Little Italy in the Bronx

There are many magical places in the Bronx and Little Italy is one of those places.

Little Italy in the Bronx
©2016 E. R. Smith All Rights Reserved
Discovering cultures within your community…helps you grow in awareness of the possibilities surrounding you.  While visiting Little Italy on Belmont we learned where fresh pasta comes from and how it is made.  The artisans at Borgatti’s are amazing, you’ve got to visit them.  Keep traditions alive, so they may be cherished by future generations.

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Where Has Conversation Gone?

I miss conversation, it was an important part of the community.

© 2016 E. R. Smith All Rights Reserved
Millennials keep earphones on all day long. They rarely detach.

Where Has Conversation Gone?

There was a time, not long ago, when people spoke with one another.  Conversation was a wonderful way to know who your neighbors were, what’s the newest news on the block, it was comforting.  Yes, conversation was a bit nosy and intrusive, however it seems to have kept us safer…more connected.  Conversation began in childhood, we spoke to our friends on the playground.  We organized who would turn or jump for double-dutch.  We looked at one another as we spoke, to learn what the twitches and expressions our friend’s face meant. We put the verbiage together with facial changes to sense a deeper meaning.  We stared unblinkingly at our partner’s eyes to assure that our chants and hands were synchronized during “Miss Mary Mack”.  Adults encouraged conversation as they insisted we, “Look people in the eyes when you speak, and speak clearly, politely.”  During April 1, we carefully studied our pals faces and facial adjustments; so as not to be made a fool. Conversation was an important part of the community.
As we grew we shared secrets with one another.  We whispered in the dark under blankets or on a park bench.    We scooted quietly closer while adults held conversation.  We used some of these “too grown” conversations to develop our own style of speech amongst our friends.  We studied friends closely as they retold tales, deciding based on all of the clues in front of us, which parts were true or embellished. Our voices comforted when the need arose, conversation was soothing.  We sang together along with tapes, cd’s, “boom boxes”.  We tried our best to copy the lyrical conversations in harmony.  We played games to determine who was the wittiest with words.  Which personality could use words with the fierceness of a lash?  “Whooo Tahhh!”  “Oh, you got dissed and dis-missed! We shouted with joy at the loser of the verbal sparring.
As we aged we talked of children to seek advice, or to be consoled by that friend who always knows just what to say.  We spoke of wives, husbands, lovers, and Yes we gossiped. Happy chatter that enjoys every colorful adjective, verb, and noun used to retell a juicy story.  We conversed at the barbershop, hair salon, on the bus, train, on the stoop, everywhere really.
Now I haven’t seen conversation in a long time.  In certain areas I don’t see it at all.  Where has conversation gone?  Everyone has an earpiece on…I wonder what young ones learn from listening to these often loud one-sided conversations.  Elderly, adult, and teen creatures sit quietly on the morning subway ride.  Head and shoulders fused, bad posture all around, as they text…LOL…BFF…TTYL.  Come to think of it personality has gone on hiatus as well!  Teens mimic the newest personality on You Tube…and they converse by trying to out mimic one another.  Where’s the game in that?  Polite is something we know is gone…Mr. Trump has proved this.  Teens will stubbornly elbow the meek to death on public transportation as they focus on apps, tweets, etc.
As people grow and grow apart.  Text messages are used to dismiss the unwanted from a circle.  Texts have no soothing tones, no emotions.  Come to think of it some emotions are packing it in.  Empathy, sympathy, sincerity are leaving communities quickly.  Even imperfect phone conversations are halted by simply ignoring the phone.  Lives are shared via Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram.  Faces are hidden behind computer screens to cover true emotions, to lie, to evade.  We see only the Photoshopped, crisp advertisement our “friends” share.
When anyone utters,”we have to talk” one wonders  what tragedy, emergency, or argument is coming.  We aren’t used to talking as the afternoon travel home reveals.  The young sit comfortably in the suggested handicapped/elderly seats; as the old and infirm stand and hold on for dear life.  Teens shout, curse, and basically disrespect one another.  The new word for “dissed” is now “violated”.  Kids misuse this word all of the time.  “Ohhhh you got violated!”  There is little personality, or creativity.  Remember as teens when we created new words for the dictionary.  Phat is a word to be proud of.  Unless I observe an infant or toddler, I hear very little soothing tones.  Teens listen with headphones and sing to Pandora, Rhapsody, if they can’t afford iTunes.  There is no harmony sought in song or social situation.  Adults learn from the young, and the new rude means no one is kind.  Everyone learns to survive by acquiring the new demeanor of a surly teen on mass transit.
I miss conversation and the emotions it used to produce within my spirit.  Listening to the elders made me funny if I do say so myself.  I do say so because I really like saying stuff.  Conversation should not be the sole property of college campuses and inquisitive classrooms. We are losing so much as it stays away.  I cherish those in my world who mourn its moving on…to make room for?  I don’t know?  Quiet passive aggressive folks, who reach out only when WiFi is on?  Mean self absorbed creatures who willing edge out the slow for seats on transportation so they can quietly take part in solitary play.  We cheered the teen heroes of recent movies; The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver, who risk their lives to save humanity.   Which city teen, in any large city in the world, is our hero?  When will they find and rescue conversation?  Well let me know if you know who.

A Bronx Summer

©2016 E. R. Smith All Rights Reserved
What to do and where to go with your family this summer….when economic realities make it tough to leave the city?  Hmmm…well I do a few things to keep my loyalty to my pocket while giving my children a very necessary education about the world around them.  First before going anywhere we need to go shopping.  I buy fruit, large bags of multigrain chips, cases of water, and 100% organic fruit juice in small bottles, paper towels, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer.  I call this my answer to, “Mom can I have?…”.  I divide all snacks into zip lock bags.  I pack fruit in resealable containers.   I freeze water bottles and fruit juices.  The goal is to be loyal to my pocket, as you know buying AnYthing away  from home is just way too pricey.
Next, to help avoid unnecessarily injuring myself, everyone over the age of 5 has a backpack.  I honestly learned this by watching Dora the Explorer.  I realized if she was strong enough to carry what she needed for her daily run, so were my kids.  This super Bronx mom need not suffer from unnecessary back pain anymore!  The little ones carry dry snacks and one frozen water bottle and a book or two.  I carry frozen snacks, fruits, sandwiches, juice and an additional water bottles….frozen of course.  The frozen water in a backpack is an excellent lightweight cooler.  Weight training and cardio are definitely part of the excursion; which is always worth it.  However outings can be pricey so this exercise is worth it to my pocket as well as my heart.
The Bronx Zoo has a lot to see.  We use the Family Package for $195 (tax deductible) so that three adults plus all children from household can go everyday; to every attraction.  Trust me when I say you can’t see the Bronx Zoo in a day.   The little ones are never bored…from four to nineteen (seriously the selfies were non-stop)…everyone’s happy.  This pass is a keeper because it allows you into all NYC zoos and the NY Aquarium with the same perks.  Tour all of the city’s zoos plus the NY Aquarium for one price.
The Botanical Garden is beautifully maintained space with a great children’s garden, workshops for kids, special events such as the Holiday Train Show and the Orchid Show.  We like to hike there since it’s a closed in guarded area we feel very safe in the woodier parts.  I don’t like hiking alone so we chose the Family Package at $125 per year (tax deductible).  Includes all children up to 16yrs, eight parking passes and 4 guest passes.
Wave Hill is an extraordinary maintained 28 acre space with colonial homes located on the property.  Wave Hill is great for hiking, nature watching, meditating, and touring historical buildings.  Leave kids’ toys at home, they are not allowed.  Bring a pen and paper with you to  the Cultural Center. Have a “throw back day”; when you enjoy a park for the park’s sake.  The $250 Supporting pass gets you 6 parking passes, 8 guest passes, invitations to VIP events, and a Wave Hill travel umbrella.  $214 of the price is tax deductible.
This is just some of the fun our lil borough has to offer.  There is always Orchard Beach.  Oh, now I can hear the debates starting….cleanwater?!!….pampersfloating!!!. ..eeekkk!!!.  However Orchard Beach also has a great play ground with sprinklers, wooded picnic areas, hand ball courts, fantastic free concerts and a conservation society that loves when kids find them along the pier.  Most of all it’s free for all.  Pack a lunch as outlined above and come enjoy.
My last suggestion is do this as a family….I mean your whole extended family.  Meet to see who wants to go where and split the fees.  Share your membership cards by making sure you get at least two for adults to carry.  I am open to any other and all suggestions.  So…please share.


©2016 E. R. Smith All Rights Reserved

By E.R. Smith

I always endeavor to be very loyal to my pocket…but while still spending on quality. I travel on public transportation to take me to places that offer better food, services, clothes, etc.  Have you noticed that while visiting areas adjacent to the Bronx…just over the border…there are often better food choices and better prices for them? However there are some gems in the Bronx that can help keep your family healthy.  In Riverdale, on 231 street and Broadway, you have Apple Tree, which offers a large variety of fruits and vegetables packaged for $1.00. The choices aren’t the best looking of the nearly inedible produce that you will find in stores near you.  Where you will see $1.00 packages with fruits and veggies that you would honestly only throw away. The choices at Apple Tree are choice, fresh, and not abnormally large.

Do a small social experiment…visit different neighborhood’s grocery stores and look at what produce is available.  Do a price check by weight for apples, pears, grapes, cherries…for example.  Compare the price per pound, color, and quality.  Question…does my grocery store offer organic fruit?….is the organic produce outrageously expensive compared to the GMO/pesticide covered food?  If so, why not buy in areas that offer the quality of produce we need without the extra expense? Jose is a produce vendor on Fordham Road and Morris Avenue.  You will see boxes upon boxes emptied as he sells out to his many savvy diverse customers. One lady asked him to get fruit with PLU Labels starting with the numbers 9 designating organic produce and to avoid choosing labels beginning with 3 which is said to mean GMO produce.  He promised to keep that in mind when he chooses produce to sell.  He works with you regarding prices so say hi, introduce yourself and begin saving.

Aldi’s on 230th and Broadway is my favorite place to shop. The produce is fresh and affordable.  A lot of organic choices available for a fraction of the price of your local supermarket.  I get the organic milk for $3 versus the nearly $7 I pay at Fine Fair in Parkchester; the organic eggs are less than $5.  Now you will not find the many brand names you love for ketchup and mayo…but I feel like this—so what.  I am saving on so many items that I can afford to get my brand names when they go on sale at my local market.

I’m a Bronxite who loves my village.  Let me know what you see around the Bronx in regard to sales.  Let’s set up a network of knowledge so we can all save.