Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Juicy Tale

Do you juice? Have you ever juiced? Did you juice at one time--like for about three days--but gave it up? Judging from the number of slightly-used juicers for sale on eBay and Craigslist, a lot of people get excited by the idea of juicing, but don't sustain the level of interest necessary to incorporate juicing into their lives.

Back in the 1970s I paid over $200 for an Acme juicer. I became a binge juicer--no surprise, because this is how I do a lot of things: binge sewing, binge rug hooking, binge decluttering, binge-watching some of the TV series I missed back when everyone was watching them once a week. You get the picture.

At some point I stopped juicing. This was before we had eBay and Craigslist, so the juicer went into my pantry and eventually became invisible. I almost never watch infomercials of any kind, but a few years ago I turned on the TV in the kitchen and there was Jack LaLanne, vigorous and fired up with enthusiasm at age 102 or whatever, demonstrating his juicer. Truly, he was like the best preacher you've ever heard, except instead of the Bible he had his hand on a kitchen appliance. Instead of sin he decried processed foods. And instead of prayer he offered us carrots, apples, and romaine lettuce.

This is great, I thought, and I own a juicer! But with the zeal of a recent convert, owning a juicer wasn't enough. I wanted my kids to own theirs too. I didn't order any from the infomercial, though (frugality trumps zeal); I went to Amazon, my go-to retailer, and bought a Jack LaLanne juicer for my son and his family for a lot less than the TV price, plus a Waring Pro juicer for my daughter and hers. Then I got my juicer out of the pantry and ran some vegetables through it.

The LaLanne juicer was still in its box when I read through some online reviews and learned it's an absolute bitch to clean. I offered to sell it and replace it with a different brand, but my son semi-tactfully suggested that I simply sell it. No replacement, thanks. As for my daughter's, I assume it's still in the box. Unless she sold hers too. My own enthusiasm waned before long as well, and the juicer made its way back to the pantry. (I think it went there on its own.)

Then last year someone recommended the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." Icky title, but it certainly grabs one's attention. I loved the movie (you can watch it here). If Jack LaLanne was a preacher, Joe Cross is Paul the Apostle. I started juicing again immediately. Every morning I would set out a large plate and fill it with juice makings: carrots, greens, celery, part of a beet, a piece of apple, a wedge of lemon, a chunk of ginger. It made about 16 oz. of juice, and that was my first meal of the day. I observed a dramatic increase in my afternoon energy.

After a couple of weeks I also observed that the juice was a little hard on my gut. I was seeing an acupuncturist at the time, and she thought it might be difficult to process all those nutrients at once. She suggested I juice every other day, making a smaller quantity, and eating something along with it. She also suggested that I chew the juice, but I ignored that part.

This time I've kept it up, to the point where my sturdy Acme started showing signs that it needed a new blade. I bought one, but wasn't able to install it properly. Perhaps the Acme is too old. Maybe I could have looked harder for a different blade, but I realized I now had the perfect excuse to get a Breville juicer just like the one Joe Cross used in the movie.

It arrives Friday, FedExed from Oregon. I bought it (slightly used) on eBay. Cheers!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Sweet Rocket (Dame's Rocket, Hesperis)

In case you don't know what it looks like, this is it. It wasn't planted here; it arrived on its own. It all began with some seeds I intentionally planted in a perennial bed, but the self-sower long since outgrew that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Note to Amelia Phillips, Who Died in 1884

I know you were born in Prussia, though I'm not sure when, and moved at some point to London with your husband, the tailor Jacob Phillips, your son Phineas, and daughters Harriet and Esther. I'm not certain when you came to America, but in 1860 you were living in Norfolk, Virginia, with Harriet and her family, which at that time consisted of her husband, Herman, a chiropodist, plus 2-year-old William, and 8-month-old Ophelia.

At some point you and Jacob settled in Baltimore, Maryland with Esther and her family. Esther's husband, Charles, was a cigar manufacturer who shared a business address with Jacob's tailoring shop. After Jacob died, probably in 1868, you moved to New York City with Esther's family: Esther, Charles, and their children:  Isidore, Lena, Jacob, Harry, Minnie, Phineas, Oscar, and Bertha.

Two years after you arrived in Manhattan, Harriet died. By then she had five children, ages 18, 17, 14, 13, and 7. The youngest three, all boys, were placed in orphan asylums—the older two in Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest, Jacob, in the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum. I hope Jacob went to New York so you and his aunt, uncle, and cousins could visit him. I don't know why the other two boys weren't placed there with him. And I don't understand why all three weren't able to live with relatives instead. So sad.

Herman said he worked all day and couldn't take care of them. He paid $100 to $150 each year for their care, and died himself 10 years later at age 58.

So this is what I mainly want to tell you: Esther's son Harry, with the beautiful singing voice, married Alice, also of a beautiful voice, and in 1903, after they'd spent some time performing together and separately, their son Harry was born. Three years later they had a daughter, and named her Esteare—Esther with a French accent. Your daughter must have been a good mother to have a granddaughter named for her.

Harry grew up, and—are you still following me?—when he was 40 had a daughter named Susan. C'est moi. Your great-great granddaughter. I was thinking of you today, Amelia, and just wanted you to know that.

Amelia Phillips' memorial on FindAGrave

Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Incident on March 7, 1903

This article is from the New York Tribune, March 8, 1903. I think it's interesting on its own, but the thing I find especially fascinating is that the performance and incident took place March 7, 1903, the day my father—Harry Luckstone's first child—was born. I hope he made it home for the birth.


Flies from Sheath and Hits Musician and Actress.

At the matinee performance of “Nancy Brown,” at the Bijou Theatre, yesterday, John C. Reitzel, one of the musicians in the orchestra, and Miss Anna Buckley, an actress, who was sitting in the front row, were injured by the fall of a heavy dagger from the stage. Reitzel was seriously hurt, but the woman escaped with a scratch or two and a nervous shock.

At the end of the first act Harry Luckstone, who plays the part of the Prince, is called on to engage in an encounter with two others in the cast, one of them being thrown to the stage. Luckstone wears a heavy Oriental dagger in his belt, and in the scuffle yesterday the handle of this weapon caught in the lace of the sleeve. The weapon was pulled violently out of its sheath.

It flew into the orchestra, striking Reitzel heavily between the eyes and then bounded off and struck Miss Buckley in the breast, falling to the floor across her wrist. The bridge of the musician’s nose was crushed in so that he will be disfigured for life, and it was feared last night that his brain might be injured.

The sight of the blood from his wound caused a stir in the audience. Miss Buckley and two or three women who had not been hurt at all fainted. The performance went on, however, which restored the audience to quietness. Reitzel was carried home.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Times Change (boy, do they ever!)

I recently acquired my high school's 1965 yearbook. That's not the year I graduated; in fact, I got married in 1965. But it's close, and in any case it doesn't matter. I bring part of it to my blog as another sort of time capsule: the way high schoolers (at least those who attended William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens, NY) expressed themselves almost 50 years ago.

The text was written by the students. If anyone has a recent high school yearbook, I'd be interested in comparing the styles. Here's a quote taken from the beginning of the 1965 yearbook:

We have acquired the incentive to try to meet all surprises and disappointments with imperturbable calm . . . 

All this is basically due to the gay atmosphere that surrounds us. The pleasant atmosphere lends itself to all those who wish to make use of it for beneficial social purposes. It is not uncommon for young love to have blossomed in the few moments that we have had between classes. Love at first sight has happened in the corridors as well as on the stairways where fortunate people leaving the cafeteria gracefully charged up the stairs to the fourth floor.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looking at My 1970 Checkbook

I came across this 44-year-old checkbook yesterday. It looks ancient, and it reads like a time capsule.

It starts with a balance of only $218.26, and it never goes much higher than $400. We didn't have children yet, but we lived a fairly civilized life in a Dutch Colonial house in Bergen County, NJ, and spent our weekends at our little house in Pennsylvania. I've never been what you'd call a conspicuous consumer, but I'm sure I did a normal amount of spending. So here's what was normal, or close to it, in 1970.

My telephone bills, including lots of "long distance" calls to my parents in Florida, ran around $40. The electric bill was under $20 for Pennsylvania, and around $10 for New Jersey.  Four months of garbage pickup for $20. Propane for my gas range, 5 bucks. Four dollars to renew my driver's license. Five dollars to the liquor store. A whopping $26 to Bamberger's department store.

So many of the checks are startlingly small. Fifty cents for a Maid of Scandinavia catalog. A guy who made picture frames got $2. Ordering a part for my pressure cooker ran me $2.36. (I guess they didn't charge for shipping.) Someone sold me flowers for $1.60. One year subscription to the local paper for $4. Fifteen months of McCall's magazine for $2.88. (No wonder they went out of business.) Even Bloomingdale's got only $6 and change.

Then there are the mysteries, of course:

A check for $1.98 to Libner Grains. I have no idea who Libner was, and no clue why I'd need grains. Tiffany & Co., $7.36. What could one possibly buy at Tiffany's for $7.36? A check for 50 cents to New Haven Vital Statistics.

But some things never change. In 1970 I donated to animal charities and environmental causes. And almost every page of the checkbook records purchases of books and music, music and books.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Navy SEALs (sort of)

I was watching a 60 Minutes segment on the rescue of Jessica Buchanan by a group of Navy SEALs, and I thought of my Navy SEALs. Well, mine weren't really Navy Seals; as far as I know, they weren't even in the military. And my situation wasn't really like Jessica Buchanan's. In fact, it bore no resemblance whatsoever to hers.

Jessica, an American, was working for a Danish aid organization in Somalia in 2011 when she was kidnapped by land pirates and held hostage for 93 days. Jessica suffered mentally and physically during that time, forced to sleep out in the open in the desert. She lost a lot of weight and developed a serious kidney infection. Then one night the Navy's SEAL Team 6 came out of nowhere and rescued her.

When they'd gotten away from the pirates' camp, one of the SEALs asked if she'd left anything behind. She said, "I can't believe I did this, but I had a small little powder bag that they had let me keep, and inside I had re-stolen from them a ring that my mom had made, and I thought, 'I can't leave it here in the desert.' [Her mother had recently died.] And so I ask him to go back and get the bag for me. And, I mean, these men are just, they're incredible. He goes back out, into a war zone basically, to go get my ring. And then he comes back with the bag."

So. About my "Navy SEALs" . . . I was 19 years old, and commuting to work from Queens to Rockefeller Center. Rush hour on the NYC subways is not for the claustrophobic or overly sensitive. Getting a seat was never an option for me. We had our choice of holding onto one of the handles above the seats or grabbing a pole. Envision multiple hands holding onto the same shiny white pole. I guess we chose our spot on the pole depending on our height. Like a lot of riders, I always had a book with me. One hand holding the book, the other clutching the pole.

Our "space" was simply what our bodies displaced. We couldn't claim any of the area surrounding us; that was taken up with other bodies. You can see why no one makes eye contact in a place like New York. We are intent on walling up our very limited territory.

Subway commuters discover that a remarkable number of people eat garlic for breakfast. They also learn that the daily shower doesn't appear to be in widespread use. You don't think about that sort of thing very much; it just goes with the territory. You can't exactly minimize contact with the other riders, but you do what you can not to maximize it.

Which was why it came as a surprise—more like a shock—that morning when a guy in back of me pushed me into the pole and yelled that I was leaning on him. Leaning on him? I turned around and he kept yelling, in Spanish now (I recognized puta). And then he ripped the pearls from my neck.

My dad had bought me that single strand of cultured pearls. Half of the strand dangled from my neck. A section of it lay on the floor of the subway car, and some of the other pearls rolled away between people's feet.

I was a city kid, but a sheltered one. I had no tough response to this attack. I felt violated and scared. I wanted to pick up the piece of my necklace, but was afraid of what the crazy man would do next. Then it magically appeared in my hand, given to me by a tall young black man in sweatshirt and jeans who gently led me away from the ranting attacker. He took me to the other side of the car, where his friends, four of them, surrounded me while he went back in search of the loose pearls.

If it happened today, I would go online to find out who they were and thank them, privately and publicly. Were they part of a college basketball team? Or maybe they were never as tall as I see them today, standing like a stockade fence between me and anything that had the power to hurt me.

But this was more than 50 years ago, long before the advent of the Internet. So they stayed with me until we reached my stop, and then, with most of the pearls retrieved, I exited, leaving them behind to disappear from my life forever. But not from my memory. My Navy SEALs. My saviors. If I were ever asked to recall a time when I felt safe, I would go there first.