Kicking Up the Bucket List

On Saturday, I finally made my first visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. First … ever. It’s embarrassing, I know. It just was something that always fell into that category of things you do when friends or family come to visit – you know, one of those things that makes New York great and that makes being a New Yorker super cool but that you never do, which makes New York more like any other town and you like any other townee (which, when it comes down to it is probably more true than any of us cares to admit). But, like a dyed-in-wool local yokel, I do have my list of things to do right here at home before I die or leave Gotham, whichever comes first. And visiting the BBG for the first time is no longer on that list. Visiting it again many times, however, now is.

I’m glad it was a scuddy, rain-soaked day. It can only get better from there – and it was pretty damn good as it was. Aside from the phenomenal foliage, and the massive trees that really do seem to sing to each passerby, I am in love with the little old lady at the information booth, which, by the way, is piled high with pamphlets (each of which was more alluring than the next and each of which I couldn’t help but stuff in my bag, to the chagrin of my patient partner). Our BBG ambassador urged us to take the next tour, and when we politely (I hope) declined, she almost couldn’t contain herself as she directed us breathlessly to the bluebells (when we saw them, we realized why – it is just pure joy, truly – it’s got a kind of magical buoyancy that lifts every person within range). After cautiously, anxiously making our escape from her eager urgings — nodding our heads, backing up to the nearest exit, as she chattered on about all the things we could see on our way to the native plants garden — we were finally on our way.

Now, I question the countless times I’ve looked up Lady Liberty’s skirt, my out of town entourage in tow, or took my tourist friends to guzzle more than our share at ChaCha’s on the boardwalk, or stuff our faces at Nathan’s, when all this time I could’ve been tripping through the bluebells. Maybe it’s age. Try to convince a 25-year old visiting from Beloit, Wisconsin that, yes, what they really came to New York to see is that vast field of flowers in the middle of Brooklyn, when all they wanna do is shout “HowYOUdoin” in a very bad Brooklyn accent to every surly regular in the bar.  Yeah, it did take me a long time to live that down. Back then, in my own heyday at the local pub, it eventually helped me feel more at home, since after that visitor left I ended up with a new Brooklyn nickname, like Mikey Apples, or Jimmy Deli (he owned a bodega, of course – later came to be known as Jimmy Daily for his increasing presence at the bar).  My moniker was, simply, “Wisconsin.” A dubious benchmark but one I warmed to nonetheless.  My own Brooklyn name.  “Hey, Wisconsin, what’re you having?” Bluebells.  Lots and lots more bluebells.

QUESTION: if, as it’s said, we have a mere five days left, what would you do to get yourself back to the garden? What are your bluebells?



This being the last Sunday supposedly as we know it, I made sure to get my butt into church today, or my favorite Brooklyn version of one anyway.  And thus I found myself this evening in Williamsburg at Pete’s Candy Store, discussing Kindles and the impending would-be apocolypse with the offspring of the famed televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.  After the service, in the bar that is home to Revolution Church, Jay Bakker was reassuringly unfamiliar with the details of the prophecies promising to upend us in a matter of days.  “Oh, that’s this week, right?  Yeah, I totally forgot about that.”  Thankfully, the sermon as well was devoid of any nod to the obviously well-funded doomsayers who have begun to draw the attention of more mainstream media.  On NPR this week, I listened, wishing it was a joke, to a young couple with a baby who are using up their life savings because they are certain they won’t be here on May 22.  It’s not that there won’t be a May 22, they say, it’s just that they expect that they, themselves, won’t be here.  Let’s hope that proverbial needle guarding the gates of heaven is as wide-eyed as they are.  Jay told me about being twelve years old and anticipating an upcoming day identified by Nostradamus to be the big End.  Having survived that, he isn’t too worried about such prophecies anymore.  My mother, also, told me about one of these they had when she was a girl, and how skin was thickened after many of her classmates, certain it would be the last time they saw each other, came face to face the next day, rabidly denying they had ever believed what they had rapturously professed just the day prior.  Like Jay, she recalled the particular source of the end-of-world rumors, but the current doomsday soothsayers remain oddly murky in their identity.  Who are these people bankrolling the proclamations on subway billboards, city buses, and even national commercials to announce yet another Judgment Day?  And why do they bother if, as they say, there’s nothing we can do about it anyway since it’s a private party, and the invitations are already engraved?  Some of the folks at Pete’s Candy Store speculated it might be a movie in the making.  I’m wondering if Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck aren’t behind the camera somewhere, hoping for a shot at redemption for their failed mockumentary on Joaquin’s supposed quick-change career leap from acting to rapping.  Maybe this is the sequel, and they’re working out the name, and it’ll focus on all those left behind… “I’m Still Here, Part II,  Joaquin Phoenix in the Rap-ture.”  Speaking of Joaquin, he’s an official vegan. 

QUESTION: if you’re having a dinner party, and you’re feeding vegans, can you feed them food grown using compost that has ice cream and meat-eater’s urine in it, or, at least what once was ice cream (yes, of course, cow’s milk or I wouldn’t be asking) and meaty pee?  I need some experts to weigh in here, so if you’re like me and totally absolutely in the dark on this stuff, you are precisely the person I’m looking for…go ahead, gimme the dirt.