Sunday, December 27, 2009

Off Topic - That Was The Week It Was - 12/27/09

Yikes! I overslept and missed all of CBS Sunday Morning! I never sleep like that -- I mean, I'm talking about waking up at 10:45. I just don't do that. I usually wake up by around 6:30 or so. Luckily, it's Sunday. At least I didn't wake up two or three hours (or four!) late on a workday.

Since it's Sunday, it's time to take a look back on the week in words and photographs I've taken. It's been a busy and bizarre week on the whole. It started out as a winter wonderland here and has ended up with looking and feeling like spring. Yesterday's persistent and heavy rains washed away all of the snow except for the larger snowbanks. It only decimated them from mountains to mole hills.

Of course, Christmas was on Friday. It was nice to have a white Christmas around here even though it was slightly used snow by then. When I was growing up, with the exception of stints in California and Connecticut, we had white Christmases more often than not. Here? Not so much. So, the snow worked and now that it's mostly gone, I have better pedestrian times once again.

On Monday the snow gave me an opportunity to find out that younger generation gentlemen do exist in Plainfield, NJ. I had gotten off the train and decided I'd catch the bus across town home instead of walking. There was another woman I knew at the bus stop and we chatted while waiting. She's pregnant and I have knee issues which make falling a scary ordeal. There was a huge snowbank all along the curb with no way to access the bus anywhere near the bus stop. A young man, no older than 22 or so, was waiting near us and heard us talking about the snowbank. When the bus came, he helped both of us, one at a time, up and over the snowbank. Who said chivalry is dead? If only his mom could see ... she would have been proud of the young man she raised. And, gee ... if I were thirty years younger (or so) ... ! He was also very good-looking.

Let's see what else ... hmmm. I spent most of the holiday week working. After seeing an article in the paper about two complexes owned by my landlord without heat, I felt a bit smug my own apartment building was warm and cozy. Er, I spoke too soon. I woke up shivering Wednesday in the pre-dawn hours. Apparently my heat had gone off earlier in the night. I really wish the man would pay his bills or just let the bank take the building. Thankfully, I own a space heater from some apartment in the past. I closed off the bedroom, did some baking and used the space heater to keep the main part of my apartment warm. I slept in the living room that night. When I came home from work on Christmas Eve, the heat was back on. That's a good thing as I couldn't run the oven or space heater when I was away.

I feel guilty. I think I must have an evil sense of humor. But, the following situation was so much like some sort of slapstick movie that I must share (while feeling guilty for giggling about it). On Christmas Eve, my train home was first announced as twenty minutes late, then canceled. The trains were running the regular schedule, so I knew the next one would be at 5:40 PM in lieu of the canceled one (5:14 PM). Now, this is Bridgewater, NJ, heading towards Manhattan on Christmas Eve.

Most of my fellow regular commuters apparently left work earlier than I did. So, I knew no one at the station. There was a crowd of about twenty other people waiting in the little building. I could tell they were touristy types -- not regular train commuters. They were all dressed like they were going into the city for dinner and then midnight mass at St. Patrick's or something. Most of them were older. One was in a wheelchair at the non-accessible Bridgewater station.

Okay, the stage is set. Now, the announcements coming through the PA system said that the next train would be the the 5:34 from Raritan. I know that translates to the 5:40 in Bridgewater. I was standing away from the building snapping photos. When I heard a train horn in the distance, I glanced at my watch. Nope, can't be our train. The trains never come early and it was only around 5:30.

Well, I watch as the Crowd of Twenty comes out of the building and assembles on the platform. Um. They shouldn't do that. Yes, there was a train coming. But it wasn't ours. It was a deadhead. Those trains go through at about 120 miles an hour, go sit at a station, then join in for more trains running at peak hours.

Oh my gosh. The train zoomed on by, throwing snow clouds all about it, blowing the hats off the Crowd of Twenty and scaring them so that they actually shrieked! It was like a scene from a vaudeville movie or something! About ten minutes later, I heard our train horn and I went to the platform. I saw the Crowd of Twenty peek out and a man said, "She's on the platform. Maybe it's safe this time."

My own holiday was rather uneventful since I worked the day before and the day after. I want to thank those who sent me cards! Vincent and I had our own little feast and I relaxed. I made a point of watching the "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid" Mary Tyler Moore Show episode on Hulu. It's hard to believe it was all the way back in 1970 that Mary Richards had to spend Christmas alone working at the station in her new job. I so wanted to be like her when I got my first apartment a few years after that. I still have my "J" on my wall like her "M" in her apartment. Dang, that was a good show. I think I'm going to have to relive it episode by episode on Hulu.

I hope your holiday was a good one, full of family, food, and love -- not necessarily in that order. I want to thank you all for being a part of my extended family!

Anyway ... on to the photos. Clicking on an image will open it larger in a new window.

Can I take this off yet?

Heh. No, he hasn't been wearing it constantly. We did two separate photo shoots in it. I'm still shocked he let me put it on him and basically behaved in it. Teaser and Scherzo wouldn't have allowed it.


There's been a horrible accident

BULLETIN, live from the North Pole -- Santa was hospitalized for injuries and charged with drunk sleigh driving in an unfortunate incident on East Second Street in Plainfield, NJ. Horrified citizens lined the street to view the crash. While the reindeer wouldn't talk to authorities, one just kept nodding when asked if Santa had hit the bottle after finishing his rounds. While Santa was thrown from the sleigh, his main complaint was exposure to the elements. The reindeer remained uninjured.

There's been a horrible crime!

The torso of Santa Claus (A.K.A. St. Nick) was found outside of a restaurant in Bound Brook, NJ. While his head has gone missing as well as his lower body, authorities have identified him through fingerprints and other identifying markers. Other than a Christmas tree tossed next to him, there are no clues to the identity of the evil ne'er-do-well who perpetrated this horrific crime. The public is asked to step forward to provide information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) who did this dastardly deed.

There. Now it's safe to have the kids come back in. No, I didn't stage either Santa photo. I just report what I see.

Eek! Birds over the NJ Transit Plainfield Train Station!

I encountered a woman screaming for help in a shopping center parking lot this week. She was surrounded by seagulls. I TOLD you the birds are conspiring! To be honest, she had fed them and they wanted more. I told her to stop screaming and just walk through them. Sheesh, silly woman. She led them on.

Scary alley at night

East Fourth Street in Plainfield. You can see the train station platform in the background. I wouldn't go into the alley, though. There could be denizens of the night in there!

Christmas Eve westbound train in Bridgewater, NJ

This train was going the other way from the way I want to go. Sure, they came on time! I accidentally used the flash and the colors on the side glowed.

Are you going to SHOOT me?

Yes. East Front Street in Plainfield, NJ.

Holiday lights

The folks on East Second Street in Plainfield are much more into holiday lights than the homes and apartments on my own street. This is one of two houses that get all decked out each Christmas. Sure, more than two houses are decorated. But, each year it's like these neighbors try to outdo each other. The snow makes it all so much more amazing!

However, instead of all kinds of lights, one thing I have in my 'hood really adds a nice touch to the holiday. Each evening, right as I was arriving home from work, the Presbyterian Church had its bells playing holiday hymns. While you hear secular seasonal songs all over in stores, it's refreshing to hear "O, Holy Night" or "Silent Night" played in church bells with the snow all around.

The sky is a hazy shade of winter

"Look around, leaves are brown, there's a patch of snow on the ground." - "Hazy Shade of Winter" by Simon and Garfunkel. Hang onto your hopes, my friends.

My Yearly Gripe (one of them) --

Why is this main sidewalk on the North Street side of the Plainfield Train Station NEVER shoveled? I think NJ Transit considers in Plainfield property while Plainfield totally ignores it! On my walk to the train station Monday morning, I was thrilled that every local property owner had cleared their walks. Sure, the plows had plowed in intersections (grr), but most of the walks were clear ... until I hit government owned walks downtown. The walk in front of the main post office had about a twelve-inch path to follow for nearly a block while this walk wasn't touched at all. This photo was taken on Wednesday when the snow STILL wasn't shoveled, only trampled down by pedestrians and diminished by the sun. This walk is an accident waiting to happen each winter. Fix it, Plainfield! Thank you.

NJ Transit train on the overpass at Bridgewater

I could also fuss about the property NJ Transit considers the ball park's walk while NJ Transit customers use it to access the station. Don't get me going! See in the distance where they stop the shoveling? That's my sidewalk I walk on. Grr.

Snowy Plainfield Train Station at night

Yes, people still use bikes this time of year. Not me.

More East Second Street festive lights

Plainfield, NJ

Windows in the early morning sun

Yes, I edited this to have only the windows catching the sun, the rest in black and white. North Street in Plainfield, NJ.

NJ Transit train

Yeah, I messed around with this one, too.

Pre-dawn Monday morning at the Plainfield Train Station

See the sidewalk (or lack thereof)? Plus, how am I going to get to there from here? It's amazing that private properties were all in good shape and I run into this from the city!

K's Radiator in the cold

Plainfield, NJ. Since my computer woes, I've lost the easier program I was using to do the black and white/color editing and have been solely relying on GIMP (free photo editor at I'll eventually find the CD which has the other photo editor I had, but I found an easier way to do this with GIMP.

1. Open photo in GIMP
2. Edit (on GIMP toolbar), highlight "copy."
3. Edit again, hit "paste as" and then select "new layer" from the drop-down menu which opens.
4. Go to Colors (on toolbar), hit "desaturate." That will turn the top layer image to black and white.
5. Go to the GIMP toobox and select the "eraser." Erase the section you want to reveal the color image layer underneath. If you go out of the lines, you can always hit Undo under the Edit on the toolbar, then re-do it to your liking.
6. Save the image. Beware, you want to probably save it as a JPEG image. The default is some sort of GIMP format, so you need to select JPEG. When it asks you to export the image to make it JPEG, tell it okay.

Actually, this method is much easier than what I was doing with my ArcSoft PhotoStudio program.

Welp, that's it for me. How was your week and your holiday (if you celebrate it)?


~~Silk said...

The way it works in most jurisdictions is that if the government (state, county, local) is "unaware" of a hazard, and someone is injured, then they are not responsible. If, however, someone can show that the authorities have been put on notice that the hazard exists, and it was not corrected in reasonable time, then they are negligent, and responsible for any personal or property injury resulting from that hazard. As in, "can be sued and will probably lose."

Most municipalities have a law that sidewalks in front of private property must be cleared within X hours of snowfall. That same time limit would hold for them.

(Report a deep pothole, and get a free new wheel rim if you can't avoid hitting it three days later.)

pamkro1 said...

Hi Jackie, Pam from South Florida here. I have been following your blog for years and have never posted. You are my New Year's resolution, I'm just starting early! I enjoy your photos as well as your TV info. I'm a big fan of Big Brother too. Age, 58...married, 2 kids...I look forward to participating.

Becky said...

Ah, Jackie, you wouldn't have slept late if your body didn't need it!

Loved (as usual) The Week That Was, especially the Santa crime shots. I know it was the birds that caused the wreck and plucked Santa's head from his body.

Margo said...

Man Jersey sure is hard on their Santas! Great write up as always!

Margo =D

Delee said...

When we pulled up to the hotel on Broome St we had to unload the car over a huge mound of snow. I was shocked at how untended the steets and some sidewalks were in NYC. I was so glad I bought some great water-proof boots. Crossing at corners was a nightmare of gray slushy stuff.

Glad you got heat back on and that Vincent and you had a rela_ing Christmas. Sad it is over so soon. Matthew and Amanda left Saturday morning to drive 2 hours west to her bf's family's home. They arrived safely back in DC around 4p today.

More snow for this coming holiday but hope not as bad as before.

Jackie said...

Welcome aboard, Pam!

Silk - I know they have a time limit for shoveling walks here, but I'm not sure what it is.

Becky - It probably was the birds!

Delee - In the city, midtown seems to get more immediate attention than either downtown or way uptown areas. They don't know if it will be snow or rain for this weekend. I'm working Thursday (day) and Saturday. It can do whatever it wants on New Year's Eve. I'll be here warm and cozy! Well, as long as the heat stays on!

Anonymous said...

I love the story about the young man that helped you and tour friend!


Happy New Year!

NC in GA said...

I think I too will make a New Year's Resolution to comment more. I've just been reading quietly! The photos and comments this week were great as usual. Reading the Week it Was gives you something to look forward to on Sunday evenings! The Santa incidents you reported were unfortunate, but I'm sure those responsible know their blame! (Got that last part from the movie A Christmas Story - watched it MANY times Thursday and Friday - I watch WAY too much TV!) Have a great one Jackie and Vincent!!

Anonymous said...

I too have followed your blog for a few years and love the shows you report on, etc...........
I have become a BIG fan of your reportings of your surroundings; I love the way you look at things with a fresh eye (I would never see/notice the things that you do). Your photos are fantastic and you need to publish a book of them one day!
I rarely comment too so I think I will take the lead of Pam and post comments more often because I realize that that is how you get feedback from your readers and know if we are reading your blog!
Well I have rambled enough,
Merry Christmas (a little late)
Happy New Year (a little early)
To YOU and VINCENT.....
Janice from GA

Donna in AL said...

Happy New Year's Jackie. I enjoyed your pics and stories this week. You may want to invest in one of the electric heaters with a thermostat you can leave on while at work.
Thank you for the instructions on how to use the black and white with color on GIMP. I have copied it onto a Word document and saved it until I can "play" with it.
Vincent Claws is such a ham!

Sally said...

Isn't there a law that prevents utility companies from disconnecting residential service during the winter months? There is here, but maybe it's only a state law.

Yesterday as I was driving in rural Wisconsin, I kept seeing scenes that reminded me of some of your edited photos. The landscape was monochromatic, with fresh snow, a dappled gray sky and hoar frost covering all the trees. Every now and then I'd come upon something like a green highway sign or a red barn that really stood out against the black/white/gray background. Nature's own version of GIMP, perhaps.

Thanks for another interesting glimpse of life in Plainfield. Your encounter with the woman screaming about the seagulls was too funny.

TerryinCA said...

love all the picture, the witty are a jewel...and one of the best parts of 2009
Here's to more great journalism in 2010
Love you Jackie

RJM in SC said...

Happy New Year to my "Jackies Blog" family and to you Jackie, I wish you and Vincent all the best for a great New Year!!