On reading, and other summer pleasures graying new york

| 13 Jul 2016 | 05:19

I never understood the concept of “summer reading” or “a beach book.” What I read at the beach is what I read at home -- mostly literary novels and newspapers. If I don’t like what I consider bad writing at home, why would I enjoy it at the beach?

I must sound like an awful snob, but I’m a compulsive reader and pretty picky (though I really ought to read nonfiction, too, I do understand that). Given that, if I’m lying in a beach chair and enjoying a book, it’s a book I would enjoy in all environments. Beach reading is just a concept totally alien to me.

Friends of Stryker Park is an organization that is committed to making the large plaza on 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues into a lively, multi-use space and public amenity. So far they’ve had three events, the last, on June 25th, which included music, coffee and treats from local retailers, and board games, as well as just sitting at tables and talking with neighbors. Bob Leonard, one of the group’s co-founders, says they want to transform the block into a park.

The three events were a pilot program with tables, chairs, umbrellas and plantings. The Department of Transportation is involved with this program and said it would support a pilot program starting in September. While the DOT is supportive, many community members are opposed to the idea. Some think that this area is already being utilized by people who stroll there without impediment (the sidewalk is five times the size of a normal sidewalk). Children can run and play freely. But others feel that the space is under-utilized and it would only enhance the neighborhood and enable people to mingle and get to know each other in what is often a lonely and isolating city. It has been agreed that the discussion will re-open in September when a larger hearing on the idea could be held at the monthly transportation committee meeting.

Do you know about ReServe? My partner works for this nonprofit that matches professionals 55 and older with nonprofits, public institutions and government agencies that need their experience. ReServists receive a small stipend of $10 an hour (it’s called paid volunteering) and you can work up to 15 hours a week. So far, my partner has worked as a facilitator on health issues and now as an exercise coach at various senior centers around the city. He took special training for both and is happily engaged twice a week making a bit of money and helping other seniors in New York City. Contact ReServe at 212-727-4335 or www.reserveinc.org if interested.

I saw the Roz Chast exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York. Of course I knew of Ms. Chast, who has published more than 1,200 cartoons in the New Yorker alone, along with several illustrated children’s books and an award-winning visual memoir called “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” I saw a group of tourists being led to the door of the exhibit, told a few tidbits about it, and then shepherded away. No wonder! You just have to be a died-in-the-wool New Yorker (and maybe a Jewish one at that) to fully “get” this exhibit. I haven’t seen her memoir, but these cartoons are pure New York.

“I found my mother!” I fairly shouted at one point, holding my sides with laughter. One whole wall was dedicated to her relationship with her parents, and it was so uniquely New York and really uniquely Jewish that I laughed and cried at the same time. I must buy her book, and I plan to send my grandchildren one or more of her illustrated children’s books. What a poignant, delightful afternoon I had.

The Museum of the City of New York is a treasure I visit often. I remember it from the days when it had a floor of huge doll houses that my daughters loved. There’s always something worthwhile to see there, and of course to follow it up with a visit to the Conservatory Garden across the street just tops up the day to perfection.

There are a few days that are just perfect. I try to savor them when they come. We all should.