Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The 2018 State of The Borough

Fourteen some-odd months ago, the Seventh Borough News was last published on this site, urging our fellow Americans to get out and vote, on the eve of a national election of epic scale and vitriol.  Little did I know at the time, that GOTV effort would galvanize over 3 million ‘illegal’ votes to be cast for one of the candidates.  I had no idea my readership was so impactful.

But then things went dark. 

And there’s been no blogging for a year and change.  And it’s not for lack of interest or lack of desire.  I even considered starting a second blog, with a different theme – wait, I know what you’re thinking, this blog has a theme?? – but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t do everything all at once.  Or even any one thing at once, most days.  So I tell my half-dozen loyal readers to go vote and then I leave you in the lurch with no comment on the outcome. 

It went a little something like this:  Election day comes and I take the kids to the polls with me, and the hubs, because he’s off to the Amtrak right after we vote for a business trip. We’re at the polling place for six AM and I’m voter #13.  I took it as a lucky sign.  Drop the kids off, drop the hubs off, go to work, come home, pick up the kids, eat dinner, put them to bed and turn on the news. 

Turn off the news, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom (welcome to life after two c-sections), check my phone and see who was declared the victor and 45th president of the United States.  Oh, it was that guy who graced all the local NY papers throughout my childhood for being obnoxious and ostentatious.  Classy.  You know how the rest of this went down.

The next year was bumpy, contentious, border-line humane and full of so much anger.  There’s rioting in the streets, and crying in the streets, people being mowed down in the streets, gunned down at church, at concerts, there are wildfires, mudslides, multiple hurricanes, major confusion as to which Caribbean islands are American territory and tiki torches being used for non-tiki like purposes.  I read a full and recently published article on how to survive a nuclear bomb attack.  The good news is that my basement has thick concrete walls and is below ground level.  The bad news is that I work in a glass high-rise in Times Square.  It was a rough year to be a person.  And that’s just the first world.

This time doesn’t seem like a year, but a string of days fading in and out.  There’s always more to do, deadlines, responsibilities, a reason to get out of bed, a reason to stay in bed a little longer.  Lie in and listen to the scrape-scrape of metal shovels against icy flagstone front steps in the dead of winter.  Listen to the sweet birdsong of spring through open windows.  Listen to the tipsy banter of a neighbor’s gone-way-too-late summer backyard soiree.  Listen to rustle of dry fall leaves and the revving-up of leaf-blowers.  Listen to the soft whirring of the motors of those oversized blow-up Christmas lawn decor balloons, only a true outer-borougher could love/tolerate/encourage.  And here we are again, listening to the chained wheels of the snowplow barreling down the slushy street. 

Over the past fourteen months, we were all telling each other to get out and have your voices heard, scream louder than the next guy, shout it from the rooftops!  And beneath much of the noise was anger, and beneath the anger is fear, and beneath the fear is misunderstanding and mistrust, and beneath all that is our inability to be united and collective, and which leaves only the capacity for self-interest and single-mindedness. 

So for 2018, let’s try to stop out-talking each other, out sound-biting each other, out-raging each other and just listen.  Listen to your neighbors, Listen to the change of the seasons.  Listen to the world outside your own echo chamber.  Listen to the sound of someone else's voice, and the emotions buried within.  Listen to what’s being said, and especially to what’s not being said.  Let’s listen to each other, and therein, we can be heard.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bottom of the Ninth

Last Wednesday I did something I never typically do, and watched the World Series even though it had zero Mets representation.  I was even rooting for one side, Chicago, on the sole basis of their 108-year drought of Championship titles.  I couldn’t tell you one Cubs player, one Cubs coach and I kept second guessing myself as to which team was on the National League (Cubs) and which was on the American League (Indians).  But I felt in this match-up of World Series-starved teams, Chicago was in greater need of the win.  And in a series down 3-1, they were the underdogs of all underdogs. 

Game 7 was good baseball.  Chicago was first to score, but then it was tied, and Chicago pulled ahead, and Cleveland tied it up again.  The momentum moved from the Cubs to the Indians to the Cubs to the Indians and then back to the Cubs.  It pulled me in.  It put this die-hard second-generation Mets fan’s love of all things Blue and Orange allegiance to the side, and let me be enraptured by my love for the sport, my love of the game.

Honestly, for America ex-Chicago and ex-Cleveland, I don’t think it mattered who won this battle.  Only 37 seasons in the 112 years of modern World Series Championships have come down to such a close call with a game 7 winner-take-all scenarios.  Neither team was the incumbent champion.  The last time Cleveland won the World Series, Truman was president.  The last time the Cubs won the Fall Classic, Teddy Roosevelt was president, women didn’t have the right to vote and the Ford Model T was all the rage.  Both teams were due, but it would take seven games, and extra innings to name the winner.  It was a tight, close race. 

While watching game 7 on live television, I was abruptly shaken from my love-of-baseball euphoria by ads for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the commercial breaks.  And not because of the content of the ads, this campaign has been going on long enough, but I was surprised there actually were ads at all.  Excuse my lack of media-buying knowledge, I’m not sure if those commercials were aired here in New York specifically or if everyone across the country were seeing the same ads at the same time.  Because here in (down-state) New York, and in the Seventh Borough, we have made it to November without any real mass political solicitation by the presidential candidates.  The local races are advertising like crazy, but Hillary and The Donald have sent me zero mail.  Typical for national elections, I’m paid no mind. I’m not a political donor, I sway no constituencies, I’m from an undeniably ‘Blue’ state, I’m ignored from Day 1. 

As this blog began in 2013, this is the Seventh Borough News’ first presidential election cycle, so here is where we get to be un-ignored.  The election of 2016 has proved to be a tight, close race, especially as we wind up the last 48 hours of this mudslinger. 

  Like many of you, I cannot wait for this race to be over, but unlike the World Series (+/- Cleveland and Chicago), it does matter who wins this battle.   And unlike the World Series, which brought fans and fans of other teams, like myself, together, hopeful for an elusive champion, this election has been divisive and full of anger.  And the anger has turned into rage.  And the rage has brought all our demons to the fore.  And all the world is watching us become a worse version of ourselves.  We’re basically a 240-year-old having a temper tantrum.

I may not be a political hack, but I am a mother of two young children, so I’m well versed in temper tantrums.  Notably, they can sometimes be avoidable.  If the child (or the country) has their needs met, sufficient food, rest, comfort and stimulation, you can typically avoid the meltdown.  This is not always in your control, sometimes you get behind schedule, or you forget the diaper bag in the car, or you leave a favorite stuffed animal behind in a hotel room in Pennsylvania, and the world comes to an end on the Jersey turnpike.  Nobody’s perfect, but we can anticipate the needs of our charges and act.

The United States of America is basically having a meltdown because the republic is angry.  Our basic needs are not being met.  Our wages are stagnant, yet healthcare costs and higher education costs are growing exponentially.  Last week was open enrollment for our 2017 benefits at work, and as I clicked the link to the medical insurance premium data, I read the computer screen through squinted eyes and held my breath to see how much the increases would be for a family of four.  I braced myself for bad news. I got through it.  People are working harder and longer for less benefit, if they can even get the work they are seeking.  Certain segments of the country have been left behind.  On the Homefront, our security is at risk, and our protectors are also under threat.  Our infrastructure is rusting.  Our systems are dated.  Our Veterans go without.  Our population is changing.  Certain segments of the population are growing more marginalized.  Certain segments of the citizenry are getting wealthier and healthier and have all the right connections, while many others see no progress.  We’re not “Young, scrappy and hungry”, but rather bloated, disengaged and litigious (and that doesn’t make for good lyrics).  For the first time in maybe forever, there is a sentiment across the country that our children will NOT be better off than we are.  The American Dream is dying.

That work-hard-make-progress contract between the governed and the governors, which has steadily fueled this country for more than two centuries, is at risk of being voided.  Yet somewhere along this journey, we misinterpreted the signals.  We’ve accepted that a deterioration of the social contract has granted us permission to be a republic behaving badly.  Perhaps it’s due to the painfully slow ‘jobless recovery’ and the increasing threat of terrorism, greased by the ease and anonymity of social media account and internet posts, we’ve unleashed our latent racist, misogynistic and xenophobic tendencies for all the world to see.  Let’s be honest, America, many of us have never worked through our demons, we just manage to keep them under wraps in front of the company.   

This is disheartening, but what’s worse, is that this is mostly avoidable, so let’s avoid it.  We can do better.  We need to be good citizens and not raging haters.  We need our leaders to get out of their cozy camps and anticipate the needs of their charges, and act.  We need our leaders to work for the greater good, and not just themselves.  We need the public sector to be about public service.  We need the private sector to be accountable and involved.  We need a balance, not a collusion, between the two sectors.  The social contract needs to be repaired, re-written.  Our tool for redrafting this contract is our vote.                                                                                            

This is the paragraph where I tell you it’s all going to be okay.  I can’t write this paragraph convincingly, because I can’t even convince myself that it’s true.   

But I can tell you this – despite the 108 years between Cubs’ championships, they had no shortage of support.  The faith of the fans was always there.  They showed up.  If you believe we can do better, if you believe we deserve better, if you believe our children deserve better, then show up. 


"Do Not Throw Away Your Shot!"  (A.Ham)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Your Own

“Why should a tiny island across the sea regulate the price of tea?”  Sings Alexander Hamilton in the musical, Hamilton.  And I think to myself, hmm the tables have turned.

So it’s the Fourth of July, and while everyone is grillin’ & chillin’ I’m at work with the rest of my department getting stuff done.  Working a holiday grants, us lunch on the firm’s tab, so some of the office guys are running a campaign to find a place on Seamless that is open and will deliver some good barbeque that we should all partake, otherwise it may be the Nathan’s food truck for hotdogs and a Coke.  Happy Independence Day. 

Full disclosure: the head office of my employer is based in London.  I work for a British company, so I guess I should take working on the Fourth of July as a given, no?  Fifteen years ago I basically had an internship visa to work in the United Kingdom from 2000-2001 and spent July 4th, 2001 at work, getting teased by my British colleagues for hailing from a country founded by religious zealots.  This meme floating around the internet kind of summed up how that day had gone down:

Their jokes didn’t bother me much, this was a nation who fancied prawn-flavored potato chips and considers tuna and corn pizza toppings.  Their judgement was clearly unsound.

This 4th of July, I wasn’t getting taunted by the Brits in the office.  Firstly, they were grossly outnumbered here in our Midtown location.  Also, our vending machines’ choice of potato chips was much more palatable, but mostly, the United Kingdom was still reeling from their own declaration of independence with their June 23rd Brexit vote to leave the European Union just less than a fortnight ago.  The sentiment of that decision metastasized into a black cloud which had swiftly jetted across the Atlantic, and was clearly palpable in the office on June 24th.  Arriving at the office in the few days after the vote felt like walking into a funeral home.  Honestly, I was hoping the ‘Remain’ campaign would eke out a victory, but to no avail, Great Britain basically told the EU and Brussels to piss off

Though I (an outsider with no vote) was in favor of the UK staying and stabilizing the EU, 52% of voters chose to leave the EU.  But I get it.  I do, I get it.

Well over 50 nations have separated from the United Kingdom, either by force or by negotiation or a bit of both, and the U.K. just wanted to have a slice of that feeling, to know what it’s like to be the one doing the breaking up, and not being the one left at the altar.  After the Colonial 13 were the first subjects of the Crown to break the seal and head for the door, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Belize, Barbados, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Cyprus and (the Republic of) Ireland among others followed suit.  Many of which only obtained their independence in the last 100 years or so.  After a century of bleeding out territories, colonies and ‘subsidiaries’, the United Kingdom wanted its turn to say “Thanks, but no thanks”.  Feeling used and abused by the European Union, among other fears, rationales and factors, Britain decided to say “Adieu” and got their shot at being the dumper instead of the dumpee.  The geographical mapping of the votes to stay and leave looked something like this:

With the blue area wanting to leave the EU and the yellow area wanting to remain.

But I get it, I do.  I live in the United States of America.  Do you think all 50 states like each other?  Do we always get along?  No.  Doesn’t Texas think it’s its own entity from time to time?  Even Staten Island propositioned a secession vote from New York City.  Just two years ago Scotland held a vote to stay or leave the United Kingdom.  Scotland got itself off the brink and decided to stick it out with QE2 only to get sideswiped by the ‘blue states’ in the above picture. 

Within the next few days after the Brexit vote, the head office issued emails and memos to staff to the effect of “Dear Employees, Don’t Panic, um, that’s all we have for now”.  The Brexiters didn’t really have much of a plan put together in the event that they would actually win.  What is known, is that the UK may be in need of a new Prime Minister shortly and that there is roughly a two-year time period to actually withdraw from the EU.  And that the value of the UK’s currency, the Pound, has effectively taken a nose dive, and that affects me directly working in financial reporting for a US Dollar-denominated branch whose parent will be converting all our figures in to Pounds at a now-volatile exchange rate.  And so goes the question:
What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Awesome.  Wow.
Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise
Empires fall
It’s much harder when it’s all your call
All alone, across the sea

-          “What Comes Next” from Hamilton

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Battle of Brooklyn

The truth is in ya face when ya hear the British cannons go
Any hope of success is fleeting
How can I keep leading when the people I’m
Leading keep retreating?
We put a stop to the bleeding as the British take Brooklyn
Knight takes rook, but look
We are outgunned
We gotta make an all out stand
Ayo, I’m gonna need a right-hand man

   -- "Right Hand Man", Hamilton, the Musical

In the summer of 1776, 32,000 British troops arrived in New York Harbor, making land fall on both banks of The Narrows, the narrow base of the Hudson River where Brooklyn and Staten Island are geographically closest to each other.  New York City, at the time, the second most populous city in the Colonial 13, only had about 25,000 residents.  The Red Coat presence would soon saturate the city.

The British and their soldier-for-hire Hessians generally broke into two groups, the first headed north, directly towards lower Manhattan (think: any modern-day express bus route into the city).   The second group swung out east then back west (think: like Kings Highway to Flatbush to Atlantic Avenue, or probably the worst possible route into the city, every day of the week) though it proved to be a highly effective flanking strategy on behalf of the Red Coats.  The Continentals suffered mass casualties in the present-day neighborhoods of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and in Green-Wood Cemetery, among other locales.  Retreating and running out of Brooklyn terra firma, General Washington and company found themselves pinned against the East River and fled to lower Manhattan by boat under the timely cover of late summer fog. 

The Battle of Brooklyn, or more commonly known as the Battle of Long Island, by less Brooklyn-centric folks, was a major loss for the fledgling Republic, but it was also a major military boo-boo by the Crown.  Ever the gentlemen officers, the Red Coats made the erroneous assumption that GW would be formally surrendering in the near-term.  Meanwhile, One-Dollar George, Virginia plantation owner, and his rag-tag armada got across the river in a New York Minute, and lived to fight another day. 


“I was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in a hospital that overlooked the spot in 1776 where the British crossed from Staten Island before facing Washington in the Battle of Brooklyn.  On the other side of the hospital was Fort Hamilton…  My family lived on Brooklyn’s Marine Avenue until I was 3.  Then we moved in 1952 to Kew Gardens Hills in Queens…”
Except for the part about moving to Queens in 1952, Ron Chernow’s early life (as told to Marc Myers in the weekly “House Call” column of the Wall Street Journal) reads just like my own.  Mr. Chernow continues that he “…had a Washington and Hamilton connection from birth.”  He’s the author of six historical biographies, including “Alexander Hamilton,” adapted for the Broadway musical Hamilton.

I’d like to tell you that I’m a fan of Hamilton, but the truth is, I’m kind of obsessed, with the musical, not Alexander, per se.  Don’t get me wrong, growing up next to Fort Hamilton, an active U.S. Army Base and garrison on the Narrows was named after our “ten-dollar founding father without a father”, you get used to most things in the neighborhood bearing the Hamilton name.  In and around Bay Ridge, the Hamilton name has been attached to diners, dry cleaners, apartment buildings, restaurants, medical groups, physical therapy practices, the library, Fort Hamilton Parkway (roughly seventh avenue), Fort Hamilton High School (which debuted in this blog two years ago as the now Fed Chair, Janet Yellen’s, alma mater) and probably another dozen local establishments.  But the Fort that bears his name wasn’t actually named after A.Ham until the early 20th Century, as it went through another round of structural reinforcements between World Wars.

So you grow up with this general, albeit distant, affiliation or familiarity with this historical figure and these historical events, maybe you even have your newly-minted husband (who works at the bank A.Ham founded in 1784) and his groomsmen pose for some wedding photos by one of these old garrison cannons,

And then a musical about all this stuff comes to the fore, and how do you not get obsessed?  Not to mention the music and lyrics are smart, fresh, clever, poetic and impactful.  I’m not going to venture to be a theater critic here, I haven’t even seen the play.  I think tickets at non-astronomical prices are sold out until like 2020.  But I broke with my own tradition of not buying musical soundtracks until I have seen the musical in person, kind of giving in that I won’t be seeing this one for a long time.  Given Hamilton’s great renown and ability to pick up Tony Awards like Michael Phelps cleans up at the Olympics, and my own geographical affiliation to all things Hamiltonian, I had to give it a try, sight unseen.  And I was hooked.

I was playing the music on my phone all the time.  The Hamilton soundtrack would become my personal theme music as I get through this rough July workload and my new yuuuuuge reporting deliverables at work.  But what makes this song book so relevant is this:  the story, the setting and the characters of the forging of the American Experiment is our national legend, American mythology part 1.  We all know the story, or at least versions of it, and for all of its growing pains, we like this story because it reminds us that we kind of got this nation started on the right foot.  And nothing could be more reassuring in an election year where we seem so far off course.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Adult Swim

Two days into my July-non-vacation and it’s already the weekend.  Yesterday’s build up of work stress can get relegated elsewhere for the next 48 hours.  But this isn’t just any weekend, it’s July 4th weekend!  That means grilling, chilling, general fun summer stuff and celebrating our great nation – the U.S.A.

So as ‘Merica gets into Independence Day mode, and prepares for its 240th birthday party (what’s the popular gift for 240 year-olds these days??), I will go to work.  And it’s sad and borderline embarrassing to tell people that you have to work on our biggest national holiday, and it’s not because you work in an Emergency Room or at air traffic control, or some other place that needs to be 100% operational 24-7-365, but it’s because you work on spreadsheets.  Yeah. 

I have some very good Fourth of July memories (of not working) and I get worried that my kids won’t have the same if I have to work this holiday each year.  But maybe I get ahead of myself and just overthink it.  I have to remind myself that 1. They are still young, and the little one is asleep before nightfall in July 2. Fireworks would probably scare the shizzles out of the kids for a few more years (maybe), fireworks basically give my cats PTSD so we can probably still hold off on that a bit 3. When I was their age, there was no New York City ban on fireworks and the streets were literally on fire 4. You don’t know how to grill.  So what were these great Fourth memories again?  Time paints a rose-hued lens on what was more or less patriotic tomfoolery. 

So here’s something to build good summertime memories despite having to work on the Fourth: we went swimming.  Our town pool (which technically serves three towns) is great.  At least when we first joined, I was in awe.  Some of the Co-op apartments we had looked at (before we found our house) advertise the pool and the adjoining golf and tennis area as part of the selling point of the Co-ops.  It’s like a country club, without the fees of a country club.   You can join based on residency, not based on who you know and do they like you.

The longer I’ve been going to this pool, the more I’m getting familiar with the lay of the land and who is in charge of whom at the Mecca of Seventh Borough Summertime: The Town Pool.  And I say town pool, but I really mean poolS.  There are 5 pools, and 4 of them are somehow kind of built into a hill.  As you come through the gate, you have the Granny pool on your immediate right and the snack bar is to the left.  The Snack bar is mainly staffed by 12 year-olds and managed by 14 year-olds.  If you make it through food service, you can drive a golf cart at 15 and become a lifeguard at 16 and really move up the ranks.  I’m not sure, but I’d guess the three or four adults who are actually in charge are School-year phys ed teachers picking up a summer gig.  They all carry clipboards and wear matching polo shirts.  The kids who seem like they’d rather be anywhere else but the pool all tend to have the job of setting up and breaking down the lounge chairs.  That looks like a crummy job.  None of those kids look happy even though sometimes they get tipped for bringing chairs.   Lastly, there are the shuttle drivers who drive the ‘trolley’ around the parking lot, because while the parking lot may not look so big, when you’re schlepping a bag full of damp towels and two tired children around, it’s a Godsend.  The ‘trolley’ is like a very long golf cart.  It’s the super stretch limo of golf carts.  I swear sometimes we go to the pool just to ride the ‘trolley’.

Opposite the snack bar is the Granny Pool, which is strictly for adults, and by adults I mean you have to be 18 to swim there, so there is no ‘Adult Swim’ time, the Granny Pool is Adult Swim all the time.  And even though a 19 year-old would surely be welcome at the Granny pool, the average age of swimmers at that pool is 75.

Passing the Granny pool, if you sort of go down a hill and then up a hill, you will find yourself at the Diving Pool.  The Diving Pool has two springboards and is 13 feet deep.  The Diving Pool is frequented by the 10-13 year-old set, but sometimes I get on line for the springboard myself and take the plunge.  Down yet another hill or like two flights of stairs, depending how you go, are the baby pools.  One pool starts at six inches and slopes down to about 18 inches.  In the shallow side of the pool you won’t find kids playing splish splash.  You’ll find all the moms and dads lounging as if it were a swim-up bar while the tots are mostly in the adjacent playground or the other baby pool, which has like a million sprinklers attached to it.  I mean, it’s probably 5 sprinklers, but there is not a corner of that pool you can stay sprinkler free in, trust me, I’ve tried.  This pool tends to lose interest with 5 years and up crowd. 

Finally, at the bottom of the last hill, is the large 4 foot-deep ‘Olympic Size’ pool with laps lanes and basketball hoops.  This is really where it’s at.  Each time we go to the pool, I stand on the top of the hill and ask the kids which pool do they want to go to today, and without fail, it’s the big ‘Olympic’ pool at the way bottom of the hill.  And this pool is like an evil mirage because it looks so much closer than it is, and ten minutes later, you finally get there (Fifteen minutes if the kids have to stop and take stock of everyone else’s floaties and water toys) and you wish the trolley could transport you from one pool to the next, but given the sloping of the pool decks, a ski lift would be more appropriate. 

And once we’re in the pool it’s like the most fun in the world, and they love it, and I try to get them to work on swim strokes and they ignore me, because just holding on to your mom is way more fun than swimming on your own.  But they’ll get there, and skills increase and fear subsides (Kate actually has zero fear, despite having basically zero swimming skills).  Nick practises his cannonballs and Kate practises inhaling less water than before.  And hopefully they will gain a love of the water and build good memories of summertime at the pool.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer Reading

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

To Whom It May Concern:

Today is the first day of September, but I'd like to take you back to the First of July.  Some sixty-two days ago, the Summer of 2016 held so much promise, so much hope, there was nothing but endless sunshine and carefree days ahead of us.  Some of us would go to camp.  Some would go camping.  Some travel, road-trip, hike, bike or swim.  Others stay-cation in the back yard or practice escapism with the help of books or movies.  My July, however, was going to look more like this:

Just before leaving the office on the evening of June 30th, I flipped over my Grumpy Cat calendar to see this beautiful mug of a cat, reminding me of what I already knew.  July was going to suck big time.  Or was it?  No, it was.  I've spent 12 years of my professional life on this cyclical roller coaster.  I knew by now what months sucked more than others, and which days of which months sucked the most.  I had it down.  If I wasn't such a lover of predictability, I might actually dislike the repetitiveness of the financial reporting cycle, its deadlines, its deliverables, its drivers.  January always sucks the most but July may be a close second.  If January is the final exam, then July is the midterm.  This July, my boss was handing over all the lending and credit reporting and disclosures to me.  I had a small piece of this pie for the January cycle, and a slightly larger piece for April's cycle, but since then, another manager had left the team and my boss absorbed all that other stuff, so I've been absorbing all my boss' stuff, and so goes the food chain.

I'm also the newest person on the team, having only worked here for about 8 months, after having just served a dime at another bank, and prior to that, a year and change at another bank, who had been mortally wounded by the financial implosion of 2008.  I was familiar with lending and credit reporting, but the word on the street is that the full package of lending and credit reporting would amount to a slow and painful death, basically consuming the month of July.  I was kind of hoping that the end of June would go on forever, like a warmer, critter-less Groundhog Day.  But the transition from June to July was palpable in the office, as July 1 rang in a new era for several other staff on our floor (unrelated to my issue) but it warranted a pizza party none-the-less. 

Pizza in hand (the July 1st event was so monumental, we even had Sicilian pies!!), I got to work, because in addition to this massive amount of work, I also had to do my regular job of ‘Other Stuff’, and maybe also get to see my family and take a shower and regular things people do like this.  Part of me was looking forward to the challenge.  If I could pull this off successfully, I’d be a new(ish) hire with a bargaining chip, or two.  If not….well… yeah.

"Take a break and get away / Run away with us for the summer
  (Hamilton, the musical)

So with 12 years of working on this financial reporting cycle, summer classes for grad school, summer jobs and internships, I probably haven’t had an unbooked July since maybe 1991?  It’s OK, I tell myself, as I catch the scowl of the Grumpy Cat as I sit at my desk.  What would you do anyway?  Clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals in advance but then not want to eat them, you know, boring stuff.  As I eat my Sicilian at my desk, I scan social media on my phone and see people going to Lego camp and beach trips, and the rooftop party scene is in full effect.  And I see kids (and adults!!) going to writing camp or writing programs and I’m sad because I miss my blog.  I haven’t been on this page in over a year, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you, Seventh Borough.  In fact, most evenings, on the train ride home from work, I try to switch gears from number cruncher to story teller.  I pull out my notebook from my bag, turn to a clean sheet of paper and jot some ideas down.  But for whatever reason, I feel like these notes and bullet points just slide off the page into oblivion, like grains of sand through my fingers, unable to materialize into a narrative nor congeal into a plot line. 

And I think what excitement do I have to offer here, besides my totally average suburban working mom life, about to be saddled with an incredibly youuuuge work load?  (It’s going to be yyyyyuge!!!).  If you look back at some past posts here in the Seventh Borough, they kind of revolve around the themes of running for trains, spilling coffee, silly things my kids do and/or the ridiculousness of my cats.  And for the most part, nothing has changed.  Over the past year I’ve written several drafts and published nothing, because reading back my own writing, well, it sucked. 

So how do you un-suck?  You practice.  And I don’t have the luxury of time to go to writing camp, so I figured I’d live my story in July, write it out in August and edit/publish it in September.  31 days of small posts jammed into a thirty-day month (looks like some lucky date is getting a two-fer!).  Even though this post is technically only covering July 1st, I’m going to skip ahead for a minute and cheat when I tell you many, many, many times I thought a month of mini blog posts was silly and a bad idea and something I’d only have time for if I was back in 1991, but we didn’t have blogs in 1991 so that poses a problem.  And then I saw this gem of inspiration online:

And if it's on the Internet, it must be true.   

Welcome back to the Seventh Borough!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


We were the only ones up and stirring at that hour of the morning.  Despite our proximity to the just-past Summer Solstice, the sun had not yet made its way to our view of the skyline this early in the day.  School had just let out for the summer, or was about to be let out.  Schedules were changing for the season.  It was a time of transition, it was a time for vacations, a time of graduations, a time for commencement. 

We let ourselves out of the house as quietly as possible.  The cats assumed it was time for breakfast, and they got fed the usual.  The cats always think it’s time for feeding.  Once in a while, they are right.  The livery car was early.  We were earlier.  As soon as the black town car pulled in front of our house, we were locking the door, down the steps to the driveway.  The driver made no effort to assist with the bags.  I was unimpressed.  A dozen or so times, a black car has pulled up in front of our house in the stealth of early morning.  We’d be eagerly waiting for the ride, to the airport, for vacation, or sometimes we’d greet the ride less eagerly, and only one of us would get in the car if it was travel for business.  This black car was not airport-bound.  There would be no departures.  There would be no landings.  Today, there would be an arrival.

The cushy, wide back seat left plenty of room for the two of us, plus the arm-rest was down in the center, with water bottles resting in its build-in cup holders.  No eating, I told myself.  We were on local roads, and yet I wasn’t driving, so I sat back and enjoyed the chance to be chauffeured.  We headed north on the Hutch, red and orange sunrise streaking the sky, though still dusk enough that opposing traffic twinkled their headlights.  It was set to be a nice day.  Maybe not a perfect, crystal-clear, low humidity June day, but a good one nonetheless.  The back seat was so ample and roomy, I stretched out my legs, crossed my ankles, and a melody filled my head:

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
Of gold and starlight in your eyes of blue
                                                  -The Carpenters (lyrics: B. Bacharach, H. David)

Best birth-day lyric ever: ‘On the day that you were born, the angels got together, and decided to create a dream come true’.  Sums up how I feel about both of my kids, even the off-the-wall little boy and, of course my littlest one, about to be evicted in three hours, more or less. 

The black car got off the Hutch and switched to I-95, which was basically empty at this hour except for a few trucks.  But they were the big trucks, the semis and the freight haulers.  A few feet from our exit for the hospital, the driver realized he’d have to cut across three lanes of interstate and wove the car between two gasoline tankers.  I shut my eyes and gripped the door handle, and kept them that way until we were in the emergency bay of the hospital.  A few more feet of crazy driving like that and I’d be in that ER on a gurney and not walking myself through the door.  Crazy livery-car driver man had gotten us to the hospital quite early, mostly due to his general disregard for the speed limit and flammable tankers on the road.  An ER staff person wheeled me up to the third floor for Labor and Delivery.  The wheel chair ride was nice and slow and avoided colliding into anything or anyone, though at 5:30 in the morning, there was little hallway traffic as well.  Even the ER seemed to be having a slow night. 

I was deposited into a pre-op room, an internal room with no windows (I was hoping to catch more of the sunrise), but there was a monitor with all the Labor and Delivery patients’ doctors names, delivering some graphic data to the screen in medical shorthand, I killed time guessing the logic to the codes and hypothesizing which patients were faring better than others.  I saw my doctor’s name on the monitor, so he had another patient here already.  I sat on the bed in the pre-op room and looked at my phone a bunch of times but there just wasn’t much going on at 5:30 in the morning on a calm Thursday in June.  Rob sat in a nearby chair and did the same.

By now, the sugary-mellow Carpenter’s tune had left my head.  The near-death experience on I-95 and the beep-beep of medical telemetry were clearing my head and sobering my mood, just the way a nice, strong cup of coffee would have done (I’d prefer the coffee – but no pre-surgical eating!)  The baby is coming, it’s just a few hours now!  But I wasn’t excited.  I was excited.  But I wasn’t excited.  There was this one last, very big step, before the baby would arrive, so that I could be, well, close to her.  Though pretty much everything went fine during the last thirty-nine weeks of pregnancy, from taking my vitamins, to tests and blood pressure readings and sonograms, this was not a difficult pregnancy, it surely had its uncomfortable moments, but we weren’t in the high-risk group.  Yet it all came down to this.  The actual delivery of the baby, the final step.  There would be no labor.  Just delivery.  Just deliverance.  Repeat C-section.  Relax, you’ve done it before.  Lay down, have baby surgically removed, recover, easy-peasy!

Just before six A.M. I received a face-time call on my phone.  It was Nick.  “Mommy where are you?”  OMG, child, don’t guilt-trip me now, I’m really very new at this balancing act called ‘Mother of Two’.  I snuck away in the early darkness and left you sleeping soundly in your bed with your Grandma for a good reason.  It’s been a long day and it hasn’t even gotten started yet.  I told him “Sister is coming, I’ll see you soon”.  There was some other chitchat about eating breakfast and ‘go to school!’ (I later found out my mom let him stay home), but I wasn’t sure I convinced him to chill out because I couldn’t convince myself to chill out.  I had to get to deliverance.  Then I could chill out.  (Yeah, right!)

A nurse and a tech came in, and gave me the run down.  I changed into a gown, and got poked with an IV line for a few tries, then I got hooked up to a monitor and my metrics were now on the telemetry screen too.  I was on deck.  This was getting serious.  A nurse took my medical history, and I guess now was as good as time as any, even though this information must have been supplied somewhere prior, in my pre-certification or from my doctor’s office or from the first time I had a baby, somewhere, no?  (I have to interject – the pre-certification form asks if you are in the hospital due to an accident.  I assume they mean by cause of a workplace or motor vehicle accident, but I’m thinking pregnancies could go either way.  I checked the “no” box.)  We were approaching 7AM and the turmoil of shift change, so many different nurses and techs were in and out.  Many of them asked me if this was my first child, to which I replied “no”.  Once you identify yourself as a repeat delivery or experienced mom, I think the conversation takes a different turn.  When you have your first, you get responses like “Congratulations”, “Best Wishes”, “He/She’ll be lovely”.  When you have baby #2 or beyond, you get a look like “Welcome to Extreme Exhaustion Again”, “You Know You’re Crazy” and “How old is/are your other child(ren)”.  If the nurse/tech also has kids, and it seems like most do, it opens the door for them to tell you about their kids.  Whatever the combination or permutation of children, age ranges and genders, all responses are met with a few, pre-set answers; polite, superficial, small talk.  These conversations are all followed by the same, desperate, tired look, of nurse-moms ending their shifts, in need of a vacation and a martini.   Ladies, I hear you.

My obstetrician, Dr. Bob, came into the room.  He seemed worn down from his other patient.  I was concerned.  “Go get a coffee”, I said (and I need one too, OK?) I quickly glanced at the monitor to compare beeps and graphs with myself (doing nothing) and his other patient, doing, well, I don’t know what.  He seemed happy to see me, a scheduled, lower-risk, repeat C-section.  I think we all know why he wa$ happy to $ee me.  I wa$ a patient with a very predictable circum$tance.  Repeat C-$ection.  Fully in$ured.  We all knew the drill.  I wanted to say, let’s go grab a coffee and chit chat about some other light conversation we’ve had during this third trimester:  my new dishwasher, your trip to Myrtle Beach, the up-coming wedding of one of your nurses… anything.  He seemed to be looking forward to the predictability and precision of a surgical delivery.  And even though I felt he had done a very good job delivering Nick, I just wanted to get it all over with, the surgical part, the part where they put a needle in your spine, the extreme nakedness part, the part where you stop breathing until you hear baby's first cry, the part where everybody is in your business, and I mean IN YOUR business in the most literal sense.   I just wanted a coffee.  Does anyone want to let me have a coffee?


Coffee addiction aside, I was nervous about this delivery.  You have your first child all starry-eyed and hopeful, but you have your second (and subsequent) child(ren) knowing full well what can go wrong, with either of you, because now you have experience, and you have more mommy-friends, and you have their experiences, and you have context.  And in the back of your logical, prepared mind, you know that the possibility of health issues that can arise is both broad and multi-variable.  When you deliver a second child, who is healthy and intact, you can’t help but think it was nothing short of miraculous.  Forget modern science and in$urance coverage.  Nothing short of miraculous.

Dr. Bob stepped out and the anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself as Dr. L.  He asked me if I was allergic to anything.  I thought to myself, well this would be a hell of a time to find out? “No.”  I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything, even if I’ve lied in the past and told people I was allergic to hot dogs just so I wouldn’t have to eat them.  I doubt hot dogs would make their way into the spinal, but you never know. 

It was go time.  Game faces on.  The OR was ready.  Dr. L was ready.  Dr. Bob introduced the second surgeon, but he was a blur, so I’ll call him Dr. X.  I have a feeling he was a student.  I hope he had had enough coffee, and enough sleep.  Dr. Bob announced we were delivering a baby girl today, and everyone seemed on board.  A fourth doctor came into the room, Dr. T, a neonatologist.  He was tall and bearded and a bit Santa Claus-ish.  He would take care of the baby, once delivered, alongside two neonatal nurses, plus two other maternal/OR nurses.  4 (or 3.5) doctors, 4 nurses, one scrub-clad daddy and me in my breezy hospital gown and compression booties.  I’ve gone to cocktail parties with less people (though not lately). 

I sat on the edge of the bed, hunched over and waiting for the spinal.  There was an issue with my medical bracelet, well, basically, I didn’t have one, so they had to fix the bracelet printer thingy.  We waited for a new printer cartridge.  And we waited.  And we waited to print a bracelet thingy.  And we waited a little more.

A few weeks earlier, the Wall Street Journal ran articles about the horrid conditions of maternity hospitals in India, and the pressures on their health system given the growing population.  I also read a story about how the biggest challenge to labor and delivery in a southern African nation was how the hospital kept running out of electricity.  A non-profit group was distributing the equivalent of flood-light back packs to help assist with night time procedures.  And here we were, in Greenwich, Connecticut, unable to print an ID bracelet – something we could technically assemble by hand.  Four nurses, a hospital with plenty of electricity and air conditioning, not to mention computerized equipment, a Greek neonatologist, an anesthesiologist from the former Soviet Union, a Jewish obstetrician originally from Queens, a daddy from the Bronx, a mommy from Brooklyn, a fourth physician at our disposal, so insignificant I can’t even remember his name (sorry, Dr. X) in a hospital with a wing named after a client of the Private Bank for which I used to work.  They say it’s not about where you start in life, dear baby, it’s where you finish.  Thursday’s Child has far to go.

As the anesthesia took over, I just felt this overwhelming sense of dread, heaviness in my limbs, and nausea.  I did not want to have surgery.  I wanted to have my baby, but I didn’t want to have surgery.  Having never been through labor, I really didn’t want to have a labor either.  I didn’t want a labor.  I didn’t want a surgery.  I just wanted my baby delivered through, I don’t know, reverse osmosis or whatever.  Just come out, baby.  No fuss.  No booties.  No four doctors and as many nurses in my room.  No needles in the spine.  No recovery.  No trauma.  No drama.  No stitches.  Just my baby.  Just a healthy baby.  (And a coffee).

It would just be a few minutes now, I told myself, trying to self-soothe, as I lay back on the table, limbs splayed and being gutted like a fish.  One arm outstretched with a blood pressure cuff.  The other with the IV.  Dr. L at my head asking if I was alright.  I couldn’t even answer.  Drs. Bob and X were chit-chatting about a restaurant.  That was my signal that things seemed to be going OK if their banter was casual.  Just a few more minutes, I told myself, but I was mesmerized by the overhead lamp, a wide circle filled with several little light bulbs, their heat pored into my skin.  I was on fire.  I was cold.  I was really nauseous.  I felt drunk.  Dr. L was speaking in tongues.  Rob was missing. No he was there, but I couldn’t understand anyone, surgical masks muffling all dialogue.  I was on a trip, or maybe a hallucination.  Later I found out I was on morphine.  I thought they only used that stuff on terminal patients.  What was to be my fate?  Whoa.  There was pressure, and pulling, and more pulling, and a lamp searing into my soul.  I was ready for this to be over.

I felt a release of pressure and the baby had been delivered.  Though none of the doctors seemed worried, two seconds, perhaps even only one second passed before she cried.  But in that fraction of time and in my hallucinogenic state, I aged ten years. 

I had only been in this new, upside-down position for only a short while, and it wasn’t all that comfortable anymore.  I was relaxing, waiting for breakfast to head my way, but today things seemed out of routine.  Our usual night time rest seemed shorter than usual.  By now, Mom would have had some coffee, if not a full meal.  I’m not sure what was going on, so I went back to my usual games of staring at my hands and sucking on my fingers, these things taste good!  I was going to start stretching out my legs for the morning, as my little home was closing in on me and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take such cramped confines.  Suddenly, and without warning, a light shone into my little space.  It was bright and blinding. And things were getting loud, lots of voices, but where was Mom?

I was pulled out of my little, warm, cozy and squishy nook and now found myself in a bright, cold, vast space surrounded by masked people in blue.  I was so disoriented, I paused for a moment, and as the cold, dry air was starting to chill me, I let out a wail. 

And then I heard it.  A nurse recorded it at 08:27 Eastern Standard Time.

Everybody was talking.  But I was listening.  Everybody was busy.  But I was trying to focus.  I needed to hear it.  I needed to hear the sound of baby’s first cry, of baby’s first breath.  That was my confirmation.  That was my deliverance.  There was my little love.  There was my miracle.  She was my blessing, and she was here, pink, gooey and breathing. 
Some gloved hands put me down to rest on papery, blue sheets.  I was cold and confused and blinded by this huge lamp with hundreds of eyes.  I shut my eyes and cried.  I didn’t like this set up.  I was not a fan.  I then felt some tugging on my food tube.  ‘Umbilical Cord’ was the phrase I heard them say and then, snap!  They cut it off!  Wait, what about breakfast!  What about the coffee?  I needed that!  That was my source of food for my entire life! 

This day was going from bad to worse.  One blue-masked man picked me up and handed me over to another blue-masked man, who walked me across the room and put me in a box with clear sides.  I was poked and prodded and measured and then they smeared some goo over my eyes.  I was basically being tortured, starved and frozen.  This was the worst day of my life.

This was one of the happiest days of my life, even though I felt like crap.  I could see Dr. Bob hand the baby over to Dr. T. and then the staff split themselves into two teams: baby care and mom recovery.  I caught a glimpse of her, and she was tiny and cute and splotchy and had the look of ‘WTF?’ on her small face.  I’ll see you on the flip side, little one.  Now I just had to keep it together, or rather Dr. Bob had to sew me back together and I had to get off this morphine-induced magic carpet ride.  I either had had a baby, or had a hallucination about having abdominal surgery.  I’m pretty sure it was the former.  My job was done.  (Ha! My job(s) were only beginning!)  My body returned to carrying only one heartbeat, instead of two.  A new soul had entered the universe.  The world gained another pair of feet, ready to explore, another set of hands, ready to grasp, another set of eyes, ready to observe, another heart, ready to love. 

I was pretty furious over my eviction, so I cried some more, and then I peed.  A lady put a diaper on my tush and a little cap on my head, but I was still pretty cold.  The blue-masked man kept booming out statistics with his big voice and gesturing with his arms like he was flying.  “Seven pounds, eleven ounces”, he seemed to be shouting.  “She’s twenty inches long”, “What will be her name?” His voice reverberated across the room.


Wait a minute, I recognize that voice! It’s Mom!  Where is she?  I can’t see her.  I heard another blue-mask ask her if she was ready for a third child, and then I heard her again, laughing, almost wildly so.  I cried louder thinking, Mom, if you can hear me, I’m being held captive and I need your help!

Mid-surgery, Dr. Bob asked me when could he expect baby number three.  Despite my nausea, I laughed, if not partially choked.  Hold your horse$, sir.

Third child?  Who else are we talking about?  Then a bracelet was put on my wrist and another one looped around my ankle, they matched but one had a little box on the end of it.  Maybe that’s where they put the food.  I was getting kind of hungry.  I was scooped up and wrapped in two blankets, tightly tucked in and starting to warm up.  The prodding and measuring was over.  Maybe the worst of today was behind me.  Just as I was settling into my swaddle in a clear box, I was scooped up again and whisked across the room.  I was placed in the arms of another blue-clad man.  He brought me close to his face and I saw his big, green eyes taking stock of me.  “Hi, Kate”, he said, the voice was familiar.  It was Daddy!  Thank goodness, I thought.  Dad, you will not believe the day I’ve had!  I could use some cuddles.  Dad kissed my cheek and swiveled around on his stool, placing my cheek next to the face of a woman.  Her eyes looked tired but her smell was so recognizable!

“Hello, my sweet baby.”       

Mom!  My parents were here!  This day was getting better by the minute.  She kissed what little parts of my skin were exposed, and not wrapped in a blanket nor covered by my cap, and she whispered to me:

On the day that you were born the angels got together
Just like me, they long to be
close to you…

And with that sweet tune, my snug-ness re-secured and my parents near, I drifted.
To sleep.