Ethel & Julius Rosenberg Executed (June 19, 1953)

The_rosenbergs

Rosenbergs.newspaperheadline

 

The June 19, 1953 execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were members of the Communist party convicted of passing plans about the A-bomb to the Russians, coincided with a milestone for my parents - the purchase of their first home.  At the time my sister Linda was 2-1/2 years old and my mother was a month away from giving birth to my brother Darrell.  Mom and Dad were understandably anxious to move because they wanted to be settled in by the time my brother arrived. 

 

The new house on Roosevelt Ave. was in McKees Rocks, seven miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh  and overlooking the Ohio River.  It was part of a new development, Hanover Heights, that was very near to the small farm where my father grew up.  Ours was one of the first homes completed and after a string of delays our fledgling family moved in on June 30.  My brother was born a few weeks later and I came along four years after him.  And it's where my mother still lives (as of June 2020).

 

360RooseveltAve_1953

 

The early 1950s was rife with paranoia about Russia's plans to overtake the U.S.  Thus, the Rosenberg's actions were portrayed as having seriously comprised the nation's security.  Still, as a young mother, Mom felt some uneasiness over their execution since they had two young sons, Michael and Robert (pictured below), who were orphaned.  The execution of their parents in the electric chair took place at Sing-Sing prison in New York State.

 

Rosenberg_sons

 

 


Signs of the Times - "Face Mask Required"

Happy face with mask

 

As 2020 wore on, and COVID-19 became part of our lives, more and more Americans took to wearing face masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus.  Some wearers made the best of it and made fashion statements with these protective coverings.  However, I became more fascinated by the more mundane signs displayed on the doors of stores, restaurants, office buildings and apartment buildings instructing those entering to wear a face mask.  Unlike mass-produced signs purchased from a hardware store that say 'Welcome' or 'Closed', face-mask signs have more personality.  And much like snowflakes, it seems that no two are alike.  Here are some I've seen in Greenwich Village in the past few weeks that got my attention.

 

- HUMOROUS -

 

Cuomo

 

Pleasure chest
This sign was displayed on the door of The Pleasure Chest.

 

Pj clarke

  With buddha

 

- THE POLITE APPROACH -

 

Another smiley face with mask

  Per tutti

  Polite sign

Alex barbershop

  Masksign protect you protect me

 

 

- CIRCLES -

 

Acne studio

  Color factory
  Chelsea radiology

 Nail salon

 

- NO FRILLS -

 

Liquor store sign

 

Wine store

  Sullivan st

Xmas store on christopher

  Masksign simplistic

 

- CLUTTERED -

 

Near the iufc

 

Corner bodega

  Vape shop

Cluttered

 

- BI-LINGUAL -

 

Caution cuidado

Cuidado careful

  Bilingual

 

Bilingualfacemasksign


 

- OFFICE BUILDINGS -

 

Oct 25 varick st

Varick st

  Corporate

East 40th

Masksign post office

 

- APARTMENT BUILDINGS -

 

Jackson square lobby

  West 17th

 Jones st

Barrow st
  Masksign soho apartment

 

- RESTAURANTS -

  Organic crepes

  The spaniard restaurant

Mexican restaurant on greenwich ave

  Pre-emptive

 

- FINALLY ... THE MOST COLORFUL! -

 

Masksign most colorful


A Passion for Cars

Matchbox collectors case

 

Like many boys, I loved playing with toy cars (which I called "car-cars" as a toddler).  I had Matchbox cars, Hot Wheels and scale models of cars that my godfather would give me (he got them from his brother who worked in an auto showroom).  One of my all-time favorite toys was the Deluxe Playmobile, which was a battery-powered dashboard of a car with a steering wheel, ignition that created a purring motor sound when the key was turned, a horn, turn signals, and moving windshield wipers.  And while I got a lot of pleasure playing with my cars, I also enjoyed destroying them, smashing them with bricks.  I'd become very excited whenever we drove past junk yards stacked with smashed autos.  However, by the time I began collecting Matchbox cars at age 11 or 12 I had aged out of that destructive phase (I still have these cars).

 

Deluxe playmobile

 

Matchbox car
This little green Mercedes was my first Matchbox Car.  Given to me as a gift in  Nov. 1968 (to reward me for a good report card), it cost 50 cents.

 

I remember every September in the 1960s being a time of high anticipation as the new model year was introduced (back then it was a big deal).

 

1965-mustang-ad

  1963 cars

 

It's ironic that despite my love of cars I've never owned one, largely because I've spent my adult life living in Manhattan (but I have a drivers license).  Later, perhaps to fill this hole I bought wonderful scale models of classic cars from the Franklin Mint, Danbury Mint and Dinky.  And the first account I worked on at my first job at an ad agency was the Volvo auto account. 

 

1949 mercury club couple
1949 Mercury Club Coupe (from the Danbury Mint collection)

 

RobFrydlewicz.NWAyer1995
Here I am in my office in 1995 with the car pictured above.

 

Scale model car red
Admiring a Pontiac GTO while shopping

The Evolution of Office Work In the Past 40 Years - A First-Hand Account

Selectric with correcting tape

 

2019 was the 40-year anniversary of me beginning my first job out of college (Penn State), which was working in the media planning department at New York ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves.  This milestone had me thinking about the "primitive" work conditions I encountered in the spring of 1979 and the changes I've witnessed since then (most which didn't take place until the 1990s).  At this first job the big advance was the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter, which had a cartridge that enabled allowed the user to go back one space and erase a typo.  Here are some other big advances:

 

Caller ID

This advance, which was first introduced to our office in the early 1990s, is the one that I still marvel at the most.  Before caller ID we answered our desk phone without knowing who was calling (shudder!).  Since there was no voice mail, if I didn't answer the call it bounced over to my secretary who scribbled down a message on a pink "While You Were Out" tablet.

 

Caller id phone
 

Desktop Computers

They arrived shortly after Caller ID.  Before then we accessed research databases using a few computers that were kept in the research library.  And users had to use a sign-in sheet to reserve time.  About 15 years later (2010) laptops, for the most part, replaced desktop computers.  This portability allowed for working from home and taking them to meetings (but making it a challenge for a presenter to make eye contact).  

E-Mail

Replacing paper memos, e-mail emerged in the mid-90s but its availability for the first year or so was limited to staff who were in upper management positions.  Similarly, web access was initially restricted.  Then about ten years later e-mails could be accessed on employees' company-supplied Blackberries, then to personal smartphones.

Dress Codes

Not a technical breakthrough, but the loosening of dress codes coincided with the proliferation in technology.  Before then suits, or at least shirts and ties, were expected to be worn every day until Casual Fridays started in the mid-1980s.  As you can imagine dressing up every day could make working in the summer very uncomfortable (especially since the subways weren't air conditioned until the 1990s). 

Secretaries

These hard-working employees (whose title was changed to administrative assistant 25 years ago) carried out countless tasks that were largely menial, but crucial.  Today, alas, we perform tasks that they once did, making us a bit less productive as we spend time doing timesheets, making travel plans, filling out expense reports, scheduling meetings and reserving conference rooms.  However, one task that we now do that has actually made our lives simpler is doing our own typing and preparing reports and presentations.  This enables us to make revisions immediately and do things in exactly the way we picture them in our head.  Also, we can complete projects without negotiating time with others when we had to share secretaries.

 

Tess in working girl

 

Research Library

All of the audience and media/marketing research data we used came in the form of hardbound books and "pocket pieces", and there was a substantial library full of these books; they were constantly being updated (monthly and weekly).  Sources that were used extensively would end up having torn or missing pages, or the binders were put back on the wrong shelves or taken from the library and not returned.  40 years later there are no books published, or libraries, as everything is digitized and accessed from websites. And although missing pages is no longer an issue a new hassle is keeping track of personal passwords for each database.

 

Classic - library 1991
Here I am in Foote Cone & Belding's meda research library, circa 1998.

 

Arts & Crafts

We created flowcharts of advertising schedules by manually drawing arrows and writing in numbers.  And when the flowcharts were shown to clients they were often enlarged on huge white boards.

Evolution of Audio-Visual Equipment & Copiers

We progressed from overhead projectors with acetates to Powerpoint presentations, then to webexes that enable us to view presentations remotely.  Scanning documents replaced faxes, copiers replaced carbon paper - and copiers evolved to be able to collate, staple, produce color copies and copy on both sides.  And Excel replaced paper spreadsheets and pencils.

The Clean Air Act

Through the mid-90s smoking was permitted in offices and conference rooms.  Then it was allowed if those in a presentation or a private office agreed.  However, drinking liquor/beer at the office still occurs (at least at ad agencies).

 

Smoking in the office_shutterstock

Leisure Time at the Office

40 years ago no one would think of openly playing solitaire at their desk or doing shopping, but now lots of time seems to be spent playing around because if it's being done on a computer it looks like work (or listening to music through headphones or earbuds).

Farewell to Face-to-Face Encounters

Finally, an increasing number of of meetings/presentations are now done via Skype or webexes.  Recently, the agency where I work announced that it was doing away with landlines; calls will now come thru our laptops or cell phones using a phone app found on Microsoft Teams.  Some frustrating drawbacks to these new forms of voice communications are technical glitches, audio issues, and persons asking questions/making comments from different locations talking over one another. 

 

When I began my career, "old-timers" would tell me about how work used to be done - adding machines, doing calculations by hand, working in the summer when air conditioning wasn't a given (offices had ceiling fans).  Today I find myself in that role, but I often remark to younger colleagues that relative to the ways business was conducted in the past, today's technological advances seem magical, making the responsibilities I have now seem almost fun rather than being tedious.

 

Changing times

 

 

 

 


Remembering My Favorite Episode of "Seinfeld" (October 28, 1992)

Seinfeld panties episode

 

Although Seinfeld aired 180 episodes in its nine seasons on NBC I can easily say which is my favorite of them all.  No, it's not the "Master of Your Domain" episode, not the one about "The Soup Nazi", or even "The Bubble Boy".  Rather, it was the episode known as "The Cheever Letters", which I think of as the 'Panties' episode.  It aired on October 28, 1992 during the sitcom's fourth season.  The episode is filled with hilarious moments discussed below: 

 

The episode opens with George and his fiance Susan informing her parents that their cabin, which Susan's dad was very attached to, had burnt to the ground.  Her tipsy mother gets a kick out of this news and upon her laughing uproariously, Susan's dad looks at her with disdain and tells her to "put on more lipstick".

 

Susan's mom laughing at news about cabin on seinfeld

 

Upon finding muddy wheelchair tracks on the living room carpet Susan's mother scolds her wheelchair-bound sister-in-law with the exasperated comment, "It's just a matter of common courtesy, when you come into the house you wipe your wheels!" 

 

Wheel chair bound

 

Letters in a strong box found in the debris of the destroyed cabin reveal that Susan's father had carried on an affair with author John Cheever.  Susan begins reading one of the letters out loud in front of the family, as well as George and Jerry.  One sentence reads, "I fear my orgasm has left me a cripple."  Susan's wheel bound aunt exclaims triumphantly, "I knew it!" 

 

Cheevers love letters

 

Meanwhile Kramer visits the Cuban embassy to get cigars and does a comical double take of a mysterious, elderly woman wearing sunglasses sitting silently in the reception area.

 

Seinfeld woman at cuban embassy
 

However, what made this my favorite episode is the storyline in which Jerry makes, what he thought was, an innocent comment during foreplay while on a date with Elaine's secretary: "You mean, the panties your mother laid out for you?"  However, it offended her and she storms out of his apartment.  The next day Jerry tells George about his date and how it progressed to "dirty talk", which enthralls George, but upon hearing Jerry's comment he looks puzzled, responding, "It's not offensive, abnormal perhaps, but not offensive."

 

Seinfeld panties episode2

 

And then come the closing minutes of the episode.  Jerry had been worried that Elaine's secretary might confide in her about their date and asks Elaine if she mentioned anything to her and Elaine says no.  But then, as Elaine leaves Jerry's apartment, she casually tells him that she has to stop by her mother's apartment because her mom bought her some new panties, which she has "all laid out" for her!  This was such a wicked surprise because up until then Jerry was under the impression that Elaine had no idea what had occurred during his date.

 

Seinfeld - panties laid out


New York City in the 21st Century - A New Type of Ghost Town

Risoteria for rent

 

When I was a kid we learned in school about "ghost" towns, which were once bustling towns in the West and Great Plains that popped up due to farming or the mining of natural resources.  They thrived until the minerals were depleted  or because of persistent drought and were then abandoned.  This was also the fate of many factory towns in the Rust Belt in the last few decades of the 20th century.  Now, in the 21st century, some neighborhoods in Manhattan are bringing to mind ghost towns as their stores and restaurants go out of business on an all-too-regular basis after landlords jack up their rents to unreasonable levels.  Each day when I return home from work I brace myself for yet another "Space for Rent" sign in the window of a store I used to patronize.

 

Retial space available

 

To quantify the magnitude of these closings my friend Maury and I spent a recent weekend canvassing Greenwich Village and Chelsea to see for ourselves how pervasive the situation was, and we came across not 50, not 100, not 150, but 208 retail spaces that were closed.  We found the omnipresent "For Rent" signs on fifteen streets, with the greatest concentration on Bleecker St., 8th St. and Christopher St.  And if we had walked on every street in the West Village and Chelsea the number would likely have exceeded 250.  While this is a disconcertingly high number, an article on the website DAN Info reported that the area with the most empty storefronts wasn't Greenwich Village, but SoHo and TriBeCa.

 

Vacant Stores and Restaurants

What's so troubling is that many of these vacant storefronts were businesses that served the residents of their neighborhoods - delis, laundries, shoe repair stores, and barber shops - only to be replaced by high-end retailers that cater to tourists.  Some of these storefronts can stay empty for a year or longer (the spaces formerly occupied by Manatus restaurant on Bleecker St. and Barnes & Noble on Sixth Ave. have been vacant for more than two years), but landlords have no incentive to find new tenants in a timely fashion.  In fact, it's considered a business loss which is a tax write-off.  As these establishments sit empty, they detract from the quality of life of the streets they're located on (especially since there are multiple locations on each street).  I feel rage boiling up inside of me when I walk by these eyesores knowing that the primary reason for them sitting empty is unrestrained greed.

 

Retail space

 

A SAD GALLERY OF EMPTY STOREFRONTS

 

Space for Rent
On Christopher St., the sign on the window reads "Trendy Retail", which is code for "rent is $25,000 per month".

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Hsbc 14th and 6th
Stories about the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl era were often accompanied by a photo of a shuttered bank. However, this photo isn't from Nebraska, but the bustling corner of W. 14th St. and Sixth Ave. where HSBC boasted a once handsome branch office which has now sat empty for 18 months.

 

Chelsea vacancy
8th Avenue in Chelsea

 

Chelsea
Across the street from the Chelsea storefront above.

 

Corner of bleecker and sixth former american apparel
The corner of Sixth Ave. and Bleecker St. was briefly an American Apparel store. Before that it sat empty for a year after being a Banana Republic for many years.

 

Hairdresser note to clientele
On this door of a shuttered hair salon on W. 10th St. the owner has a message of thanks to customers. The salon had been in this location since 1997.

 

Restaurant across from me
This site of a former restaurant is at the corner of Barrow and West 4th Streets and is across the street from my apartment. It has sat empty for two years.

 

Eighth street eyesore
This eyesore on W. 8th St. is just off tony lower Fifth Ave. Once a branch of HSBC Bank, it's been in this condition for years.

 

Spa belle
Nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks, six Spa Belle's have been shuttered in Chelsea and the West Village due to a glut of competing nail salons.

 

Associated
The closing of a supermarket is always a concern for residents, especially one like Associated, known for its low prices. It had been an anchor on W. 14th St. for more than 25 years.

 

Polo store
The retailer with the most square footage on Bleecker St. was Ralph Lauren's Polo store, but apparently the bragging rights were no longer worth the expense.  On the window shoppers are directed to other stores in trendy neighborhoods: East Hampton, West Broadway and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

 

Simplicity
Just one of 25 empty storefronts on 8th St. - only Bleecker St. has more.

 

Restaurant for lease on bleecker
This restaurant is east of Sixth Ave. Empty storefronts can be found in equal numbers regardless of which side of Sixth Ave. they're on.

 

Big blue for rent sign
I have enough photos to create a decent-sized Pinterest board. This empty store is on W. 14th St. between Fifth Ave. and Union Square.

 

Store for rent
Not all signs are fancy ones. This one is on the window of a former consignment store that had been at this Jones St. address for more than 30 years.

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Update. Since writing this post in September 2016 the vacancies continued to grow, especially on Bleecker St. in the West Village  The space that used to be Manatus restaurant on Bleecker St. has sat empty for six years, the former site of Barnes & Noble at the corner of West 8th St. and Sixth Ave. has been empty for seven years and the grand building at the corner of Sixth Ave. and West 14th St. that was occupied by HSBC Bank had languished for nearly four years (before it was taken down to make room for condominiums).


Law & Order: The Misdemeanors

Nypd carSome of my high school classmates back in Pittsburgh can't quite fathom the thought of living in Manhattan, but I thrive on the fast pace, and the perceived danger is a bit overblown.  Sure, I've had some experiences with it but, thankfully, nothing serious.  Since moving to New York City in 1981 I've been a victim of a crime six times.  Five of the six occurred in the 1980s, and the last time was in 1998.  Two of my apartments have been burglarized, my wallet has been lifted at work twice and I've been mugged and the victim of a scam one time each.  (Truth be told, I've committed a number of "fashion crimes", but that's the subject for another post.)

 

 

April 1981 - At TriBeCa Apartment

This was my first apartment in NYC.  It was in a loft space on Lispenard St. in TriBeCa that I shared with a husband, wife, baby and a vicious cat (whose name was 'Mouse').  The break-in occurred one month after I moved in.  Although the door was locked, the prefabricated wall was knocked down to gain entrance.  The loft was in a building that I was later told the landlord was trying to get renters out of the apartment and turn into a commercial building.  My stereo was stolen along with four rolls of quarters that I hadn't had a chance to take to the bank.  I moved out two months later (as did my loft mates).

 

Lispenard street tribeca

 

July 1983 - At West 15th St. Apartment

Like the apartment in TriBeCa, this burglary also occurred one month after I moved into it.  The apartment was on the ground flood and had a garden with a door, but the burglars entered through the front door, using tin snips to cut into the door, then putting their hand through the incision and unlocking the door from the inside.  They stole a vacuum cleaner, our answering machine, some subway tokens and, inexplicably, ate a half grapefruit that was in the fridge, but what hurt most was their stealing of my boyfriend Rick's 35 MM camera,which had a roll of undeveloped film in it with pictures from Memorial Day weekend in Provincetown.

Later in the evening we got a call from the manager of the Lindy's restaurant across the street from Radio City Music Hall.  Someone had tried to charge their meal using my Mastercard, which had been taken out of the pocket of my bathrobe (they were thorough). 

 

Grapefruit  

May 1986 - At Jones St. Apartment

This was a scam rather than a burglary.  And it occurred at the front door of my apartment building in Greenwich Village.  A young man with a dog rang the doorbell and I answered.  He told me that he lived on my street and was walking his dog and discovered that he had locked himself out of his apartment.  Although his grandmother had a spare set of keys, she lived in Brooklyn and the young man didn't have money for cab fare.  I gave him $15 and asked if he wanted to leave his dog with me but he said he couldn't because it was abused as a puppy and didn't take well to strangers.  A few hours later it dawned on me that I'd likely been scammed and would never be repaid.

But to my surprise he returned, supposedly to repay the money I had loaned him.  However, he only had a $100 bill and needed change to pay the taxi, which for some reason, was parked a few blocks away.  This time I was onto him so I told him I'd break the $100 if the taxi came in front of my apartment building.  Of course, this didn't happen.  So, although I was still out $15 ($33 adjusted for inflation) I felt somewhat better knowing that my loss wasn't greater.

 

Conartist 

 

October 1988 - NW Ayer

On Halloween my wallet was taken from my suit jacket that was hanging behind the door in my office at ad agency NW Ayer.  I had $200 in cash in it and ten credit cards (back then I had cards for department stores in addition to Visa).  A few days later a colleague found the wallet jammed behind the toilet paper dispenser in a stall in the men's room.  It was this incident that got me to start using an ATM card rather than take out money I'd need for the next few weeks.

 

Stolen wallet cash

 

December 1989 - Number 1 Subway

This is the only time I was physically robbed.  After a doctor's appointment down in the West Village at lunchtime I went back to my office on W. 50th St. and took the Uptown Number 1 train.  When I got into the car there were three teenagers sitting opposite me.  One addressed me as Inspector Gadget because I was wearing a black trench coat.  Shortly after the doors closed they came over and surrounded me, the ringleader sitting next to me on my right.  He said I looked like I could easily spare my cash and if I didn't give it up I'd have to contend with the fellow standing to my left who had his hand in his coat pocket, suggesting there might be a weapon.  Fortunately, I only had eight dollars on me.  And I was very happy they didn't take my wallet.  After they ran out at the W.23rd St. stop an elderly man sitting across from me chided me for giving them my money as they also tried to get some from him but he refused.  When I got off at my stop I told the token clark (in the pre-MTA card era) and he called the police. 

A month later later I was asked to come to to the Transit Police station in the Port Authority building on 42nd St. to look at photos ("mug shots").  When I told the officer that the perpetrator was white he came back with a rather thin book.  When I expressed surprise he told me with a bit of a weary chuckle that all of the other binders on the shelves contained mug shots of blacks and Hispanics.  I pointed to one guy but after he was contacted he claimed that at the time of the mugging he was attending a parole hearing with his father.  Frankly, I was partly relieved because I wasn't certain the fellow I pointed out was actually the perpetrator.

 

Subway entrance

 

March 1998 - Foote, Cone & Belding

Once again my wallet was lifted from the inner pocket of my suit jacket was hanging behind the door of my office (back in the era before "open architecture" work spaces).  This time I only had $27 in the wallet and one credit card.  Then a week later I got a call at home from a customer service person at Omnipoint Communications in eastern Pennsylvania who wanted to verify that I was ordering cellular phone service.  When I told her I wasn't she then confided that she had someone on hold who was attempting this purchase using my credit card.  She became suspicious because the person sounded like a "negro" (her word) and she thought it was strange that he'd have my last name.

 

Customer service  

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Remembering All of the Office Views in My Career

Worldwide plaza nyc
Worldwide Plaza
3ParkAvenue.NYC
3 Park Avenue

Over the course of my career I've worked at nine different addresses, all in Midtown Manhattan, from 34th St., north to 58th Street, and from Third Ave., west to Eighth Ave. - an area covering all of 1.25 square miles.  In the past ten years office floor plans with private offices have largely been eliminated in favor of "open architecture" layouts, with workers sitting side-by-side and facing each other (not unlike garment workers in Bangladesh, but instead of sewing machines we have laptops!).  Of course, it's been an adjustment for those of us who worked in the private office era, but not as difficult a transition as I feared.  And I have great memories of those offices, some of which afforded spectacular views.  What follows is a list of those varied views - think of it as my office resume.

 

 

800 3rd Ave. (between E. 49th and 50th Streets)

My first office situation, which I shared with a co-worker, was on the 39th floor and looked south down Third Avenue.  (1980-1981)

 

800ThirdAve.ScaliMcCabeSloves
Here I am at 23, a junior media planner at ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves, and I had an office with a great view.

 

285 Madison Ave. (between 40th and 41st Streets)

Although taking a job at Young & Rubicam was a good career move, it was quite a step down from my previous job in terms of office and view.  My office, a converted supply room, looked north onto E. 41st St. so there was little in the way of light.  285 Madison was an old building with windows that could be opened.  (A few years before I moved to Y&R an account executive had jumped to his death.)  Later I moved to an office on the other side of the building and my view looked south onto 40th St.  I had light but not much of a view.  (1981-1987)

 

1345 Ave. of the Americas (between E. 54th/55th Streets)

My office at ad agency NWAyer was on the 39th floor and looked south onto the roof of the Hilton across the street on 54th St.  (1987-1989)

 

Burlington.building.movingday

 

BurlingtonBuilding.view
The view from the side of the floor looking north was far superior than mine, but I could stroll over to see it.

 

Worldwide Plaza (W. 50th St./Eighth Ave.) 

NWAyer relocated from urbane Avenue of the Americas to this brand new 50-story skyscraper on the "frontier".  This would be the furthest west of any of my work addresses.  At the time the new neighborhood was a bit sketchy but my office on the 34th floor, which looked west over the Hudson River, afforded views of spectacular sunsets (and on hazy days the view of New Jersey was obscured).  In the brutal winter of 1994 I had a great view of the ice-covered Hudson.  In the last six months I worked there I moved into a spacious corner office on the building's southwest corner, but I often had to draw the shades because of the blinding afternoon sun.  (1989-1995)

 

Ice.covered.hudsonriver
The Hudson froze over during the frigid January of 1994.

 

RobFrydlewicz.CornerOffice.NWAyer
Those were the days ...

 

GM Building (Fifth Ave. between 58th & 59th Streets)/

150 E. 42nd St. (between Lexington & Third Avenues) 

My first office at Foote, Cone & Belding was on the 18th floor and looked north onto 59th St.  If I looked at an angle from my window I could see Central Park.  Then a few months after I started we relocated to the old Mobil Building at 150 E. 42nd St. (across the street from the Chrysler Building).  There I had three different offices, none with views that were noteworthy.  (1995-2002)

 

GM Building.RobFrydlewicz
Left the corner office behind for a sizable increase in salary - a fair trade-off.

 

3 Park Ave (34th St./Park Ave.)

This vied with Worldwide Plaza for the best views.  There were no towering buildings obstructing the view in any direction (the Empire State Building loomed three blocks west, enhancing the view).  My corner office on the 36th floor (for those keeping score, this was my second corner office) looked southeast so I got plenty of light all day.  Fifteen months before I started at Carat the 9-11 attacks occurred and co-workers told me of the chilling view they had of the towers.  I was working here on the day of the 2003 power blackout and had to walk down 36 flights of steps - without the aid of emergency lighting, which didn't work. (2003-2006)

 

Carat.3ParkAvenue
The glare from the sun obscures the view through the window shades.  (If only there were smartphones back then I'd have a whole album of the views!)

 

622 Third Ave. (between E. 40th and 41st St.)

26 years later I was back on Third Avenue, but eight blocks further south. This is the only office I had that looked east.  I usually had the blinds drawn because of the morning sun, but in the late afternoon the sky could have a nice light pink and blue glow created as the sun was setting (especially in the winter months).  The work environment at Universal McCann was the most toxic of any I'd experienced and my only respite was gazing out the windows.  (2007-2008)

 

1540 Broadway (corner of W. 46th St.)

Working part-time for Viacom, this was the first time I worked in an office with open architecture, but I still had a spectacular view.  Our building overlooked Times Square and my work space was situated in the southwest corner of the 23rd floor, offering me a view of the large electronic billboard on the building where the ball dropped on New Year's Eve.  And the building's cafeteria had a great view overlooking the area around the TKTS booth.  This was also the first office where I owned a smartphone so I was always snapping photos of the view.  (2012-2014)

 

TimesSquare.NewYearsEve.Afternoon

 TimesSquareOfficeView

 

TimeSquareVista.Spring2014.RobFrydlewicz

 TimesSquare.Christmas2013

 

150 E. 42nd St. (between Lexington/Third Ave.)

This is my second time working in this building, but 13 years apart, and working for a different company (actually, it's Carat, the company I worked for at 3 Park Ave.) and with a different layout.  I'm situated on the 12th floor, once again with open architecture.  My department is situated on the southwest corner and the view looks down Lexington Ave.  There are also windows that look east so there is light throughout the day.  (2014 - present)

 

150E42ndSt.view
View from the 12th floor, looking up at the buildings on the corner of Lexington Ave. and E. 41st St.

 

Winter.view.midtown.2015
The sun doesn't need to be shining for there to be interesting views. This photo was shot during the never-ending winter of 2015.

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World's 1st Heart Transplant Stirs a Christmas Memory

Charlie.brown.christmas.treeThe first successful transplant of a human heart took place in South Africa on Dec. 3, 1967 (the recipient was 54-year-old Louis Washkansky).  Whenever I hear mention of this medical milestone it brings back memories of a trifle of a Christmas play I appeared in when I was in the 5th grade.  I played the role of the Christmas tree and I had a monologue in which I extolled the virtues of the tree.  Rather than holding a little cardboard tree in front of me I insisted my mother create something elaborate, a tree that completely covered me.  It was made out of a shimmering green material that resembled Astroturf, and then little cut-out ornaments were attached.  While Mom was constructing it and fitting me I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  When I tried it on I felt like Charlie Brown's tree after it was transformed by his friends.

 

Thanks to my mother's creation I was the star of the play (much like the falling chandelier in the Phantom of the Opera).  After the play was over (just one performance, mostly for the benefit of the student body) my teacher gushed to my mom about the tree and confided that she was just expecting me to stand behind a small hand-held paper tree.  (Mom was flabbergasted.)  She asked if the school could have the tree, but I wouldn't hear of it - and it languished in our basement never to be worn again.  And for whatever reason no photographs were taken of me wearing it. 

 

Back to matters of the heart, Mr. Washkansky died 18 days after his historical operation, from pneumonia.  Just three days after his transplant the first pediatric heart transplant took place, in the US, on an 18-day-old infant (who lived for just six-and-a-half hours).  And a month later the first adult transplant was performed in the US.  That recipient lived for fifteen days.

 

Louis.washkansky


The Boy Who Cried "Kidnap"

PinocchioI don't know what came over me, but the words just came out of my mouth.  It was 1966 and I was in the third grade at Fenton Elementary School in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKees Rocks when my friend Diane casually told our teacher, Mrs. Shaw, that someone had tried to lure one of her brothers into his car.  For whatever reason, perhaps because I noticed the attention Diane's statement generated, I blurted out that the same thing had happened to me - and suddenly the attention shifted.  My mother was called as were the police.  I provided a name (R. Ziegler) and a license plate number.  No one thought it peculiar that a 9-year-old child was savvy enough to notice a license plate number, or that a kidnapper would reveal his last name.

 

LiarliarIn response a stakeout was organized.  For a week a police officer sat in an unmarked car parked in a driveway on my block and I was instructed to walk home from school, alone, down the alley.  I realized this was spiraling out of control but I was too scared to admit the truth.  A few months later after it appeared my lie was dead and buried, we were in church when my mother saw the name Ziegler in the church bulletin and pointed it out to me.  Thankfully, that would be the last time my fabricated story was mentioned.

 

LiedetectorMy lie went undiscovered for about a dozen years.  But then, as a sophomore at Penn State, my American History class was given an assignment to write a personal history.  In mine I decided to come clean and reveal my fabricated kidnapping attempt.  Then four years later, after I had moved to New York, my parents were going through my things as they packed them away and they came across my project.  Of course, they were stunned at what they read.  (They also discovered literature that suggested I was gay.)

 

Although my troubling fabrication didn't become a Crucible-like witch hunt, my first-hand experience made me very skeptical of accusations made by a child.    


The Smells of Childhood

Sense.of.smellIt's fascinating how smells can trigger memories from long ago - happy ones as well as bad (the same holds true with music).  The eighteen that I've listed below were part of my 1960s/70s childhood in the town of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River.  They are so ingrained on my brain that just the mention of them activates my cerebral cortex and retrieves memories.

 

 

MAGIC MARKERS

The strong scent emitted from magic markers, which I was mostly exposed to at school, was highly intoxicating in small doses, but then I'd eventually develop a headache.  I suppose this was my first experience with a hangover.

 

Magic.marker

 

SERVICE WITH A SMILE

There was a time when gas stations were "full service," which meant that attendants pumped your gas and then pulled out their squeegee to clean the windshield and back window of the family car.  They used a liquid in a bucket - or was it just water - that had a distinctive oil-based odor; although not as overpowering as the intoxicating gasoline fumes, it was pleasant nonetheless.

 

Service.station.attendaant

 

METALLIC CARS

The tinny, clean scent of metal, toy-friction cars isn't quite as rich as the smell of a new car but for a child it added to the play experience.

 

Metal.friction.car

 

HAIRSPRAY

The smell of Mom's hairspray, spreading out of the bathroom like a fog, meant she and Dad were going out somewhere.  It was somewhat choking and it made sense a few years later when cans of hairspray were cited for playing a role in depleting the ozone layer.

Aqua-net

 

ARTS AND CRAFTS

The white paste used in school to make arts and crafts served the same purpose as glue but it was thicker.  There was a sweetness to its scent which is probably why so many kindergartners tried to eat it.  Many years later when I was visiting England clotted cream brought to mind this paste. 

 

School.paste

 

IN ADDITION TO ASBESTOS ...

Chalk dust invaded my nostrils whenever I was called upon to do math problems on the blackboard at school, and even more so when I was assigned eraser-cleaning duty.

 

Chalkboard.eraser

 

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT

Play-Dough had a plastic feel and it's fragrant scent and candy-like colors (not unlike Starburst chews) made it very tempting to eat (which my have been the inspiration for 'Incredible Edibles').

 

Playdough 

 

PUT A RING ON IT

Lightning bugs (aka fireflies) emitted a somewhat plant-like scent, especially strong when we kids would pull out their little lights and put them on our fingers to sport as rings. 

 

Lightning.bug

 

WET & STEAMY SIDEWALKS

The streets and sidewalks after a summer thunderstorm had a scent that was created from a mix of heat, soaked sidewalks, and the scent of earthworms that would appear, then often crushed by car tires or the feet of us marauding kids.

 

Kids.playing.in.rain

 

POLLEN-LADEN TREES

The smell of tree pollen in the morning when I delivered papers is the only scent that I still encounter forty years later and 300 miles away from my hometown.  And speaking of being a paperboy, the smell of newsprint that wafted up from my paper delivery bag had the power to make my eyes sting and water.

 

Tree.laden.pollen

 

SUBURBAN TRASH

Back in the 1960s every family burned their trash out in the open in their backyards, usually in the evening and the air would take on the smell of smoke.

 

Burning.trash.in.backyard

 

SUGAR-DUSTED PINK GUM

The stiff, pink-colored stick of gum found in a pack of baseball cards had a sugary scent that called out to you even if it was the cards that were of primary interest.

 

Pinkgum.in.baseballcards

 

BEAUTY SECRETS OF MY YOUTH

On very cold days, before I left the house to go to school, my mother would rub fragrant Ponds cold cream on my cheeks and forehead to prevent my face from becoming chapped.  As she applied it she'd refer to a place called Canada, a land where the cold air originated.

 

Ponds.coldcreame

 

THE SANDBOX

The smell of sand in my sandbox, either dry or wet, had a distinctive scent.  Since we lived far from the ocean, and didn't take beach vacations, it was my only regular contact with sand until I was an adult.

 

Sandbox.sand

 

VAPO-RUB = MOM'S LOVE

I associate Vicks VapoRub with having a sore throat and the tender loving care my mother would provide.  She'd prepare an old t-shirt used multiple times for the same purpose by smearing it with VapoRub and then waving it over the open flame on the stove to heat it and then wrap it around my neck. 

 

Vicks.vaporub

 

POLLUTED SKIES

By the 1960s and '70s the air was considerably cleaner in Pittsburgh but some factories still pumped out pollutants under cover of night.  Our neighborhood sat on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River and Neville Island (below), which was home to steel mills, steel fabricating plants (my father worked at one) and chemical factories.  They regularly released smoke into the air that had a distinct chemical smell and was full of particulates.  Often we'd wake up in the morning to find fine particles of dust and slivers of metal in the bathtub and on cars. 

 

Neville.island.pittsburgh

 

COWBOYS & INDIANS

The silver metallic toy guns we had for playing 'Cowboys and Indians' had a chamber where you could put "caps", a string of tiny dots that contained something like gun powder.  Safe, mini-explosions were created by a metal mechanism that would slam against the cap when the trigger was pulled.  But you didn't need a gun to activate the caps; you could also make the dots explode by striking them with a rock.  Afterwards the air would smell of gunpowder.

 

Caps