Alarming News

July 29, 2011

Anything but the debt ceiling

We’re leaving for Italy today, with the kid. That’s right, the child that is currently taking apart an Eggo waffle and throwing the pieces she doesn’t like on the floor is going to Tuscany. We’re excited. Mostly.

We planned the trip completely on the fly. I booked the hotel late last night. If you can say one thing about us as parents it’s that we’re just as spontaneous and last-minute as we were before Sadie was born. She’s along for the ride and, so far, it hasn’t been a problem.

After Italy we’re off to Israel where IC has a great-grandparent on each side who have yet to meet Sadie.

We’ll be back sometime in August. I may update with pictures from our trip at some point but if you’re looking for serious debate on the political posturing of the day you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Frankly, while politics is always among my top interests, this was never a straight politics site. I write about my interests– whether that’s poker, music, cooking or my child. Over the years I’ve gotten lots of “why haven’t you written about this?” comments and I always make the same suggestion to people: start your own damn blog. I know Charlie was being mostly jokey about it but it needs to be said.

This week, in between planning a multi-country trip with a toddler in 3 days, I’ve been thinking about Amy Winehouse. As you may have heard, a drug addict musician died at 27 and everybody pretty much shrugged. I wasn’t surprised either, and I don’t get sad over the deaths of people I never knew, but I was a big fan of hers and it’s a loss for the music world. She had a ton of talent, I remember hearing her music for the first time and being truly blown away. This is one of my favorites:

RIP Amy Winehouse.

I hope you’re all having a great summer.

Posted by Karol at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

July 20, 2011

The “baby”

If you’re in the mood for some more personal writing from me, here’s a link to a post I wrote the other day about my awesome daughter.

Posted by Karol at 04:00 PM | Comments (6)

Ode to Brooklyn

Every year on July 20th, I celebrate my independence day, the day my mother and I arrived in America from the Soviet Union (after a few months stay in Italy). Every year I write about how grateful I am to be here, how much I love America, how I will never take for granted the freedom I almost didn’t have. I tell a story about the experience every year, you can read through the links at the end of this post.

Today is 33 years of living in this amazing country. This post, though, is about something a little different. It’s not about where I left or the country in which I ended up–it’s about the city, the city of Brooklyn.

I love, love, love Brooklyn.

I grew up on Foster Avenue between Coney Island Avenue and East 10th street. Back then this area was called Flatbush. Now, I’m not sure. Midwood? Kensington? Ditmas Park? The name seems to always be changing.

My building was an ex-Soviet enclave, little old Russian-Jewish ladies sat outside and gossiped about everyone who walked by. I played in the lobby on rainy days and in the cement backyard in the summer.

This photo of my old building was taken in 2007:

Childhood home

That’s it on the corner, also 2007. It’s been a predominantly Pakistani neighborhood for the past 15-20 years but has been getting gentrified (not sure that’s the correct term in this case but I feel like “yuppified” sounds like a pejorative and not what I mean) in the last few years.

Coney Isl approaching Foster Ave

My grandmother and her sister lived in apt.2E and we lived in 3E. My mom and grandma would coordinate the time, open their doors and I would run down the stairs talking to my mom halfway down and to my grandma the rest of the way. It was their version of letting me have a little freedom…but not too much.

All the hallways smelled like soup or fried vareniki or galooptsi or some other Russian dish. The hallway by my grandmother’s place always smelled best, her kitchen was always broiling with pots and pans on every burner of her tiny stove. She was ready to feed a small army which could come through at any moment. G-d, I miss my grandma.

These days my old neighborhood is slowly getting hipsterfied (that sounds right!) but back then it was pretty rough. While I was aware of dangers around me I had such an idyllic childhood there. I knew the plaza (Newkirk Plaza, nicknamed New Crack Plaza back then) containing the subway station was scary because my grandmother clutched my hand, and her bag, extra hard as we walked by it.

I had one of every nationality and race living on my block. My friends were Irish, Puerto Rican, Albanian, Polish, Italian, black, Pakistani, American-Jewish (different, let me assure you, from Russian-American-Jewish), and every mutt combination in between (before anyone gets offended on behalf of mutts, that’s what people of mixed heritage called themselves–proudly–in Brooklyn).

We were poor and it was something I understood from a very young age. I would overhear conversations about money. I knew I couldn’t simply have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. This has been a major influence in my life. I’ve had money and I haven’t had money, been in debt and not had to worry at all, and while I prefer one way to the other, I could live without the comforts if I had to. I plan to raise my daughter to understand that money isn’t everything, that she shouldn’t expect *things* to bring her joy.

I remember the sensation of not being able to speak English. {A political side-note is that it remains baffling to me how people could discourage new immigrants from learning English via bilingual education in schools. Sure, I could have survived just speaking Russian–as I grew so did the Russian community in Brooklyn and it would be more than possible to survive in it, to this day, without learning the English language–but it would have severely limited my options. I love speaking more than one language, and our daughter is learning Russian and Hebrew alongside English, but it is pure tomfoolery for an immigrant child to not learn English right away.} My first day of school I spoke none. By the end of the first month I was fluent. This is a picture of me on my first day of school. All of my information is pinned to the note on me, who I am and where I’m supposed to be because, again, no English. Was I afraid? Does this girl look afraid?

IMG_0003

That’s the thing about being from Brooklyn, at least for me, it made me fearless (I love the line from Biggie, the best rapper who ever lived and, obviously, from Brooklyn: “stay far from timid/only make moves when your heart’s in it/and live the phrase ’sky’s the limit’”). There’s no real reason for this, I’m sure someone from Denver or Tuscaloosa or Des Moines can grow up to be an unafraid adult, but I credit Brooklyn for my backbone. When asked where I’m from, despite having lived in Manhattan for the last 10 years, I always say “born in Russia, raised in Brooklyn.” Both are completely intrinsic to my identity.

Lots of people love Brooklyn. I know multiple people who have tattooed the name of the city on their body. We’re the borough that’s thorough, the borough that comes out for the shout-out {I think I’ve blogged this story before but I can’t find it to link it so here it is again: IC and I went to see a Slick Rick show a few years ago. One of the warm-up acts was on stage and riling up the crowd. “Is Queens here tonight?” Cheer. “Is the Bronx in the house?” Louder cheer. “Is Harlem here tonight?” Wooooo. “Is Staten Island ready to party tonight?” Cheer. “Is the Lower East Side ready to get downnnnn?” Yay! “Is New Jersey here tonight?” At this point, I lean over to IC and say “WHAT THE HELL?” And you could honestly feel the tension in the room. He’s calling out New Jersey but no Brooklyn? I’m leaving, I am! And then he says into the mic “can you feel that? Can you hear the whispering? Did I forget someone? I wouldn’t forget you Brooklyn!!!” Loudest cheer of the night, by far. “I know you’re the borough that only comes out for the shout-out!” So what, we enjoy the shout-out!

Ending up in Brooklyn was fairly accidental. We could have gone to other cities, to other states, to other countries. But we ended up there, in a city where so many feel right at home, and I feel so lucky that that happened.

These days we’ve got our eye on Brooklyn as where we want to raise our daughter Sadie. We’re looking to move back there in the not-too-far-off future (but to “fake Brooklyn”, that is the areas close to Manhattan that feel less like the Brooklyn where I grew up and more like mini-Manhattan. Still, “fake Brooklyn” is better than no Brooklyn). I hope she’ll love it as much as I do.

Previous July 20th posts:

2010.

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003 (scroll down a little to July 18).

Posted by Karol at 11:51 AM | Comments (15)

July 19, 2011

The fabric is shredded!

My latest post for WNYC’s A Free Country is about an Associated Press article painting a sad picture of a father on trial for assisting his terrorist son. He just answered some “innocent-sounding” questions from the FBI!

I didn’t write the headline, and don’t think it exactly captures what I was trying to say (see my comment below the post for what I believe the bias to be) but the rest is right.

Posted by Karol at 10:31 AM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2011

Murdoch and me

In my latest post on WNYC I argue that Rupert Murdoch deserves credit for shuttering News of the World. I’ll let you all guess what kind of comments I’m getting on that idea.

Posted by Karol at 11:51 PM | Comments (3)

July 8, 2011

Yes, really.

I wrote this a few days ago but forgot to link it here: Why the GOP should support indie music.

Posted by Karol at 02:49 PM | Comments (7)