Friday, August 30, 2019

When The News Hits Home

I found this google image of the old apartment building my family lived in in Newark, NJ in the 1950s, when I was writing my memories of growing up and posting the old stories here on the blog last year.
I've been thinking about this old apartment building again ever since I read the news that Newark, NJ has a serious lead pipe water problem. It made me wonder if my siblings and I were exposed to lead during our childhood years. We lived in that apartment until I was 8 years old.

So I went to the city website and put in the address to see what it said about the water there. Uh-oh. This came up.
If you don't click on the pic, here's what it says: Our records show that this residence has a lead service line, was built before 1986, and is connected to the Pequannock system. The city recommends you pick up a filter from a distribution center and register for the Lead Service Replacement Program.

So my siblings and I are wondering what the effects of lead are that may still have an impact on our bodies all these many, many years later. I think there really is no way to know. It just is a little bit unnerving to know that 60 years ago we were drinking water out of lead pipes. Let me just say here, UGH.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

An Old Post Revisited

I called my cousin Donna on Tuesday to wish her a Happy Birthday on her 70th trip around the sun. She asked me if I still had any of the old photos of us when we were young. So I looked around on my computer and on the blog. I found this old post. That's Donna standing next to the carriage and my older brother behind it. My twin and I were probably two year olds in this photo. I first posted this on August 20, 2007. Rereading it really touched me, especially the reference to the August light. Here we are in the August light again, and I am ever so much still that little girl wanting to know it all.

I keep coming back to this story in my life. I start to tell it here on the blog, but then give up every time. I want to describe this moment that seemed to change everything, but really changed nothing at all. It was just a moment...

When I was maybe eleven or twelve, my older brother played Senior League baseball. He loved sports and was very competitive. I was not a sports kid at all, and did not really like competition. In fact when my siblings got together to play a card game or a board game, I would always opt out, and they would sing to me: Every party has a pooper that's why we invited you, party pooper. Yup, that was their anthem for me. Ms Party Pooper. Maybe I've already told you all of this before, I can't remember. But this is about a story about a different memory, so I'll get back to it.

My older brother played baseball on long summer days in New Jersey. The whole family would go out to the field to watch him. He was a good ballplayer. We did a lot of things together as a family. We went bowling, or to Asbury Park, or out to dinner at Snuffy's. It was that era in the suburbs when we knew all of our neighbors, and we felt safe to be on the streets day or night. We played lots of different games, some that we made up, like treasure hunts or Baby Face Nelson and the gun moll (that would be me, of course). We put on plays, and played many games of pretend. I liked those the best.

Yet, as all siblings do, we each revolved in our own orbits. I wrote secret poems, and love songs to The Beatles. My twin brother had a paper route and wanted to be a drummer. My sweet little sister followed me around, hoping to catch up to be my age. My older brother played sports and went out on dates with girls. We lived under the same roof, four suburban kids in 1964.

I think it must be the August light that reminds me of this moment, but one August day in that long ago summer, I remember walking into our suburban home and seeing my older brother sitting in the white, curved family-room chair. He was wearing his baseball uniform and was talking animatedly about the game he'd just played. I stared at him for a long time, trying to understand what it was that made him my brother. How is it that this person and I are related as siblings? Who are we? Who would we have been if my mother had not married our father, or our father had married someone else? I found it exhilarating to consider the unique way we were connected. I stared at him, suddenly aware of our cells and how alike they must be. It made me feel closer to him than I ever had in my life. And strangely, at that moment, I felt a kinship with all humans. If my brother and I were this closely related, I wondered who else was I distantly related to; and wasn't I, if I could just trace back in time, related to everyone? How could it be otherwise, my 12-year old mind wanted to know.

That was the moment.

I wanted to break open all the rocks in the yard and look for fossils. I wanted to see the world through a microscope and telescope at same time. I suddenly wanted to understand everything all at once.

When I came back from that long stare, I saw that I was just looking at my older brother in his baseball uniform telling a story. I was just a girl who was giddy about the poetry of life.

Still am.

Do you have a moment that turned on the light switch to the world?

Photograph: Older brother behind the stroller, my twin brother and I being the Buddha twins, and cousin Donna hanging out with the family. Newark, New Jersey backyard of our apartment, circa 1954.

Friday, August 23, 2019

High Voltage Sounds

Every now and then when we're out at the marsh and walk past the high voltage wires, I hear a crackling sound. Roger doesn't hear it out there. I once tried to record it using the video/audio setting on my camera, but it really didn't pick up the sound. On Thursday we were out there and I heard it again. I set our iPhone on video record and got this. Roger listened to the recording and heard the sound for the first time. It's only 15 seconds of it, but I got it. Turn your volume way up!

I moved the phone around to see if one direction might pick it up more  than another. It sounds louder on the phone, but this does in some way convey that crackling sound. Scientific American did a piece on this sound, it's called the corona discharge.
The degree or intensity of the corona discharge and the resulting audible noise are affected by the condition of the air--that is, by humidity, air density, wind and water in the form of rain, drizzle and fog. Water increases the conductivity of the air and so increases the intensity of the discharge. Also, irregularities on the conductor surface, such as nicks or sharp points and airborne contaminants, can increase the corona activity. Aging or weathering of the conductor surface generally reduces the significance of these factors.
As you can see from this short video it was a foggy morning. What you can't see is that it was also pretty humid.  It wasn't crackling hot out there, but the high voltage wires were definitely crackling away.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

the emperor's new fence

we finally tired of watching blackberries slowly swallow the house next door. we've been here four plus years. the house we view while washing dishes has been unoccupied for at least seven years. someone owns it and pays the property tax, but pays the house no mind. we have never seen anyone there, nor have the neighbors who have lived here longer than we have. it is a bit weird to live next to the eyesore of the neighborhood.

we are replacing the fence between our houses with a taller fence with a foot of lattice above. the top of the original was about where the third lateral down is in the picture, so we could see the sea of berry vines. the top space will be filled with lattice. the rest with solid boards. we will adorn it with fence art. more fence art.

Friday, August 16, 2019

50 Years Later

I originally posted this on the blog ten years ago, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. Here we are ten years later and a full half century past that weekend in 1969. It's interesting to look back and be utterly grateful that we took a chance, my sibs and I, and headed out that Friday morning on a trip that would be remembered for a lifetime. My twin brother and I were 17 years old; my sister was 16; our older brother was 20. We didn't bring food or a camera. We borrowed sleeping bags from our neighbors because we had never camped out in our lives. We weren't ready in any way for what we were about to experience, but we went with the enthusiasm of the moment and were not let down. We only spent one night and one morning there. Friday night we heard Tim Hardin, Richie Havens, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez. We didn't really sleep Friday night at all. The sound of a half a million people is pretty interesting. There may have been music Saturday morning, but we were sidetracked by looking for food, standing in long lines for the outhouses, and listening to Wavy Gravy tell stories and messages from the stage. We left on Saturday afternoon for the trip back home, smiling the whole way. We went to Woodstock!

When this book first came out ten years ago, the sales page website had a quote from me on it. I was so thrilled. Still am!
They came from the city, they came from the country, they drove hundreds of miles and hitch-hiked across the state to be there for day one of a three-day music festival built on a platform of peace. Learn about the experiences, the adventures and the lasting memories from the people who spent three days in a farm field, in the mud and rain and witnessed the transformation of three ordinary days into an extraordinary event known as Woodstock.

"Everyone looked just like us," remembers Robin Chanin, then a 17-year-old from suburban New Jersey who was among the nearly 500,000 attendees. "It was a great equalizer. No one stood out. There was a moving river of blue jeans and flowing hair, lots of beads, embroidery and flowers. We parked our car in a field with others, and not knowing where to go, we joined the throng and the movement simply took us there."

That's me they're quoting. I really am almost famous!

I looked through the book again and found this as well.

When I wrote this post ten years ago, I had sent a copy of the book to my mom. She was also using the internet back then, so I sent her the link to the page advertising the book with my quote. I asked her after she had seen the webpage advertising the book, "Now aren't you glad you let us go?"

"Yes and no, Robin, yes and no." I think she secretly loved that we were the rebellious young people she and my dad had raised us to be.

We went to Woodstock, my sibs and I. Wild young people we were back then. Fifty years is such a long time ago. Some dreams persist.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Monday, August 12, 2019

Looking For Distractions

News and politics are driving us crazy. Seriously. We seem to be in such dire straits here that we're seriously considering moving to Canada (if they would take us temporarily) if the worst case scenario actually happens in November 2020. As I typed the number 2020 it made me think momentarily that we may be okay; we'll have perfect vision (in England that would be 6/6 perfect vision); we'll know the truth; we'll rescue ourselves. Then I realized how absurdly ludicrous that thought is. We need a back up plan, an escape. I'm in a heightened state of panic. We went to the marsh for a walk,  to forget the daily barrage of bad news, to breathe the ocean air, to see if the birds had returned from their summer sojourns to the north. The air was beautiful, but the birds are still mostly gone. We did see this heart that a few birds made for us. We rejoiced in the gift. Forget politics it said, we'll make you smile. And this was true.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Almost Wordless Wednesday: A Tree

We pass this tree on the way up the hill to one of the food markets in town. I see so many thing when I look at it. I posted the image on Facebook and asked friends what they saw and got such wonderful responses. So, I thought I'd share it here on the blog as well. I see women's bodies, a donkey's head, barn owls in profile. What do you see?

Monday, August 05, 2019

The Beach Walk

When we made it up to Houda Cove on Saturday morning it was still pretty foggy out there. But there is just something about the sounds of waves, the ocean air, the far distance view way out into the Pacific that is always a celebration of beauty.

I don't usually post photos with stray humans in them, but I just so loved the rock island out there lit by the sun. It looked like an illusion. The closer rocks were still in the shade of the fog and trees.
One of our favorite things about this beach is all the sea life. If you click on the photo you'll see mussels, sea stars, and the most beautiful sea anemones (Anthopleura xanthogrammica).
We liked seeing how long this seaweed was and how it was so perfectly wrapped around the rocks. Wave or human action? I really don't know.
I looked at the sky wondering if there was a hint of a fogbow out there. I'm not sure, but there was definitely an arc that caught my eye.
But what really caught my eye was Roger walking his favorite beach at a minus tide on his birthday. It was a lovely morning adventure.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

77 Trips Around The Sun

The rocky walk down to the beach
If all goes as planned we should be out at our favorite beach early this Saturday morning for a significant minus tide walk. It's a special morning we'll be enjoying out there-- Roger will be celebrating his 77th trip around the sun. What a grand coincidence it is to have a tide of -1.4  on such an occasion.
Here's a little bit of what we hope to see when we get there. It's always beautiful. We're bringing a thermos of tea, slices of toast and jam, and the delight of having breakfast while the waves roll in. We're so looking forward to the adventure.