Archive for kvetch

Talk of the Train Tracks

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 24, 2010 by jganolik

Yesterday, I took a train from New York City to Philadelphia, and ten minutes before we arrived at 30th street station in Philly, the train conductor decided to stop and help out another train that had experienced an engine failure. That means, we sat there for thirty minutes while the other train unloaded all of its passengers and squeezed them into the empty seats and aisles of our train. It was a little bit irritating, since I had woken up early and all I wanted to do was to get home and pass out on my bed, but it also got me thinking about something that has always intrigued me. That is, the fact that when placed in unusual/emergency situations, many people make friends with others around them who are in the same situation. Before we stopped to help the other train, the people on my train were all absorbed in their own ipods, their own books (or kindles/ipads), and their own telephone conversations.

However, as soon as our conductor decided to help out the other train, everyone put down what they were doing, and introduced themselves to the people around them. I was totally guilty of this too. I introduced myself to the man who was ushered into the seat next to me, who explained that he was headed to Washington D.C. to attend a meeting about wind turbines, and that he was relieved that he did not have a flight to catch, since if that were the case, the train’s broken engine would have wrecked his schedule. The people in the seats in front of us started laughing at the thought of what would happen if everyone was loaded off the defective train, and then that train started moving instead of ours. After that, we all concocted a plan to hop out the train’s doors and trek the rest of the way to 30th street on foot, since the off and on loading process was taking forever. However that plan was soon vetoed when it dawned on someone that it would involve walking through decrepit North Philly—not a very appetizing experience.

By the time we arrived at the station, almost everyone had at least one person to wish safe travels to: something that would not have been the case if we were all on a normal train ride. Because the second that the train stopped and the conductor warbled the situation over the loudspeaker, a sheet of common ground slid beneath all of us, and there was suddenly something to complain about.

So what does this say about people? Do we all secretly wish to connect with and help strangers, but not know how to begin? Is the opportunity to kvetch the miracle cure for traveler’s tunnel vision? Or is an emergency one of the only situations that can get strangers with unrelated backgrounds and ethnicities to acknowledge one another?  The same (although much more intense) situation presented itself to the world around 9/11 and Katrina, among other events, but the speed at which connections are created between people during a surprise or emergency always interests me. Especially since in normal circumstances, even a “Hi” from a stranger receives a raised eyebrow or a turned heel.


The Artsy Side of Jersey

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 26, 2009 by jganolik

There is this summer art festival that’s held in Collingswood, a town about twenty minutes away from me, and it’s become a tradition for my family to go every year. Basically the main street gets filled to bursting with tents, in which artists, jewelry makers, handbag designers, etc. display their work, most of which is for sale. Some artists come back every year, but for the most part, there is a good deal of variety. There were a few booths that really caught my eye this year.

One artist constructed animals out of old car and bike parts. This was neat, because some of the animals (dogs and snails, I think) functioned as things such as wine holders, or salt and pepper shakers. There was another jewler who made earrings and neclaces out of recycled iced tea and soda cans, and other recylcled objects. I was particularly drawn to her display of typewriter key earrings. She somehow extracted the letters and symbols from the keys and replaced them with different words. For instance one pair said, “kvetch” and “kvell.” Another said “artist” and “poet.” The pair I bought said “read” and “write.” The paying process took longer than I expected, as the man running the booth gave me this whole schpiel about how I should send him my picture so he could show it to his 23 yr old, jewish, med student son (this was mainly because I understood what the “kvetch” and “kvell” earrings meant), but that’s beside the point.

The most interesting booth at this year’s festival belonged to a man named Paul Laoria and was filled with his mostly abstract oil on canvas paintings. He attended Juliard, and was very insistent about telling the story of every painting. Two of the pieces really stood out to me, and one is hanging in our living room at the moment; it’s called “After the Ball,” and according to Laoria it depicts the view of someone looking up at confetti and streamers at the end of the night, at a ball:

(After the Ball)

That was the painting that my mom ended up buying. The one that I liked the most was called “Rainbow Symphony,” and it was supposed to depict just that– the way a symphony would appear, if it were seen and not heard. The reason why I loved this piece so much was that I thought it captured music so well. It also made me think about how it might be cool to have synaesthesia, and be able to automatically match musical notes with colors:

(Rainbow Symphony)

Anyway, just thought I’d share, and if you’re interested in the festival, it’s in Collingswood, NJ, this year it was at the end of July (not sure when it’ll be next year, or whether there will be one in the middle of this year). If not, it’s a nice, quaint town with funky coffee shops, restaurants, and other crafty stores, so go check it out!