Occupy Upper East Side!

Every day I meet Scott (our 9-year old) at his school and we walk home together. In that 15-to-20 minute walk, I hear about his day, what homework he has, marks from any tests, what he had for lunch…the usual all-in-a-day stuff. Thursday, when I picked him up though, Scott was bubbling over.

Thursday is swimming day at Scott’s school. All the grade four students pile onto the bus and head off to Asphalt Green, the community recreation centre, where they take swimming lessons as part of their gym program. No surprise that Thursday after school often begins with, “How was swimming today?” Expecting Scott to answer “good” or “fine,” it took me by surprise when it launched an all-the-way home discussion.

After telling me that swimming had been cancelled, Scott couldn’t talk fast enough to tell me why! He had happened to hear one of his teacher’s say that it was cancelled because of the protest at Asphalt Green. He assured me that it was a silent protest (he meant peaceful) and no one was yelling and getting hauled off into police cars.

Asphalt Green (and our apartment building) is located ┬ánext to the East River. The City of New York has proposed to set up a garbage depot near Asphalt Green. Trucks would bring garbage to the depot near Asphalt Green, where it wold be loaded onto the barges and then transported to a landfill. Tonnes of garbage would float up and down the East River, the sight of which would be admired by the many who enjoy Carl Shurz Park (the park outside our front door). The garbage trucks would be housed at the depot near the recreation complex. It would be “A FUTURE OF MISERY,” said Scott.

Scott was very worked up to tell me about the issues associated with such insanity (as opposed to Lin-sanity that is gripping New York)! Our neighbourhood would smell badly and the kids playing on the soccer field at Asphalt Green would have to worry about rats and flies. (Given New York’s rat problem, I nodded my head.) The garbage that would fall from the flat-bed barges would pollute the river. Big garbage trucks would be a constant feature in the neighbourhood.

When there was a moment to speak, I asked Scott how he knew about the garbage proposal. As it turns out, one of Scott’s teachers lives right across the street from Asphalt Green. (She was the teacher for whom Scott made a Valentine card in class while telling her he was making it for me). According to Scott, she had written a letter (the most powerful piece of persuasive writing he had ever read) describing the pitfalls of the garbage proposal.

As I was appreciating the link between an issue and Scott’s education, not to mention trying not to laugh all the way home, I realized that moments like this one had to be one of the ways people become protesters (activists as Vikas prefers to call them). In the fall, as we were learning about the city and what it had to offer, I often wondered about the world of protesters as I watched Occupy Wall Street unravel. It was widely reported that at its core, Occupy Wall Street was formed by a group of “professional” protesters.

Until now, it hadn’t occurred to me that learning about issues through the eyes of protesting would be a part of Scott’s unique New York experience, but there it was. I feel like his outrage for the idea of a floating garbage parade is partly because he is nine-years old, but also to do with being in a particular time and place at a time.

Funny enough, I was at Asphalt Green today as the protesters were gathering. Contrary to the unruly protesting crowd that Scott pictured, the protesters were mostly seniors, community people, it seemed, who had probably lived in the neighbourhood for years. They came with their friends, their husbands and wives and most of them brought their umbrellas (instead of the bats Scott imagined). No one was yelling or standing on a podium talking into a microphone. There were no banners and the television camera that was there, was filming from across the street. It was a peaceful gathering with a purpose.

The “Sharmed Life” part is the reminder that even though Scott proudly teaches his friends and teachers about Canada and Ottawa and what it means to be from there, the New York seeds have been planted and they are germinating!

P.S., Scott checks online for any updates to the protest every morning. Fingers crossed that the garbage project will not happen.


A Right of Passage…Floods of 2012

We live in a pre-war apartment. I’ve come to know that to mean nice wood floors, spacious rooms, large foyers, high ceilings, thick sculpted mouldings, and last, and no longer least…old pipes. The pipes in our building are of the 1928 variety. They are old pipes…and until last week, they had stood up.

Taking it all in at the Sharmas means going with the flow as different events unfold around us, as they do. It should have come as no surprise that the day after Vikas installed the chandelier (as Scott calls it), also fondly known as the light above the dining room table, the floods of 2012 were upon us.

I was in the middle of something at work, when I heard water pouring. No big deal, the water had been off all morning and it sounded like the tub tap was running. I took a couple of minutes, finished up what I was doing and then went to turn the tap off. There was water pouring out of the┬áceiling light (chandelier) in Kevin’s room….buckets and buckets of water.

In hindsight, I did think that if I was a serious blogger, I would have grabbed my camera and snapped a quick photo, but I’m not there yet. Instead, I threw a bin under the water (be thankful Vikas that we have one or two empty bins around in case of an emergency), and ran downstairs to tell the doorman that we had a serious water situation going on in our apartment. I ran back upstairs (i.e., hop in the elevator, wait for the doorman to push the button and ride to the sixth floor), walk into the apartment and for whatever reason, head to my bedroom, where, wow, there was hot water pouring from the closet and soaking every piece of clothing we own. I threw a blanket over our duvet and started pulling all the clothes out of our closet. The water poured out of the ceiling much longer than it took to yank all the clothes out of the closet. As I was furiously trashing my room, don’t think it didn’t occur to me that I could count the number of weeks since the last box had been unpacked and things were put away.

Stuff, life stuff, just seems to happen to us. For the most part, we look to find the humor in a situation. Given a little time to reframe, these occasions become famous family stories that help define our journey. People will smile and perhaps even laugh to think of the sod story, the moving-day chicken pox story, the barfing plane ride from Caracas to Ottawa story, and others. I promise you, the Sharmas go to New York sequel won’t be dull.

If I’m honest, I could see the humor in the flood right after it happened more than I do now. Being mid repair with workers in and out all day as they bring in yet another machine to dry out the walls, is a bit of an exercise in patience on my part. When I feel a little meltdown coming on, I remind myself that I hate mould and mildew more than anything, and then the moment passes.

Oh yah, did I tell you that I’ve wanted to live in a brand new house for a long time? But it’s always the “sharm” of the older ones that seems to get me.

Every single New York day so far, I learn something new. Today it was all about plaster. Yes, it’s a Sharmed Life!