Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Door Project - Gone

"There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all"
-- Beatles, In My Life

While I went around New York City trying to take a photograph of all the doors that were important in my life, I couldn't help but think of the lyrics to the Beatles song, In My Life.

I decided to take some photos of the places as they stand now --  an empty lot, a rebuilding project, and an altered entrance.

When I retired from practicing law, I decided to spend a year focusing on ME.  Before that, it was school, then work, then family, and there was never enough time to get to do the things I wanted to do.  That year off gave me time to explore quilting, acrylic painting, and ceramics. 

My sister is the one who got me interested in ceramics and convinced me to take a class at the 53rd Street YWCA.  The spot where it once stood is now an empty corner lot.
53rd St YWCA

Many years ago, she introduced me to a very talented ceramic artist, Pak Hing Kan.  I'm sorry to say that Pak Hing just died this week.  That woman was so kind. She knew she was losing her battle with cancer, so she offered me her fabric stash two months ago.  She told me which ones she had designed, having been a fabric designer at one point in her life.  I felt honored that she remembered that I was a quilter and wanted me to have her fabrics.

Now the place where we first met is gone and so is she.

Elmhurst Library
I wrote about the Elmhurst Library being torn down and how it motivated me to hurry up and start this project. Here is a photo of the current construction site.

This library was the place I came to as a child, all year long, to get books to read to my heart's content.

Add caption
Since September 11, 2001, much of the landscape around the country has changed, but the security measures around New York have also altered the appearances of many places.  Besides the large planters placed in front of some office buildings, look at what they did to the United Nations!  I could not get a decent shot of the entrance because of the security tent.  Of course we're not alone in this -- some Paris landmarks also have security tents.

Why is this place even in my Door Project? Well, this is where I spent many hours volunteering for UNICEF at the gift counter in the basement while a student and even a little when I was a lawyer.

During Christmas time, I would often be assigned to off-site locations such as in a bank.  One year, I worked at a bank located in the lobby of the World Trade Center.  Obviously, that door no longer exists due to the collapse of the Twin Towers.  I didn't include a photo of the construction site or new memorial built in that area because I'm not really sure where that bank once stood amongst all the rebuilding.

Even if the door no longer stands where it once did, I can still have my memories.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Door Project - Work

Looking back on my life, I realized that I didn't have that many paid jobs. The ones which paid me more were already covered in the first Door Project entry covering Midtown Manhattan.

Former FH Community House Day Care
My first paid job was as a day care assistant at the Forest Hills Community House Day Care Center. That was the summer when I turned fourteen.  I went searching for the place last week, but there wasn't a sign anywhere to be seen.  I guess they have since closed down. 

Each day I looked forward to when the kids had nap time and when I got to leave for home.  There were two important things I learned that summer: (1) I don't like to be with a large group of four year olds; and (2) they bite! Yup, I was bitten by a small boy.  He didn't want to go back inside after playground time was over. As I reached to hold his hand, he bit me on my forearm.

During my middle teenage years, I did have another job which I did at home -- crocheting the finishing touches to knitted evening wear.  It's hard to explain but I'll try.  Pieces of a sweater set or gown were made on a knitting machine and packaged together.  My sister and I would go pick them up from a place in Flushing (no photo because I don't remember where it was exactly) and bring them back home to put together into wearable items with fancy designs on the collars, hems and/or sleeves.  Since we were paid by the number of outfits we finished, I learned to do it really fast.  Many people who see me crochet are amazed by how fast I can do it.  Well, this is how I got to be so quick with my hands.  The two important lessons I learned from this job: (1) The faster I worked, the more I would be paid; and (2) stay in school so that I wouldn't have to do this type of work for a living.

One Hogan Place - Manhattan DA's Office
I spent a summer at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office - my dream job, or so I thought. As a legal intern working in the Frauds Bureau, covering white collar crimes, I did research, wrote memos, and even transcribed some wiretaps.  The people in the Frauds Bureau were really nice. 

The pay was really low. In fact, I received a public interest service grant from school to supplement my stipend.  Instead of fancy meals and events that big firms lavished on summer associates, I got to see "The Tombs", the Morgue, 911 dispatch center, and Central Booking. One of the highlights of my summer was a police ride-along with the 13th Precinct.

The three important lessons I took away from this experience were: (1) the criminal justice system isn't fair; (2) I did not have what it takes to be a DA; and (3) the police have a really tough job on the streets.

NYC Corporation Counsel
An unpaid legal internship that I had was with the New York City Corporation Counsel.  This is the City's legal department which handles non-criminal legal matters.  I was working in the Strategic Litigation and Medical Malpractice (SLAMM) unit doing legal research and writing legal documents.  I even got to write a motion to dismiss and won!  It was a pretty straight-forward case which shouldn't have included the City as a defendant but some lawyers sue everyone.  What did I learn from this job? (1) NY City gets sued for a lot of stuff and a lot of money; and (2) I hate lawyers who do things to give lawyers a bad reputation!

And there you have it, the doors which I walked through for work and the lessons I learned from each place.  I will have to discuss all the places I have volunteered with in another blog entry.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Door Project - Schools

I spent the last two days gathering more photos of doors around New York City that were a part of my life.

Today's blog entry will be about my schools -- English and Chinese. I guess it would make sense to put them in chronological order from elementary school all the way up to law school.

PS 4 - Manhattan
Schooling started in the Lower East Side, at P.S. 4, until we moved to Queens. 

In first grade we had to have a handkerchief pinned to our blouse and the teacher checked our fingernails to make sure they were clean.  Those were the days!

I also remember doing a class performance to the song "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone.

I don't know which doorway of the building I entered but I liked the look of this one. 

PS 13 Q - Elmhurst

When we moved to Queens, I went to P.S. 13Q for a few years. My favorite year was third grade when I was in an "open classroom" with a fabulous teacher. We had learning centers, not rows of seats. We got to choose where we wanted to spend our time. It was so progressive.  I remember it fondly. 

JHS 73Q - Maspeth
After that, it was a daily bus ride on the 58 (except when there were none) to and from JHS 73Q in Maspeth.  There were many happy times there. Mrs. Selma S. Seid taught me how to play the viola and even loaned me an instrument so that I could continue playing when I went to high school.  I helped Mr. Mifsud as a monitor. Many hours were spent in the library helping Mrs. Stalworth.  Mr. Sosis and his law class were special. Then there was Math Team. Yes, I was a nerd.  Mr. McCabe and Mr. Lewensohn coached us and took us out to celebrate the victories.  Mrs. Bonano was the Senior Advisor and allowed us to hangout in her office. I tried to learn French from Mr. Jones, but to no avail.  I met some of my closest friends there. 

Former Stuyvesant High School - 15th Street
Stuyvesant High School.  I made it in but didn't want to commute an hour each way on the subway.  In the end, I was glad my parents insisted. If not, I would not have received a great education and would not have met some of the best people in my life.  I'll never forget some teachers like Mr. Ritterman, Mrs. Abramson, Mr. Mechanick, Mr. Todras, and Mr. McCourt.  Some teachers I forgot right after the semester was over. 

Stuyvesant High School - 16th Street
I went to my 25th reunion but didn't go to the 30th. The friends who want to stay in touch, do. That's good enough for me.

So, that was my time with the New York City public school system.  I made the best of it and can't really complain about the free education.


Next came college.  I decide to go to New York University (my safety school) because I was able to pay my own way after all the scholarships and grants were deducted from the tuition. I worked a lot of hours but I did it with some student loans.  I spent the majority of my time in the buildings photographed.  Unfortunately, Loeb Student Center was torn down to make way for a bigger and better building.  That is where I ate many meals, hung out in the lounge and at the offices of the Asian Cultural Union (ACU), saw movies, attended parties, and even modeled in a fashion show.

NYU - Tisch Hall

NYU - Weaver Hall, Courant Institute

NYU- Coles Sports Center

NYU - Bobst Library

NYU - Main Building, Waverly Place
NYU- Main Building, Washington Place

NYU School of Law
At last, my final place of education in English -- New York University School of Law.  This was my dream school. 

This was also the only school where I felt like a minority.  In all my years in New York, I never felt like an outsider.  We had sit-in protests and meeting with Dean Sexton about getting a more diverse faculty.  In the end, I think we did make a difference. 

This is the place where I went to school pregnant with my first child.  I vowed that I would graduate with my class and I did!

NY Chinese School in Chinatown
Now: Chinese School. 

During my lifetime, learning Chinese has always been a great challenge.  In my younger years, I was forced to go to Chinatown's Chinese school. So what if Cantonese was the only dialect they taught and I didn't understand them!  Later on, they began offering Mandarin.  I still didn't do too well. 

I would regret this later in life and ended up enrolling in the Chinese school where I sent my children, Ming Yuan Chinese School.  Believe it or not, it is housed in P.S. 13Q on Sundays.  Here I was, an adult going to Chinese school in my elementary school building -- is there a message in that?

That's it for today's installment of my "Doors Project" covering the schools where I went for formal education.  Stay tuned for another entry which will include the places I went to in order to learn fun things like ceramics, quilting, and painting.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Door Project

95 Madison Avenue - LW Stern Associates
I've been thinking about all the doors I've gone in and out of in New York throughout the years. My plan is to take photos of them and make a scrapbook detailing where the door is and why it is important to me. For many years I have been planning to do this but I never seemed to have the time or a camera on me. I am also a procrastinator.

Well, the Elmhurst branch of the Queens Public Library has been completely torn down and I never got to take a photo of it's entrance. This has been nagging at me and a constant reminder to stop procrastinating. If only I had started my project last summer! Well, I spent so much time there reading and borrowing books since this was one of the few places we were allowed to go to after school. It was a library which was built by a Carnegie grant. A piece of American history, and my personal history, is now gone.

This summer is going to be the summer I get it done -- YES, I swear it!

Yesterday, when I dropped off my son at a theater camp in Midtown, I hadn't totally planned out how I would kill the next seven and a half hours. Here was the time I never had. In my purse was an iPhone which takes fabulous photos. Duh, perfect timing, right?

As I sat in Starbucks eating breakfast and waiting for the Muhlenberg Library to open, I called my friend to see if she was free for lunch. Not in, left a message. I flipped through some knitting and crocheting books in the library for an hour until City Quilter opened. After buying some fabrics for a baby quilt, I called Lorna and found out that she couldn't meet me on such short notice due to a busy work day. I headed over to Bryant Park to read my book and eat my three organic carrots which I had packed from home. Still no thought given to the "Door Project".

Bear in mind, my day was unplanned so I had on a dress and a nice pair of shoes with some heels (in case I met up with my friend). It was going to be a hot and humid summer day -- high in the 90's.

After I started getting overheated from sitting in the shade at Bryant Park, I walked over to the Shake Shake to see if I could grab a quick snack. Well, the line was super long causing me to change my mind. At this point, I still didn't think about my "Door Project" despite having the time and camera. I had already missed the opportunity to take a photo of City Quilter and FIT, important places in my quilting life.

It wasn't until I started walking uptown on Madison that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so close to 95 Madison -- where I spent many years working at L.W. Stern Associates, a headhunting firm. I started working there when I was at Stuyvesant High School. I still remember my interview with Susan Fein and Hannan Watson. This is how I put myself through college. I even worked there for a short stint before law school. The job was office work and menial at times but I really liked the people. Happy memories at work and after work with my co-workers and boss.
350 Fifth Avenue - Abacus Group of America

And so it began, I stood across the street and took out my phone to take a shot of the door. It took a while to get the best photo since taxis and cars and people kept getting in my shot. At this point, I knew what I would do for the rest of the day. I walked up to the Empire State Building where I worked one summer, my first office job.

101 Park Avenue - Keely Drye & Warren
Next was 101 Park Avenue, for my corporate lawyer career at Kelley Drye & Warren. I was paid a lot but not many happy memories there. Unfortunately, Peking Park was no longer at 100 Park Avenue. That's where we had our wedding reception. A few more blocks north to 530 Fifth Avenue for my job between college and law school at Price Waterhouse.
530 Fifth Avenue - Price Waterhouse

By now, I am hot and need some air conditioning. So, I headed to the main branch of the NY Public Library. I happened upon the "Lunch Hour" exhibit tour and joined it. When my feet started hurting, I left and went outside to sit down for some more reading. Moving around Bryant Park for a breeze in the shade every chapter or so until it was time to pick up my son.

I didn't get as much accomplished on my "Door Project" as I had hoped but at least I started. I guess the theme for yesterday was "Work", which seemed to have been mainly in the Midtown area.

Next week, I will wear comfortable shoes, use the unlimited MetroCard, and get more places before they are gone. I'll pick different neighborhoods in order to be more efficient.

NOTE: The large planters in front of 530 and 101 were not there before.  I think those are post-9/11 additions. Also, I gave up waiting for people and vehicles to clear our of my shots, it was too hot!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sad Movies

I am one of those people who needs a couple of tissues for sad movies. But lately I have found myself crying more than usual while watching "touching" films such as "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and "The Help."

When I shared that I cried during "The Decendents", some people were surprised. I felt a little teary the second time I watched but didn't need a tissue for tears or to blow my nose. That was when I had my "a-ha moment" and figured out that it wasn't the story that made me sad but my inner emotions relating to the death of my father. Watching a character in the movie on life support brought back memories of my father's last few days with us in a coma in the ICU. After four years since his death, I still have trouble watching another person die.

I swore that I never wanted to make that decision for anotheIr living person.

Then our pet dog got very sick and there I was at the vet, making that end of life decision again. He wasn't in a coma or near coma state but he was in great pain. I cried so hard that day, my son was worried I couldn't drive home. Paul's death was like peeling the scab off of the open wound caused by Daddy's death.

At this point, I think the wound is gone. The scab has fallen off. But there is a great big scar that people may not see. The reminders of those two deaths and my involvement have left me more emotional when watching movies with related subject matter.

So, if a movie doesn't seem like something worth crying over, it may be because you are sitting there without the scar and memories I have which make me sad. Just pass the tissue and I'll be alright in a little while.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Homemade Toothpaste

I have decided to take the plunge into the world of do-it-yourself home products. After a long wait to get the peppermint essential oil, we made our toothpaste using a simple recipe which included baking soda, sea salt (for abrasion), peppermint essential oil (just for flavor), and filtered water. The recipe warned about the salty taste. It sure was salty to me, but that may be because I am on a restricted salt diet and no longer tolerate salty things. On the plus side, it got me to brush with more water and more rinsing until the saltiness was gone. My teeth feel nice and clean.

I added glycerin to half the toothpaste we made to see if there is any difference. There were also recipes calling for other ingredients and for using hydrogen peroxide together with the toothpaste. So many things to consider and try. Once I've tried all the different ones, I'll report back on what I found to be most effective and pleasing.

After that, the next thing I want to try to make is shampoo. I've read that there won't be bubbles anymore unless I add unnecessary ingredients. Not sure how I would feel without a big lather on my head. Not having a foaming mouth was not a problem for me (but I think the hydrogen peroxide should provide some chemical reaction resulting in bubbles).

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Somehow, this year, I am really not in any mood to celebrate "The Holidays" in any shape or form. I can't figure out what is bothering me but there's absolutely no motivation to decorate or host a dinner.

Maybe the basement flood in September, caused by a leaking water heater, resulting in months of cleanup and repairs drained my energy. Buying things to replace stuff we had to throw out resulted in expenses we didn't budget for. Dealing with an insurance adjuster who wasn't understanding didn't help the situation. Or, perhaps throwing out my artificial tree (which was a victim of the flood) was the catalyst. Maybe it was a more important part of Christmas in my life than I had realized.

Maybe it was the specific item requested for Christmas that killed it for me. I couldn't find a man's small, plain dark red or blue zippered hoodie in any nearby stores and ended up wasting time and energy, which I didn't really have to begin with. After buying it online from Target a few weeks ago, I find out that it was the only item I bought to be back-ordered. At least I found it last week and a huge burden was lifted.

Maybe I'm waiting for my sibling to invite me over for Christmas. I am tired of hosting it at my house.

Maybe it's the whole depressing state of affairs in this country. The economy is so bad with no foreseeable solution in the near future. Everything seems to cost more than ever. The political candidates are annoying with no foreseeable savior in the near future. The crime rate is higher and my fear is rising. When people start shooting cops, what hope do I have of feeling safe?

It's already December 21st. Only four more days until Christmas. Only ten more days until my birthday.

Something wonderful has to happen to get me out of this slump. I am grateful for all the nice things people have been doing for me. I really do know how lucky and blessed I am. Having some friends over at the house last Friday was fun but so short-lived. The giant box of See's candy from my big brother was very nice. JoAnn's tin of homemade holiday cookies was also nice. Michael bought me an autographed copy of "Charlie & Kiwi" to cheer me up. Seeing our friend in a Christmas show broke the negative mood for a day or two. Lunch at Angel's house yesterday was fun and the latkes were such a treat.

I wish I knew what was wrong with my holiday spirit this year. I can't even get myself to write a annual summary of what's been going on in our lives. Does anyone really care if I send one?