Down These Mean Streets (Piri Thomas)

This was a great book – Full of love, hate, chaos, moral challenges, and everything else you could want in a coming-of-age tale. Piri’s memoir brings the reader back to mid-20th century Harlem, where his family faces the Great Depression before moving out to Long Island in the burgeoning days of Suburbia.

Piri is raised in a multi-racial household, with a Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father. As he gets older, Piri begins to realize what this means, and attempts to come to terms with his racial identity and the implications it holds for him in pre-Civil Rights Movement America. He struggles to maintain a relationship with his white-looking siblings, strikingly different than his own appearance, and eventually leaves his family to return to his beloved Harlem.

Piri tells his story in a somewhat ineloquent way, which makes it all the more genuine to the reader. You can feel the frustrations and confusions of the Puertan Rican street kid as he travels through the South and back to New York in attempt to figure out who he is. As you follow Piri through his struggle with addiction and his stint in prison, you develop an appreciation for the boy who would eventually grow up to write this award-winning memoir.

Piri’s story is probably not that relatable to many who read it today, including myself, a middle-class white woman who grew up in a comfortable beach town on the East End of Long Island. Regardless, his struggle to discover his identity and his place in the world is familiar to each and every young adult, as the majority have struggled with these issues throughout adolescence and even their early twenties. I would definitely recommend this book to today’s youth, and anyone looking to gain some perspective.

The Adirondacks – Hartford, NY.

We traveled up to the Adirondacks last weekend to visit our old friends (who are recently engaged!) and we had an amazing time. Upstate NY is so beautiful, and we really do not appreciate it enough as downstaters. We are accustomed to a different kind of beauty, with the New York skyline and the Hamptons’ beaches, but there is nothing like the expanses of mountains and seemingly untouched land that you find upstate.

After battling the Labor Day Weekend traffic leaving the city, it was open road all the way to Hartford. The drive was absolutely beautiful, with every curve bringing new landscapes and skyscapes that made us want to pull over to look. While we accidentally sped past all of the scenic parking overlooks along the interstate, we enjoyed an amazing sunset from the car. It was probably for the best that we didn’t actually stop, as we didn’t arrive in Hartford until nearly ten o clock as it was. We did make one stop, where we bought the worst pizza I’ve ever had – a quick reminder that we were not in the city anymore.

We spent the weekend catching up with our old friends, who were very welcoming hosts. They recently moved into a new place, which they have decorated in the most adorable way. They also have a large porch, with really nice views overlooking the yard. I can only imagine how nice it will look in the fall once the leaves begin to fall, leaving an unencumbered view of the mountains. In retrospect, I just wish I had taken more than one photo!

As I mentioned at the start of this post, our friends recently became engaged, and their happiness is contagious to everyone around them. They are so excited to start their next adventure, and it is impossible not to be excited for them. There is hardly a better way to spend a holiday weekend, or any weekend, than catching up with old friends. It seems like life continues to get more complicated as we get older, and seeing old pals is like a breath of fresh air. I hope that we can all meet up again soon.

All in all, this was one of the better weekends of the summer, ending the season on a high note (no pun intended). I would definitely encourage all of our downstate companions to make the trip upstate. While I am definitely a proponent of traveling to other countries and states, it is really incredible what you can see without even going too far. New York is a beautiful and diverse state, both geographically and demographically, and I love how much there is to experience.

 

Lake Placid, NY

We spent New Years 2016 visiting the snowy little town of Lake Placid. Before you start thinking Whiteface, I have to come clean and admit that I did not actually get on the mountain to ski or snowboard. I have never skied, but I did have one failed attempt at snowboarding a few years ago at Stowe in Vermont. I would really like to learn eventually, but I need a solid bunny hill and introductory lesson to get me over the hump.

Lake Placid is a really cute village, with great shopping and restaurants all within walking distance of most inns and rentals. Some of the places that we stopped for lunch didn’t have the greatest food, but they all came with great views of Mirror Lake and friendly local service. We especially enjoyed Lisa G’s down at the bottom of the village, which had delicious food and a comfortable atmosphere.

I much prefer to spend New Years quietly with family and close friends. I had a few wild new years back in the day, but I honestly find the thought of going out anywhere on Dec 31st just exhausting. Writing this makes me feel much older than 24, and I have to laugh at how much of a homebody I have become in the past couple of years. Anyway, the condo that we rented in Lake Placid was the perfect place to stay for a quiet New Years. It came equipped with a game-filled basement, with everything from shuffleboard to Playstation, and a cozy living room with a warm fireplace. It was also freezing cold and snowing, which makes a nice view out the window when you are warm and relaxed inside.

Mirror Lake is a beautiful centerpiece for the town. We had great views of the water from many of the restaurants, and we were able to drive and walk completely around the lake to get the full picture. At one point we tried to find the village’s namesake, Lake Placid. According to Google Maps, we were pretty much right on the shore, but there was too much snow to actually get close enough to see it. I would like to experience Lake Placid in the warmer weather, as the Adirondacks are absolutely beautiful all year round and it seems like there would be much to do.

We also visited the site of the 1980 Miracle hockey game against the USSR. The Herb Brooks ice rink and olympic center is definitely worth the visit, and it was cute to see the elementary-age hockey teams playing on the Olympic ice.  We also walked by the Olympic speed skating rink on our trips into town, although we did not take advantage of the free public skating sessions. We caught a great view of the Olympic ski jumps on our way into town, which tower beside the road in a terrifying way to us non-Olympic skiers. It is unbelievable to imagine athletes flying down them when I haven’t even made it on a bunny hill yet!

On our final day in town, we drove to the bottom of Whiteface so that I could see the mountain before we left. Since I hadn’t been skiing or snowboarding, I only saw it from afar during our trip. Pulling into the parking lot there is remarkable, with Whiteface looming over you. It takes a minute to absorb how steep each of the trails are and how large the mountain really is. One of the many reasons that I love the ocean so much is the feeling of immense smallness that it inspires in you. Large mountains give you a similar sensation, though without the vast openness you get from the sea.

Overall, we had a really good time in Lake Placid and it was a great place to ring in the New Year. I hope that next time I will actually get on the mountain to try some skiing, but not being able to do so really didn’t hurt the trip for me. It was another great long weekend away, relatively close to home, and we probably won’t get another one of those until NY warms up again.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.