Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My dinner with Paulie Walnuts

Who is Paulie Walnuts? Get the fuck outta here?!?! You don't know one of the best characters on "The Sopranos"?? You know the guy with the white wisps in his hair. Well here he is (on the right). He actually busted my balls a bit by telling me to get the fuck outta here when I asked for a photo, then pulled me back in to get this shot. Nice guy, so were the other "Sopranos" cast members who were there. Like Big Bobby here posing with some colleagues of mine, and the guy who plays the son who is kinda cute in real life. I didn't get his picture but yakked with him a bit. I think maybe he was a little miffed we didn't fawn over him as we did these two guys, but whaddyagonnado?

So why did I get the pleasure of dining with these two guys? No I was not hanging out at the "Badda Bing", but at a big to do dinner by Immigrant Social Services (ISS) who were honoring some Italian Americans who had made a difference in the lives of immigrants here in NYC. The principal of my school was being honored and so was Big Bobby (Steve Schaparell?). So the staff of my school dropped $150 for a plate of crap food (but good appetizers and open bar) to honor our boss and a few others. Post honoring, we ran up to schmooze with the Soprano boys in our drunken states. I was seen most of the evening looking dapper and holding a Manhattan in my hand--very Truman Capote but just less slurry and a little taller. I must say I have learned to drink bourbon quite well. Maker's Mark only of course. Oh and did I tell you that I'm an official ambassador for MM? Yes I am--what does it mean? That I get to go to wild parties where all they serve is MM Bourbon. Not bad huh? But I digress...

The day after all this Soprano-ing, I played host to Ghufran, one of my Afghan students now living in Buffalo, NY. He flew down to extend his German visa so he can stay until August (as opposed to June) to attend a youth conference in DC. Anyhow, he got to spend three days in my whirlwind of a life running around from place to place, on the go all the time. It was a great experience for him and I loved having him here. Besides prolonging his visa (a relatively painless experience) we saw Sara Jones' "Bridge and Tunnel" the fabulous one woman show on Broadway, marked for a special Tony. It was a remarkable show about different people from different places all making a life together in Queens. I'm Ghufram got to see it. Of all the things on Bway he could relate to, this was the best thing. He loved the show.
Ghufran loves to make presentations about Afghanistan to people so I let him go to town at my school with the 4th graders while I painted a mural. I'm actually doing a neat one on a door of the AP's office. Pictures to follow later. We dined in Chinatown with friends. He just charmed everyone everywhere we went. It's great for my friends to meet my students for they get to know someone from another country and they also get to see a part of what I do in the summer instead of just hearing about it or seeing photos. My favorite part of the 3 days was doing a street fair on 6th Ave. in Manhattan. He helped set up and sell shirts all day with me before I took him to the airport to go home. A shame he couldn't stay longer, I was really enjoying his company. But it's OK, because now I'm up in Buffalo with Ghufran, housesitting while his host parents are away in France for a week. Hey I figured why not fly up for a week, get some work done in peace and quiet, see Niagara Falls, sell some shirts and maybe head over to Toronto. More fun to be had here. Read on tomorrow...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Tree Falls In Brooklyn

CRASH, BOOM, BANG!! I thought the front of the house was falling off! Luckily I paused to extend my goodbye to Pete, my neighbor, before opening his front door and stepping out on the stoop. Had it been a few seconds late, I would have been whacked on the head by a giant branch from the tree outside my house. Yes, the sagging, 12ft. branch just decided to fall off on a sunny Monday afternoon on a quiet block in Brooklyn. I would've added the word "shady" to that description but the front of my house is shady no more. My big tree decided it was time to lose a limb and have the sun shine more on my house. The biggest bummer of all this is I don't have the branches in front of my bedroom window anymore. I never bought curtains for my bedroom because I loved the feeling of sleeping in a tree, watching the birds and squirrels from my bed, seeing the change from full green, to brown orange to bare covered with snow and back again. Oh well, whaddyagonnado?

Fortunately, as you can see from the pics, no cars were damaged and no one was walking on the sidewalk at the time. It could have been a lot worse. The only major damage was one of Pete's plastic window boxes go trashed. But we did have a problem-it was blocking the sidewalk and needed to be removed pronto. Don't you just love a city with 311? Within moments, Pete, myself and a few other neighbors were on the phone to get the Parks Services to come chop the giant branch up. Of course bureacracy as it is, they'd put in a report and they'd be out there within 30days. Yes that's all I need is a huge branch blocking my doorway for a month. We called the Fire Department instead and a crew of hotties were over before you could say "TIMBER!".

Is it just me or is there a certain sexual electricity whenever the NYFD shows up? If there's a house burning down, I'm looking at the guys in action rather the flames shooting through a roof. Is it the baggy pants and navy blue shirts? What is it about them that drives me crazy (and some of you blogophiles too). Well, they roared up, sirens blaring and got right to work. They assessed the situation and then whipped it out, Oh their chainsaw I mean. Licketysplit, they chopped up that branch into and threw the pieces of the once bedroom curtain at the curb, taking up 3-4 parking spaces. Afterwards, they assessed the situation of another precariously dangling branch which could come down at any moment. They decided to bring it down. BUT there was a slight problem. My neighbor Joe's car was in the way. We called his wife who came quickly from work nearby and moved the black behemoth, clearing the way for a saw and pull job. I'm sure hadn't they done that, the branch would've fallen off in the middle of the night, ruining the car and blocking the street.

They wrapped rope around the branch in question and with a gentle buzzing of the branch, cut and pulled, cut and pulled until the thing came crashing down. Let me tell you, how hot was that to see NYFD in action. Buzz, pull, buzz, pull, buzz, pull CRAAACK, BOOM!! That's how the mighty second branch came down. These guys didn't mess around. Actually they were playing hard to get, all business and no response to my whitty banter and jokes. I had already pegged a few of them as potential husbands but the glare of their wedding rings shone in my eye like the sun into my bedroom now. With some more buzzing, the second branch was thrown on top of the first one and our local fire boys were on their way. Pete and I circled the branch heap to check out the wood for possible usage as furniture or art projects of some kind. I have enough wood in my yard and Pete couldn't figure out anything immediatley so we left it there for now.

A Parks Services guy, another hottie, came by a few days later to assess the tree and told me it may have to come down. I love my tree and the shade it gives us, but I don't want my house damaged when the things falls over in a high wind. Fortunately he said they'd put another one in that will grow staighter so we won't have a problem with top-heavy branches like on this tree. We'll see. It may be 30 days before all this comes down so for now I'm going to enjoy of what's left of my tree that grows in Brooklyn.