog, then I would assume one of two things about my most recent one month-long publication sabbatical:  1) that my time in New York hasn't warranted any blog posts (i.e. it has been uneventful, "nothing to write home about" or 2) that my time in New York has warranted so many blog posts that I haven't had time to write them.  Thank goodness for both you and me, #2 is the truer of the hypothetical choices.  Indeed, my time here is exceeding my expectations in every way, and I am sorry that I have been lazy in communicating that to you.

If you could be in my work area every week (we call it the "bullpen", where the researchers sit), then you would sense the pressure that I feel to blog.  And I'm sure that if I were closer geographically to my Texas friends, I would feel a similar pressure.  Or maybe everyone is just messing with me.  I am finally responding to that pressure, whether real or imagined.

You probably heard about Hurricane Sandy.  Thank you to everyone who thought of, prayed for, and contacted us that were affected by the storm.  Most people in uptown Manhattan (where I live) were fortunate to never lose power.  Folks in Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens were not as fortunate and have realized great loss as a result of the storm (i.e. homes, cars, and even lives).  In fact, thousands of New Yorkers are still without power, not to mention millions of other people all over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States.

In anticipation of the storm's approach, we stayed home and worked from our apartments on Monday.  As the storm approached, commuting to work became dangerous as the winds intensified.  Walking was the only possible mode of transportation:  the New York City subway system shut down on Sunday night (that's how I get to work).  It moves 8.5 million people every day.

During my lunch hour on Monday, I walked down to the banks of the Hudson River in Riverside Park to see the water.  To my surprise, many other people had the same idea, playing down by the water, unaware of the damage that would soon be done.  It reminded me of the men playing hockey with the iceberg ice on the forward deck of Titanic.

The parks were technically closed, but thousands of people, including me, ignored the police tape that read "police line do not cross" to seek the adventure of being a part of this storm.  At one point, a police car pulled up near the water and began to shout through his speaker "the park is closed!  Everyone must leave now!"  As I passed that police officer, I intended to continue walking, thinking that it was a recording whose advice I did not need to heed.  I was wrong.  "The park is closed!  Everyone must leave now!  Yes, you, sir!  You in the shorts!  Turn now and leave the park now!"  It was a real officer.  I couldn't ignore him.

I lost cable/internet/phone on Monday night and stayed home on Tuesday as well.  The researchers were back in the office on Wednesday.  Some subway and bus service was restored on Thursday.  This city is resilient, but normalcy will still take several weeks, maybe months, to return.  I am very fortunate; nothing bad happened to me.  But there are millions of others for whom that is not the case.  Pray for them.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Happy Homecoming

I woke up this morning to watch the Baylor Homecoming Parade, the largest collegiate Homecoming parade in the country, part of the Homecoming celebration that started it all back in 1909.

Seeing the Baylor Family at Homecoming, at its finest, was a very happy thing for this expatriated Texan.  I wish I could have been there - to sing last night at Singspiration, to feel the heat of the bonfire, to watch the parade pass by, to sit with my family at the game against Kansas, to sense the community, the tradition, the Family.

Thanks to the Baylor Chamber of Commerce for the hard work they did, to everyone else who had a hand in Homecoming, to Lori and John for hosting the parade telecast, to everyone who made me feel like I was in Waco this weekend.  I appreciate it very much.

Happy Homecoming.  See you next year.