How To Make A Rockaway Girl Smile

So how am I doing five months to the day after Superstorm Sandy came crashing into our lives?

The seasons have rolled by, this year with a more acute appreciation of normalcy. Cheering the first coffee shop and nail salon to return. Watching more houselights flickering in the rows of darkened houses huddled against nightfall.

 

2012-10-31 11.16.22 saturday
Halloween hobbled by, unrescheduled like its New Jersey counterpart.  But we partied with the little goblins on our street with whatever candy we saved from the storm.

There was a run on water heaters and boilers in November, before the temperature dropped below 32 degrees and the pipes froze. We heard stories of guys driving way out to Pennsylvania with what precious gas they could hoard – there was also a gas shortage, remember? – to pull boilers off the delivery trucks.

Somehow, we were able to get the trifecta in place. New electrical panel, boiler and water heater. That, and Boston Market, was Thanksgiving.

Christmas and New Years Eve we spent in our FEMA/Actors Fund supported apartment in the Avalon building in New Rochelle which was a break for me. Sky’s school was temporarily housed in another high school in East New York until mid January so my day did not start until I had driven through Westchester, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn to drop him off.

Back in Rockaway finally, we began rebuilding and repairing. Seven broken windows were replaced, the man cave in the basement was power washed and painted, all leaks repaired.

Signs of Spring

Everyone has new cars. Close to 2500 cars were ruined and taken away after the storm so no one even considered getting a used car. I refuse to tell you how many times I have tried my key in the door of a black Jeep that wasn’t mine.

We wandered into Bob’s Furniture last weekend and ran into other Rockawayites looking for basement furniture, just like us.

“Listen, for your basement you want to look at this selection,” Gary, our salesman and one of Seth’s Friday night poker buddies, settled into the display sofa with an appreciative glance. “Two words. Bonded leather.”

It seems that this was the weekend you couldn’t get your hands on any kind of bonded leather furniture. I really didn’t want to go schlepping out to Pennsylvania.

A Bright Spot

Seth found a story about CARE, the Cherished Album Restoration Effort, an amazing group of people who will restore up to 50 photos for people in the flood zone. Next weekend, someone will be coming over to scan our photos so they can be restored. This is the kind of disaster relief work that uplifts the spirit as well as repair the damage. The one thing everyone says they miss the most are the photos that were in the basement and ruined by the storm. I am so grateful to them for offering to save what precious images we have left.

That puts a big smile on my face.

 

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How Surfing Can Make You A Better Mom

Fwd: Pic- Sunrise & HYK on the beach this AM-I am the photographer-what do you think?

me, at the beach in Rockaway

 

Some people will do anything to stay young.

I am not satisfied with staying young at heart.  I want to be young.

Let me be clear.  It is not my youth that I am chasing.  It is the childlike wonder and simple fearlessness that I want.  That is why I surf.

And of course, in order to be good at it, I run every morning and I take hot yoga classes for strength, balance and focus.   Somehow, the stars and the surf are in alignment here in the Rockaways and it is now reinventing itself as the coolest beach with the skyline of Manhattan just over the bay.  There are yoga classes on the beach during the week, beach tennis, a skateboard park and the big deal of the day is the food vendors along the boardwalk now have a liquor license!

How to Rock the Rockaways

You want to know how to do this?

  1. Listen, get up early, get out here around 7:30 am on a Saturday.  At this time you can probably find a parking spot off 96th street in the big lot across from the library.  The A train stop is 96th Street.
  2. Walk over to 108 street and set up your yoga mat by the water.  The class is free, usually taught by my friend Helen who is fabulous, and begins at 8:00 am for one hour.  There is no better way to start off your weekend.
  3. Afterwards, you can rent a bicycle for the day and cruise up and down the boardwalk.  Check out the surfers at 91 street,  I’ll be there.  You can grab a bite at Rippers – great veggie burgers and juice bar.  My fave is the Dreamcatcher.
  4. Find yourself a piece of sandy heaven and relax.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

 

 

Hey, this is a lot of work but it is so worth it.

 

 

 

Surf's Up Now

Sky and his new surfboard

I am lucky to have a friend to go running with every morning.

I am blessed to have a son I can go surfing with every summer.   He is the reason I paddle out to catch waves and try to hang ten.

Today, I saw him surfing with his friends up around 143 street in Neponsit.  It was a whole scene – lean, tan boys laughing in the tumbling waves out past the first set of breakers, giggling girls in bikinis waving at them.  Getting called in by reluctant lifeguards under the stern gaze of their supervisor and whispering conspiratorially,

 

“Hey guys, I know you guys can swim out there.  My boss is here so I have to call you guys in.  You know I won’t bother you when he’s not around.  We’re surfers too.”

Sky grabbed his board and his eyes barely flickered a hello as he dashed by me with his crew.  Does that bother me?  I suppose it could but, I surf too.

 

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The Secret Superpower of Not So Brilliant Little Asian Girls

pencil nose

photo by polis poliviou

 

Being cheap is not the same as being poor.

Today someone told me he had extremely wealthy friends who, whenever they would go out to dinner and split the bill, would order the most expensive items on a menu so they could feel like they really got a great meal on another person’s dime.  Well, how do you think they became rich in the first place?   A bank account can tell you if a person is poor.  A dinner can tell you if they are cheap.

Being a wine snob is not the same as knowing the wine steward.

Years ago a friend of mine memorized the rainfall history of several red wineries in France in an ambitious attempt to become accepted as a wine connoisseur, something only people with too much time on their hands often do.  He was quickly exposed as a poseur by the wine snob community and now spends his efforts befriending the wine steward.

A much easier way to get a good bottle of wine.

Being literate is not the same as being smart.

“It’s the craziest thing, but I just realized I can actually memorize hundreds of facts before tests.  And as soon as the test is over – Poof!  Gone!  My head is completely empty again!”

Mikki was so excited to discover this amazing skill as she was studying for her GRE and LSAT exams.

“You have inherited my superpower.”  I said solemnly.  “Not being the brilliant little Asian girl that I was supposed to be,  I developed extraordinary skills in other areas.  The ability to stuff enormous amounts of data in my head for short periods of time is one of them.  Use it well.”

Mikki gasped.  “Do you have other amazing skills?”

I smiled.  “All will be revealed in good time.  You already possess the ruthless ability to hunt down extra credit opportunities.  That served you well in ratcheting up your GPA into the lofty realm of Dean’s List, didn’t it?”

Her eyes shone.  Her voice trembled as she spoke.  “I am so proud to be half Asian.”

“Remember, the power of the Number Two pencil is in your hands.  And most of all, ”  I said, holding my head up high,  ” literacy is just knowing stuff.  But being smart is knowing what you need, to do what you need to do.”

 

Am I saying that education can be replaced by memory tricks?  No.

I am saying that there are many ways to be intelligent in life.  Yes, I was not a good student in the traditional sense. I had to reconstruct a set of skills that would get me through the world of academia.  I had to figure out what I needed to know to do what I needed to do. Creative gate jumping, or developing ways to be a Number Two pencil Ninja on these big tests are means to an end and are potentially more valuable in navigating life challenges.

 

Do I still use my superpower?

Absolutely.  Put me in a roomful of people and I will remember at least twenty people’s names, make a mental note of a chatty little fact about them, and know where I parked my car.

What is your superpower?

 

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Hoong Yee

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Eat Your Vegetables, Eat On The Roof

ben and his parents

Ben Flanner and his cool parents

dinner on the rooftop

Dinner and a movie on the roof

 

Are vegetables good for you?

Of course!

Are they fun?

Fun?  And cool.

Here at the SMP Building in Long Island City, up on the roof,  Ben Flanner has created a one acre farm with a killer view.  Ben has always wanted to run a farm, according to his mom.  I don’t know if he ever imagined that farm to be on top of a former auto parts manufacturing building on Northern Boulevard but that’ s what makes his farm so cool.

We had a dinner for about fifty people followed by a screening of one minute videos created by local artists in their favorite restaurants in Queens.

This is a little film project we call the Moveable Feast.   Do you want a peek at where artists like to eat?  Check these out.

We had salad with greens from the farm and desserts made by aspiring pastry chefs from the food incubator program down the block.  I nibbled on beet greens which are a beautiful deep red color and delicious in a mixed green salad.

Locals Rule

I love being a local.

I love buying local produce, working with local artists, supporting local businesses. There is an unmistakeable sense of pride that is part and parcel of local creative industries.  It is a distinctive Queens edge that comes through.

Especially in the lettuce.

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Hoong Yee

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How To Transform From A Soccer Mom To Surfer Mom

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hanging out at Beach 91st Street in Rockaway Beach

 

I am in love.

This weekend, I took my first surfing lesson and I am in love with surfing.  On Saturday morning,  Seth and I met Fernando, my surfing teacher, at the edge of the jetty just off Beach 91st Street.  We walked back to his house which kind of looks like a tiki hut or a typical surfer’s shack tucked behind a tall beach house just a few blocks off the beach.  I could feel time slip into another pace, the day became one big sunny moment.  Seth settled into his beach chair next to a group of very nice people who decided to be my cheering squad.  They clapped every time I tried to stand up.

“It’s all about finding your balance and controlling your board with your body.  When you feel the wave take your board, jump up and ride.”

That simple directive, so beautiful to watch, is not as easy as it sounds.

“It’s about your arms, your shoulders, your center of gravity.”

Listen, Fernando, its about that and a bunch of other muscles I didn’t know I had. I was on a vintage 60’s long board and wondering how the hell I was going to maneuver it in the water.  I know, lots of arm and shoulder and that pesky center of gravity.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I can see my mom, the evolved Buddhist from Bayside, nodding approvingly.  She likes to remind me about being centered and balanced.  “In all things in life.  Even on a surfboard.”

 

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Fernando and me

I love sitting on the board waiting for a wave.

Fernando pushed me out and shouted, “Now!”  I waited until I felt the wave move the board.  I actually stood up for a few shaky seconds before tumbling happily into the surf.

Seth brought me a veggie burger from the food stand on the boardwalk when I stumbled on to the sand after my lesson.  You have to dodge skateboarders carrying surfboards and zig zag your way through surfboards and boogy boards to get something to eat but, boy oh boy, is it worth it!  This is the summer of great boardwalk food in the Rockaways.

And the summer I learn how to hang ten.

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Hoong Yee

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Thanks so much! I really appreciate your help.

Word of mouth is the best way to share, don’t you agree?