Friday, December 11, 2009

Cigars and other musings

Walking in the woods after huge rainstorm, our share of the major storms tearing across the US in the last few days

And a lovely December sky out at the preserve

And a view of the lake at the preserve

I often take pictures of my afternoon walks to bring home and show HP, and then I let you in on a couple of them, too. The light in December is evocative and wonderful, and you simply have to picture it since it changes so fast in the late afternoon. I usually have the world to myself at this time of year out walking, since a lot of walkers around here are seasonal and don't believe in cold weather!

I should remind blogreaders that my pix can be enlarged if you click on them. I've been setting them up for ages this way, and kind of assumed everyone knew to do that, until I was informed that a keen reader had just discovered this exciting feature!

The first entry or two in this blog I didn't know the enlargement wasn't happening until another keen reader asked why her clicking didn't work. So I studied the situation, realized how to upload to make them big at the outset, smaller in here, able to be clicked on and enlarged and scrolled around and forever after have done this.

Forgetting of course that everyone doesn't intuitively know this stuff. You remember the first time you tried to answer your cellphone and couldn't fathom what button to push to do this, while it rang and played music and drove everyone around you crackerdog? then once you got the hang of it you were sure it was obvious. Nooooooo.

Same with the pictures. As one godawful computer manual I used to have said: the use of this button is obvious so I will not explain it. What the heck are you writing a manual for then, I ask? and those early manuals that waited till page 154 to tell you how to switch the computer on, AFTER explaining all kinds of arcane special adaptations and personal choices you could make if you could understand a word of the text....

So whenever I show anything you want to see better, just click, okay? written material really benefits from this, and artwork you want to get a better look at.

Speaking of which, do we have any pix yet of the location of the miniature rugs and pillows and things you guys happily adopted into your homes? they would be very welcome, and I'll upload them promptly when received. You can email pix to me at and I'll go from there.

And speaking of cigars, which we weren't, but what's a rough transition between friends, yesterday on the tv news there was a feature about Cuban cigar-rolling women having books and newspapers read to them while they worked.

Here, in Trenton, central NJ, for many years there was a cigar factory, now morphed into a posh condo building, where one of my old neighbors from years ago used to work in the 1920s when she was young and newly arrived from Transylvania.

Fairly newly -- her mother, with five kids, left Transylvania, crossed the European continent with them by train, just ahead of all the frontiers closing in 1914, took ship for the US and set up home with her kids joining their father in NY. Just like Hester Street, except he was in fact there, no new wife, and with a job.

Anne spoke Hungarian and sort of English -- she was very young when they came here --and in the cigar factory there were women of all kinds of nationalities largely Eastern European at that time, the smart ones who got out of Europe right before WWI.

Cigar rolling, though it was skilled, was monotonous repetitive work, and the women, they were all women, all spoke different languages with a bit of English in common. So Anne told me they would teach each other basic phrases in their own language, to pass the time as they worked with their hands, and she picked up Russian, Czech, a bit of German, and who knows what all else. These were smart people who were not able to get a formal education because they had to work from a very early age and bring home a wage.

She was an interesting neighbor, who used to bring official documents across the street to confer with us, since her English was very functional, but she was worried by officialese, so we'd explain what they wanted, etc.

She was running a luncheonette business all this time, what a worker, the cigar factory having gone defunct, probably because of losing the Cuban connection. After she retired from the luncheonette and sold the biz, she got a bit bored, only being about 70, and took a job in food service at Princeton University.

Every June she retired again, and then by September would be bored and ask them to hire her again! this went on until she was well into her eighties, when they said, we really can't hire you again, sorry, insurance or something. They loved her because she was so used to cooking for large numbers, no trouble, leave her alone, she could feed hundreds of students.

The only tiny flaw in her neighborliness was the terrible dog she rescued, a biting little black rotter, who once jumped into the open window of my car as I drove by, and starting fighting with my terrier Buff, who was peacefully sitting in the passenger seat not hurting anyone. It is not advisable to drive a car with a dogfight going on in and around the driver's seat, I can tell you.

She was a good strategist, too. We used to have a shared well, beautiful water, shared by 35 families. She owned the land where the wellhead was and granted rights in perpetuity for the well group to get at it for repairs, etc., which used to happen when a truck might pull over too far and break the pipe under the soft shoulder of the roads, etc.

Anyway, we had an Association, complete with officers, etc., and used to vote annually for officers. One year everyone fully expected me to be elected President, and she spoke up quickly, nominated me for Vice President, which was what I ended up being.

When other women asked her later, indignantly, why she'd nominated me for a supporting role instead of the Big Cheese one, she said, ah, you know when repairs are needed to the well? usually in freezing lousy weather, and the thing has to be inspected and fixed? guess whose job it is to be out there up to the ankles in freezing mud, supervising all the work in all weathers? the President. And guess who gets to sit warmly at home by the phone notifying the owners of the progress? The Vice President!!!! smart lady.

She's long gone now, but, as you can see, she lives on for me!

1 comment:

  1. You don't know me but I found your blog through the Grandma's Hand group over at Ravelry. Fellow knitter. :-)

    I've read several entries and love this one. Aren't digital cameras wonderful! Such a great idea to take pictures and share them with your husband, makes the walk more interesting for you as well.

    I enjoyed reading about your old friend. It is so true that friends live on in our memories and especially when we share them. Thanks.


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