Edna's first birthday
Sunday, December 16 2001
Gretchen and I weren't sure exactly when Eddie Edna's birthday was, but since she is very nearly one year old, we'd decided to celebrate it today. This date will be easy to remember since my birthday also falls on the sixteenth of a month.
But by the early afternoon, I realized that I hadn't seen Edna all day. I told Gretchen and initially she wasn't concerned, but after turning the house upside down and thoroughly searching several backyards, we both had to conclude that the kitten had gone AWOL. We immediately kicked it up a notch and went into crisis mode, printing up a "Have you seen our little Edna?" poster complete with two photographs. At the print shop down on 7th Avenue, we made 20 copies while the print shop's two cats kept tabs on Sally the Dog. They both looked almost exactly like Eddie Edna.
While putting up posters at Pet Slope (the pet store on the corner of Union and 7th Avenue), we noticed a little old lady in a wheelchair trying to flag down a municipal bus. The bus wasn't going to stop, but then some able-bodied woman went to get on. Then it seemed the bus was going to drive off, so Gretchen ran up and told the driver about the woman on the wheelchair. Eventually, and very reluctantly, the driver went to the back and made like she was operating the controls of the wheelchair lift, only to conclude that it wasn't working. But the old lady in the wheelchair wasn't impressed, telling me, "They always say that when they don't want to be bothered." Eventually the bus driver drove off, leaving the woman in the wheelchair in the cold on the corner without transportation. Happy Chanukah. It suddenly occurred to me that rules like the Americans With Disabilities Act and other laws don't mean a damn thing so long as there are lazy people doing half-assed jobs and telling lies to wriggle out of responsibilities. I've mentioned in the past the shoddy performance of urban service-sector employees, and I'm still waiting for just one of them to prove me wrong.
After searching the bushes and nooks and brownstone stoops of ours and adjacent blocks, putting up signs, and even calling to Edna from the rooftops, we decided we'd done all we could for the time being.
Eventually our friend Anna picked us up and drove us to her parents' place near 6th Avenue and 6th Street in Park Slope. It's a full brownstone going from street to floor number three, not broken up into closet-sized apartments but serving instead as a spacious single-family home. Here we'd be having a reasonably secular end-of-Chanukah meal with a number of familiar and unfamiliar people, including Anna's brother David the Rabbi, David's on-again-off-again fiancé Ilana, and a number of others of varied descriptions and backgrounds. Since Anna and David's parents are Jewish lefty intellectual types, they tend to have fairly interesting friends. Most odd of all, though, was Clara, the daughter of one of the family friends. She looked like your normal corn-fed 20-something American woman, but she'd lived in Africa for a time and had, so Gretchen told me, converted to Islam. It wasn't like she was a John Walker or anything wacky like that, but still one wonders what could be compelling enough to draw a liberal American chick into that particular circle.
Dinner consisted of latkes, a kind of traditional Jewish potato pancake that I found more palatable than expected. We all took bets on which menorah candle would be the last left burning, but of course no one was watching when the last one winked out. In terms of conversation, I had my best dialogue with the guy sitting to my left, Clara's father. He's some sort of big shot in the mass transit union and he knew more about the New York subway than anyone I've met so far. Lately I've been brushing up on my own knowledge of the subway, watching all the relevant Discovery Channel shows and doing internet research. So I know all about the tools, methods, dangers, and histories of subways in cities throughout the world. What I didn't know about where the unfinished and planned subways of New York, or that it costs one billion dollars to make a single mile of subway in New York. Jesus H. Christ! For my part, I told him about my job as a computer programmer, how, as a programmer gains more and more experience he finds himself doing less and less actual coding and more and more orchestration of existing code. Individual functions can become as complex as refrigerators, but as long as one knows their APIs - the simple interfaces that are exposed on the surface, the complexity can be taken for granted. And, since a good programmer can work 100 times faster than a bad one, there's almost no way a programmer's manager can anticipate delivery dates or monitor progress without working through the programmer himself.
After dinner, Anna and David's mother took Gretch and me aside and told us that it was such a wonderful thing to realize that her kids had, in the end, turned out alright. This was evidenced, so she said, by the quality of their friends (in other words, us). What made us so refreshing in comparison to her normal social network of middle aged lefty intellectuals was our relative youth. Instead of talking about our "cholesterol and vacations" we have interesting experiences to relate from the perspective of young adulthood.
When Gretchen and I got back to our place, we found that Edna had yet to turn up. So we went next door to ask our neighbor if we could look for our cat in their basement. It's amazing how nice even New Yorkers can be if one just makes an effort to reach out. These new neighbors: Manfred and his wife (I forget her name) and their infant child were a picture of hospitality. While Manfred printed up extra color copies of our Edna flyer, the wife told us how her kids loved to watch our cats playing in the back yard. Since this neighboring brownstone had only one apartment per floor instead of two, each of the apartments was far more spacious. Everyone living within appeared to have taken advantage of the space and reproduced; there were at least four baby carriages at the bottom of the stairs. By contrast, our brownstone has two apartments per floor, and out of eight apartments, only one has a kid.
Anna and Clara came over for a couple hours and we played two different kinds of Scrabble. It's kind of embarrassing to admit this, but word games are about as fun as anything else a guy can reasonably do with three chicks.
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