Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Duck architecture

Driving through the Flanders we got (finally) to see the so famous landmark.

 I didn't stop by the duck, this image is from www.lukecole.com

The Big Duck used to be a store where one could find ducklings and duck products; this is a fun example of road-side architecture, but what I didn't know is that the word "duck" specifically defines a kind of building which shape refers to its product; in other words, if you had a peanut-shaped store  you'd immediately know where to buy peanuts, peanut butter, reese' s, P&J sandwiches...and that'd be a duck.

Ducks don't need any ads (like decorative shed do): their shape is the ad itself.

The idea of a duck-store wasn't an original of Long Island but it was  patented here: the inspiration for it was a Californian coffeepot-shaped coffee shop, but the triggering motivation was that in the '30s the duck commerce on LI was so huge one had to stand out among the masses of farmers selling ducks.

Farmer Martin Maurer got the brilliant idea of attracting more buyers with something more than an ad - and let' s be honest,  traffic might have increased significantly just in those years and people aren't that attentive anymore when they are on a wheel (and some have problems reading the signs, too!!); so he had his duck built of wood and concrete (another of the industry which was flourishing back than) with eyes lighting in the night as someone was driving by.
Maurer started selling eggs and duck produce on Main Street in Riverhead.

The Big Duck was moved only later to the Flanders.

It seems it had its best years in the '60s and '70s ,to see its door closed in the '80s. Now it is a souvenir shop, open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and it is owned by Suffolk County.

There isn't such a large demand for ducks anymore - the first were coming from China in 1837 so we are talking about Peking Ducks, like the one who ended up in this delicious roll...

Sorry, vegetarian friends, I never meant to hurt your feelings!

Monday, April 26, 2010

CMEE Children's Museum of the East End

As a Bnl employee's spouse I take part in some activities connected with the Lab, mainly a playgroup where my kids meet children their age and with a similar background.
The playgroup has a designated meeting place but sometimes moms and kids would meet outside, or decide on some specific activity.

Bottom line, because of the kids I get to go to places I would not dream of going to - or I wouldn't be allowed in.

One of these is the CMEE, the Children's Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, designed by Lee Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.
What an amazing place! On a beautifully arranged mix of interactive spaces  children can dress up as princesses or pirates, explore the interior of a submarine, fish, play in the ice-cream parlor, sit in the library, exercise or do crafts. Just to give you a sample of the choices offered.

I forgot the fire fighter truck, a hit for Bastian

When they say that TV substituted the fire place in modern families...did they mean that?

Other highlights of the day were of course the drive through the Flanders and the Big Duck (which deserves a post of its own) and the feeling that arouse from being in this part of Long Island. 
Partly because driving gets a little more relaxed driving eastbound, but certainly because there is suddenly more water to be seen, nature offers  a full range of colors and shapes and also because you get away from the generica of most towns (which, if I think about it, is based on straight lines, sharp edges and few colors) it is hard not to be seduced by all this beauty.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Greener Earth Day

For a week or so now, it has all been around Earth Day.
If you ask me, it doesn't take a day, or a week to become aware of what the planet needs: it takes a cultural shock.
The one where you realize that some Countries are allowing themselves privileges and economical growth at the so called third world's expenses and with an enormous impact on all the planet.

Today we were at the Indian Island County Park in Riverhead to celebrate too; it's a bit contradictory that we were driving half an hour to learn how much plastic you can save buying one large chip bag instead of ten small bags...Not true, there were many hikers who could share precious hints .

Carlotta got a lot of gadgets from the stands which were promoting awareness about nature on Long Island and the earth altogether... and I am very proud to say that she can read the words "Save Planet Earth" all by herself.
She has being learning about environment and recycling in pre-school; she has of course a four year old girl's understanding of what it is all about.
Couple of nights ago, while I was brushing her teeth, she came up with these very words:
"Mom, you are keeping the earth clean". I was a bit puzzled.How?
By brushing her teeth?How dirty must they have been???
"Yes, because you don't throw your cigarettes out of the car window!".
Now it started making some more sense, if we don't consider the little detail that I DON'T SMOKE AT ALL.

Later that week she suddenly proclaimed "We don't throw chewing gum out of the window" (littering is a bad habit).
"We can bring it home so we can recycle it!"

Family detail aside, what can I personally do save the planet?
As a blogger I will join the initiative called My Blog is carbon neutral started by bloggers of Make it green (Mach's grün).
The program is trying to neutralize the carbon footprints caused by blogs  (8 lb per year - a bit less than half of the emissions an average American person would produce) by planting a tree, which in turn absorbs about 11 lb of  carbon dioxide per year.

If you are interested in carbon dioxide emissions per Country and pro-capita, you should take a look this list. Pretty scary.

Update: For more about Earth Day, I suggest this article.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The (not so) subtle legacy between appliances and capitalismus

As if there weren't enough things to take care of, last week our (landlady's) fridge broke; we had it repaired some hours later, so we didn't have to take extreme measures concerning the food that was in it.
But now I want to know!!!

What would YOU do, if your fridge broke and you had to wait for a couple of days until it could be repaired?
Would you throw away fridge and food?
Only the food (so you can start a new diet)?Or only the fridge (because yours didn't have a nice design anyway)?
Would you ask a neighbor (or ten) to keep some of your stuff and meanwhile curse in Aramaic because you had just bought so much perishable food?

Or would you find the time to cook for your friends and their cats?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Parks and Friends...

This title sounds like that of a toddler soap-opera...now seriously: I got bitten by a tick ten days ago.
This brought some disappointment because I wasn't incautiously hiking; in fact I wasn't hiking at all.
My only fault was to have spent 10 minutes in our garden, where the grass is low, to prevent the kids from running on the street, while Ralph was removing the last fall leaves.
Guess the mischievous beast had been on my body no longer than a couple of hours before I found it, still... not a nice feeling; am I a bit paranoid about ticks?
This is because I have seen one (plus hundreds of pictures) and there are definitely nicer species on earth.

Yes, I do feel alright, no symptoms at all but anyway it is too early to decide whether or not to test and see if I got Lyme disease. And no matter how much people tell me ticks aren't a big deal: it sucks!

After this brief introduction, I come to the point.
There is a lot going on recently: we might prolong our stay in the US of  a couple of months, but we need approval from Ralph's employer in Berlin. This doesn't affect our lives as much as it affects our daughter's  since she might start Kindergarten here.
So, basically last week was spent collecting all forms and documents we need for her enrollment, and I had to do more phone calls than I can stand -  quite untypical for a woman, I know - and for those who had the luck to hear my adventures with bureaucracy I will tell you: this time everything went fairly  smooth and everybody was friendly and cooperative.
So, apropos phone calls: in the last days I was hearing from some friends; it is quite complicated to define what a friend is. Maybe I mentioned that before, but I happen not to be there for my friends (and this implies that my friends aren't there for me either) most of the times.
This is not meant as a criticism, it is simply fact.
Nevertheless there is from my side a kind of naïf belief that no matter how far, no matter how long you don't see each other, you can always count on a friend.
And also that the "riding the same wave" feeling you experience with some people isn't ever going to fade away.

This doesn't make me stronger against disappointments, but it is how I decided to live,  sometimes playing silly and forgiving people who shouldn't be forgiven just to stick to my principles (see, stubbornness is my favorite s-word). 

And then, talking about friends, yesterday I was at the Wildwood State Park's playground and met Emanuele and Caterina, a nice couple (he is Italian and she is American-Italian) .
We found out that we have lot in common, fun to say, I don't mean our genes, rather that our perception of life here is very similar.
Caterina works for Delta airlines and was in Venice last week, which made me feel close to home (just talking about that island makes me want to be  walking up and down the bridges and eat Baicoli) as if I could see with her eyes...

The fact that she works on airplanes  also made me think of how Venice looks like from above and how I inevitably feel overwhelmed by the beauty and the calm of the Lagoon.
And by the many phone calls people are doing immediately after landing.

Totally day-dreaming about this, I bent my thumb while coming down a slide (can you picture a frightened face?)...talking about landing...

 I'd be usually pushing smaller people down the slide...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sunken Meadow State Park

 Looking east...

Traditionally Italian people say you should  spend Christmas with your family and Easter with whom you please.

In the last five or six years, living in Berlin and having there my "new" family, I was spending Easter - or at least Easter Monday - with them, which is actually nice and fun, because Ralph has a pretty large family too: with uncles and aunts, cousins, some of whom have kids as old as our kids; plus Ralph's grandma is still alive (103 years old and rather healthy), so there is a  four generation get together eating delicious homemade German Kuchen (lucky me).

Anyway, this year it was just the four of us, and we enjoyed the two beautiful sunny days to be outside and explore more of Long Island.
Since Carlotta was wishing so much to ride her bike, we needed a place which was not the usual Heritage Park in Mount Sinai and still bike friendly, so we headed to Sunken Meadow State Park, which has a 3/4 mile boardwalk wide enough to practice biking and still room for lot of people walking, jogging or pushing strollers. And for toddler running after bikes, of course.

Sunken Meadow State Park is one of the two end points of the Long Island Greenbelt trail, which on the south starts from Heckscher State Park.
This trail stretches for about 39 miles, and since I don't see myself covering it all, neither alone nor with kids aged 4 and 1, I will have to be contented with exploring part of it from time to time.
One of the most amazing things about Sunken Meadow is that it borders the Nissequogue River State Park, from which you can see the Nissequogue emptying into the Sound.

Not having being in this area before we chose to drive from our place west-bound on the Nesconset Highway and take then the route 25a, which is maybe the fastest but probably less scenic way to do it.
One of the surprisingly  nice places (for me, at least) we drove through was Kings Park; this is a city with flair and a number of old buildings that, to my disappointment seemed quite abandoned, especially the little shops in the city center. Not as abandoned as in Riverhead, but maybe with a similar fate of becoming a ghost town just because everybody is shopping at the nearby mall, leaving few reasons to maintain stores which don't sell as well.
Anyway, there is a very good bakery (Park Bakery) in Kings Park - nice breads, cookies, pastries - a joy for the eyes and not only!

With the weather getting so pleasant it is time to be outside  a bit more; even the rain isn't as annoying as it use to be, because, as Carlotta has taught me "April showers bring May flowers" and, talking about flowers and flora in general, I found this page, which is very interesting: maybe I can finally learn what trees I see in the neighborhood (on the street signs at least - Rocky Point has this funny feature of having streets named after trees and whenever I drove by Locust I got upset thinking it was an animal - see, no reason to be upset anymore).

Friday, April 2, 2010

I love you, my bunnies...

I changed the blog template because I really am a springtime (actually more a late springtime) person but don't think all of those flowers make me a hippy happy quiet soul - because I am not.
And it's because I wanted to wish Happy Easter, but it feels a bit strange in these times of catholic crisis...
Me, I am just a recovered Catholic, like my maid of honor, and I kind of had problems with the Church from the very beginning.

That is because I don't let anyone tell my which WAY I have to go.

But let's start from, let's say...Sunday school.
This is when I first met nuns (as an abstract object). I do remember very well this old lady asking everybody if they ever went to church and of course everybody went to church, because their parents were church people.
My parents never were, especially my dad...so what I could tell was, more or less "On Sundays my parents sleep".

It must have sounded like heresy, but think about it: they were both waking up every morning very early, didn't they have the right to sleep longer on weekends?Now that I am a parent I tell you straight: they had that right.

But the nun, shocked, suggested I torment my mom and dad until they bring me to church on Sundays and me, the innocent child, wanted to be like all the other kids. 
My mom was probably ok with that, thinking it might do me some good to hear the word of Jesus- not that I had been a bad girl, but there is always  improvement (...).

From then on I started going regularly to the Church, pushed by the next teacher in Sunday school, who was a relative of mine (distant relative, of course).

When I was a teen I really enjoyed mass, for two reasons: I would meet with my best friend and we would sing some of our favorite songs - there are some church songs who make you feel good, especially around Christmas time. Anyway it was fun and all the different Sunday school teachers - after this relative of mine - were very nice and funny and they organized little events like concerts for seniors, which made us feel better kids.

But then, then it all started getting tough.
Sunday school was less and less interesting and service was mass boredom.

Also, I became more and more myself and there were things that I didn't like anymore. Like that priests would openly criticize homosexual people during mass. It was obviously a sign that our society was becoming more open on one side and totally preoccupied on the other side - terrified is a better word I think. It was like Church was seeing that the ideal family they so much emphasized wasn't a truth anymore (did they ever have a clue anyway?) and they needed their scapegoat.

But, then, it sounded all so silly. Now it all starts making sense.
In my "catholic career" I met many nice priests, some were the best jokes tellers, some were alcoholics (at least they really enjoyed alcohol more the a bit) and some were nice persons; two of them were actually very handsome guys. Those who made you superficially think "It's a waste they became priests". One was a nice person, the other one was an asshole (if you are a kind of Hitler in ropes  I am no forgiver!).
So, if you ask me, AT LEAST these two were clearly gay  people in disguise: instead of a coming-out they decided to announce they had a call (Lift up the receiver, I make you a believer) to keep their bigot catholic families and friends quiet.
And I firmly believe most of priests are following this pattern.
Some find an inner peace, some other don't. So we have a problem.

I am not saying that priest=bad, but if you have to bury your real self to let it come out in such a miserable and embarrassing way as it is happening now, well...then it is about time the Church rethinks itself from within and not from ME and YOU and SINNERS around the world.

You know what scares me now?Nuns.
Priest are a very small percentage of the Catholic Church (and isn't it crazy that they have so much power?) but nuns are the hidden power of it.
No, not all nuns are bad, just those who run around with their long pants when they think nobody sees them and those who don't let me read books in the train because they think the gospel would be more suited - these make me want to scream!
Anyway, my position is very clear: I respect you as long as you respect me, you can be a beggar of even the Pope, I don't make any difference.

Now I can drink my coffee with a relieved spirit.Amen.

I wish you a very nice Easter Weekend!!!