One Plastic Bag at a Time

My Blanche DuBois moment

I was booked an evening flight with my young son, who's just a few months shy of two years old. Travelling alone with children is trying under the best of circumstances. Travelling the day after a vicious snowstorm is definitely going to be an "experience."

I thought I was prepared. Maybe I was, maybe there is no amount of preparation that will help in a situation like this.

The terminal? A zoo. The line? A lifetime long. The clock is ticking, ticking, and the line is crawling, crawling.

When I finally get to the ticket counter, I'm told that not only am I at the wrong end of the terminal, my flight is leaving from the adjacent terminal. I'll have to take a shuttle bus to get there. I've got 30 minutes.

Tick. Tick.

The security check - as brutal as you've heard, the only saving grace being that they didn't make me pour out the milk from the baby bottles. But I did have to strip my son down - no coat, no shoes. Same for me. The luggage rack rigged with the car seat and tote bag? Needs to be completely dissembled. Every piece. His teddy bear backpack and leash? Needs to be removed as well.

On the other side, with no one to help, it is impossible to put my shoes on, his shoes on, my coat on, his coat on, re-assemble the luggage rack with car seat, tote bag and diaper bag and get the backpack and leash back on him. My poor boy, who has been fairly patient with being manhandled and on a lead decides he had had enough of being carried and lead around. He wants to RUN. I barely catch the back of his pants as he takes off.

I ask the TSA guard to help me out for a minute and just hold him so I can put my shoes on. "Not my job" she tells me, as I struggle in my stocking feet to shod my son and get all my gear out of the way and get the backpack on him. "Please!" I am begging. I am desperate.

"Sorry" she says. But she doesn't seem sorry.

She's sorry two seconds later as my son breaks away and runs BACK through the security gate, right between the legs of the guard manning the metal detector. Nutmeg! All hell breaks loose.

This account could go on and on and on for pages, but I think you get the gist. Instead of boring you, I want to say only this:

Thank you to the woman who let me go in front of her at the security checkpoint when I told her I only had 30 minutes to get to my gate.

Thank you to the woman who let me in front of her as I piled pounds and pounds of gear on the conveyor belt ahead of her.

Thank you to the TSA agent who finally did come to my assistance and escorted me through the terminal and to the shuttle bus, carrying our coats.

Thank you to the JetBlue agent who helped me down the ramp and onto the shuttle bus.

Thank you to the gentleman who made a game of running up the ramp when my son decided to stop dead in his tracks and refused to walk one more step.

Thank you to the three people who helped me pick up my things when my luggage rack tipped over, my bag opened and all the contents spilled out.

Thank you to the lovely couple who helped me get on the shuttle. They have four kids and were supposed to be on the same flight I was for a long romantic weekend, just the two of them. They could have passed me by. They didn't.

And finally, thank you to everyone who stopped and asked me if I needed help, if I was ok.

I have never relied on the kindness of strangers.

But I've never been more grateful for it.

And if you're curious, I did get to the gate on time. Just as they cancelled my flight.

Which might have been a blessing in disguise after all.
JetBlue Fliers Stranded on Plane for 8 Hours

What happened?

Life happened.

It's been over a month now since I blogged, and thanks to all those who emailed me wanting to know when the next installment is coming.

Environmentalism is important, but when you're struggling with the other curveballs that life throws your way, it becomes more of a "nice to do" rather than "have to do."

Not to say that I've become a plastic-bag loving, non-recycling, screw the environment it's all about me kind of person. But after three months of making all the changes I wrote about, they become so ordinary and ingrained into my daily routine that I felt there wasn't much to write about.

I decline a plastic bag so often that I lost count, and most of the stores where I shop now know me well enough not to even bag my groceries if I'm only buying an item or two. Not even milk!

We recycle to the point where we only have to take the garbage out once a week, and I have successfully free-cycled a few items each week in my ongoing decluttering project - even that damned printer was picked up off the street. We've put up the ghetto plastic on the windows to keep the heat in, and even my herbs are thriving. All the unused chargers remain unplugged, and while I haven't managed to get my electric bill under $50 I'm still trying.

"An Inconvenient Truth", in it's bright red Netflix envelope still sits on my DVD player, waiting to be watched. I still faithfully read my Ideal Bite daily emails, and I'm constantly surprised how many other sources are now providing tips on how to live a greener life, such as Daily Candy and even Oprah.

But sadly I felt that I had come to the end of this particular journey, having integrated as many of the 50 ways to save the planet as well as I could into my daily life.

I will continue to occasionally post about environmental issues as they affect my life, but for now, I'd have to say that I have successfully completed my "One Plastic Bag" project and live as green a life as practiceable.

Those who know me know that I can only keep my mouth shut for so long, and it's only a matter of time before a new topic ignites my passion and/or pisses me off. So watch for a new blog soon.

Until then, tawk amongst yourself. Topic: "I'm not the Grinch, I'm freaking Jewish!" Discuss.

Man vs. Nature

Life is full of trouble and travails.

I can only imagine what it is like for a tree here in Brooklyn (where yes, indeed, we have one - more than one as a matter of fact, but that's not the point here).

You're a personal lavoratory for dogs of all shapes and sizes. You're home to rodents of all shapes and sizes. You've got all kinds of birds making their homes in your limbs.

You've got wires running amongst your branches, and the occasional freak weather snaps off your limbs. I have even seen a tree or two that's been struck by lightning.

On top of all that, you're a public notice board for every flavor of garage sale under the sun (moving sale, block sale, spring cleaning sale), for anyone looking for a job and to warn anyone who not to even THINK about blocking the driveway of the house you so thoughtfully shade.

Even the City uses you to do it's bidding, acting as a signpost.

For those of you who are not natives, to give you a point of reference, the City put these signs up sometime in the late 1970's (if I'm wrong about the date, feel free to correct me).

Somehow we all find a way to survive, to bounce back and go on no matter what happens. I can only hope I have the resilience of this tree.

Truth is stranger than fiction

There is something weird about my block, I think more so than most other blocks in Brooklyn. We have the requisite beautiful Victorian house that is decaying before our eyes as the lawn slowly returns to it's natural state.

We've had reports of public defecation and urination - in broad daylight.

We've had a fire, a senior citizen who tries to make out with the lovely ladies on the block and a parking nazi, who roams up and down the block muttering about the way people park and yelling at anyone he catches parking inconsiderately (and I'm all for that - I think we should all chip in any pay him a small salary. Think of all the gas we'd save not having to circle endlessly around the block.)

Imagine my surprise though as I came up to my house and caught a woman digging around in my front garden. Mind you, it's not my garden, it's my landlord's, and his wife puts a considerable amount of effort into this garden. She changes the plants with the seasons, and I'm often tempted to accept the compliments people often offer about the state of the garden (but I don't).

At first I was too far away to figure out what she was doing but as I got closer I realized she was STEALING PLANTS. Yes, stealing plants. And I don't mean that she was snapping off a flower or two - she was digging out plants, roots and all.

I put on my best Brooklyn attitude (complete with thickened accent) and the following dialogue ensued:

Me: "Excuse me! Can I help you with something? Or are you just helping yourself?"
Plant thief: "Oh! Hi! What a beautiful garden."
Me: "What exactly do you think you're doing?"
PT: "They are such beautiful plants, I'm not damaging them. I just wanted a sample."
Me: "No, what you're doing is stealing."

As I am saying this to her, she is actually starting to root around looking for another small plant to pull! Now I'm pissed - I've just come back from the vet so not only do I have a shouty 18 month old squirming and being a nuisance but my cat's ashes dangling in a fancy little paper bag from my stroller handle. This is not a good time to be getting on my nerves in any way shape or form.

Now I am all up in her face when I make it very clear that the floral five finger discount is done and she had best move on. She starts walking away very quickly, then stops halfway down the block.

I am stunned when she pulls a small clear plastic bag out of her cart and carefully wraps the roots of her ill-gotten blooms - this was not a random event but pre-meditated botany larceny!

Only in Brooklyn. And only on my block!

Brooklyn Safari

Nature is truly an amazing thing. If you've ever watched vegetation take over an empty lot or seen plants busting out of the most unlikely places, you know that there's a lot more jungle in the urban jungle than you'd think.

We've got the flora, but the fauna is another story. Beyond the rats, feral cats and all sorts of nasty six legged insects, you don't normally come across anything too out of the ordinary.

Last night at around 11pm I had to run out to the bodega for some milk. As I ran back up the stairs I set off the motion sensitive floodlight on my stoop. As I'm unlocking my front door I have this funny feeling that someone is watching me so I look over my shoulder. No one there.

Then I look to my left and let out a shout. I was not alone.

At first I thought "Holy fuck, that is the biggest rat I have EVER seen." Then I realize it's no rat.

It's a possum.

Yes, a real live possum, chilling on my landlord's outdoor furniture. In a million years, I never thought I'd see a possum in Brooklyn, but there it was. I tried to take a picture with my cell phone but it didn't come out well enough to see what it was.

So there you have it, real live wildlife in Brooklyn. Not that I was all that thrilled - the possum is a pretty yucky looking animal with a nasty long rat tail. But not all creatures are going to be cute and cuddly and even the ugly ones have value too.

Pigeons on the other hand ... that's a whole other story for another post.

Until then, keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you'll see.

Where, or where, will my printer go?

What did we do before Google? I went online this morning, searching for a environmentally correct way to dispose of my printer. The search phrase "recycle printer" returned over 4 million hits.

Four million hits! Surely, amongst all those sites, there would be a way to get rid of the printer in a responsible way.

The same Murphy's Law that will cause your printer to break the day you need to print an important document is the same one that reveals that the electronics recycling event in Brooklyn was LAST Saturday. (For more information on electronics recycling in New York City, click here. There is a recycling event in Queens, but after my last adventure driving in Astoria, I'm done with Queens ("What street do you live on? 32nd Avenue? 32nd Street? 32nd Place? The corner of 32nd Street and 31st street? What? Are you drunk?")

There's the Swap-o-rama-rama in Williamsburg ... but that's all clothes and I don't think I'm anywhere enough of a hipster to go to a swap event in Billyburg. Even if they were doing electronics, I can only imagine all the wrinkled noses, sneering and rolled eyes I'd get for my non-Macintosh printer. And what would I wear? I don't really have an ensemble in my closet that looks like I might have shopped out of a dumpster but actually cost hundreds of dollars.

A link from New York City's Wastele$$ site directs me to a list of printer vendors who will recycle their printers, and lo and behold, there is Canon.

In a brilliant bit of Dilbert-esque corporate logic, I have to print out a UPS label to recycle my non-working Canon printer. AND it's going to cost at least $12 to ship it and cover the costs of responsible printer disposal.

Finally, I have found Electronic Recycling Day in Manhattan this weekend. The PerScholas organization will be collecting working AND non-working electronics for rehab and/or responsible disposal for free (with a suggested contribution of $5 per item). (I started writing this post on Friday. I have, unfortunately, missed this event).

It's true what they say - it really isn't easy being green.

So if you know have any suggestions or information, feel free to email me. I'd appreciate it.

The Big Picture

Since last week's post, I meant to post about the on-going saga about disposing of my now-defunct printer in a responsible way.

"The best laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,"

So said Robert Burns in 1785 (translation: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I'm glad to see that 300+ years later that the Scots are still barely comprehensible). In other words, life has a funny way of getting in the way.

And so it goes. Three days after my last post, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life and chose to put my pet of 14 years, Patrick, to sleep. As I've said privately, the most important lesson taught to me by my best friend, who happens to be a veterinary surgeon, is that sometimes truly loving your animal means knowing when it's time to let him go. And I am forever in her debt for that.

Then there are other losses that are beyond our control. Sometimes Mother Nature steps in and does her thing, reminding us that although at times breathtaking and beautiful, she can also be a heartlessly cruel mistress. The lesson to be learned from that?

When I find out, I'll let you know.