Archive for the ‘Conversations in New York’ Category

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Twin Towers -9/11

Twin Towers -9/11

# 7 September 11

Susan Gordis For BoomerYearbook

I don’t find September 11th an easy subject, not as a New Yorker, not as an American, not as a member of our planet. But some things happened as a result of that day in 2001 that were enormously heartening to me, that helped me with my own sadness, as I had exchanges with all sorts of different people.

My lovely husband, Jay, had left for work quite early that day, as it was Primary Day and he was supposed to follow former Mayor David Dinkins when he went to vote. My joke at the time was that Primary Day had become secondary, but indeed it was seventeen hours after he left the house that my sweetie finally returned home. He sat down to take off his shoes and was then mesmerized by the television, looking at the same things the rest of us had been watching all day long. Jay had seen only those images which were visible in his camera viewfinder, many of which were horrifying, but he had not had the chance to see what other people had recorded of the events that took place that day.

On September 12th I found that I was unable to do any work, although there was quite a lot to be done on my desk, so I decided I would do one of the things that’s healing for me; I spent the day in my kitchen. The back door to our apartment opens onto the dining area, and the kitchen is in a line with the dining table. Years ago we installed a home-built (and very “artistic”) screen door through which anyone who is in the hallway can see in. There are two apartments on that side and our floor neighbors are quite used to stopping to chat when they have time, and the cooking smells from our kitchen make their way out into the hallway and up the stairwell. Many people in the building work from home, as I do, and many others stayed home from work that day. Our neighbors from this floor and the ones above made their way to our screen door. There I was, cooking madly, and I had eight or ten separate conversations with members of my “town” that day. Quite late in the evening the telephone rang and it was my dear, sweet, tired husband. He had been working for thirteen hours and wanted to know what we were going to “do about dinner.” I said, “I’m cooking, so when you get home we’ll eat.” “You’re cooking? Oh, of course you’re cooking. Wonderful. I’ll be home in half an hour.”

By the time it was Thursday, September 13th there were errands to be done. Among them were things to be accomplished at the post office. Not only am I not more patient than most people, I’m actually less patient than most people, at least when I’m waiting in line at the post office. But the way I usually deal with my own annoyance is to talk with the people around me. Certainly there was a subject which was necessarily in the minds of each and every person in the post office that day. Everyone looked quite disoriented, at least to a casual observer who didn’t know whether perhaps some of those people might always look that way. So I struck up a conversation with a woman who appeared to be especially uneasy and uncomfortable. It seems her son had escaped certain death in one of the World Trade towers because he had had to pick up a package of some kind in the East 50s before work. She told me (and by now everyone else in line was listening as well) that he had had to reschedule his whole workday in order to do this and had complained about it to her on Monday. His coworkers who were already at their office were killed, every last one of them. His life had been saved because of this unusually-timed errand. As she told the story she began to cry. Another woman began to cry. A young man began to cry, apologizing to those around him. Those of us who were not crying were trying to soothe the others. People had to be reminded to go to the windows when a clerk finished with another customer.

On Friday, September 14th I went, as usual, to the local farmers market. I shop there every Friday all year long, so I have some wonderful relationships both with these lovely people who grow the food and some of their staff members. I said to one woman, “Thank you for coming today.” She replied, “It’s the least we could do.” One of the farmers insisted that I take a bunch of red gladioli “on the house” because, he claimed, he had brought too many. I’m not sure what I managed to say to him, but we hugged and that afforded me the chance to wipe my eyes without his seeing me. I decided those flowers should be displayed in the lobby of my building, so I wrote a little note to explain their presence. I made mention only of the fact that a farmer had given them to a tenant and didn’t give my name.

On that Saturday I needed to buy groceries. Ordinarily my husband and I do this together, and I often refer to him as “my beast of burden.” He has a wonderful, healthy appetite and an appreciation of my cooking so many pounds of food need to be purchased and carted home every week. (If he’s going to eat all that food then he needs to carry it, too!) On this occasion I had carefully strategized what I could conceivably carry and I walked to the subway. The weather was still quite warm that week so I didn’t need a jacket. I was proudly wearing a tee shirt which said “F.D.N.Y.” on the front and “Keep Back 200 Feet” on the back. As I went through the turnstile I realized I had just missed the train. I descended the stairs and settled in a seat to wait for the next one. The platform was deserted, of course. The next two people to descend the stairs were policemen. I estimated that they were probably twenty-four years old. They descended slowly, coming into my view beginning with their shoes, and as I watched them come down I realized how utterly exhausted they were. They stood together, both weaving, until one of them decided to lean against the tile wall. They were saying nothing to one another.

I said, “You’re not allowed to sit down when you’re in uniform, are you?” The non-leaning one launched into telling me that no, they were not allowed, and they hadn’t sat down the whole day before, and they were required to work double shifts for the foreseeable future, and they weren’t getting any time to eat anything, and so on. It occurred to me that here were two very young people who by virtue of their uniforms had been asked by countless people to give them information, to listen to their fears, to hear their stories, and these young men had been completely emptied of their reserves of strength and patience. The job they do, which is never an easy one, had become virtually impossible.

By the time his partner had finished verbally venting his frustration the other young man was no longer leaning on the wall. It was as if just hearing the complaints his partner was saying aloud had made him feel better. By this point other people had joined us on the platform. I sat where I was, smiling at the two of them, and I felt gratified that I had been able to help, just by asking one question and allowing the one fellow to talk. I heard the train heading our way in the tunnel and decided I would walk to the front of the platform so the train cars that stopped there would be less crowded. I had listened to the one young man talk long enough to know that the voice I heard from behind me was the other one’s voice. “Keep Back 200 Feet, huh?” The roar of the train precluded my being able to give any verbal response, but I looked back over my shoulder and waved to them. They waved and smiled back.

For many people the fact that they were talking with strangers was a direct function of that extraordinary time. As I walk around talking to people I don’t know on virtually a daily basis this was my chance to behave what is for me normally, and it meant that for people who needed an ear, needed the contact, and needed it right then and there I could provide an opportunity that they might not have had otherwise. In that way I tried to make a contribution to the other people I encountered. Anyone who had a method to try to impose order in the chaos should have done so. I’m glad that my natural inclination and the behavior that I have been practicing for so long was put to good use during that tumultuous time.

It was not we New Yorkers alone who had hard truths to face; everyone on this planet needed to think, to consider what had taken place. I would have liked it if those awful events had given people a way to rethink some of their long-held positions, to realize how fragile each of us is, but since that day we’ve seen that we are indeed doomed to continue to repeat so many of our prior mistakes, that instead of bonding together and banding together, instead of relating to the horror which we humans had once again imposed on one another, we decided to divide ourselves even more staunchly, we shrank back yet again from the chance we have always had to unite and pull together. But I persist in talking to people, one at a time or sometimes deliberately when I know I will be overheard, in the hope that we can come to understand that whatever happens to any of us is part of the life each of us has.

© 2007 Susan Gordis

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CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

chrysler-buildingCONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK

Susan Gordis

I don’t find September 11th an easy subject, not as a New Yorker, not as an American, not as a member of our planet. But some things happened as a result of that day in 2001 that were enormously heartening to me, that helped me with my own sadness, as I had exchanges with all sorts of different people.

My lovely husband, Jay, had left for work quite early that day, as it was Primary Day and he was supposed to follow former Mayor David Dinkins when he went to vote. My joke at the time was that Primary Day had become secondary, but indeed it was seventeen hours after he left the house that my sweetie finally returned home. He sat down to take off his shoes and was then mesmerized by the television, looking at the same things the rest of us had been watching all day long. Jay had seen only those images which were visible in his camera viewfinder, many of which were horrifying, but he had not had the chance to see what other people had recorded of the events that took place that day.

On September 12th I found that I was unable to do any work, although there was quite a lot to be done on my desk, so I decided I would do one of the things that’s healing for me; I spent the day in my kitchen. The back door to our apartment opens onto the dining area, and the kitchen is in a line with the dining table. Years ago we installed a home-built (and very “artistic”) screen door through which anyone who is in the hallway can see in. There are two apartments on that side and our floor neighbors are quite used to stopping to chat when they have time, and the cooking smells from our kitchen make their way out into the hallway and up the stairwell. Many people in the building work from home, as I do, and many others stayed home from work that day. Our neighbors from this floor and the ones above made their way to our screen door. There I was, cooking madly, and I had eight or ten separate conversations with members of my “town” that day. Quite late in the evening the telephone rang and it was my dear, sweet, tired husband. He had been working for thirteen hours and wanted to know what we were going to “do about dinner.” I said, “I’m cooking, so when you get home we’ll eat.” “You’re cooking? Oh, of course you’re cooking. Wonderful. I’ll be home in half an hour.”

By the time it was Thursday, September 13th there were errands to be done. Among them were things to be accomplished at the post office. Not only am I not more patient than most people, I’m actually less patient than most people, at least when I’m waiting in line at the post office. But the way I usually deal with my own annoyance is to talk with the people around me. Certainly there was a subject which was necessarily in the minds of each and every person in the post office that day. Everyone looked quite disoriented, at least to a casual observer who didn’t know whether perhaps some of those people might always look that way. So I struck up a conversation with a woman who appeared to be especially uneasy and uncomfortable. It seems her son had escaped certain death in one of the World Trade towers because he had had to pick up a package of some kind in the East 50s before work. She told me (and by now everyone else in line was listening as well) that he had had to reschedule his whole workday in order to do this and had complained about it to her on Monday. His coworkers who were already at their office were killed, every last one of them. His life had been saved because of this unusually-timed errand. As she told the story she began to cry. Another woman began to cry. A young man began to cry, apologizing to those around him. Those of us who were not crying were trying to soothe the others. People had to be reminded to go to the windows when a clerk finished with another customer.

On Friday, September 14th I went, as usual, to the local farmers market. I shop there every Friday all year long, so I have some wonderful relationships both with these lovely people who grow the food and some of their staff members. I said to one woman, “Thank you for coming today.” She replied, “It’s the least we could do.” One of the farmers insisted that I take a bunch of red gladioli “on the house” because, he claimed, he had brought too many. I’m not sure what I managed to say to him, but we hugged and that afforded me the chance to wipe my eyes without his seeing me. I decided those flowers should be displayed in the lobby of my building, so I wrote a little note to explain their presence. I made mention only of the fact that a farmer had given them to a tenant and didn’t give my name.

On that Saturday I needed to buy groceries. Ordinarily my husband and I do this together, and I often refer to him as “my beast of burden.” He has a wonderful, healthy appetite and an appreciation of my cooking so many pounds of food need to be purchased and carted home every week. (If he’s going to eat all that food then he needs to carry it, too!) On this occasion I had carefully strategized what I could conceivably carry and I walked to the subway. The weather was still quite warm that week so I didn’t need a jacket. I was proudly wearing a tee shirt which said “F.D.N.Y.” on the front and “Keep Back 200 Feet” on the back. As I went through the turnstile I realized I had just missed the train. I descended the stairs and settled in a seat to wait for the next one. The platform was deserted, of course. The next two people to descend the stairs were policemen. I estimated that they were probably twenty-four years old. They descended slowly, coming into my view beginning with their shoes, and as I watched them come down I realized how utterly exhausted they were. They stood together, both weaving, until one of them decided to lean against the tile wall. They were saying nothing to one another.

I said, “You’re not allowed to sit down when you’re in uniform, are you?” The non-leaning one launched into telling me that no, they were not allowed, and they hadn’t sat down the whole day before, and they were required to work double shifts for the foreseeable future, and they weren’t getting any time to eat anything, and so on. It occurred to me that here were two very young people who by virtue of their uniforms had been asked by countless people to give them information, to listen to their fears, to hear their stories, and these young men had been completely emptied of their reserves of strength and patience. The job they do, which is never an easy one, had become virtually impossible.

By the time his partner had finished verbally venting his frustration the other young man was no longer leaning on the wall. It was as if just hearing the complaints his partner was saying aloud had made him feel better. By this point other people had joined us on the platform. I sat where I was, smiling at the two of them, and I felt gratified that I had been able to help, just by asking one question and allowing the one fellow to talk. I heard the train heading our way in the tunnel and decided I would walk to the front of the platform so the train cars that stopped there would be less crowded. I had listened to the one young man talk long enough to know that the voice I heard from behind me was the other one’s voice. “Keep Back 200 Feet, huh?” The roar of the train precluded my being able to give any verbal response, but I looked back over my shoulder and waved to them. They waved and smiled back.

For many people the fact that they were talking with strangers was a direct function of that extraordinary time. As I walk around talking to people I don’t know on virtually a daily basis this was my chance to behave what is for me normally, and it meant that for people who needed an ear, needed the contact, and needed it right then and there I could provide an opportunity that they might not have had otherwise. In that way I tried to make a contribution to the other people I encountered. Anyone who had a method to try to impose order in the chaos should have done so. I’m glad that my natural inclination and the behavior that I have been practicing for so long was put to good use during that tumultuous time.

It was not we New Yorkers alone who had hard truths to face; everyone on this planet needed to think, to consider what had taken place. I would have liked it if those awful events had given people a way to rethink some of their long-held positions, to realize how fragile each of us is, but since that day we’ve seen that we are indeed doomed to continue to repeat so many of our prior mistakes, that instead of bonding together and banding together, instead of relating to the horror which we humans had once again imposed on one another, we decided to divide ourselves even more staunchly, we shrank back yet again from the chance we have always had to unite and pull together. But I persist in talking to people, one at a time or sometimes deliberately when I know I will be overheard, in the hope that we can come to understand that whatever happens to any of us is part of the life each of us has.

© 2007 Susan Gordis
Published in boomeryearbook.com

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK (#6)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK (#6)
Susan Gordis

The saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbors,” and although I can appreciate the idea that boundaries are an important concept and that the act of defining limits can be enormously useful, somehow this approach to having neighbors is not the one which many New Yorkers apply to their interactions with the other people by whom we are surrounded. We natives understand that New York City is really a series of small towns which ooze into one another with no specific boundaries separating them. And some of those little towns are smaller than you might imagine.

Twenty-five years ago we moved into the apartment where we now live. At that time the building population included a great many elderly widows, women who had moved here when they were first married, had raised their children who of course grew up and flew away, and whose husbands had died. These women had lived together for decades, and they had established a community during their time here which required no charter, no incorporation papers, no town square. They lived in a vertical village which stands on less than half a square city block, and it was and still is a neighborhood, a town, a city in its own right.

At that time the intercom system was a plug board (think “Bells are Ringing”) which required a building staff member to physically connect one apartment to another. I’m sure the staff heard many an interesting (or mundane) conversation between two or more tenants, but they considered keeping the tenants connected to one another an important part of their job functions. What is now done by telephone or cell phone was achieved through that mechanism, coordinating what we now call a play date for the children, or arranging to borrow an onion or a serving dish, or just the exchange of talk and gossip between neighbors.

Jay and I are both people who rely on the concept of neighborliness. We believe that if you start with those people who are physically closest to you and just keep going you can include each and every person on the planet, at least in the abstract. Of course we don’t like everybody in the world, and we like even less some of the things that we humans do to one another, individually and in groups, but we each want to be connected to the people around us. So when we got to this building and found that the neighbors were already friendly with one another we set out to join that community, and it seems we have been very successful in doing so. (One neighbor has told me that he considers me to be The Mayor of the building, although I’m still not sure what duties and responsibilities go with that exactly. Oh goody, another unpaid job!)

When new people become building neighbors some are able to “get with the program” immediately. Others observe the warmth of the interactions among those of us who are already here when they arrive and learn to avail themselves of the opportunity to be included. Still others simply don’t understand what is possible and go on being alone in a crowd. It’s great for those of us who live this way to add new members to our group, and of course sometimes those recent additions are the children who are born. In our twenty-five years we have seen newborns come home from the hospital and grow each day, amusing and educating us along the way. We have watched small children grow into adults, and when some of them become parents we enjoy it when they come back to visit. We have celebrated their triumphs and shared in their disappointments, and congratulated or consoled their parents (whose opinions of achievement or failure often differ from those of their children).

Some years ago one of our building staff seemed to smile a lot less, and the absence of his warm grin was a great loss. It turned out that he had lost so many of his teeth that he had become self-conscious. One of the building residents who is a dentist had offered his services gratis to this lovely gentleman, but the lab costs would need to be paid. A letter came around (delivered under our doors) asking for contributions, and indeed enough money was collected so that we had the necessary dollars for the laboratory with some left over to offset the costs of the dentist’s overhead. A couple of months later we were greeted again by that beautiful, welcoming smile we had been missing, and each of us who had kicked a little money into that fund were pleased.

In April of 2000 (on the 15th, Tax Day!) we gave a party. The invitations were headed with, “People who live under the same roof should eat together,” and the only people included were building neighbors. We certainly couldn’t invite all the people from 170 apartments (nor would we have wanted to), but we entertained almost forty people that evening. I cooked for a week, or so it seemed, and begged refrigerator storage space from some of the invitees. I declined all offers for people to bring food, except if they are bakers and then they were encouraged to bring desserts. In addition to what we purchased we were able to offer divine homemade desserts - carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies and something I solicit for New Year’s Eve every year, chestnut cake. I wisely didn’t display the desserts until people had actually eaten their dinner or no one would have eaten anything except those fabulous sweets.

We have weathered some hard times as well. We New Yorkers seem to invariably behave brilliantly when the power goes out in a city which is said to never sleep, or when the transit workers or garbage collectors go on strike. We even come through on a smaller scale when someone’s refrigerator dies just when they’ve come home from marketing (of course it never croaks before you go shopping), or when the hot or cold or all the water in our building goes off. The most dramatic of these difficulties through which we supported one another, of course, was September 11th, 2001.

The whole world was focused on the events of that day, but those of us who live and work on this island were affected in ways we could never have imagined. Anytime we saw the face of someone we knew we had to ask, “Is everything all right?” or “Is your family safe?” At least a half dozen different building neighbors came up to me to ask specifically about my husband’s safety, and I was surprised at how many people who are not in our “inner circle” knew that Jay was working as a news cameraman. Thankfully not a single person who lives under the roof we share had been hurt or had lost a family member, although of course each of us was touched in one way or another by the events of that awful day. My selfish concerns were about the fact that my sweet Jay worked bravely for twenty-seven of twenty-nine days and we had very little time to be together.

During that period of time each of us was very busy recounting our oral history of where we had been that morning, the people we knew who had had “narrow escapes,” and the like. Of course Jay had heard stories from people all around the city, many of them enormously tragic, including the reports about our incredibly brave firefighters who were working tirelessly searching for survivors. But those of us who were not in the news industry instead exchanged information and offered support to one another on a smaller scale.

My neighbors and I talked about how we felt, here on an island which had been attacked. One was angry that her father-in-law seemed disconnected from the events because he lives far away, as if an attack on an American city was not important to him because it hadn’t happened in his “backyard.” One told me how he had been scheduled to go on a trip the following weekend and canceled it to stay here on our island to try to impose normalcy around him. Another told me he had hardly been home in his apartment because he kept taking visitors from one place to another, deliberately escorting them, in the hope that they would be less frightened to be here. A couple who live two floors above us felt they needed to scurry home from their country house because it was simply impossible to be away from their Manhattan home in light of what had happened, and got here as soon as they were allowed to use the roads back into town. As I am a touchy person, I patted the arms and shoulders of dozens of my neighbors as we spilled out our feelings while standing at the mailboxes, or waiting for and traveling in the elevator. Four or five of them seized the opportunity and hugged me. These were hugs exchanged by people who had never hugged before, although there are a dozen or so neighbors whom I greet with a hug, a kiss, or both.

The main thing we were doing was holding on tightly to our sense of community, even in the face of such horrific circumstances. And indeed little by little things returned to “normal,” that is, we found ourselves able to speak about something other than September 11th, and life went on. But the adversity of power outages, transit strikes, the lack of water under this roof, and certainly the singly most awful event of the 21st Century - so far, that is - served to strengthen what was already a solid foundation that holds up the building in more than just a structural way.

www.boomeryearbook.com is a social networking site connecting the Baby Boomer generation. Share your thoughts, rediscover old friends, or expand your mind with brain games provided by clinical psychologist Dr. Karen Turner. Join today to discover the many ways we are helping Boomers connect for fun and profit.

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK(#4)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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Susan Gordis

 

 

 

I’ve already said that Native New Yorkers are truly unusual people. That’s demonstrated in numerous and varying ways, among them the fact that we are so accustomed to being crushed together that we retool those situations into opportunities for inclusion in each other’s activities and for making a connection with other human beings.

 

Since I really like to talk with people, and as the multitude of people talking (loudly and ceaselessly) on their cell phones on the buses has increased, I sometimes have difficulty concentrating on reading as I’m making my way around Manhattan by bus. As a result I frequently take my knitting with me, and that leads me into conversations about knitting. Much like a visit to the veterinarian leads to talk of animals, working on a handcraft leads to discussions about handcraft.

 

One of the things my fellow knitters (or crocheters) want to know is where the yarn I have came from. As yarn shopping is an activity unto itself, much like fabric shopping for quilters or pigment shopping for painters, I end up learning a lot about where other people shop, and I share what I have learned about where beautiful yarns can be procured. One woman who was smiling at me across the bus aisle while I was working on a scarf finally was unable to contain herself any longer. She had to bob and weave in order to catch my eye, as there was a nervous teenager holding onto the pole near to the inquiring woman, first balancing on her right foot, then on the left, then shifting the position of her feet slightly, and generally just being an obstacle to interchange. But the knitter across the way was determined. “Where did you get that wonderful yarn?” As I told her how I came to have that yarn between my fingers another woman, four seats away from the other, burst in, “Oh, I saw yarn like that which I really liked but it was too expensive. Would you mind telling me how much you paid?” I told her. “Ooooooh, you’re a very good shopper. Is it cotton?” “Yes, it is,” I told her, “I don’t prefer to work in artificial fibers.” “May I see it?” she asked. By then the previously antsy teenager had become involved in our cross talk, and she volunteered to pass the yarn across the aisle from me to the other woman. After that lady had petted it and cooed over it, she wanted to pass it to the lady with whom I had originally been talking. That required that the three people in between take it and pass it, which they did. These complete strangers had all become part of our yarn discussion.

 

Recently I was in the subway (where cell phones are not operative, thankfully) with another scarf. A woman boarded the train at the next stop and sat down next to me. “Oh, I just love what you’re working on.” “Thank you, it will be a gift for the winter holidays. Do you knit?” “Yes, I do. Where do you buy your yarn?” Had we had that conversation in depth I certainly would have missed my destination by a number of miles, but when I stood up to be ready to get out another woman swooped into the seat I had vacated, and I was able to hear the beginning of the continuing conversation they were now having about yarn and knitting.

 

I was heading back home with the same scarf project and I was at a bus stop where three different buses pick up passengers. I was standing and knitting. An elderly woman said, “I love to see that you are knitting. I wasn’t sure anyone actually does that anymore.” I said, “There are more of us than you might think. Do you knit?” Indeed she is a veteran knitter, and she asked me where I had purchased my yarn. I knew she would be disappointed when I told her that I had bought it online, but when I started to tell her about my favorite local shops she told me that she lives in Queens so it was unlikely that she would get to visit the stores I was mentioning. Her bus came and she went off with a smile. Another woman stepped right up to pick up the thread (no pun intended) of the conversation that had just ended. She asked me to continue with my recommendations for local yarn shopping, so I listed my favorites and what I thought were good values at each of those locations. She sheepishly (ooops - another pun!) told me that she didn’t have a computer so she was limited to shopping “retail,” but she was very grateful for the information. Then my bus came, and I wished her good yarn hunting and boarded the bus.

 

I settled myself in a seat and resumed my knitting. A woman was sitting across the aisle from me, and when I happened to look up in her direction she smiled and said, “I love what you’re working on. It must be so nice that you know how to do that.” I said, “Do you want to learn?” She seemed surprised, but I waved her over and she sat down next to me. I told her I was going to demonstrate two basic things, knitting and purling, and once she learned them everything else would fall into place. She seemed skeptical, but curious. A man sitting perpendicular to the two of us leaned in; he wanted to learn, too. So I held an impromptu knitting class on the #7 bus, which included a woman a couple of seats away who said she knew how to knit, but she was part of it anyway.

 

Another woman who had boarded the bus and taken the seat which my first student had vacated was nodding when I said (again) that knitting is easy. She said she is an accomplished knitter and was glad to see that people were still doing it, teaching it and learning it. When my primary student was getting ready to get off the bus I told her about my favorite new yarn store, and she repeated all the information back to me to show me she was listening. (Students of all ages want to demonstrate to the teacher that they were indeed listening.) When it was my turn to get off the man who had also taken his first knitting lesson said to me, “Thank you so much!” I responded, “Thank you for talking. It’s so nice when the men talk, too, since we women do so much of it.”

 

On a bus I was sitting across the aisle from an older couple. I was working on the bottom of a rather small sweater that’s intended for a two-year-old. The woman asked me what it was I was making. I showed her the little bit that was already completed and she began to chat with me about the use of circular needles, knitting in the round, and her preferences for her knitting projects. We agreed that it’s interesting to use other people’s patterns as reference, but we prefer to make up our own designs. She told me that she had done a lot of knitting in years past but then had not found the time. Her twenty-four-year-old daughter, though, has recently become an avid knitter so that has served as inspiration for her and she was knitting again. The lady told me that now that they were retired (indicating herself and her husband) not only was she knitting again but her husband thought it would help him to keep his fingers nimble and she was teaching him to knit.

 

Children tend to ask me, “What are you doing?” I make sure to tell them that I’m knitting, I’m making a sweater (or scarf or baby blanket) the old-fashioned way, by hand. One little girl asked me right then and there to teach her how. I showed her the most basic concepts while we traveled, and then her aunt promised that she would finish the lesson, as she knows how to knit, too. One five-year-old boy said, “Why don’t you just buy a scarf?” and I explained to him that I find it relaxing to knit, and I like handmade things. He considered that carefully and then said proudly, “That’s why I paint pictures.” Smart little fellow; I feel sure he’s destined to be a successful artist.

 

Once a white-haired gentleman told me about how he learned to knit during World War II, when he was too old for military conscription and already had a family but was trying to find a way to do something for “the war effort.” He knitted things for American soldiers, as many people were doing, and he so loved the activity that he knits to this day, although his hands are slower than they used to be, according to him. During that same trip, although the first gentleman had gotten off the bus, another man engaged me in conversation about the crocheted items he has made, and seemed sorry that he didn’t have his current project with him to show to me, an intricate lace tablecloth for his daughter’s engagement, complete with their names.

 

I continue to be pleased and warmed by the information I learn from and share with my neighbors in New York City. We are a hearty group, able to withstand blackouts and garbage strikes, onslaughts of United Nations representatives and even the 11th of September. Except for crises of this nature, where we show our mettle even more brilliantly, we mostly go about our individual lives secure in the knowledge that we are surrounded by friends in the persons of other New Yorkers, and we share our experiences and our feelings and our lives.

 

 

 

© 2007 Susan Gordis

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK (#3)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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Susan Gordis

 

 

 

Although my fellow New Yorkers are a truly wonderful group of people with whom to talk, obviously I hold the majority of my conversations with people I already know, and the person to whom I most want to listen is my lovely husband, Jay. Cat Stevens may have given us the poetic and tempting concept of, “A thousand hours I’ve looked at her eyes, but I still don’t know what colour they are,” but I know exactly what color my sweetie’s eyes are; they are the color of the Caribbean on a clear, sunny day. By now we have had millions of conversations, and then there are the times of obvious absence when we did not cover a given subject which might have merited some communication. Potentially those could have been about enormous, weighty issues, but for the most part it has been minor details, and a few of those turned out to have had significance (at least to me).

 

When we first started to live under a roof together (more than three decades ago) there were already lots of useful things in that apartment. One of them was a toaster oven which was elderly, so when toasting two pieces of bread it always made one light and the other dark. For at least a year I would necessarily serve my sweetie the dark piece, knowing that it was the better one. And because he is both a careful and a thoughtful man he would necessarily serve me the light one, making sure not to be greedy by keeping it for himself. Any four-year-old could’ve done better than we by simply declaring, “I want that one!” but we persisted in doing what we knew was the nice thing to do, to serve one another the “good piece of toast.” There are perfectly acceptable ways for adults to express their preference, in this case “I like dark, crunchy toast, don’t you?” would have worked, but much toast was eaten less happily until we (finally!) got this figured out.

A favorite story of mine is the first time Jay came home and I was ironing. He came in, put down his things, took off his jacket, and went to the other end of the apartment. As he was a news cameraman I wondered if some story he had covered had been upsetting, or if something had happened to cause him to very much want to be alone. Eventually, though, he came back into the room and I asked him if he was okay or if something had disturbed him. He said, “You’re ironing,” as if that statement would explain for me what the problem was. “So?” “I know better than to talk to a woman when she’s ironing.” It seems that his mother and his first wife had found ironing to be a heinous job, so he had learned to avoid the area where that activity was taking place. I, however, like ironing; it’s clean work, it smells nice, and since what I iron are table linens which were used for nice meals served at home, or the pillowcases for the little specialty pillows on our bed or a shirt that my love had worn, I get to think about occasions I enjoyed and a person I adore when I’m doing it. I explained that to my sweetie and ever since he has been pleased to chat with me when I’m ironing.

 

One of the other decades-long misunderstandings we have had is on the subject of skincare. Since my late teens or early twenties I have been very diligent about slathering myself with creams and lotions. I inherited my mother’s skin, very thin and very dry, and in need of attention. It wasn’t until quite recently that my dear husband had to come to terms with the fact that he has inherited his mother’s skin, and that it requires tending.

 

When I began to become insistent (or perhaps obnoxious) about the necessity of moisturizing, it came to light that my sweetie had always assumed that I had been doing all that skincare as a “preventative” measure. He knew my behavior wasn’t prompted by leftover youthful (nor late-blooming) vanity, but it appears I had been so thorough for all these years that he had been unaware of the fact that I actually have extremely dry skin and had somehow misunderstood the motivation for what I had been doing. Without intending the pun I said in disbelief, “All I’ve been trying to do is to be comfortable in my own skin!” We both laughed at that, and although I know that he still doesn’t see why I found this so weighty, I was struck by the irony that he has witnessed me using a great deal of time and energy (and money for the products I have had to purchase) without ever examining why I was doing so. A three-year-old would have been sensible enough to have asked me, “What are you doing?” and then “Why are you doing that?” but my brilliant husband never thought to question the reason.

 

In a way Jay was right, although I hadn’t really thought about it until then. I learned a lot from my parents, but one thing my father had said quite casually struck a chord and, I suspect, has figured into my approach to certain things. When my mother was probably about seventy-five my father said, “She’s never looked prettier.” My mother wasn’t trying too hard, and by then her life was quite relaxed and happy, and the ease with which she functioned “inside her own skin” meant that indeed she was quite pretty, so I suppose I learned this lesson from my mother by the way she behaved quite apart from what my father had actually said.

 

I’m pleased to be able to say that my dear husband and I are much more adept at talking about the big things. We have suffered numerous enormous losses and heartaches, and also a good deal of great gains and triumphs, and we have always managed to deal with those verbally (as well as in the little ways that loving, intelligent adults are able to find to soothe the bumpy spots and celebrate the soaring moments), but as I am made of words and my Jay is much quieter than I would ever even consider being, the things that go unsaid or the questions that have been unasked fascinate me.

 

My sweet man and I understand that for those of us who are talkers there seems to be a budget of words that needs to be spent every day. (My budget is a lot larger than his.) I’ve come to understand that although he always pays attention to me when I’m talking about the important stuff, in order to preserve his own sanity he only half-listens to a good portion of what spews forth from my lips. It was only a couple of years ago that he told me that he thinks of me as a chatterbox, which one might take as an insult, but if you knew him you’d know that it is simply an observation, fueled by love. Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac wrote, “You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you,” and (although I would change the grammar from “that” to “who”) I relate to what she has written in a different way from what I believe she intended when that line is preceded by, “I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you.” I suspect that the sound of my voice is a background for my lovely husband’s time, a kind of auditory wallpaper.

 

Early in our relationship three different members of my darling’s family made the observation that he was doing a lot more talking than he had in the past. His mother, his sister and his niece each commented that he had found his voice again after a long time when he was too quiet, too reserved. And I’ve noticed that the pattern has grown during our time together, so that he talks even to me much more than when we began. When we’re out together and I have gotten into (yet another) conversation with a stranger he often joins in that too, or sometimes he strikes up an interchange with someone else. When we’re alone again we sometimes discuss the conversations we’d been having with those other people, even though we were together at the time. Certainly all couples or friends who attend social events together and then go in different directions have that happen, but we seem to have “reports” to give one another from short periods of time spent at a bus stop or in a store, even when he and I were standing side-by-side at the time.

 

There is a particular set of circumstances when it’s best if we both talk to the same person, and that’s when we’re talking to a child we don’t know (and whose parent doesn’t know us). If I smile at a child or engage a child in conversation it seems to be more acceptable because I’m a woman. As a truly gentle and good man (and a father and grandfather) my husband is a completely safe person with whom children can talk, but in our society we tend to be more suspicious of men who talk to children than we are of women. Thus if we are together the parent or caretaker (or older sibling) seems comfortable with my husband’s attentions to the little one. This means that all parties are free to exchange their ideas, and more than almost any conversation one can have with an adult, what children have to say helps us to recapture the energy and wonder of who we were in our own past.

 

Each of us has relationships with children we know and whose parents know and trust us to be a good influence on their children. But in a way our conversations with those children are already impacted by the history we have with that child and the child’s family, so children who are strangers to us have nothing imposed on them. As a result the conversations I have with an “unknown” child often contains an explanation of the child’s version of his or her own life, often with a laughable outcome. I got into a conversation with a lovely little girl on a bus who told me that she had three brothers and that they had two dogs and a cat at home. She told me she was on her way to visit a friend who had some number of animals as well. (I was wearing a tee shirt that day with the face of one of our cats on it, so she must have known I am “animal friendly.”) When she had had enough conversation she began to look through a book she had with her, and her mother then told me that she actually has one sister and that they do not keep pets because the girl’s father is highly allergic. They were on their way to the Children’s Museum and they were not meeting anyone, so the little girl was not going to be with a friend. I must have looked quizzical about the fact that the little girl had so much convincing fiction to tell, because her mother told me that her daughter often “tested a story” on someone she doesn’t know to hear how it sounds or to see if she can be convincing. Perhaps I met a future novelist or screenwriter that day. When I told Jay about this little girl he wisely replied, “It’s good that her mother lets her use her imagination in that way. Hopefully she’ll be able to keep that with her as she grows.” Sweet, isn’t he?

 

 

 

© 2007 Susan Gordis

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK (#2)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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Susan Gordis

 

 

 

Native New Yorkers are, as I’ve said before, a very unique bunch. But we do the same kinds of things that people do wherever they live, we just do it while we’re very close together. When we find ourselves among strangers we impose the context of our surroundings on our interactions. In shoe stores we look at each other’s shoes, in jewelry stores we look at each other’s jewelry, and of course at the veterinary office we look at each other’s pets. In New York even before you get to the veterinarian you have dealt with other people. We do not get to lead our dogs to a car, nor can we just secure a cat carrier in the back seat. (Cat carriers contain ferrets and all sorts of other pets, but somehow they’re always called “cat carriers.”) If you can walk your dog to the office then there’s nothing remarkable to see, but if you are carrying a cat carrier it’s obvious that you have “someone” with you. We are either on the street or in the subway or a bus, or in a taxi.

 

Some years ago we had a wonderful cat who had been sick from the moment I had brought him home as a kitten. His name was Sherlock. (We named the next incoming cat Watson, because the moment she was installed in the family Sherlock became her confidante and mentor.) Sherlock’s diagnosis after about six months of not being well was lymphosarcoma and he had to have surgery followed by chemotherapy treatments, first every week, then every two weeks, and so on. In order to get him from our apartment to the oncology service at the Animal Medical Center I had to take a taxi.

 

One freezing cold January morning I was on the corner for an inordinately long time trying to get a taxi. I was concerned that poor Sherlock would be chilled to the bone, but then finally a taxi stopped for us. When I opened the door the driver, seeing me starting to maneuver the carrier into the back seat, whirled around and said, “I Don’t Carry Animals In My Cab!” I got out (I didn’t really have to do that, as the law says the driver must take me if my animal is secured in a carrier) and Sherlock and I waited another long and cold period of time for a second cab to pull up. I was getting into that taxi with my precious cargo no matter what, and when I got the carrier and myself positioned, closed the door and told the driver where he was going to take us, he turned around and said, “It’s nice to have an animal in the car who’s not disguised as a human being.” He went on to ask me about the cat and whether his health was good, and listened sympathetically to the details of Sherlock’s health history. When we got to the Animal Medical Center and I paid the fare he said, “I hope everything will be all right with him.” Of course that driver got a bigger tip than any of the others who had taken the same trip with me and Sherlock.

 

In New York we have a lot of “celebrities,” that is, the people who would be recognizable all across the country, or perhaps even around the globe. Some of them need to be here for their work, the theater or the ballet or the opera or Wall Street, but many have made this their home. (That’s a very wise choice, in my considered opinion.) New Yorkers seem to inherently understand that celebrity is a double-edged sword, that while it’s wonderful to be successful in your chosen field it’s also nice to be able to go about your busy day without people interfering by telling you their opinion about your most recent undertaking, or how much they admire you (or don’t).

 

I was once at the veterinarian with one of our cats and I ran into a man I know from elsewhere. (I came to know him because he used to frequent a particular Japanese restaurant where I was also a regular patron and, in true New York fashion, we got into conversation and ended up being friends.) I was sitting and talking with him as my cat and his dog were determining what they thought about one another when a woman came out of one of the examining rooms. She was clearly upset, on the brink of tears, and began to pace and weave her way around the waiting room in an attempt to relieve her distress. She was holding a dog’s leash, so I knew she had come in with her dog. I said, “It’s not easy to wait for your pet out here. Why don’t you come over and mush Duncan?” She came darting over and grabbed hold of Duncan (a very lovable and mushable dog) and it calmed her down immediately. She smiled at Duncan’s father for sharing his dog and at me for having suggested it, and began to tell us what the problem was with her dog and what the doctor’s (and her) concerns were.

 

Only a minute or two later the veterinarian came out with her dog. Of course mother and pooch were thrilled to be reunited, and she went off to discuss the health particulars with the doctor. My friend and I were still in the waiting room when the woman came to thank us profusely and then left with her dog. We resumed our conversation, and then suddenly I realized that that woman was not familiar to me from seeing her in the veterinary office, as many people were, but is a film actress of some renown. My restaurant friend realized it too (he actually is a jazz musician of significant acclaim), and we exchanged her name and shrugged and went back to talking. In New York we are accustomed to being in situations with famous people, and are glad to be able to treat them simply as people with whom we have something in common, in this case the love of our pets.

 

I have had dozens and dozens of conversations in the buses with other animal lovers. People tell me the rescues they have made (of which they are dutifully proud), and pets they had in their youth, and the animals who live with them who insist on sleeping in the middle of their bed, or get into creative mischief, or who have invented games they had never seen before. They tell me about their pets’ health, about wondrous or tragic interventions on the part of their veterinarian (or former veterinarian), and about how much their lives have been enriched by sharing them with their belovéd animals. Cat people are all in agreement that we recognize that we do not own our cats (although we’re responsible for all their expenses), as my sweet husband and I define ourselves as the servant couple our cats keep, a maid and a butler to wait on them paw and paw and minister to their every need.

 

But the very best thing about being in the streets and public conveyances in New York while carrying a cat is the response of the children. The moment a child notices my cat carrier I have an instant friend. (If it’s a shy child then only the cat gets a new friend, but that’s fine too.) I have had children ask me with concern if my cat is going to the doctor, and then talk to the cat about how it’ll be okay, “The doctor is going to make you feel better.” Other children have asked me the name of the kitty, and how old the kitty is, and have then told the kitty how old they are and what it means to be older, or younger, or the same age as other people. (We refer to our cats as people too, but it’s strange for adults to do that while it is quite ordinary when it comes from children.) Other children have told me all about their pets, or the pets of their friends, or both. Still other children who do not have pets tell me how much they would like to have one (or more), and some seize the opportunity to begin to try to reason with their parent(s) about how nice it would be to have an animal in the house. They understand without hesitation that we animal people are all part of an extraordinary group who knows what’s important, and they have no difficulty including me by virtue of traveling with my pet companion.

 

 

 

© 2007 Susan Gordis

Articles

Monday, September 1st, 2008

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK

CONVERSATIONS IN NEW YORK (#1)

Susan Gordis

Native New Yorkers are a very special group. We are not the people who scurry by visitors who are hopelessly lost and are trying to catch someone’s eye, and we are not the people who are totally devoid of manners in the streets or in stores or, for that matter, anywhere. We are in fact warm and friendly, helpful and polite, and amazingly talkative, and part of that is because we know for a fact that we live in the single greatest place on the planet. In my small amount of global travel I came to love London (where I almost speak the language) and Rome (where every policeman, never mind the populace, is so stunning that it’s heart-stopping), but I can not imagine living anywhere but on my island.

There was a period of time when people were wearing buttons that said, “I AM NY,” but I don’t wear buttons so I never did. But I believe that I am an embodiment of that thinking, so much so that I am virtually unable to make myself pass people on the street who are scrutinizing the street signs, or squinting at the bus numbers at a bus stop, or holding a map. There are maps of the subways and buses, of course, and all kinds of guidebooks, and maps of the streets. I have discovered that people will not let go of their maps even when I stop to help them (and they want my help), so if we do not have a language in common (and I have only one) I often have to physically turn them around to get the map and the island to face in the same direction as the only help I can actually offer. (I get away with that more readily than I would if I were a man, but that’s another discussion entirely.) I do, of course, locate the intersection on the map that coincides with the place we are actually standing (the human version of the arrow marked “you are here”) and that can be a service as well.

The people who speak English almost invariably tell me that they have had nothing but good experiences in making their way around the City, although we all agree that in the business districts they have more difficulty eliciting help. The reason for that, I explain, is that the people they encounter there are not native New Yorkers, but the commuter population who come here because they must in order to earn their living (and often are not happy to be here). It’s impossible for visitors to tell the difference between “them” and “us,” but unless natives are running hopelessly behind to be on time to an appointment or an important rendezvous we stop and make sure that our guests can find out how to get to where they want to go, or at least get their bearings so they can decide what’s next on their calendar. We adore showing off our city.

On West 57th Street on the way to the dentist I found myself saying to an American woman, “It’s morning and the Sun is over there. Therefore that direction is east.” She seemed surprised that she hadn’t thought of that herself, as she learned that in elementary school too, and no third grader had stopped to educate her. After I provided her with a little more information about the buses that run on 57th Street and acquainted her with the signs at the bus stop she seemed happy and secure that she could undertake the next part of her morning with no further assistance. Like most people for whom I stop she thanked me numerous times, and we set off in differing directions, each pleased with our meeting.

On the subway one Saturday last October on my way to the Union Square farmers market I was seated next to a young woman who was looking at photographs she had taken of the Empire State Building in her cell phone. From what I could see they were not terribly good photographs - the postcards one can buy would have been better images, but she had taken them herself. She was seated to my right, and on her right was another young woman, while two others were standing in front of them sharing a pole. One of the standees was wearing a sweatshirt that said, “Indiana State University,” the other was wearing “Columbia University.”

As I am indeed proud of my place I was the one who started to talk first (that’s not unusual, actually). I said to the girl next to me, “So you’ve seen the Empire State Building. Where else are you going and how long are you staying?” “We’re going now to Ground Zero.” (This is a term that used to mean the whole of Manhattan Island during the Cold War, but now of course it means the plot of ground where the World Trade Towers used to stand.) And then she added, “We have to leave tomorrow,” in a mournful tone. I gave the necessary instructions about having to be in the first six cars of the train in order to get to Ground Zero, and then to make sure to include all four of them in the conversation I said, “You are wearing a sweatshirt from Indiana State University. Are you ladies from Indiana?” “Yes,” said the Indiana State University advertiser, “we are.” She was interrupted as she started to say more by her friend the human Columbia University billboard who said proudly, “I had this sweatshirt before I came to New York.” I nodded.

“So what else have you seen so far?” All four began to talk at once, spilling out their feelings about having come to New York for United Nations Day in the hope of bolstering the work of the UN. We were getting dangerously close to my stop and I knew I was going to leave them very soon, so I said, “The UN was the best idea of the 20th Century, and perhaps the worst disappointment, but I’m really glad you have taken the time and made the effort to come here to try to reinforce what my generation had hoped for.” Three of them began to talk at once, but the girl seated furthest from me was quiet. When the cross talk died down she said, thoughtfully, “Thank you for what you just said. Of course we think we are the first ones to want peace and tranquility for everyone. We need to remember what has come before.” I loved her, of course.

I stood up and explained that I was getting off at the next stop, and said, “You four have made me hopeful for what’s coming in the future,” which they all loved, and when the train stopped and I got off I deliberately headed to the stairway that would allow me to look through the windows of the subway car, where they were in a conclave which I believe I had started. I was, as always, proud to have spoken to people visiting the City, and to have given them a little something to think about and take home to Indiana. And I was indeed very pleased that their generation is optimistic about the future of the human race, and they’re trying to figure out how to undo the enormous damage that has preceded them.

The thing about true New Yorkers is that we talk. We talk to each other and we talk to “outsiders.” We talk in the buses and subways, on line in the supermarket and post office, in elevators, in the street when the light is against us as we wait to cross, everywhere. And once someone starts a conversation it leads to people feeling more comfortable about striking up other conversations. Children know all about this, of course, but we adults need to be reminded. Children, after all, talk to one another in the playground, on the sports field, in the hallways at school, and are so good at this that they need to be instructed not to do it with strangers and not to be so garrulous in their classrooms. But once we are old enough to distinguish among people who are unknown to us we can do it too, and I talk quite a lot to lots of different people.

© 2007 Susan Gordis

Tasting Notes or Testing Notes?

Tasting Notes or Testing Notes? The Nose Knows

by Sharyn Yensko

Strawberries, cherries, leather, coffee, cinnamon, mushrooms…I thought wine was made from grapes. How do all these other aromas and flavors come into this? Tasting notes can be confusing. Are they actually meant to help you understand how a wine tastes? Well, maybe, but it can seem as if they’re speaking to a select group of initiated and poking fun at you. Or perhaps just trying to impress you with the great complexities of wine or give you a bit of vertigo. It is daunting to try to perceive all the aromas/flavors depicted in some columnists tasting notes. Take heart. Tasting notes really do provide valuable information (Okay, there are those who wax a bit too poetic and describe flavors such as quince, wisteria, and sawgrass …perfumes/flavors not all of us can relate to as easily as, for example, red berries). By and large, these descriptions are not all pompous displays of how many fruits, spices and flowers the reviewer knows. Most notes, whether well written, completely accurate or not, can help you understand how a wine will taste.

How? You say? First, as bizarre as it might seem, it is not just an illusion that many aromas and flavors are present in the wine. Yes, really present.

First let’s clarify the role of smell in tasting. It is indispensable. Humans perceive only four tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour. Humans perceive thousands of smells…detect, identify, differentiate them. Think of eating when you have a stuffed nose. The tastes are almost non-existent. Smells color those four flavors and give us nuances and a repertoire of flavors we easily recognize (Mmm, I smell chocolate, bacon, roast turkey..).

No, it is not with smoke and mirrors that these aromas and flavors permeate the juice of fermented grapes. How is this possible? The answer is natural law. Wine is made from grapes…we all know that. But did you realize that wine is alive? Yes alive because it contains yeasts, which are living organisms. All living organisms change over time and conditions. The same is true for wine. As the grapes ferment and then age, many molecules develop. Here’s the great scientific fact: the same molecules that make strawberries smell and taste like strawberries can be present in some wines. So when you smell cherries, leather, coffee, nutmeg…in wine, yes, you really do smell those fruits flowers and spices. Tasting notes are supposed to help you identify and therefore appreciate the multiple and seemingly unrelated tastes and smells that rush at you when you taste wine.

With the help of tasting notes and lots of practice, you begin to sense the aromas and tastes together and recognize each flavor as it unfolds in layers. The aromas are manifestations of the characteristics of the specific grape(s) and the wine made with it. Each grape varietal exhibits specific aromas called Primary Aromas. Many, or even most wines are a blend of several grape varietals, each with its own set of primary aromas. This is why lots of practice tasting is key. The aromas that result from the vinifying process are called secondary aromas and they indicate the wine’s origin and style. As a wine ages and oxidizes it gains tertiary aromas. Here’s where the fun really gets rolling. Tasting regularly becomes a mind puzzle as well as a sensual pleasure. Even in the early steps you recognize, but can’t name lots of aromas/flavors…just can’t put your finger on it. Memories come rushing from your mouth and nose to your brain faster than you can say Marcel Proust.

Most of what you will taste is revealed in repeated sniffing. As you start to sense more and more aromas, you will also notice that you taste these flavors in layers that develop in your mouth. After swallowing, exhale through the nose and observe the persistent aromas. This is called retro olfaction and it gives you the rounding out of the flavors.

Count the seconds the wine flavors last in your mouth. The longer the duration, the better the wine
Mmmm. Enjoy the road.