The back story

because sometimes nothing makes sense if you don’t know where I’m coming from.

I was born and raised and lived, for 44 years, in New York City. Some folks, including the ones who live there, don’t know that NYC consists of 5 boroughs – Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Only the Bronx is part of the mainland United States, the rest of the boroughs are islands or are on an island. And there are actually people who live in Brooklyn and Queens who don’t know that they live on Long Island, I don’t know where the hell they think they live but…I once had an argument with a reasonably intelligent, educated man about this. We had been out on the island, which in NYC means you went over the city line into Nassau and Suffolk counties. Luckily he had a map in the car and I pulled it out to show him that Long Island contained 4 counties, Brooklyn (Kings county for you purists), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk. Brooklyn and Queens being part of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk not part of NYC but only New York State.

Now then, for another little linguistic NYC quirk. Back in the day, my day at least, before Brooklyn became famous, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island were called the “outer boroughs” and Manhattan was called “the city” by all the residents. If you lived in Queens and were going into Manhattan you said “I’m going into the city’.  I was once accused of not really being from NYC because I referred to Manhattan as Manhattan, not the city.  Guy was a moron of course.  As it happened, from my late teens on, my work and social circles consisted of people from all over the world – and Manhattan, they understood, “the city” confused them. Eh.

(I have absolutely nothing to say about Staten Island because until the Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964 Staten Island was pretty much just words on a page. Actually, thinking about it now, even in 1964 I knew jack-all about Staten Island.  Still don’t but I’m slightly more aware of where and what it is. And quite frankly, if Jersey wants it they should give it to them. As an old friend, back in the 60’s, said – “They’re still playing cowboys and indians on Staten Island – with real cowboys and indians.”)

I think, and I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time, that most people think NYC (all of it) is mostly apartment buildings.  You kinda would be wrong if you think that.  With the exception of the 3 years or so that we lived in the projects, I always lived in a “private house”. What’s a private house you ask? What nowadays would be called a ‘single family, detached house’. The outer boroughs pretty much look suburban. Truly they do. Tree lined streets, single family houses, front lawns, backyards, driveways with a 2-car garage (okay, maybe a single car garage. In my neighborhood it was all 2 car garages) at the rear of the property. Apartment buildings were clustered along the main drags (Queens Boulevard, Steinway Street, 86th Street etc.) along with all the shops and commercial enterprises.

Yes, yes – there were attached houses, and two family houses but they were mixed in with the “private houses”. These suburban-type areas were usually just 2-3 blocks off of the main drags. And yes, again, Brooklyn is known for its brownstones, which originally were single family homes, and yes, they had backyards. We had a swing set in the backyard of our house in the Bronx.

Here’s a photo of the house I grew up in in Queens…


There was front lawns on both sides of the front walk, a decent sized backyard and on the left there was a long driveway that led to the back of the property to the 2-car garage.

I have to be honest here, I don’t actually know much about Queens because all the years I lived there, whichever part I lived in, were just places to keep my stuff. I never spent much time in Brooklyn either, and we moved from the Bronx when I was 8 and only went back to visit relatives. Staten Island is a total blank. Manhattan was my bailiwick from the time I was finally allowed to go into the city on my own.

All of this is background to the smallest and tiniest of stories I will post tomorrow. But as we go forward this information might prove useful and save me writing, and you reading, if I can just refer to this very basic, and long, back story.

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(I just re-read this and hoo-boy there is so much more I could add. So much more I could explain. If anyone reading this is from NYC and you want to jump on my case for leaving out a lot of info – please don’t. Yeah, yeah – Manhattan brownstones, Inwood et al – I know, I know. If people are truly interested they can research it themselves. What am I, a tour guide?)

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With my crazy ping-pong brain

it’s going to be difficult to keep this on the straight and narrow, or rather the relevant.

I suppose I could title this “The Ooga-booga of Scent and Smell” except only part of it is ooga-booga but then again not, or maybe. I don’t know.

Where to start…

How about we start with our sense of smell.  Smell is our fifth sense and closely tied to memory and emotions, perhaps more than any other sense. So perhaps it makes sense that aromatherapy is a real thing. But how much of a real thing? (Careful now Grace don’t go ping-ponging off in another direction).

I use eucalyptus oil diffusers throughout the apartment. I have no idea whether we have experienced any of its highly touted effects but I like the way it smells, so there you go.  During the past year I have gifted several friends with lavender candles and sachets because they mentioned trouble sleeping and stress and anxiety reduction are some of the benefits of lavender as well as alleviating insomnia. I have not heard back whether the lavender helped.

My crazy ping-pong brain, as well as my husband’s snoring/breathing problems keeps me from sleep. In an effort to cure my husband’s problems I bought wedge pillows, and as long as I can keep him sleeping on his side his problem is solved. But what about me?

I’ve been wearing Obsession eau de parfum since it came on the market in 1985.  Oh, there have been occasional dalliances with Magie Noire  but my signature scent was Obsession. And always the eau de parfum, never the cologne or eau de toilette. Yes, there is a difference, and I’m not going to ping-pong onto that subject. (Lordy, it’s not easy staying on point here.)

A few weeks ago I decided changes were needed and I decided I needed the magical properties of lavender (I’m all about the magic, dontcha know, and anything in the purple family). As I am wont to do, research first. Oh my goodness there are so many lavender body scents, and they are hardly inexpensive. Plus of course you can’t get a proper whiff through a computer screen.

After many hours of deliberation I went with Lavende (Lavender cologne) by L’Occitane and I am well pleased but it took some getting used to. My husband, on the other hand, voiced instant approval.

Because it is cologne, and not parfum, it doesn’t have, or it’s not supposed to have, staying power but I make sure it gets spritzed on my undies as well as my skin and hair and, on me, it lasts all day through to the next. Which means when I put my little keppie down for the night with my ping-pong brain, the scent lingers still. And ya know what?

I’ve been drifting right off to sleep! Almost as soon as my head hits the pillow!

(With the exception of Sunday night of course when I couldn’t get my husband to roll over on his side and the noise would have waked the dead and kept those of us who were alive, awake. Even the cats couldn’t take it and they decamped for the living room.)

Now I can’t really say that the scent of lavender is the reason I am enjoying sleepfulness. But – cause and effect? Or – expectations met? Because I believed it, it was so? Even tho I truly had no expectation that it would?

I changed perfumes because I wanted a change (after all these years). The new scent is pleasing to everyone who sniffs it. Not really all that expensive considering how large the bottle is. But P.S. and by-the-way, I’ve never had so many consistent good nights of (almost instant) sleep.

Whatever the reason, it’s a win-win all the way around. So may I suggest – trouble getting to sleep? Try lavender. (And if your husband snores, try a wedge pillow and lavender or – well, I’ll leave the other possibilities to your imagination and discretion.)

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I suppose it's just a POV

It seems this year’s new years thing is a gratitude jar, in which you daily deposit a slip of paper on which is written something, great or small, that you were/are grateful for that day. Mindful gratitude, intentional gratitude – I believe those were the phrases used. Then on New Year’s Eve, you open your jar and read through the gratitudes and contemplate the good things of the past year instead of the not-so good things.

My first reaction to this was disdainful, uncharitable, derisive. And with self-acknowledged egotism, pomposity, self-importance, and sanctimoniousness, or in one word, hubris, I thought “How sad for them.”

But it really is a point of view. Or the cliche – “You do what you gotta do.”

I would hardly describe myself as a pollyanna, not sure any of you would either. I tend to think of myself as practical, pragmatic, unimaginative and while not entirely a ‘glass half empty’ person, neither do I see myself as a ‘glass half full’ person either.

I am, on the other hand, a believer in the mystic and magical. I can be fanciful and irrational. I can be soppy and sentimental.

I can still carry a grudge but I carry them more lightly now. The pains of the past, which still inform who I am, are visited less often and with some insight, but not with what some would call forgiveness.

I am an upsides/downsides person, as many of my past posts can attest to. Some days the upside is difficult to find no matter how much I poke and scratch for it but I can honestly say that as I try to get my mind settled for the night (not alway successfully) I do see, and acknowledge, some upsides. And if I were to maintain a gratitude jar I suppose these upsides would be what would go into it.


My life is not so busy, chaotic, complicated that I am unaware of these upsides even as they occur. They are there, I am aware that they are there, and I smile, inwardly and outwardly, and say “Thank you” that they are there.

I don’t subscribe to the yearly review concept – tho Dave Barry’s always amuses me, whether it is political, musical, theatrical or personal.  I have no need to review my past year, the past already takes up too much space in my consciousness.  Oh, mistakes made, too much in the forefront, whether near past, or far past. The good things? You know, just as often front and center – near and far past.

But if your point of view differs, and you need that gratitude jar and yearly review to keep your upsides and downsides in balance and perspective then do what you gotta do.

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