Today begins my summer reflection series. I want to review my five goals for the summer before heading back to Boston. This will provide for a good starting point when I visit my spiritual director. (If you don’t know what spiritual direction is, this website is a good resource.)
Once and a while during my summer break, that old theme song for that ’70s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” would run through my head. You don’t know what that song is? Well, listen to it right now.
The opening for the sitcom is a good time capsule of New York in the mid-’70s: big cars, graffiti on subway cars and the gritty cityscape. Sounds nostalgic, doesn’t it? But crime in the ’70s and ’80s was remembered as running rampant in the city. Any uptick in crime these days always brings back fears of a return to those days. Thus, the plan in June to expand NYPD personnel was announced.
As for me, the theme song reminds me that things in New York are very much the same and very much different. How are they the same? The Van Wyck Expressway remains a perpetual construction project, roads and subways still suck, houses are packed into smaller lots and salacious headlines greet me in the morning. Crime and policing are still concerns.
But fewer trees remain the neighborhood. The willow tree in front of my house is bigger. A former convent has become a halfway house for prisoners. More streetlights and four-way stop signs dot intersections. My usual bus route stops at the casino in Aqueduct. The wide-open space near my childhood church is filled with houses.
The prime example was two trips to Sheepshead Bay on July 19 and July 22. My mother was frustrated in not finding fresh fish in our neighborhood supermarkets. She remembered that the docks along Sheepshead Bay were the best place to buy fresh fish. I drove her, my godfather Uncle Ted and his wife, Tita Aurora, down a crowded Belt Parkway. (Not actually my uncle and aunt, but parents of other Filipino families are always called titos and titas.)
My mother pointed out all the retirement homes that popped up in Sheepshead Bay. Luckily I found a park space by the docks and we walked over. But I noticed that there were more cruise ships instead of fishing vessels. Uncle Ted and I checked out one fishing vessel but it was for sports fishermen. Meanwhile Tita Aurora learned that fish was no longer sold on the docks. Fishmongers would be ticketed if caught selling fish. I suspected that the residents at the retirement homes didn’t love the smell of fish from the docks. We all went home without fish.
But a few days later, Uncle Ted and Tita Aurora wanted to visit Jordan’s Lobster Dock, a seafood market and restaurant that they spotted on the way to the docks. My mother was too tired for another trip. I drove them to the market, which sat between a newer Cold Stone Creamery and T.G.I. Fridays. I had remembered going with my sisters to the United Artist movie theater across the street years ago.
Tita Aurora ordered 12 steamed lobsters and two bags of mussels. Uncle Ted and I watched the young man fish the live lobsters out of the tank and insert them in the steamer.
My godfather chatted with the employee and mentioned that they have shopped at this place for about 25 years and it still looks the same. We picked up the lobsters and headed out. But I had to backtrack when we realized that we forgot the mussels. Funny, that felt so familiar.
Welcome back, Jonas.
First goal for review next time: Dinner etiquette