It's Back: Senior Citizen Roulette!!
Plus! Rubber Plant Update! Items of Interest!
Welcome to Issue #37 of CAFÉ ANNE!
A quick update to last issue’s story on the abandoned BMW serving as a graffiti-style message board for Brooklynites and other assorted ne’re-do-wells:
Yes the city is on it. Maybe! Sources say the beloved junker-turned-art-installation may soon be towed. I’ll keep you posted!
I hope you enjoy this week’s issue, which includes an update on the rubber plant I gave up for adoption (and your chance to decide the houseplant’s fate), plus round 2 of Senior Citizen Roulette, the greatest game in town.
Finally, I’ve got to brag that CAFÉ ANNE has the coolest subscribers! Case in point: after I recalled in a recent post how New Yorkers used to fret about payphone coin return slots ambushed with hypodermic needles, reader Helen Z. in Beacon wrote in with her own recollection: “Anne, I thought you might like to know that maybe twenty years ago I filled the coin return slot of a pay phone on Prospect Park West with tiny potatoes.”
MY WILD BROOKLYN LIFE
Rubber Plant Update #3 (and Poll!)
Readers with nothing better to remember will recall that back in March, I posted on NextDoor to offer my giant rubber plant up for adoption. I had nearly killed it with excessive watering (and baleful glances), and was hoping a neighbor could nurse it back to health. I was thrilled when the plant was claimed by Ann, a sweet, grandmotherly type who is new to Brooklyn from Sri Lanka via Kentucky (an interesting story in itself—check it out here).
Ann, who lives around the corner, promised to send updates, and has diligently followed through. In April, she texted two photos as proof that the plant was still alive, but just barely:
Things seemed to be looking up in May when Ann sent a new pair of close-up shots:
And then last week, a third update from Ann:
“Can you believe this?” Ann wrote.
Then she dropped a bombshell question:
“Do you think I should ‘Propagate’ it. ? I have Googled it several ways but am somewhat nervous to cut it. The stalk is one long 3’ stick. I don’t want to be over ambitious & at the same time it does not look a pretty plant.”
Yes, Ann was thinking of decapitating my old friend and turning it into a zombie plant. I didn’t know how to respond.
As luck would have it, the plant’s original owner, Caitlin in LA, happened to be in town. Caitlin gave me the plant when she moved to California back in 2020. We met for dinner last week and I showed her the latest photos. I asked what she thought of Ann’s propagation proposal.
“It does look a little squinky,” Caitlin said of the plant’s current silhouette.
In the end, we decided to crowd-source the question and put it to a vote of CAFÉ ANNE readers. I checked with Ann and she’s on-board too.
“Yes Anne,” she wrote. “By all means ask your blog.”
So it’s time for the first official CAFÉ ANNE poll! Vote early and often. I’ll report the results in Issue #38.
Senior Citizen Roulette!!! (Round Two)
New Yorkers are the best people. Older people are also the best people. Put them together and you get an Old New Yorker, the very best sort of best person.
I am always looking for excuses to meet New York’s Most Venerable, so I invented a game, Senior Citizen Roulette, which involves me asking random questions of random oldsters on the city streets.
They have to be a random senior spotted out in the wild.
I have to approach the first senior I spot who is sitting down and otherwise occupied.
The senior selects a random question by picking a number 1-20, which corresponds to a series of 20 questions submitted by CAFÉ ANNE readers.
My first round in May, which I chronicled in Issue 29, was a lot of fun. So last week, I set out to play round two. These interviews have edited and condensed. Please enjoy!
Eleanor and Chris von Dehsen
Chris von Dehsen, a retired religion professor and Eleanor von Dehsen, who worked as an editor in reference books publishing, live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I spotted them last week in the Staten Island Ferry terminal. They were on their way to see the FerryHawks, Staten Island’s minor league ball team, play the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes.
Chris: I’ll take question 13.
Looking back, what should you have spent more time doing?
Chris: There are two things, actually. One is chess, because I love chess, but I’m really not very good at it, and I’ve never really practiced it. And the other is banjo playing. I used to play the banjo, bluegrass style, and I gave it up. I gave the banjo to my son and I’m not in a situation where I can get a new one and practice right now.
How do you think your life would have been better if you had mastered one of these?
Chris: Banjo playing would simply have made life more fun. And I think chess would have been fun but would also help me think more logically.
Why do think you didn’t spend more time on these things?
Chris: Because I got involved with my career, my family. A lot of times I didn’t have the opportunity. And sometimes I was lazy!
If you had to pick one to master now, which would you pick?
Chris: Now? The chess playing.
And you totally can, right?
Chris: Yes I can do it online!
And Eleanor, what number are you going to pick?
Oh, this is a hard one. What’s your biggest regret in life?
Chris: Should I leave now?
Eleanor: You know, I don’t really have any regrets. I’ve lived the life that I wanted to live and I’ve gotten benefits I never thought I would have. I married a wonderful guy when I was over 40. I waited and waited and got the perfect guy.
A minor regret is I’d love to have a garden, but we live in an apartment with a terrace, and every morning I go out there and garden. It’s just wonderful watching the city wake up while sipping your tea and watering your flowers. It’s very, very peaceful.
You sound like a very appreciative person. Do you think that’s why you have no regrets?
Eleanor: I don’t know. I don’t like to think backwards. It doesn’t help.
How did you meet Chris?
Chris: We went to the same church!
Eleanor: I was with the group that does the offering every Sunday, and Chris came in and mooched lunch with us. And then for years—I was in publishing and Chris worked at a college in Wisconsin—we flew back and forth and had kind of a commuter marriage where on weekends we’d go back and forth to see each other. We kept the apartment here and as soon as we could, we gave up Wisconsin. We’re not suburban people!
Chris: I grew up here. I grew up in Jamaica, Queens and spent most of my life in New York, and we love New York. And unlike most people who retire and flee New York, we came back!
I spotted Dave, who lives in Forest Hills, Queens, taking a break in Battery Park, at the south tip of Manhattan. He’s been a park ranger for 33 years and currently works screening tourists boarding the ferry boat to the Statue of Liberty.
I have 20 questions my readers submitted. You have to pick one, from one to twenty
Okay. A random number? Four.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
That depends on what you consider famous. To me, it’s knowing all the members of the Ramones. Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, C.J., Tommy. Everyone who ever played in the Ramones, I know them.
Holy cow. How did that happen?
From being a fan for many years. I saw a lot of shows, and I saw them so many times, we actually started talking.
Where would you hang out?
Back then I was seeing them at The Academy, on 43rd Street. CBGBs and different clubs like L’Amour East and L’Amour Brooklyn.
What’s your favorite Ramones song?
“I Wanna Be Sedated.”
Were they one of your favorite bands?
Yes they were. I saw them 69 times!
So you were a real scenester! What was that like?
It was a lot of fun. The band was very approachable. They would stay with the fans, invite you and all that. Johnny was a hard-ass, but that’s just how he was. It was his band.
What was your favorite Ramones moment?
Outside, I’d see Marky a lot of times. He saw me so many times, he knew me by name. It was, “How you doing?” and all that.
Are any of them still around?
No, they all passed away.
Wow. How old are you?
I hope you fare better than the Ramones did!
Are you a musician?
No, I’m an artist. I paint in acrylics. A lot of skylines of New York. A lot of pictures dealing with the Ramones, things like that.
Maybe I could link to your website, if you have one.
Right now, the website needs work.
Rev. Clint Padgitt
I spotted Clint, a retired Lutheran pastor, enjoying a coffee and baguette at a picnic table in front of a vacant storefront on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, where I live. He had just gotten his hair cut at the barbershop around the corner.
Clint: This seems like a daunting task. I don’t know what to do.
Just pick a number, one to twenty.
Are you going to read them out?
You pick a number, and I’ll give you the question.
What’s the biggest mistake most people make?
Not doing things when they have the opportunity. Postponing things. Thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll do it next week, or tomorrow, or next year.’ And that time never comes. A lot of people would say they’re too busy, but they’re concentrating on things that aren’t that important.
Do you think feeling busy is the main reason people put things off?
Or they worry it won’t be a good experience. They’re afraid to give things a try.
Do you have examples of that in your life?
I don’t think I have too many. Most things I’ve tried to go ahead and do, if I know that I can do it.
What some things you’ve seen others put off?
Doing some good deed for somebody. You say, “Oh, I’m going to help out with this or that,” and you put it off, and never do it. That’s one option. Or taking advantage of an opportunity. Romantically, you meet somebody and you just don’t follow it up. You think, “Oh, this is very nice,” and a year later you say “Oh I wish I had pursued it more.”
But you feel you’ve taken the opportunities that came along. What are some examples?
I went to Switzerland as an exchange student. This is way back there—1963. People didn’t travel as much. I was 18. It was kind of scary. You go off by yourself, to live with a family.
What’s another example?
Well, I got married. I met my wife in Germany and she’s English, and we both knew German. I learned it in Switzerland. I could have married someone from around here. A more traditional connection. But I liked her so much we kept corresponding. Then I visited her a couple of times and we finally got married.
Did this come out of your trip to Switzerland somehow?
Yes, it was the result of it, that’s right. Because I learned German in Switzerland, at school. Then I took German in college. And the German department said to me, would you like to work in Germany next summer? And I said yes. I spent about two months in Germany. She was studying German too.
How long were you corresponding before you got married?
A good three years! So your name is not Café whatever-it-is…
My name is Anne.
I see. You’re not the café part, you’re the Anne.
I drink a lot of coffee, so I’m also the café part…It was very nice to meet you. I’m sure I’ll see you again.
I’ll be sitting here!
Have something you’d like me to ask a random senior? Email your question: email@example.com.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
This fantastic Staten Island PS 22 kids’ chorus
A display of all the oversized liquids, gels and aerosols that travelers at the Syracuse, NY Airport had in their bags over a three-day span.
A look at one man’s favorite gas station.
The run-away favorite in the Ulster County, NY Board of Elections “I voted” sticker contest
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The Kentucky Wild Health Genomes????? Is everybody just going to let that slide by?
Your interviews are the best! That rubber plant needs to be repotted, not cut. Got a friend who is retired and has an amazing green thumb. He said, thin dead stalks during the replant (the ones you overwatered :)) and then use a heating pad underneath the plant to spur growth and use some root hormone and maybe get some lower buds. If that doesn't work then whacking it and hoping for lower growth. Like most things in life, I KNOW NOTHING but often we all know someone who knows better. The next time I'm at his house, with permission, I'll post some photos of his beautiful plants. Hard to believe in such a cold climate. He says repot or trim back in the spring if possible and be patient.
My favorite part of the interviews is when the Lutheran minister questions you back on whether your name is Cafe. That is strong.